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The effective use of How, What, When, Where and Which are key when it comes to questions. In view of this, our approach to how questions are asked must always be influenced by some sense of professionalism.

However, as we are confronted in our day to day activities as humans to make good and quality choices owing to how effectively the questions we ask are tailored. In effect, the outcome of our questions can only be described as substantive if it addresses and provides an answer to an identified problem as expected.

Based on what we want to gain at the end of a conversation, the questions we ask must be asked in a refined way that does not trigger anger and create mayhem. It is also very important to always create and share meaning when it comes to the way and manner a question is couched.

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As there are always a lot of questions we ask ourselves and even those around us directly and indirectly. These questions might be rhetorical, open ended or close ended depending on the intent and the circumstance but what should not be taken for granted is the language.


CLARIFYING: What do you mean when you say …. ?

EXPLAINING: What evidence makes you think …. ?

INTEREST-BASED: What do you fear or hope will happen ….?

CHALLENGING: What will happen if …. ?

BRAINSTORMING: What possible OPTIONS might resolve this CIRCUMSTANCE?

CONSEQUENTIAL: What might happen as a result?

PROBLEM-SOLVING: How have you tried to resolve this problem and what is preventing you from resolving it now?

EMPOWERING: Think about a time when someone told you that they appreciated your help to work through a tough situation. What did you LEARN about your capacities through their appreciation and how might that help you now?

OPINION SEEKING (open and directed): What do you think about this new version of the proposal?

FACT- FINDING (somewhat open and directed; used in EXPLAIN the PLAN): How long will it take to get the money?

NARROW OR FORCED CHOICE (mostly closed; used in EXPLAIN the PLAN): Can you give him the money by Friday?

LEADING (closed): If she agrees to your PLAN, will that satisfy you?



Finally, HR practitioners need to be aware of the barriers that will block them from being active listeners. Figure (3) helps to identify some of those key ones that come up time and again.


Figure 3. Barriers to Active Listening (Team FME, 2013)


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