Ask Better Questions
Updated: Feb 13
There are generic and overused questions, and there are questions that resonate, excite, and cut through. Asking the right questions can stop people in their tracks and even lead to a transaction or a new business opportunity.
We at refine+focus have seen firsthand the power of a good question to transform and enrich communication. Whether it’s in a business or personal setting, here’s how you can enhance your questions to get the results you want.
Ask better questions
Aim to evoke emotions, recall memories, and pique interest. Set up imagery and context that asks respondents to use their imaginations—more space for creativity and consideration leads to more meaningful and unexpected insights.
Imagine you’re a DJ trying to improve your set. Which of the following sparks more curiosity: “What makes a great DJ?” or “When is the last time a DJ played a song you loved?”
Determine your intention. It’s not always the case that the question with the highest response rate is the most valuable—it could be that the one with the least responses has the highest conversion rates. That’s why you need to know your intention before you set out.
Ask yourself, who is my audience? What’s the real reason that I’m asking my question?
Tailor your technique. Asking a question is the just first step in a series of engagements. Having a conversation with someone is much more about them than what you’re trying to achieve through them. The more background you have on a person, the better you can refine and focus the questions you’re asking.
Our step by step method
1. Start with the result. If you have a very small window with someone, you need to know what your end goal is. Once you’ve determined that, move on to step two.
2. Consider what you need from the person. Ask yourself, what are the various reasons why this person might be inclined to help me achieve my desired result? It might be shared histories, similar backgrounds, or a favor owed to you. Keep this in mind for step three.
3. Formulate your questions. Cater to your audience. What gets them excited? What questions can you ask in this window of time that will get them most inclined to take the end action you want them to take?
4. Design a sequence. Start with something direct, immediate, and easy to answer. Build off of that as you get more clues about the person and as you build a rapport with them. The order in which you ask your questions is just as important as the questions themselves.
5. Make your ask. Asking targeted and evocative questions will create the ideal conditions for your desired results. Remember that the best answers come from a place of engagement.
Try It Yourself
Questions are the mechanism you can use to get you to a better place. Start collecting questions—the ones that make you think, that ask you to use your imagination, that get you eager to keep the conversation going.
Create a list of the questions you think will excite your audience. What do the people you reach actually want to answer? What kinds of questions will motivate them to respond? Don’t stop at 5 questions—go for 50.
These tips may be familiar to you, but we’re inviting you to actually try them out. Let us know how they go for you—shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
More On Asking Better Questions
Are your questions helping you gain clarity? In our latest Lunchtime Live session, Zach and Purnima go over practical situations from a new perspective and introduce helpful approaches to asking better questions. Learn how better questions lead to better answers, better outcomes, new insights, deeper learning, and more meaningful connections in our latest video.