Asking questions is an art form. Many questions get asked every day but many questions deserve to be improved to get the right answers. The right answer is an answer that satisfies your need. A response is just a reaction to the question that at the surface seems to answer it but does not satisfy your need.
Kids play this game often, they will provide an exact response to your question. “Do you know the time” and the response goes “Yes”. The adult gets annoyed and says” well can you tell me” and the response is “Yes”. Not until you are absolutely clear will they tell you the time. In business life we should not play these games and some interpretation of the questions is fine. The question “how are you doing” when you meet someone, usually does not require a fifteen minute explanation of your exact feelings and condition, but rather the courtesy response “fine and you?”. Customer Service departments are known for providing responses rather than answering the question by satisfying the need from the client. Don’t fall into that trap and improve the responses you get by thinking about the questions you ask.
Make sure you ask about what you want to know. Don’t ask “How are you doing” if you want to know how someones business is running, instead ask “How is your business running” so be specific. Not too specific, so don’t ask “How is the business revenue” if you want to know how the business is running as the response may be that the revenue is fine, but you’ll find out later that profits are nil.
Ask Open Questions
Unless you really want an answer that fits a category, like do you want strawberry or vanilla ice cream, you should learn to ask open questions. Like what would you like for desert, or what ice cream would you like. When you sense your partner (business or life) is bothered by something, ask them “What is bothering you?” instead of “is ….. bothering you?”. Also notice I ask “WHAT is bothering you?” not “IS something bothering you?” as you have already noticed that something is apparently bothering the partner and you may as well get to the point immediately.
Many people tend to ask closed questions, with answer categories. For example, Did you not send this because you have forgotten it or because you were too late for the post office. Well the answer may be totally different, like: “I didn’t send it because I spotted a glaring mistake you made in the form”. Open questions give you more information, which is usually good. Open questions give you information about what direction your respondent is going with the topic. Closed questions will in most cases stop the respondent from thinking about alternative answers and they will just simply fill in the blank. This is important in all situation but specifically in hiring interviews, managers leave a lot of information undiscovered by asking closed questions and only getting their categories played back to them instead of covering new and unexpected ground.
Make a statement
Ask a question if you want to know something, make a statement if you want to tell them something. Don’t say: “How do you think this makes me feel” if you want to say: “Your remark makes me feel very insulted”. Make your point, unless you want to teach them to read your feelings.
Don’t ask a question if the answer is pretty obvious. Just make the statement. Don’t say: Don’t you think we should……”, instead just be clear and say: ” I think we should…. , what do you think?”.
If your questions are important, they deserve some thinking ahead.