What questions are you fed up with

Asking: If you ask correctly, you will be more successful

It's actually very simple: if you don't know something, ask a question and hope for a suitable answer. But questions can do a lot more: They can direct or manipulate conversations or discussions and trigger desirable behavior in the interlocutor. Asking questions is an important rhetorical tool. In order to use this correctly, it takes some practice and the necessary knowledge: In which situations can inquiries be used particularly well? What questioning techniques are there? And what questions should everyone ask? You will find the answers here ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Asking allowed: situations in which you should ask

Unfortunately, inquiries do not have the best reputation, especially in the professional world. The reason: questions are often only associated with ignorance. Anyone who asks must fear being labeled as disinterested or even stupid. Wrongly! After all, Sesame Street already teaches: "If you don't ask, you stay stupid ..." Questions should therefore not be demonized, but rather encouraged and supported.

Instead of assuming ignorance, inquiries should be seen as a sign of willingness to learn. On the other hand, not asking questions actually shows a lack of interest.

If the attitude is right, there are regular situations in the professional environment in which you can use questions to even attract attention. These for example:

  • Interview questions
    Typically, many feel more in the role of the respondent in the interview. But you should never limit yourself to that. At the end of the conversation at the latest, the question always arises whether you also want to know something yourself. And there is only one option here: Yes, you want to! Specific questions about the company or the position provide you with important information about the employer and the working atmosphere. With appropriate questions, you also signal interest and good preparation. This is a positive thing for every HR manager.
  • Networking questions
    Vitamin B is a clear advantage in the professional world. Active asking can help build such a network. Instead of talking about yourself at networking events, ask questions instead. Your conversation partner will appreciate the attention - and you can make new contacts and perhaps learn something worth knowing about your counterpart.
  • Questions at the customer appointment
    Those who ask in the right places show their attentiveness and interest in fulfilling the customer's wishes in the best possible way. If all possible ambiguities and potential misunderstandings are eliminated here, the likelihood that something will go wrong later decreases. If you also ask specific questions, your customer will feel that they are in good hands and perceive you as competent.
  • Questions during small talk
    It doesn't always have to be a special conversation with a special occasion. Inquiries are recommended in every conversation, whether with friends in a private environment or with colleagues, customers or the boss on the job. This is how you carry on a dialogue, be a better conversationalist, show interest, and build trust.

Asking: The most important questioning techniques

So questions bring you further in many places. But it's not always easy to ask the really right questions. Different questioning techniques can help here. These aim to steer the conversation and the behavior of your counterpart in a certain direction during the conversation.

Some of the most common and useful questioning techniques you can use to develop your public speaking skills include:

  • Open questions

    These questions offer the opportunity to answer freely and without restriction. This questioning technique can also produce information that might otherwise have remained hidden. Especially with shy or taciturn interlocutors, open questions can spur your counterpart to participate more in the conversation. The familiar W questions are typical of this questioning technique. "How do you imagine that?", "What is the problem?" Or "Why should your idea be implemented?"

  • Closed questions

    These questions require a specific statement from the other party, typically with a clear “yes” or “no”. However, since these questions prevent a real flow of conversation, they usually have their place at the end of the conversation. For example, to record results. “Do we agree?” Or “Do you agree?” Are classic examples of closed questions.

  • Half-open questions

    As the name suggests, this technique is the middle ground between open and closed questions. The respondent is presented with categories from which he can choose. Also, the answer must usually be in the first person. Typical half-open questions are, for example, "Are you creative or do you prefer analytical tasks?" Or "Do you prefer to work in a team with colleagues or do you prefer to work independently?"

  • Rhetorical questions

    This type of question does not require any answer. The answer is already in the room. The rhetorical question serves to emphasize a statement or to stimulate thought. The advantage: You will find out immediately from the reaction whether the person you are speaking to shares your opinion or has a fundamentally different attitude. An example for this question category: "Which applicant can still afford to do without a cover letter today?"

