Start using the power of open questions to elevate your communication

Sep 28, 2023

What are your go to questions when you are having discussions or making decisions with your team?


Some common ones I hear are “does that make sense?”  Or “do you understand?”  Or “are you all good?”


The problem with these questions is they are all closed.  We think we are checking peoples level of understanding and opening a dialogue to gauge “ Are they still with me or have I lost them?”


From the other persons perspective they are really easy to say yes to in the moment.  There are a lot of reasons why people may lean towards doing this; to escape what could be an uncomfortable conversation or a lack of psychological safety to openly show what we don’t know.  Yes is a way of avoiding this.  When this happens, we normally find ourselves asking someone else or spending more time and resources later on, for example when we get to the jon.  It’s a pretty inefficient way to do things.


From the leaders perspective these questions don’t help you to learn anything new about the other persons level of understanding and experience or what they are going to do once they get started.  They don’t provide any insight into the next steps the person is going to take. 


This is what makes open questions so important, they help us to:

  • Develop open communication where others can share freely leading to more productive discussions and a better understanding of your teams perspectives,
  • Gather better information and insights, dig deeper into a topic, uncover hidden assumptions and build a more comprehensive view of a situation before making decisions,
  • Empower team members to develop critical thinking and take ownership, promoting responsibility which can boost motivation and engagement,
  • Build relationships on a foundation of trust and two way engagement,
  • Be adaptable to changing circumstances and the needs of your team.


Open questions are a valuable tool in your toolkit that can improve communication, team cohesion and productivity.  They serve a different purpose to closed questions and can improve the effectiveness of your conversations.

Here are some open questions to start trying:

  • If we were to do this, how would it look and sound to you?
  • What am I missing?
  • Paraphrase an idea back to your team followed by tell me why this wont work, or how would you make this better?
  • What are your next steps?
  • Identify a key piece of language the other person is using, and ask I’m curious about that, can you tell me more about it?


Open questions are a great tool to promote active engagement, encourage critical thinking, gather diverse perspectives, and create an open and inclusive work environment.


Start reflecting on your go to questions in your conversations.  Where can you ask more open questions?

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