Sunday, January 13, 2013

Communication: How to Ask Open-Ended or Clarifying Questions

Don't work so hard on your next conversation, presentation, or meeting to ensure that you're heard.  Certainly come prepared, but start by asking open-ended questions to target the needs of your listener or audience.  It allows for multiple responses in the listeners owns language. 
1st - Repeat back what you heard using similar words from what was expressed.  Then ask "Is what I said what you meant?" 
2nd - Adapt your style and response to meet their expectations.  It will encourage a meaningful response that targets results without judgment, instead of driving, strong-arming, or pushing your own agenda.  It will also demonstrate active listening skills while avoiding projecting, fixing, or telling.

Examples of open-ended or clarifying questions:
"What's the most important thing you'd like to get from me, or this meeting?"
"How would you like me to provide you with feedback or information?"
"Describe for me how you did...."
"Tell me a time when you demonstrated...."
"What would it look like if... (you tried the opposite)?"
"What if the opposite were true?"
"How can I support you?"
"What would success look like?"  
"What did you intend as the outcome?"
"Are you angry?" or "My impression is that you are angry, is that accurate?"
"Are you frustrated?" or "My impression is that you are frustrated, is that accurate?"
Try to avoid using assumptions or projections, such as "You seem to be..."


-Ken Sergi

Note that images and graphics used in this blog are copyrighted and licensed for use to Ken Sergi.