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

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beldad boreal April 22, 2015 at 11:51 am

I am taking interpersonal communications and this explanation on open ended questions made it easier for my assignment on perception checking… thanks!


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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


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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


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

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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


Jo-Ann Downey August 31, 2015 at 7:41 am

Thank you for including me in your article! Jo-Ann


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