How To Ask the Right Questions (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 20, 2021

People ask questions for a variety of reasons. They help us learn more about each other, our ideas and various subjects. Learning how to ask questions may help you become a better communicator. In this article, we discuss why asking the right questions is important and how to ask the right questions and provide tips for asking the right questions.

Related: 10 Communication Skills for Career Success

Why is asking the right questions important?

Asking the right questions is important to help you receive the information you seek. It's important to ask specific questions as you likely want and listen for a specific answer. Asking the wrong question may provide you with the wrong answers, causing confusion or other issues.

Learning how to ask the right questions is important in developing effective communication skills. Excellent communication skills can help you share information and educate others, thereby improving your interpersonal skills, building better relationships or managing people more effectively.

Related: 7 Tips for Improving Communication Skills

How to ask the right questions

Here are some steps to help you ask the right questions:

1. Think about what you want to know

Think about what you hope to learn. Questions that are more specific can often elicit more specific answers. Deciding what you want to know may help ensure you ask the right questions.

2. Determine the purpose of your question

Determine why you want to ask this question. Think about what kind of answer you what to receive. Consider if you want to receive advice, a fact-based answer or someone else's opinion or perspective.

3. Develop an open-ended question

Create an open-ended question related to what you want to know. Open-ended questions refer to any question that a person may not answer with a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Also, open-ended questions may help the person who you have questions for feel more comfortable as you do not limit their response.

Ensure your question is easy to understand. Evaluate your question to determine if it is unbiased. Be sure to focus your question on only one topic to help avoid confusion.

Related: 21 Tough Open-Ended Questions (and How To Answer Them)

4. Find the right person

Choose the right person to answer your questions. The right person depends on what you hope to learn. Reach out to the person, and ask them if they would be available and willing to answer some questions you have. Consider letting them know why you want to talk to them.

5. Determine the right time to ask them

It's important to choose the right time to ask questions. Avoid tense or stressful situations, and reduce distractions as much as you can. Try to plan ahead, and reserve time for the conversation to ensure you have enough time to ask your questions without worrying about rushing.

6. Allow them to answer your question

Allow the person plenty of time to answer your question, and avoid interrupting their answer. While you may have good intentions, an interruption may cause the person to think you do not value their answer. Instead, wait for them to finish their answer, and prepare questions to ask to gain clarification.

7. Ask follow-up questions

Ask follow-up questions to learn more about the situation. However, it's important to be friendly and choose questions that will not cause the person to become defensive. Ask questions that highlight your natural curiosity and genuine desire to learn more.

Related: Probing Questions: Definitions, Comparisons and Examples

8. Thank the person for their time

Thank the person for their time and response. Ensure they understand how much you appreciate their help. This is important because you may need their help again in the future.

Tips for asking the right questions

Here are some tips to help you ask the right questions:

Avoid asking rhetorical questions

A rhetorical question is a question or statement asked without expecting an answer. People often ask rhetorical questions for dramatic effort or to emphasize a point. However, these questions rarely provide helpful answers. Instead, focus on developing questions designed to receive answers and new information.

Be understanding

Be understanding of the person who is answering your questions. Avoid asking questions that set the person up for failure or uncomfortable positions. Instead, ensure you have good intentions for your questions and ask them in the right settings.

Practice active listening

Ensure the person knows you're listening. Use nonverbal cues like nodding, smiling and maintaining eye contact to show your engagement. Ask probing follow-up questions to clarify any misunderstanding, and paraphrase what they told you to check for understanding.

Read more: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

Use silence

Use silence to your advantage. Allow time in between your questions to allow the other person to relax and prepare for your next question. This also allows you to process the information you received and think of follow-up questions.

Think about how you would want to be asked questions

Consider how you want other people to ask questions. Think about how much time you would like to have to consider a question before you provide an answer or how much time you would want in between questions. Also, think about each question you ask. If think you may feel uncomfortable answering the question, consider rephrasing it or not asking it at all.

Ask questions that encourage discussion

It's important to have a specific intention with your question. However, it's important to not be so specific or direct that you limit the questions you receive. For example, avoid questions that require a person to choose between two options, such as "Do you think we should create an email marketing campaign or social media campaign?" Instead, choose questions that seek similar answers in a different format, such as "Which channel do you think will be most effective to reach our target market, and what should the campaign include?"

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