Listening is not a passive activity. Listening also means understanding. You could listen to a coachee attentively and still not understand what they are trying to communicate to you. That is why you have to ask questions when you listen. If you need more information, or if you're not sure you've understood correctly, ask questions. Asking open questions will encourage conversation.

Open questions cannot be answered with just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They will prompt the coachee to provide more information and show that you are interested in knowing more. You can use open questions to draw out details, opinions and feelings. They begin with words like:

    • how
    • when
    • where
    • what
    • who.

For example you might ask:

    • How do you feel when a client isn’t responding?
    • When you feel frustrated next time, what could you do?
    • Who would you feel comfortable approaching for advice?

Closed questions that can be answered with a single word or phrase only elicit a limited amount of information and restrict the answers the coachee can give. The following are examples of closed questions:

    • Do you prefer this location?
    • Do you need to schedule another session?
    • Did you talk to your manager?

Open and closed questions

Use your skills as a communicator to pose open questions.

Make a special point of using open questions in a conversation today and take note of the effect this has on the quality of communication.

Did it change the nature of the conversation?
Did it help your understanding?
How did the speaker respond when you were interested in knowing more?
Did you find it difficult to continue in the role of listener?

Last modified: Thursday, 31 October 2013, 12:24 PM