An open-ended question encourages a meaningful, complete response. It is a communication technique used to gain deeper access into a person’s thoughts and feelings. When utilized correctly, open-ended questions can strengthen a relationship, help us understand a person’s point of view, needs, and feelings, increase empathy, and assess if someone is a good fit for us.

Unfortunately, most people tend to ask closed-ended questions, which usually elicit a “yes” or “no” or one word response. The problem with closed-ended questions is that they do not foster discussions. They stop the conversation short and prevent us from gathering rich information about a person’s inner thoughts and feelings.

If you want to get to know someone better, increase the intimacy in your relationship, or need to assess if someone is a good fit for you, you must get in the habit of asking open-ended questions.

Below are a few examples that will help clarify the difference.

CLOSED-ENDED QUESTIONS OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
 Are you close to your family?  Tell me about your family.
 Do you want me to leave you alone?  What do you need from me right now?
 Are you still in love with me?  How do you feel about our relationship?
 Do you like your job?  How did you get interested in your career?
 Do you want to spend time with me?  How would you like to spend this weekend?
 Are you excited about our trip?  What are you most excited about?

 

Tip: Open-ended questions typically begin with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “Tell me about”, “How do you feel?” The more you practice asking open-ended questions, the more you’ll see positive growth in the quality of your relationships.