Lisa Voso's Quick Tips for Better Business Communication #1


Open-Ended vs. Closed Questions


When communicating at work, it is important to elicit the right type of feedback from co-workers, managers and subordinates. In some cases, closed questions are sufficient. Answers to closed questions give you facts, are quick and easy to answer and they allow the questioner to control the conversation. For example, what time did you arrive at work? What is the due date for that project? Who serves on the steering committee with you?


In other instances, open-ended questions are preferred. You’ll use open-ended questions when you want to ask someone how he feels about a particular issue or when you want her to think and reflect on something. With open-ended questions, you are giving control to the person answering the question and they usually begin with what, why, how and describe. Because you are relinquishing control it is critical that you avoid leading, prompting or interrupting the respondent. For example, how do you plan to achieve that? What do you like about this idea? How would you change the situation next time?


Closed questions provide you with short, succinct answers that provide little opportunity for discussion or creativity. On the other hand, open-ended questions help you build conversations and create the opportunity for others to talk while you listen. Give them a try! I think you’ll be pleased with the results.




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Featured Tip

5 non-monetary ways to motivate your employees:

  1. authentic management and leadership whose behavior is consistent and genuine
  2. proactive and regular communication
  3. high-quality training and development
  4. regular appraisal and positive feedback – restating business objectives and recognizing your staff’s contribution
  5. requests for feedback, either in person or via staff surveys, on how employees feel about their roles, the support they get, and improvements to the business
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