I have been away with all my family which includes wife, childen,their partners and my beautiful granddaugher Aimee. One lies there listeing to the banter which included everyone taking to aimee, 15 months old.She doesn’t talk yet, just points and nods or shakes her head. It’s all so easy for her becuase we all only asked closed questions.
having a nasty mind I wondered how Aimee would have coped with “What do you want to play with, your doll or teddy bear?”
A little more about questioning
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’.
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.
An open question can be defined as:
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
Open questions begin with such as: what, why, how, when, where,which, who.
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.