Maiia Brindle

A lot of communicating is today done on mobile phone and computer, these can even be automated - so it's becoming more and more unusual to have real, shared encounters with other humans and to learn new and advanced communication skills.


I'm sure you've all had the experience of receiving a digital message from someone in the next room. We may not get a chance to develop and practise talking - even at home and with our family members. 


It's worth devoting some time and thought to LEARNING.  Asking questions is an important skill. Making an INQUIRY using open questions will invite a listener to join you in a conversation. These sorts of questions will help you to tune into the other person in a meaningful way for example taking into account factors like their age and experience.  Talking with a six your old is different to a 16 year old or asking an elder.


CLOSED QUESTIONS are quick and easy to answer. Often just a yes and no anwer is sufficient. They're especially useful at work, where you want only facts and figures.  They will generally have only the one right answer like true and false. Or they can be be answered by a single word, a number or a short phrase.


Closed questions keep the control of the conversation with the person that is doing the asking. It's good to remember that outside a business environment, in our personal life, closed questions can make a person feel like they want to escape from being interrogated. "What are you - a policeman?" 

Open ended questions on the other hand can help us in building healthy relationships. Ones with understanding, trust and rapport.  We get to know the persons style and their needs and likewise, they learn about us too. Open questions are useful when you want to invite long answers, reflection, with context and you want to participate in a thinking and sharing process.
Open ended questions OPEN UP the conversation for a range of answers. They are not necessarily right or wrong or measurable.  They often start with - who, what, where, when, why and how.
What will you do if it happens again?
Where do you think you'll be in five years? 
When you did that previously...?
Why will this help us?
How did you think it went?
Be Present with the individual As well as working out an appropriate developmental stages and ages,  
tuning in to another person includes learning about the pace at which they think and speak and it bears in mind their emotional state.    
Do they have a disability that affects ability to communicate but does not reflect their capacity.  Are they more proficient in another language?   
Are they tired?  Traumatised?   Being present with how another is going is a way your questions can be attuned to factors like their style, condition and personalty.
HISTORICAL INQUIRY: this style of questioning seeks to find out about the past.  You're gathering information about the past to see how it effects today.  You're giving the person oppurtunity to speak about past experiences and observations - in the present.
Reflective questioning is like feedback, and is part of active listening too.  You can get more information by asking reflective questions. You can reflect with yourself or with others.  You take information you've gathered already and question it.  For example - you might ask yourself How well did I go with communication today - how can I do better?
In a retail scenario the person might have said that they want 'good quality' - so you could ask what is their price range.

Deflective questiong redirecting with agood question can help reduce stress and conflict.

"I was not happy with this meal!" 
"I'm sorry about that.  Can we offer you a complimentary dessert to make things better?"
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