Questions are a critical piece of any conversation and there is an easy way to use them to build better conversations and depth while communicating.  That method is simply by using more open ended questions.

Open Ended Versus Closed Ended

There are two types of questions that are important to know in order to keep your conversations going and to build more rapport with others in conversation.  They are open ended and closed ended questions.

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Closed ended questions can be answered with a single one or two word response.  They are often a yes or no question and don’t leave much room for elaboration, interpretation or opinion.

Open ended questions on the other hand are questions that cannot be answered with one word responses.  They require some thought and some details to reasonably answer the question.

Build a Conversation

Simple response closed questions don’t leave much room for elaboration or really a full response.  These are often question using phrases like, did you, when, do you want to, will you, have you, etc.  Each of these just need a couple words to answer and they don’t transition well from one topic to another in a conversation.  They leave little room for new ideas and they don’t spark much creativity or imagination which leads to new questions.  That is where open ended questions excel.  They provide much more detail, thoughts, comments and bits of information that can more easily form into new ideas and transitions.  Here are some examples of typical questions in an open format:

  • Tell me what you think about that?
  • What is it you like about the idea?
  • Why would you suggest that?
  • How do you plan to achieve that?

Let Others Talk More Than You

Open ended questions also ensure that you give others a chance to talk more than you.  It forces you to listen more in any conversation because you have to wait for a longer response with these questions.  You can still lead a conversation by steering with your questions but at least the open questions will allow room for a more elaborate expanse.

Open questioning is also a great tool to promote creative thought, problem-solving skills, and cognitive growth in others because it forces a person to spend more time contemplating their response instead of just giving a disconnected yes or no response.  The thought needed behind may seem simply but it forces an association pattern that makes a person relate something of meaning that they response with, to the person or conversation.  This inherently builds a stronger bond with, better memory of and definitely a more engaged conversation.

Ask Them to Talk About Themselves

Similarly to simply having someone talk more, having someone talk about themselves, their own thoughts and their feelings on a subject shows that you have some genuine interest in them and care enough to want to take the time to listen.  This is immensely powerful both for seeing how the conversation topics affect that person but also to strengthen that relationship more.  Whether you know the person well, or you are already a close friend or family member, these personal and open ended questions only lead to an even stronger bond with a longer more meaningful conversation at the outset.



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