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Introduction: How to Formulate and Ask Intelligent Questions
The appropriateness and relevance of the answers we receive depend on the questions that we ask. A question is the vehicle to find out the answer to something – it is a way for us to further our knowledge and gain factual information. American novelist, Thomas Berger once said, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” Learn how to formulate and ask intelligent questions.
UPDATE: First published in December 2012
How to Formulate Intelligent Questions
As an expert interviewer with close to 20 years of experience formulating and asking questions, one of the things I have learned along the way is that how you formulate the question is very much dependent on why you are asking the question in the first place.
People like multiple choice questions because they’re simple, the work has been done for them, so they only have to choose an answer without very much thought, but stay away from them – they are for exams and surveys. Multiple choice questions seldom further your knowledge.
The 5 Ws and one H (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) is an effective journalism, research and information gathering tool. To formulate intelligent questions, start them with any of the 5 Ws and one H, Who, What, Where and When. They allow you to gather information that you need.
Questions beginning with Why and How allow you to get more thoughtful responses and are also more analytical in nature. These types of questions prevent you from getting yes-no responses or any other one word answers because they are open-ended questions.
Think about the information that you require, then formulate your questions using Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.
How to Ask Intelligent Questions
Once you have formulated your intelligent questions, to ask them, use the following as a guide:
- Be direct.
- Listen more, talk less and be comfortable with silence.
- Ask follow-up questions.
- Ask for clarification.
- Do not be afraid to ask what others deem as ‘dumb’ questions.
Final Thoughts on How to Formulate and Ask Intelligent Questions
In another post, we will look at how to conduct an interview, and will further delve into how to ask questions.
A book that comes highly recommended is Ask: The counterintuitive online formula to discover exactly what your customers want to buy…create a mass of raving fans…and take any business to the next level by Ryan Levesque.