Four Types Of Questions
November 17, 2021
A couple of months back, I wrote a blog Questions Enlighten More Than The Answers. A reader reached out to me asking me to write about how to get better at asking questions. Is there a framework one can refer to or learn from when it comes to asking powerful questions?
While there is copious material on the internet about the different types of questions, I wanted to share my perspective about the different types of questions one can ask when trying to understand a person or a situation.
But first, questions serve a purpose. They help clarify and create a shared understanding between the person asking the question and the one answering. Thoughtfully crafted questions make the other person think and reflect. On the other hand, bad questions are aimless and ambiguous in terms of what they seek from the other person.
Ultimately, questions are a foundational tool to build great relationships.
There are four types of questions one can ask in different situations, which help engage with the other person and understand the other person’s point of view.
At the lowest level, we have the fact questions.
Typical examples of fact questions would be “what do you do?” or “what do you look after?” or “what was the revenue generated last quarter” or “Can you describe the problem specifically?”
We use fact questions to connect at a basic level and come to the same page with the other person. Facts establish a baseline, show what’s going on. So, when you ask a fact question, you get facts. But, you don’t get to understand the other person’s perspective.
From fact questions, you move to opinion questions to understand the situation at a deeper level. With Opinion questions, you are trying to get the other person’s perspective.
“You mentioned that your revenue was $3 Mio last quarter(response to a fact question). How would you rate that performance?” or ” Were you happy with the numbers?”
“You mentioned that attrition is a big problem you are facing right now(response to a fact question). Is the attrition trend improving or deteriorating?”
Opinion questions are essential to get to know how the other person is viewing a particular situation. They are also great for building rapport. Everyone likes to share their opinions and viewpoints and opinion questions do exactly that. They help you get a sense of how the other person thinks.
At the next level are Impact questions. Questions of impact help you understand what the other person sees as important.
“You seem happy with the numbers. How is the good traction impacting your growth plans?”
“What impact will this have on your future plans if you don’t resolve this issue?”
“These worries you have, how are they impacting your personal life?”
In life, there is always something that happens, and the importance we give it directly impacts the way it affects us. Impact questions, therefore, help you understand how the other person is seeing something, and this is when you begin to connect with the other person. You can relate to what the other person is feeling or going through. Impact questions help you gain an insight into the values of the other person.
“What are you willing to do to make the change?”
“What must change in your current routine for this new habit to stick?”
Asking change questions forces the other person to think about and figure out what they could do to make something happen.
You might be a student engaging with a professor, you might be a salesperson pitching a solution to someone, you might be a leader responsible for a team, or you might be a parent dealing with your teenaged kids. No matter who you are, when you need to learn something about someone or something, the four types of questions will help you navigate the conversation effectively while also helping you connect with the other person.