Asking The Right Questions

“Ask the right questions, and the answers will always reveal themselves.”

– Oprah Winfrey


Have you ever asked your kids questions like “how was your day”, and then got the one-word answer “fine”, with no detail or show of emotion? I used to get this all the time until someone suggested asking more specific questions like “what was your favorite part of the day?”, which ended up bringing a lot more meat to their answer!

Here’s the thing. Asking questions without thinking about what type of response you’re looking for is setting yourself up for disappointment! Questioning should be somewhat strategic and thought through with intention placed on the language and tone you use. That’s the way to illicit the best response!

Here’s a great example:

One of my coaching clients had recently began working with a team who had low morale, perpetuated by the fact that a valued team member had just left the group. My coachee had tried to work on building relationships and changing the energy but wasn’t having much success and wasn’t getting the much-needed feedback from team-members to help work through the issues.  

I asked him to think about reframing the way he was asking questions. Meaning, in place of “How can I help you better?”, we replaced with “What can I do differently?” We discussed the importance of being strategic with his questions to really garner some good information.

This week my client updated me that by thinking of the outcome and changing the language he used in the questions, his conversations were successful. Just changing the wording allowed him to solicit great feedback from the team and he feels far more confident in working with them!

Asking questions is a talent, just as much as listening is! How can we become a better questioner?

  1. Plan: Whether you are interviewing a person or running a meeting, planning the questions you want to ask what will help you get more strategic and thoughtful.
  2. Think about the response you want: If you are looking for a specific piece of information, make sure the question speaks to it. For example, my client wanted to know what he could do better, and by asking what he can do differently allowed the team member to bring up options that they had not discussed previously with the other question.
  3. Flip complicated questions for smart questions: Asking complicated questions doesn’t allow as much room for thought and response. Keep questions smart, simple and easy to understand.
  4. Use empathy statements. If you are asking a question to understand a delicate challenge, it’s important to use statements that help diffuse the situation. For example, “I understand how this can be hard. Is there possibly another way to look at this?”

Taking time to think through the responses you want and the information you want to collect will help you better plan the questions you want to ask, to successfully receive better and more detailed responses.


“To ask the right question is already half the solution of a problem.”

– Carl Jung



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