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How to Turn Idle Chatter into Questions that Matter – Principle 2


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Managing Self
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By Tom Davidson

Leaders who ask powerful questions, surface more information faster and solve problems better. To get the most from your questions, use the following three principles. Make your questions short, open-ended and shut up! In yesterday’s blog, I discussed how to keep your questions short; today’s principle is about the second principle, keeping them open-ended.

Leaders who ask powerful questions, surface more information faster and solve problems better. To get the most from your questions, use the following three principles. Make your questions short, open-ended and shut up! In yesterday’s blog, I discussed how to keep your questions short; today’s principle is about the second principle, keeping them open-ended. Here are three tips for turning idle chatter into questions that matter:

OPEN-ENDED Questions
Use Open – versus Closed – Questions. Simply put, open-ended questions demand more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Questions that start with who, what, when, where, why or how, all qualify as open-ended. Avoid closed-ended questions except in very special cases (e.g., “Did you try this?” or “Did she say that?”).

Use What – and How – Questions Most Often. Not all open-ended questions are made equal. The most powerful options start with “what” or “how.” They demand more thought to answer and illuminate much more information in a shorter amount of time. Moreover, every closed-ended question can be turned into a what- or how-question (e.g., “What did you try?” or “How did she respond?”).

Avoid Why-Questions. Even though why-questions are perfectly valid as open-ended questions, they are filled with risk, so use this version carefully. By starting with “why,” (e.., “Why did you do that?”) you risk putting someone on the spot, making them feel wrong or embarrassed, even though that may not have been your intention. Simply turn your why-question into a what- or how- question (e.g., “What was your decision-making process?”) to avoid this problem.

Check out yesterday’s blog and tomorrow’s to get the other two key principles for turning idle chatter into questions that matter.

What are your best tips for making questions count?


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