Stop Killing Your Conversations with Closed Questions

Deepen Your Relationships with Open Questions Instead.

by Brian Curtis, PhD

"How was your day?"

"Did you like the movie?"

This is where conversations go ... to die.

Both of the questions above are examples are what we can call “Closed Questions." These are questions that can be answered with a one or two-word response that typically limit a person’s options for responding to us.


"How was your day?" … "Good."


"Did you like the movie?" … "Yup."


On the other hand, there are questions that open the door to deeper conversations and more meaningful connections with the people in your life. These are questions that can’t be answered with a one-word response, and we can call them “Open Questions.” These questions often begin with “What” … “How” … or “Tell me.”


"What happened at work?"


"Tell me about your favorite part of the movie."


As you can see, it would be REALLY WEIRD to answer these open-questions with a one-word response:


"What happened at work?" … "Good." … "WHAT?!?"


Now, you probably won’t want to ask a number of open questions in a row, or pretty soon it just seems like you’re grilling the other person for information.


But as you go about the rest of your day, become a little more curious about the quality of your conversations, and how your use, and other people’s use of open questions compared to closed questions influences how these conversations tend to go.  


Do you think that would be interesting?

Wait a minute … you want me to re-phrase that CLOSED QUESTION with an OPEN QUESTION?

OK. Here we go: 

How might your relationships change if you committed to asking just ONE open question in your next conversation?

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