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English Communication Skill: Asking Questions- The Power Tool

English Communication Skill: Asking Questions- The Power Tool


As you intently listen, you make an enlightening discovering.  Sometimes the person is not giving you the information you need.  The chief tool of the good listener is a good question. Questions are wonderful tools for stimulating, drawing forth, and guiding communication.

Asking good questions is a learned skill requiring years of learning and practice.  The foundation of good question-asking is knowing what information you want.  I like eight guidelines for asking better questions – questions that are likely to get to the heart of the matter.

  1. Plan your questions in advance. Prepare what you’re going to ask about. Outline your purpose and a sequence of questions.  If you plan ahead, you can follow the speaker’s line of thought and gather much more information.  Pretty soon, the speaker is comfortably sharing information.  In the American culture, the question-and-answer format acts as an aid to good communication.
  2. Act with a purpose. Every question you ask should have one of two basic purposes: to get facts or get opinions.
  3. Tailor your questions to your listener. Relate questions to the listener’s frame of reference and background. If the listener is a technology person, use technology examples.  If the listener is a teacher, use school and teaching examples. Be sure to use words and phrases the listener understands.
  4. Follow general questions with more specific ones. The specific questions are called “follow-up” questions.  This is where the depth of the information lies.  This is also the way people think – from general to specific.
  5. Keep questions short and clear – cover only one subject. People have to process your question, so keep it simple and easy to understand. If you really want to know two different things, ask two different questions.  Crafting short questions takes more energy, but the effort is worth it.  Often the other party starts talking to you about the subject, and you can drop the questioning at that point.
  6. Make transitions between their answers and your questions. Listen to the answer to  your first question.  Use something in the answer to frame your next question.  Even if it takes you off the path for a while, it leads to rich rewards because of the comfort level it gives to the person you are questioning.  This approach also sounds more conversational and therefore less threatening.  This is also why experts recommend you to plan your questions and not memorize them.
  7. Don’t interrupt; let the other person answer the question!


Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

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