10 Questioning Techniques To Improve Workplace Communication
Updated 13 August 2023
Asking the right questions is an effective communication strategy that helps you gather relevant information from colleagues, managers and other employees at the workplace. Using the right questions can help you obtain critical information, influence others, understand business decisions, build stronger relationships and manage people, helping you advance in your career. Knowing the different types of questions can help you decide when to use the right ones to get the answers you seek. In this article, we explore various questioning techniques and share tips on improving your questioning skills.
10 Questioning Techniques To Use At The Workplace
Here are a few popular questioning techniques that help you elicit the right information at the workplace:
1. Open questions
Open questions allow the respondent to elaborate on their answers. You can use open questions to gather more details about a specific situation, learn why something happened, or listen to the other person's ideas and opinions. These questions usually begin with words like why, when, how, what, which, describe or explain. Asking open questions demonstrates your willingness to explore the respondent's point of view and can help you build positive relationships in the workplace. Here are a few examples of open questions:
Can you elaborate on what happened in the sales meeting last week?
What do you think about the new feature?
How do you feel about the latest changes we have made to the marketing department?
Can you explain the thought process behind this solution?
Describe your accomplishments in your previous role.
2. Closed questions
Closed questions work best for situations that require a simple one-word or one-sentence answer. Closed questions help you save time as you can get a direct response. Often, they are yes or no questions. You can use closed questions when looking for specific information or assessing whether the respondent agrees with you. For example, you might ask a closed question to confirm if all teammates agree with the project deadline. These questions usually include words like did, are, could or do. Here are a few examples of closed questions:
Are you available to join the team meeting at 2:00 pm this Friday?
Have you received a response from the design team about the new website design?
How many years of experience do you have in copywriting?
Do you know how to write HTML code?
Could you share the minutes of the last meeting?
3. Clarifying questions
Clarifying questions is an excellent way to recap information and key talking points to ensure everyone understands the critical details. People often ask clarifying questions at the end of a presentation, meeting or conversation to confirm vital details. Here are a few examples of clarifying questions:
Before we finish the meeting, can I quickly confirm if the prototype is due this Friday?
From what we have discussed, Meera would finish the landing page copy on Wednesday, so that Ameer can start working on the layout on Thursday. Is that correct?
Can you please confirm if you have received the product?
4. Probing questions
These questions help you gather specific details. Also known as trigger questions, you can use probing questions when you require further clarification about a specific topic. These questions help you extract more information from the respondent and extend the conversation. You can use probing questions in conjunction with open-ended questions to keep the conversation going till you gather the required information. Here are a few examples of probing questions:
Can you explain more about how you arrived at this conclusion?
How did you learn about the crisis?
With whom did you discuss the conflict, and what was their exact response?
Can you be more specific?
Would it be possible for you to elaborate on the discussion?
5. Funnel questions
Journalists, researchers, hiring managers and detectives use funnel questions to gather elaborate information about a situation or topic. Funnel questions include a series of questions that start with general questions and become more specific throughout the conversation. Beginning the interview with general questions makes the respondent comfortable and relaxed and encourages them to share more details. Here is an example of the funnel questioning technique that a hiring manager might use to gather more details about a prospective candidate's expertise:
Which coding languages have you worked with in your previous roles?
Can you explain a capstone project using these technologies?
How did you approach the problem?
What were your learnings from the project?
Which was your biggest challenge while working on it?
If you could redo the project, what would you change?
6. Leading questions
You can use leading questions during negotiations to influence decisions. These questions usually begin with a claim and end with the questioner asking whether the respondents agree with the claim. They are also known as reflective questions because they encourage the respondent to evaluate a critical piece of information before making a decision. Sales representatives and business leaders can use leading questions to influence others to agree with their ideas. Here are a few examples of leading questions:
If we reduce travel expenses, we could allocate more resources to critical areas such as product design and improve ROI. Do you agree with this decision?
As you are looking for a digital door lock with Wi-fi connectivity, I suggest you choose the premium model as it also has other advanced features that work for you. Does that sound good to you?
I suggest implementing a paid ads campaign as we need immediate results. What do you think?
7. Process questions
Also known as divergent questions, process questions help the respondent think critically about the topic or situation. You can ask process questions when you would like to hear the respondent's opinion or point of view. Interviewers and team managers often use process questions to learn more about the respondent's experiences and thoughts. These questions usually do not have one single answer. Instead, they help encourage open discussions about the topic. A few examples of process questions include:
Do you think partnering with a venture capitalist is the right way forward for the company?
Why do you think Ankit is the right person to lead the testing team?
What are the pros and cons of implementing this strategy?
What are the challenges that we might face when we launch this service?
8. Contingency questions
These questions apply only to a specific group of respondents. Researchers use these questions to gather information from individuals who match pre-defined criteria. For example, if you are researching the impact of online classes on schooling, you might only question children who have attended classes online. Here are a few examples of contingency questions:
If you are planning to pursue higher education overseas, what are the key factors that impact your decision in choosing universities?
Have you purchased an e-bike in the last six months? If yes, would you be able to answer a few questions about your purchase experience?
9. Recall questions
You can use recall questions to ensure that teammates or colleagues remember a critical discussion point. For example, teachers use recall questions at the end of a chapter to evaluate if students have understood the lesson. Here are a few examples of recall questions:
Do you remember what we discussed in the last class?
Where did you save the files for this week's presentation?
Does the manager prefer the meeting's summary as a slide show or a PDF file?
Do you remember how to change the settings in the office thermostat?
10. Rhetorical questions
Rhetorical questions typically do not require a response. Generally, people ask these questions to engage with their audience. These questions get the listener's attention and help them to focus on what the speaker is saying. Entertainers and public speakers often use rhetorical questions while delivering a public speech or presentation. Here are a few examples of rhetorical questions:
That is an amazing deal, is it not?
What is not to like?
How could I have missed this earlier?
Tips For Asking Effective Questions
Here are a few tips to help you ask better questions at the workplace:
Be a good listener. Paying attention helps you focus on what others are saying and can help you ask engaging follow-up questions. Making eye contact with the speaker and demonstrating positive body language can help you develop active listening.
Make your questions clear. If your question is too vague or confusing, the speaker is not likely to provide you with the answers you need. Structure your questions to make it easy for the speaker to answer them quickly and correctly.
Be genuinely curious. Focus on your communication skills and adopt a professional demeanour when asking questions. This helps the speaker know that you are genuinely interested and not asking questions merely to continue the conversation.
Follow up if required. If the first question does not provide enough information, you can ask follow-up questions for more clarity. You summarise the respondent's answer and follow it up with a lead question so that the speaker gets clarity on what you require.
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