Part 1: 5 question types to boost your communication skills
Communication is the key to mutual understanding and respect. In today’s information age, communication and listening skills can be one’s greatest asset for finding the best career, expanding knowledge, building stronger relationships with family and friends along with many other benefits.
Asking the right question at the right time may turn out to be a life-changing experience. So what exactly is the right question then?
But before we learn how to ask the right questions, we need to know the different question types and purposes implied behind them.
So check out the list below and keep it in mind during the next business meeting, university lesson or family gathering – it may prove useful.
Verification (Closed) Questions
- Example: Was this a full-time employment?
- Purpose of this type: Confirm or disprove information.
- Short description: Verification questions are also called closed questions because there are only two possible responses: Yes or No. When forming a verification question, it must include one of these verbs: BE, DO, HAVE, or a modal verb. It is impossible to ask a Yes / No question without one of these verbs.
Disjunctive / Alternative Questions
- Example: Do you prefer working at larger enterprises or smaller “start-up” organizations?
- Purpose of this type: Confirm assumption.
- Short description: Disjunctive questions present two or more possible answers and presuppose that only one is true, therefore, they may be also called “alternative”. They denote choice and consist of two general questions connected by means of “or”. One of the questions can be elliptical.
Concept Completion (Open) Questions
- Example: Why did you leave company X?
- Purpose of this type: Get specific information.
- Short description: Concept completion questions begin with an interrogative word or phrase (WHERE, WHY, WHAT, etc.) and requires an unambiguous answer. They are also called open questions because the number of possible responses is limitless.
- Example: How many team members were working on that project?
- Purpose of this type: Get the expression or measurement of the quantity.
- Short description: Quantification questions begin with HOW MANY or HOW MUCH and require an expression or measurement that indicates quantity.
- Example: What do you think of the role I presented to you?
- Purpose of this type: Get an opinion.
- Short description: Judgmental questions usually begin with “What do you think of” or “How do you feel about” and requires the interlocutor’s attitude, impression, feeling or viewpoint in general about a specific subject that is discussed.
- Construct your question differently:
Why did you leave company X? -> What made you decide to part ways with company X?
- Implication question
[Answer] I decided to leave the company due to the toxic working environment.
[Follow-up question about the implications] How did this environment affect you?
- Construct your question differently:
- Purpose of this type: Get a better understanding / Demonstrate interest.
- Short description: Follow-up questions are the glue that holds conversations together. We use them when we are listening, to show that we are interested or surprised. Follow-up questions may be built as a form of the original question, but asked in a different way (e.g. 1) or as a question about the implications of the answer (e.g. 2).
Note: When asking an implication follow-up question, it is very important to sound friendly, to carefully construct your sentence and to show that you are asking it because of your genuine interest in the answer. Otherwise, your interlocutor may feel threatened by your question and start avoiding it, which may affect further the conversation.
Of course, there are many other question types that can be defined. Questioning and answering researches attempt to deal with a wide range of question types including list, hypothetical, example questions, etc. Furthermore, with the advancement of technologies, chatbots and NLP, along with the power to analyze extremely large data sets, I believe we would be able to get a better and deeper understanding of others, but also of ourselves.
But until that happens, remember that questions are much more important than answers. Questions seek, frame and expose. They have focus, purpose and clear intent and a conversation is actually not lead by the answers, but by the questions asked.