Asking questions is a basic way to gather information. But like everything else, there’s a skill to it. Asking open-ended questions is a friendly way to engage people in a conversation. Knowing the difference between open-ended and close-ended questions will help you tremendously in your career and social life.
Understanding Open-Ended Questions
Know what an open-ended question is.
An open-ended question is a question that requires a full answer using the subject’s own knowledge or feelings. These questions are objective, don’t lead the person being asked, and result in an answer with many words.
Examples of open-ended questions are:
“What happened after I left?”
“Why did Jim leave before Susan?”
“Tell me about your day at work.”
“What do you think about the new season of this TV show?”
A closed-ended question is answered in a short or single-word answer. They are used to obtain facts and specific pieces of information.
Examples of closed-ended questions are:
“Who will you choose?”
“What brand of car do you own?”
“Did everyone finish all the cake?”
Closed-ended questions bring conversations to a halt. They don’t invite people to elaborate, talk about themselves, or give the questioner much information.
The Language of Open-Ended Questions
To make sure you actually ask open-ended questions, you need to understand the language involved.
Open-ended questions begin with the following words: why, how, what, describe, tell me about…, or what do you think about…
Although “tell me about” does not begin a question, the result is the same as asking an open-ended question.
Closed-ended questions also have a specific language. If you want to avoid closed-ended questions, don’t start questions with the following verbs: are/was, did/did, will, won’t, didn’t, aren’t, would, if.
Use open-ended questions for meaningful answers. One of the main reasons to use open-ended questions is to obtain deep, meaningful, and thoughtful answers. Asking questions in this way invites people to open up, because you are showing that you are interested in what they have to say