The Most Important Questioning Skills You should Know about

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Asking questions is a normal human tendency – we question everything, and so we should; that’s how we learn, after all. But asking the right questions, at the right time and (perhaps most importantly) in the right way, is a skill very few of us possess. We ask questions to gain more information, but ask the wrong question at the wrong time and in the wrong way, and we could be confronted with an answer that either gives us the wrong information, or worse, leaves us feeling like we are inadequate in our investigative techniques.

Questioning someone is a skill. People go through specific training to be able to extract specific information. Ever wonder how to approach it the right way? Here are the most important questioning skills you should know about.

Step 1: be prepared

You should have done your background research about the person you are questioning. What does the person stand for? What are his or her opinions? Don’t question your subject about points he or she has already made abundantly clear unless there is good reason to.

Step 2: prepare for a response

Your subject has a certain way of thinking, and you can gauge this by the background research you have done. Be prepared for the responses to your questions – in words or in attitude.

Step 3: think about the question

What question do you want to ask? Why do you want to ask the question? Do you want to clarify or challenge? Do you want to gain information or rule out false claims?

Step 4: be silent

Often the best strategies is to be silent and let the subject talk. Listen!

Be structured and organised

In certain circumstances, you may be required to ask a good number of questions – circumstances which include conducting a survey or research project, or being in an industry which requires you to record information. In cases like these, it’s best to be as structured and organised as possible.

To make it easier on yourself and your respondent, inform them that you will be asking a range of questions before you begin. Provide them with extra information and the reasons behind your questions. When you do this, your respondent will become more open to your questions. You can also give them a heads-up on the type of questions you will be asking, such as telling them, “To help you with your issue, I will need to ask you about…”(followed by a list of general questions you will be asking them).

An additional tip: When you have plenty of questions to ask, you can also turn to transcription services which can transcribe your data for you with ease. Look for transcription services which are experienced in your industry, though, so you can get a much better service.

Image attributed to Stuart Miles/


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