Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Learning to Listen - Lesson #2

Continued from Lesson #1

Now that you emptied your communication toolbox, we can begin putting new tools inside. You no longer ask why or offer solutions, but haven't yet learned what to do. The next step is a fairly simple one. We will be discussing the use of open-ended inquiries and close-ended inquiries.

And open-ended inquiry is a question that allows someone to give a long, sophistocated answer. They won't always do that, but an open-ended inquiry gives them to opportunity to do so. Questions like "What happened at the game?" or "What do you think of that?" are open-ended. They allow for the person answering the question to give a lot of response. The question doesn't have an easy, definitive answer.

A close-ended inquiry is the exact opposite, as you may have guessed. It is a question that can usually be answered with one word. Questions like "How do you feel about that?" or "Do you like eggs?" are close-ended.

Here is a conversation utilizing only close-ended questions:

Sarah: "How are you today?"

Joe: "Good."

Sarah: "Did you have fun at the game?"

Joe: "Yeah."

Sarah: "Did Jason go with you?"

Joe: "Yeah."

Sarah: "Who won?"

Joe: "The Nuggets."

Sarah: "Was it close?"

Joe: "Nope."

It's hard to get any real information out of Joe without giving him the chance to go on at length with what he wants to talk about. Close-ended inquiries aren't bad, but they should be used lightly. Your goal is to ask mostly open-ended inquiries. Ask a close-ended inquiry in order to clarify or bridge into an open-ended inquiry.

Remember what you learned in Lesson #1. When you engage in conversation, pay attention to yourself and see if you use close-ended inquiries more than you should. Add that to what you've already learned and you will start noticing more productive and inspiring conversations. Stay tuned though, as there's much ahead.

Note: The next lesson will come...eventually.

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