How to Ask Better Questions to Achieve Better Answers

Whether you’re the CEO or a mid-level employee, the hiring manager or a job candidate, every work relationship will require asking questions of other people. To be an effective communicator, it’s important to ask quality questions that obtain the desired information and achieve the intended outcome. As Anthony Robbins says, “Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions and as a result get better answers.” 

The first step to framing quality questions is identifying what kind of information you are seeking. There are two broad categories of questions:

  • If you are looking for more information, learning facts about someone or something, then ask open-ended questions

  • If you’re looking for confirmation, bottom lining, then ask closed-ended questions

Open-Ended Questions:

  • Tap into the right brain, which is where your intuition, ideas, creativity, possibilities reside

  • Are thought-provoking and allow for a wide range of answers

  • Start with the words: Who, What, Where, When, How and Tell me more. Try to avoid starting with “Why?” as it can come across as derogatory

  • Are best used when gathering information, brainstorming and open discussions, getting feedback and seeking solutions

  • Create openness, trust, buy-in, and new ways of thinking

Examples of Open-Ended Questions:

  • Who would be a good introduction for you?

  • Tell me more about your business and goals

  • What are your 3 biggest business challenges?

  • How do you think we should resolve this issue?

Closed-Ended Questions:

  • These questions access the left brain, which is responsible for logical, practical, sequential, linear thinking

  • Require a Yes or No answer   

  • Start with a verb followed by a pronoun

  • Are used to: confirm /affirm a thought, bring a discussion to a close, create focus, and bottom lining

  • Can be limiting and restrictive

Examples of Closed-Ended Questions:

  • Are we meeting today?

  • Do I have an order?

  • Did you meet the new boss?

  • Is this the best way to resolve the issue?

You may not always have the time to thoughtfully craft quality questions, but more often than not you’ll find that it’s more efficient and effective to get the question absolutely right the first time. And remember, “There are no foolish questions – only fools who don’t ask questions.”