5 Steps To Asking Better Questions (Plus Communication Tips)
Updated February 3, 2023
Three people hold a business meeting in an empty office.
Asking questions is essential to learning, and at work, knowing how to ask better questions can help you better know how to do your job and improve as an employee. Additionally, asking pertinent questions can benefit you in other ways, including helping you to form professional relationships. If you want to ask better questions in your work, there are tangible steps you can follow to formulate good questions and get the information you're after.
In this article, we discuss the benefits of asking better questions at work, explain five steps you can follow to ask more effective questions and offer some tips for improving your overall approach to asking questions.
Benefits of asking better questions
Asking questions can help you in more ways than just you getting specific answers. Here are some of the benefits of asking better questions at work:
Gaining opportunities to learn: By keeping a growth mindset, you can think positively about having questions and use the answers to improve yourself. Asking questions can also make you better at your job and more equipped to handle issues that come up.
Creating a positive work environment: Creating a habit of asking questions can help other people to feel comfortable enough to ask questions that can benefit your entire workplace. Asking questions can also help foster a trusting, honest workplace.
Showing your drive to improve: By asking great questions, you can also show your colleagues and supervisors that you want to improve yourself and become better at your job. It's also a quality that employers and coworkers often value and respect.
Forming new professional connections: If you show people that you value their responses, you can strengthen your relationships with them. Some people may be willing to answer your questions in the future, making them valuable professional connections.
How to ask better questions at work
Here are four simple steps that you can follow to ask better questions in the workplace:
1. Know what kind of answer you're looking for
The first step to formulating a question is figuring out what kind of answer you're looking for. Think about what specific information you want to know. You might be looking for advice, factual knowledge or an opinion. Determine which type of answer best fits the information that you need to draft your question.
Additionally, during this step, think about who you need to ask in order to get the kind of answer you're looking for. For example, depending on your question, you might want to ask a colleague, a supervisor, a mentor or another professional source.
2. Ask open-ended questions
Another step in asking a great question is coming up with an open-ended question. Open-ended questions are questions that a person can't answer by saying "yes" or "no." Open-ended questions require a longer, more detailed response. Additionally, asking open-ended questions can help people to feel free to answer however they see fit rather than being confined to a "yes" or "no" answer.
When formulating an open-ended question, make sure that you ask only one question at a time, and try to make your question as clear as possible. If you need to ask additional questions, you can ask them separately to help your source focus without confusion.
3. Be a good listener
Listening is an essential component of the process of asking questions. After you ask a question, be sure to listen carefully to the answer. Employ active listening skills, including giving feedback. Try not to interrupt the person answering your question—save any questions or comments until after they answer.
Listening well can help you to understand the answer fully and get the information that you need. Furthermore, being a good listener can help show the person answering your question that you value their response and that you're interested in what they're saying.
Related: How To Be a Good Listener
4. Ask follow-up questions
Asking follow-up questions is another key step to asking better questions at work. After your source has answered your question and you've considered their response, you can ask them follow-up questions.
Follow-up questions can deepen your knowledge of the topic, and they can also show your source that you respect them and value their answer. This can help you form meaningful professional connections who you may be able to ask for answers in the future.
One of the keys to asking with good follow-up questions is listening. You can think of follow-up questions by listening carefully to your source's answer and picking out parts that you're curious about or you want to understand better.
5. Say thank you
After someone has answered a question for you, be sure to thank them for their time and their answer. This can show them that you are grateful for their help, and it can also strengthen your professional relationship, making them a valuable connection for when you have questions in the future.
Read more: 100 Ways to Thank Someone For Their Time
Tips for asking good questions
Here are a few tips to consider to ask better questions at work:
Speak clearly: When asking questions, be sure to speak clearly so that people can understand your question and are not confused by it. If you need to, you can rephrase your question to make it easier for your source to understand and answer.
Keep it simple: Try to ask your questions in simple terms and keep them as straightforward as possible. By using simple language and keeping your questions brief, you can make them easier for people to understand and answer quickly.
Be patient: Be sure to give your source adequate time to come up with an answer to your questions. Additionally, you can pause between questions to allow them to relax and you to process their answer.
Speak neutrally: Try to speak in neutral terms without bias. Try to avoid inserting your own opinions into your question. Instead, ask simple, open-ended questions to elicit an honest, straightforward response.
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