Open-Ended Questions Build Relationships

by Jo-Ann Downey on June 17, 2010

in Relationship Communication Skills

Post image for Open-Ended Questions Build Relationships

Did you do your homework?  Did you complete your business plan?  Did you get the job you wanted?  Did you take out the trash? Do you sometimes feel that someone’s question is really a statement, a request, a judgment, or a directive?

What is an Open-Ended Question?

Unlike closed-ended questions, open-ended questions require more than a one or two word response.  Open-ended questions have an inviting quality and they encourage authentic responses and two-way communication in both personal and professional relationships.

Open-ended questions 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.”

Attitude and Intention

As shared in “When your Relationships are Good, your Life is Good” and “Seeing from your Heart”, where you are coming from (your attitude and intention) impacts the success of your communications and your relationships.

Since closed-ended questions often have a controlling and/or confining quality, it is best to use open-ended questions whenever you can.  If you find yourself using closed-ended questions, you can check in with yourself and evaluate your attitude and your intention(s).

Examples of Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are often phrased as a statement that encourages a response from someone.

Closed-ended question:  Is your project on time?
Open-ended question:  I am interested in hearing about your project.

Closed-ended question:  Do you take Main Street to work?
Open-ended question:  How do you drive to work?

Closed-ended question: What is your favorite movie?
Open-ended question:  I would love to hear about your favorite movie.

Closed-ended question:  Do you like this city?
Open-ended question:  What is your impression of this city?

Benefits of using Open-Ended Questions

∞  Facilitates enhanced levels of cooperation and understanding
∞  Provides the opportunity for others to express themselves more openly and honestly
∞  Encourages others to provide information including their ideas, concerns & feelings
∞  Assists in creating a positive learning and sharing experience
∞  Allows others to share what is present for them
∞  Shows respect and interest in others
∞  Encourages others to flow with their thoughts and feelings & allows you to support this flow
∞  Demonstrates your willingness to invest time with others

Very Smart Girls use open-ended questions to build personal and professional relationships.  You may want to read “Open-Ended Questions at Work”.

What is your favorite open-ended question?   The name you type in the comment section (for example, Jo-Ann, Jo-Ann Downey or Jo-Ann from Boston) will appear on the site.  Your email address will NOT appear.  If you provide a website URL (for example, your business or your blog URL),  it will be linked to your name so others can learn more about you.

photo credit: SirioIG

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

M-odelixir network August 4, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Very nice blog post. I absolutely appreciate this site.

Keep it up!


Jo-Ann Downey August 15, 2014 at 7:31 am

Thank you so very much- comments like yours add to my motivation to keep writing and sharing ; Jo-Ann


meir ezra genius July 21, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Good post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic?

I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
Appreciate it!


Jo-Ann Downey July 26, 2014 at 8:50 am

meir ezra genius- Glad that you like the post! I usually write 3-4X what I post. Do you have a specific question? Jo-Ann


Johne426 June 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

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Jo-Ann Downey June 5, 2014 at 9:53 am

Johne426- thank you for your kind words! You can sign up to receive an email when I post a blog or you can sign up for an RSS feed at in the Subscribe section (top right). Jo-Ann


Hank November 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm

This is the ideal answer. Evoryene should read this


carinsurance February 27, 2015 at 8:28 am

You couldn’t pay me to ignore these posts!


Jo-Ann Downey February 28, 2015 at 9:57 am

Funny…thank you!

hny mughal February 5, 2014 at 6:50 am

bundle of thanks for this briefly explanation


Jo-Ann Downey February 5, 2014 at 9:42 am

You are so very welcome – thanks for reading my blog! Jo-Ann


PIUS OJO OMONIYI September 13, 2011 at 11:24 am

This is a good forum for us to learn more please keep it up


Jo-Ann Downey September 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Thank you very much for your positive comment- it’s comments like yours that help me to keep it up!


Erin McLaughlin July 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Great reminder. I love your examples!


Jo-Ann Downey July 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

Thank you and I look forward to hearing how they work for you!


Jo-Ann Downey June 18, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Thank you. I am very interested to know how it works out for you!


Roxanne June 18, 2010 at 7:25 am

Loved this and never really thought about open vs closed ended questions. Will try to put this to very good use.
Thanks again


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