What can make you ask questions

The most important questioning techniques

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Subject: rhetoric

Who asks wins

Everyone knows that there really aren't any stupid questions. Because they are of great importance for our communication. Without any questions, almost every conversation dries up sooner or later. Questions are used to signal interest or to receive new information. In addition to various Questioning techniques, the motivation for a specific question can also be varied:

  • Clarification of a situation
  • Interest in the topic
  • Interest in the person
  • Interest in the matter
  • Help in making a decision
  • Tactical calculation

So-called "inquiries" are also beneficial for the flow of conversations and mutual understanding. Short counter or understanding questions help to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that the person you are talking to can be sure that you are following his explanations carefully.

Clearly asked questions usually do not leave the interlocutor in the dark about their meaning and purpose. The questioner also gives his counterpart enough time to answer, unless he wants to unsettle him with a series of questions. The way you ask has a direct impact on your position in the conversation. The rhetoric distinguishes between different questioning techniques.

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Questioning techniques of rhetoric
Open and closed questions

The open questions should not be missing in a detailed conversation. They always start with a question word (who, how, what, why ...?). They can be recognized by the fact that they cannot simply be answered with yes or no. Rather, they encourage people to contribute more to a topic. Open-ended questions are suitable for discussing a topic in all of its many facets. Because on open questions such as "What do you think about that?" you usually get a wide range of answers.

The positive effect of the open question: The person asked feels that an open question has treated him as a partner. An open question always leaves enough leeway in the answer so that the person you are talking to feels less pressured.

If the questioner wants to ensure that his interlocutor only answers yes or no, he becomes one closed question put. It usually begins with a verb "Do you agree?" Closed questions are suitable for asking quick and precise facts: "Have you studied?", "Do you live in Berlin?" But they also serve to direct the conversation to a certain point in order to achieve an intended consent. This was particularly well trained in sales training in order to get the other person - usually the customer - into the so-called yes rhythm, where in the end only the approval for the product or service could be given. As a rule, however, these are more suggestive questions.

The positive effect of the closed question: The closed question can simplify complicated issues and bring them to the point. The use of closed questions helps you to structure a conversation and to receive clear statements from your counterpart.

The negative effect of the closed question: This questioning technique always requires a clear statement from the respondent. However, the questioner may feel pressured, taken by surprise or tested by the narrow framework of a closed question: "Have you already made up your mind?" The range of answers is small, so the closed question only offers a one-sided or limited perspective on a topic.


Alternative, suggestive and rhetorical questions

These questioning techniques are often referred to as "spurious" questions. Alternative, suggestive and rhetorical questions offer only limited and / or predetermined answer options.


1. Alternative questions

Alternative questions are based on the either-or principle. The interlocutor can only choose between two possible answers. The questions serve to sort out unselected alternatives. In a positive sense, this can lead to faster decision-making. Complex issues can be narrowed down using the exclusion principle.

The effect of alternative questions: If alternative questions are used tactically, they restrict the interlocutor's freedom of choice. You deliberately set limits or only offer two alternatives, both of which are not wanted: "We have an order bottleneck. Would you like to reduce your weekly working hours or would you prefer to take three weeks of unpaid vacation?" Also the alternative question: "Would you like to stay a little longer this Friday or would you prefer next week?" sets clear limits for those asked who actually do not want to work overtime. It is emphatically conveyed that it will not work without overtime.


2. Leading questions

Leading questions have a similar orientation. Here, too, the interlocutor is influenced. They often serve as a stepping stone to add another question and eventually get the predetermined result. Suggestive questions are used in sales discussions of all kinds. Example: Do you want reliable service? Do you want the best quality? Should the partner be competent? And the price should still be right? If I can offer you everything - is our offer an option for you?

Also the question "Don't you want more justice in this world?" urges the respondent by using the words "not also" in the desired direction of approval. The following question "Wouldn't you like to support our association against the exploitation of child laborers in Nepal with a donation?" is just hard to deny.

The effect of leading questions: Here the interlocutor is led by seemingly harmless, easy-to-answer questions that he has to fulfill the request that he subsequently expressed if he does not want to contradict himself. "Don't you agree that more could be done to improve the working atmosphere?" "Yes that's true." "Wouldn't you like to put together a list of wishes and suggestions?"


3. Rhetorical questions

Even rhetorical questions are not "real" questions, because they do not require an answer and are thus a stylistic device that pushes the person asked into a passive role. A typical example is "Didn't I say it?" in response to an event or outcome that was supposedly so predicted. In a positive sense, questions like "What do we learn from it?" have a loosening effect or signal that a topic is being closed.

The effect of rhetorical questions: Rhetorical questions have a provocative effect as soon as the person asked can only agree with the questioner or the answer has to remain entirely guilty. On the other hand, they have a harmonizing effect if you support the conversation partner in terms of content. So the question: "Didn't I say it?" meet with a positive response if the "good outcome" of a matter was prophesied beforehand.

Rhetorical questions that underline a quintessence are even perceived as positive without exception. To conclude a logical explanation is a question like "Would you be amazed if this business had to file for bankruptcy in a few months?" a good conclusion that involves the viewer in the process of inference.