When To Use Open-Ended vs. Closed-Ended Questions

How you ask a question is as important as what you ask about. Here’s a guide for when to use open vs. closed-ended questions.

Use Open-Ended Questions when…

  • you are interested in the answer
  • you are seeking options and alternatives
  • you are willing to be influenced by new information
  • you care about what the other person has to share

Examples:

What ideas do you have?

What’s your perspective on this issue?

How do you feel about this?

Which option do you recommend?

Use closed-ended questions when…

  • your goal is a multiple choice test with one right answer
  • you already know what you want to hear
  • you are trying to trap someone
  • you’ve already made up your mind
  • you want to evaluate or judge the answer
  • you are in a hurry
  • you really don’t care at all

Examples:

Don’t you believe we should call them first?

What part of “no margin, no mission” don’t you understand?

Italian or Mexican?

Really?

Did you mean to say that?

Generally, open-ended questions convey curiosity. Closed-ended questions convey something else. What’s your goal?

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2016

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