  • Suggestive questions

    The point here is to put the desired answer in the mouth of the conversation partner as soon as the question is asked. The supposedly correct answer is presented and the other person is encouraged to give the hoped-for answer. In negotiations, suggestive questions can be used to consolidate your own point of view, for example by asking: "You also see that our offer is more than generous, don't you?"

Caution: don't overdo it

Of course, your conversation shouldn't just consist of a series of questions. Such a conversation quickly sounds like an interrogation. As is so often the case here, too: the dose makes the poison. Use your questions sparingly and carefully - and of course also respond to the answers you get from the person you are talking to. After all, it's about a real dialogue - and even if most people like to express their own views and enjoy being able to speak for themselves, you too have to shine with more than just specific questions.

Otherwise you will lose your attention after a short time and the interest of your counterpart. The art of asking questions therefore also lies in recognizing the right time, when these are appropriate and correct.

In addition, the conversation should of course not be about permanently manipulating your counterpart. Being able to lead a conversation and influencing the direction in your own interest can be an important skill - but if you overdo it with the manipulation, you will inevitably attract negative attention and will find it difficult to correct this impression again.

Asking the right way: What questions should everyone ask?

Good inquiries always depend on the situation and the person you're talking to. You take on a different role in every conversation. But there are actually a few questions that you should ask more often because they can help you (not only) professionally:

  • The question of help

    The question of help is often mistakenly equated with weakness or ignorance. It is perfectly legitimate to seek the opinion and advice of another person on a problem. In this way new views can be gained and new skills can be acquired. So don't be ashamed of asking your coworkers for help with a problem. Instead, learn from it.

    In fact, it is even a sign of greatness to admit to yourself and others that you are overwhelmed with a situation on your own. It takes both self-reflection and self-awareness to ask someone else for help.

  • The question of feedback

    If you want to improve, you always have to deal with previous mistakes beforehand. Therefore, ask your supervisor, customer or colleagues with whom you work for feedback on your work. Use the information you gain to perform even better.

    Feedback in the private sphere is also often underestimated. Talk to friends or family about decisions or actions that you are unsure about. Ask how others would have acted in your situation. This not only strengthens the relationship with one another, but often also brings surprising new insights.

  • The question of the reason

    Especially in project work, many people involved find it difficult to recognize the connection between their task and the overall picture. Instead of just accepting and performing a task, one should always ask what purpose it serves. Those who can understand the reason for a task are more motivated, achieve better results and, thanks to their qualifications, are also recommended for higher positions.

    Understanding the reason can also make you happier in the long term, as doubts are combated early on. Instead of constantly worrying about “Why was it like that?”, One can instead concentrate on what is really important.

Asking the wrong way: Please not like that!

By asking the right questions, you can gain information, get advice, or bring an honest opinion to light. The right questions? “Nothing easier than that”, some might think, but in practice it can prove to be particularly difficult - and without noticing it, many keep asking the wrong questions and then wonder why the answers don't get them any further . Annoying, but luckily there is something you can do about it.

In order to be able to ask correctly and thus to receive useful answers, you should pay attention to these three things:

  • Allow open answers

    Perhaps you think you already know the answer to a question and are really just looking for confirmation. However, you should not steer the person asked in his answer. Avoid phrases like "Don't you think that ..." or "Can you think of a reason why we don't ..."

    The very nature of the inquiry already manipulates the answer. The exception here is, of course, the leading question mentioned above, for which you specifically use this manipulation and want to force a specific answer. On the other hand, if you are looking for an honest answer, you will get no further.

  • Don't just stick to either / or

    A or B? Black or white? Right or left? A question in either-or categories excludes a multitude of possibilities from the outset. Especially if you are looking for advice, open-ended questions are a better choice as they allow you to design free answers.

  • Don't pretend you understand anything

    Admitting to not knowing something requires overcoming. We are happy to convince ourselves that we have an answer to everything and that we can find a solution to every problem. But there's no shame in having to ask a question. If you can admit this, your questions will also target the right points, fill knowledge gaps and provide problem solutions.

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19th November 2020Author: Nils Warkentin

Nils Warkentin studied business administration at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen. On the career bible, he is devoted to topics related to studies, career entry and everyday office life.

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