Catherine Molloy, International Speaker & Author, So Who Taught You How To Ask Questions?

In this article I want to share some information on how to ask questions!

I have many business owners coming to me with problems around their staff and of course with staff turnover being one of the most expensive costs to business today let’s see why it’s important to know how to ask questions!

First of all be curious to want to know “STUFF” – we are in control if we are the one who asks the questions. Create influence through curiosity.

We spend a lot of our time with others asking and answering questions, but we aren’t always aware of how we should ask questions, to gleam the information we need in the present, to help us make future decisions.

Open questions, in particular,may often seem difficult, which is unfortunate because they are the most important ones to use if you want to become highly skilled at this process. It means we need to slow down and be patient to allow others to answer in full.

Closed questions can be answered with a single word or two, or a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They can begin the closing process in a conversation, or provide confirmation of a detail, but they don’t usually lead to opening a conversation, or to information gathering.

Most people need to practice asking open questions; those where the listener is given a chance to explain, to tell how they feel about an issue, or offer suggestions.

Open questions give us more information because:

  • They encourage other people to talk.
  • We gather opinions and ideas from others.
  • They can help us determine if people have interpreted what we said correctly.
  • They can help us arrive at consensus more quickly.
  • They allow us to connect and communicate at a master level.

Good open questions include:

  • ‘How do you feel?’
  • ‘What do you think?’
  • ‘What is your opinion?’
  • ‘How do you think we should solve the problem?’
  • ‘What would you do in my shoes?’
  • ‘Tell me more about…’

Be careful about asking ‘Why’ questions. They can sound like accusations and the listener might become defensive.  As a child I asked why so much because I love to learn, I know I drove people crazy, I have since learnt to rephase my why questions, however if you are given a why question take the time to answer in full as the person asking may truly want to know!

It is easier to build relationships with potential customers, team and family if we become skilled at asking questions that give us more information about the person and their wants and needs. Good questions can help us find common ground with someone, show the person we are interested in them, and focuses attention on them rather than us.

Good customer-focused questions can include:

  • How may I resolve this best for you..?
  • What outcome would you like to see?
  • What do you think we can do about this?
  • What would you like me to stop doing?
  • Would it be helpful if I…?
  • Supposing we were to…What do you think about that idea?
  • Can you help me understand where you’re coming from?
  • Let’s meet to talk about the changes we’re prepared to make. What day suits you?
  • I’m prepared to do… Would that ease the situation?

As you start to think about how to open up a conversation with a team member that perhaps is long overdue for a chat, please remember that your non-verbals play a big part in the question asking.  You may not always like the answers to the questions, so stay open in your body language, don’t judge, be relaxed, this is not about you but about finding information to help your people, grow your business and understand changes that may need to take place!  Happy ASKING 😊

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