Being able to ask appropriate questions is a vital skill for good listening and the restorative dialogue process, where we use questions to;

  • obtain information
  • show an interest
  • maintain flow and control
  • seek clarification
  • encourage further consideration of a point

Types of question

Questions can broadly be divided into open and closed questions. Asking open questions is more common during a dialogue. Closed questions are ones that can be answered with 'yes' or 'no', or selecting one option from an offered list.

  • Would you like a drink?
  • Would you like tea or coffee?

Open questions are ones that can not be answered with 'yes' or 'no' and usually start with 'who', 'what', 'when', 'where', 'how' and 'why'. Care needs to be taken when using 'why' as it can easily be seen as being asked to justify yourself or as another way to attribute blame.

  • What would you like to drink?

There are further types of open question that can help or hinder a dialogue.

Discovery questions are ones where the listener does not know the answer. They encourage the listener to be curious and provide new information. For the speaker they show that the listener is genuinely interested in them. For example, 'what experiences have contributed to…?'

Leading questions are ones that are loaded and point the answer in a certain direction. For example, asking 'how difficult was your conversation with Joe?' directs towards the difficult aspects of the conversation. Asking 'how was your conversation with Joe?' invites a wider range of answers. In a dialogue we are trying to open up the conversation so leading questions are best avoided.

Questions to avoid

A dialogue is helped when questions avoid leading to things that cause difficulties. For example questions that lead to;

  • making judgements
  • black and white thinking
  • saying what is right and wrong
  • saying who is to blame
  • unhelpful thinking and language

Introduction | Listening | Asking Questions | Observing | Awareness | Using helpful language | Reflection

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