Open-Ended Questions at Work

by Jo-Ann Downey

in Relationship Communication Skills

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Since “Open-Ended Questions Build Relationships” is one of our most popular blogs, below are some examples of open-ended versus close-ended questions you can use in the workplace. In many cases, you really do need to give or receive a specific piece of information or to gain commitment (yes/no); however, using open-ended questions facilitates enhanced levels of cooperation, shows respect and interest in others, and assists in creating a positive experience.

As a reminder,  open-ended questions (and statements) require more than a one or two word response,  have an inviting quality, encourage two-way communication, and typically start with “why”, “how”, or phrases like “I would like to know more about”, “Tell me about”, or “I am interested in hearing more about.”

Manager to Employee

Close-ended question: When can I have the inventory summary report?
Open-ended question: How is the completion of the inventory summary report progressing?

Employee to Manager

Closed-ended question:  When do you need the inventory summary report?
Open-ended question:  I know you need the inventory summary report for your meeting and I would like to know your timetable.

Peer to Peer

Closed-ended question: What time do you want to meet to discuss the inventory summary report?
Open-ended question:  I would like to discuss the inventory summary report at your convenience and would like to know what time works for you.

Employee to Customer

Closed-ended question:  When can you send me your inventory summary report?
Open-ended question:  Your inventory summary report is important to us in order to credit your account and I was wondering how it is coming along.

Can you feel the difference? And don’t forget to use open-ended questions in your e-mail correspondence.  Also, it is always good to check for understanding (“Communication Checkpoints“) and to remember the importance of non-verbal communication (“The 93% Impact of Nonverbal Communication“).

photo credit: Lynne Featherstone

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