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Asking Instead of Telling

From Tero's Beyond Compromise: A Better Way To Negotiate participant manual

Good communication skills involve being skilled in the essential skill of asking questions. Your ability to do this will create a more positive relationship with anyone! Asking, instead of telling, is a communication skill that offers many benefits:

Effective asking does not come naturally to any of us. Even people who are skilled at asking questions are frequently doing so to check their own thinking rather than exploring the other person's perspective.

In discussions, ask open-ended questions that encourage others to talk openly, rather than closed questions that result in yes or no answers. Resist the temptation to do all the thinking. Questions encourage others to use their critical thinking skills to find creative solutions to their goals and problems.

Closed Questions

Closed questions invite a simple answer (often a yes or no response). They are useful for checking understanding. However, when overdone, closed questions can prompt the other person to deduce that you are more interested in what you are thinking rather than what he or she is thinking or that you are trying to sell him or her something.

Open Questions

Open questions make a person feel that you are interested in their thoughts and they tend to participate and cooperate more.

Examples of good open-ended questions include:


Opening up how we approach questions is key in our communication. The next time you are ready to "tell" someone something, stop! Ask yourself is there a way I can "ask" around this rather than simply say it.

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