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The Power of Questions!

Updated: Mar 8

Good questions can help you find your way to the train station, but GREAT questions can spark creativity, build connection, and provide clarity.

A little while ago, I ran a session for a corporate marketing team about the POWER of asking questions. 

They’re a common part of our everyday lives, but we don’t always use them to their full potential. 

Here’s some of my favourite techniques for asking better questions…

🤔 Open vs closed questions

A closed question is one where there’s one, binary answer (yes or no, this or that). Closed questions can make sense in the right context, like when decisions are needed. But they don’t do very well opening up or advancing a conversation.

Open questions - on the other hand - are ones where there is no limit to the potential answers. With an open question, you’re setting someone up to open up to you and expand their answer or information.  Open questions tend to start with What, Where, How, When, Who. They tend not to start with: Is, Isn’t, Are, Will.

For example: did you enjoy your meal? (A closed question with only two possible answers).

Vs: what did you enjoy about your meal? (An open question with a range of possible answers).

🧐 Hypothetical or ‘What If’ questions

Hypothetical questions can be great to introduce challenge or push people a little without directly challenging or confronting. Because starting a question with ‘What if…’ invites more imaginative thinking and answers. 

Hypotheticals are a great to get out of a routine pattern of thinking, or a situation where you feel a bit stuck. Or to play through the scenario you might be avoiding, e.g. What if I did the thing I’m scared to do?

I’d argue that innovation teams and start-ups are built off the back of asking wild ‘what if’ questions that challenge conventional wisdom. E.g. Elon Musk asking the question, what if we could live on Mars?·   

🔮 Clarification questions 

These are questions that get a bit further than the face value of an answer. I like to think of it as ‘asking around the corners’ of something rather than just settling for what you can see in front of you. 

In essence, it’s another way to make sure we’re not defaulting to our ‘stock’ answers. In a work context, it can be valuable to make sure we’re not relying on assumptions. And in a coaching context can be a valuable to challenge our thinking habits.

This one only really works if you’re properly listening to what’s being said – and not just waiting to step in and speak after. You need to have the ability to hear the ‘nugget’ of meaning and then pick it up and go a bit further.

🔢 Scale questions

These are question where you ask someone to rank something on a shared scale, 1-10, 1-100, love to loathe etc.

These kinds of questions help to create a common language or understanding of the situation by quantifying something that could otherwise be vague or open to interpretation. E.g. On a scale of 1-10 how good was your meal? 

Not only does that create clearer understanding, but it also gives you the chance to delve deeper. 

If I rank my meal as 5/10 - the next question might be ok, what would 10/10 look like? Or, what need to change to make it a 7/10? 

It’s also a great way to test commitment or readiness - on a scale of 1-10, how committed are you to taking this action by the agreed deadline? And if it’s not 10, what could get it there? 

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