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Closed Questions

 

Techniques > Questioning > Closed Questions

Definition | Using closed questions | See also

 

These are two types of questions you can use that are very different in character and usage: open and closed questions.

Definition

There are two definitions that are used to describe closed questions. A common definition is:

A closed question can be answered with either a single word or a short phrase.

Thus 'How old are you?' and 'Where do you live?' are closed questions. A more limiting definition is:

A closed question can be answered with either 'yes' or 'no'.

Thus 'Are you happy?' and 'Is that a knife I see before me?' are closed questions, whilst 'How are you?' and even 'How old are you?' are not, by this definition, closed. This limited definition is also sometimes called a 'yes or no' question, for obvious reasons.

Using closed questions

Closed questions have the following characteristics:

  • They give you facts
  • They are easy to answer.
  • They are quick to answer.
  • They keep control of the conversation with the questioner.

This makes closed questions useful in the following situations:

 

Usage Example

As opening questions in a conversation, as it makes it easy for the other person to answer, and doesn't force them to reveal too much about themselves.

It's great weather, isn't it?

Where do you live?

What time is it?

For testing their understanding (asking yes/no questions). This is also a great way to break into a long ramble.

So, you want to move into our apartment, with your own bedroom and bathroom -- true?  

For setting up a desired positive or negative frame of mind in them (asking successive questions with obvious answers either yes or no ).

Are you happy with your current supplier?

Do they give you all that you need?

Would you like to find a better supplier?

For achieving closure of a persuasion (seeking yes to the big question). If I can deliver this tomorrow, will you sign for it now?
 

Note how you can turn any opinion into a closed question that forces a yes or no by adding tag questions, such as "isn't it?", "don't you?" or "can't they?", to any statement.

The first word of a question sets up the dynamic of the closed question, signaling the easy answer ahead. Note how these are words like: do, would, are, will, if

See also

Open Questions

 

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