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Open Questions

 

Techniques > Questioning > Open and Closed Questions

Definition | Using closed questions | See also

 

Definition

An open question can be defined thus:

An open question is likely to receive a long answer.

Although any question can receive a long answer, open questions deliberately seek longer answers, and are the opposite of closed questions.

Using open questions

Open questions have the following characteristics:

  • They ask the respondent to think and reflect.
  • They will give you opinions and feelings.
  • They hand control of the conversation to the respondent.

This makes open questions useful in the following situations:

 

Usage Example

As a follow-on from closed questions, to develop a conversation and open up someone who is rather quiet.

What did you do on you holidays? 

How do you keep focused on your work?

To find out more about a person, their wants, needs, problems, and so on. What's keeping you awake these days?

Why is that so important to you?

To get people to realize the extend of their problems (to which, of course, you have the solution). I wonder what would happen if your customers complained even more?

Rob Jones used to go out late. What happened to him? 

To get them to feel good about you by asking after their health or otherwise demonstrating human concern about them. How have you been after your operation?

You're looking down. What's up?

    

Open questions begin with such as: what, why, how, describe.

Using open questions can be scary, as they seem to hand the baton of control over to the other person. However, well-placed questions do leave you in control as you steer their interest and engage them where you want them.

When opening conversations, a good balance is around three closed questions to one open question. The closed questions start the conversation and summarize progress, whilst the open question gets the other person thinking and continuing to give you useful information about them.

A neat trick is to get them to ask you open questions. This then gives you the floor to talk about what you want. The way to achieve this is to intrigue them with an incomplete story or benefit.

See also

Closed questions

 

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