Skip to main content

What Are the 7 Different Types of Questioning Techniques?

Livingsta is a writer who focuses on anything that fascinates, provokes or interests her. She always puts forth her best efforts and focus.

We rarely question the nature of questions, but different types of questions serve different strategic purposes.

We rarely question the nature of questions, but different types of questions serve different strategic purposes.

Why Do We Ask Questions?

Questioning is a natural behaviour that starts from a very early age and continues throughout life. More often than not, we ask questions simply because we need answers. Questions are asked for various reasons in various situations when one is searching for solutions, answers, information, facts, etc. They are basic tools that help humans grow and develop.

Questions can be asked to gain knowledge, clarify doubts, determine truth, satisfy curiosity, simplify complicated concepts, resolve issues, start conversations, share ideas, make plans, etc. Children persistently ask questions, and they learn and increase their knowledge that way.

Types of Questions

There are many different types of questioning techniques that can be used to gather information. One should know all the different types of questions, when to use each type and how to combine the different techniques to arrive at the best decision or result.

Whether you're planning an investment strategy, researching a project, consulting with a lawyer, figuring out the needs of a client or just learning new ideas, the questions you ask will, to a large extent, determine the quality and quantity of the information you receive.

The primary question types that we will discuss in this article are:

  1. Closed questions
  2. Open questions
  3. Funnel questions
  4. Probing questions
  5. Leading questions
  6. Rhetorical questions
  7. Clarifying questions

1. Closed Questions

Closed, or 'polar,' questions have very short answers like 'yes' or 'no' or other one-word or short answers. They are usually asked to test if someone has understood certain policies, procedures, rules, regulations, explanations, discussions, lectures, etc.

Closed questions are also asked during agreements or disagreements to determine how someone is feeling or for specificity and affirmation. You often hear closed questions during icebreaker or group activities because they're easy to answer (even for shy people) and don't invite time-consuming explanations. For this reason, closed questions can also have the effect of shutting down conversations, giving them limited utility when it comes to building relationships or earning someone's trust.

Closed questions often begin with words like "are," "do," "did," "could," "should," etc.

Some examples of this type of question are:

  • Will I get a response by tomorrow?
  • Do we agree on this decision?
  • Are you happy with the services that we provide?
  • What is your hometown?
  • What do you do for a living?

2. Open Questions

Open, or open-ended, questions ask for explanatory answers and typically encourage broader discussions. This can include asking someone to explain what happened during a situation (as well as why it happened), soliciting feedback or the details/backstory of an incident or asking someone about their circumstances, needs or ideas.

This type of question is useful in creative or critical discussions, or when you want to learn more about a person or subject.

Open questions often begin with words like "what," "why," "how," "describe," "explain," "where," "which," "when," etc.

They help to facilitate dynamic, two-way conversations. Some examples are:

  • What happened at the conference today?
  • Could you please describe your current circumstances?
  • What do you think about this situation?
  • Who was present at this incident?
  • How did you arrive at this conclusion?

Knowing the answers will help you in school, knowing how to question will help you in life.

— Warren Berger

A series of funnel questions can begin with broader open questions and then narrow in on more specific details.

A series of funnel questions can begin with broader open questions and then narrow in on more specific details.

3. Funnel Questions

A funnel has a wide mouth and gradually narrows at the bottom. Similarly, funnel questions start with general information about a situation or incident and then narrow things down to a specific point or truth.

This type of questioning technique is used by investigators, detectives and researchers when gathering information from witnesses or interview subjects. During criminal investigations, for example, many detectives start interrogations with closed questions, widen the inquiry with open questions (to make the witness/suspect feel more comfortable) and end with narrower funnel questions to arrive at conclusions.

Examples of funnel questions are:

  • When was the call made?
  • Do you know the name of the person whom you spoke to?
  • What sort of behaviour did they exhibit?
  • What was your call about?
  • What questions did you ask and what were the responses?
  • Did they mention anything specific?
  • Did they have a specific accent?
  • When did you last see them?

4. Probing Questions

Probing, or trigger, questions are used to gather more information and clarify details. They often take the form of a series of probative inquiries designed to help get a fuller picture or understanding of a situation.

This type of questioning technique can help extract answers from people who are hiding or avoiding something. As such, probing questions are also regularly used by investigators when dealing with reluctant witnesses or suspects.

Probing questions can also be helpful in clearing up doubts or clarifying misunderstandings, which makes them useful in business or commercial transactions.

Some examples are:

  • What exactly is the current situation?
  • Who is asking for these details?
  • When do you need this data by?
  • How do you know that [this person] was involved?
  • What is this information needed for?
  • Where exactly will you be using this?
  • What types of products do you need, and how and where will you be using them?
  • Can you be more specific?
Questioning techniques are particularly important in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Questioning techniques are particularly important in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

5. Leading Questions

Leading, or reflective, questions are used to guide the respondent to answer in a certain way. Leading questions usually suggest the answer implicitly within the form of the question and are often heard in court proceedings in which a lawyer is trying to extract favorable testimony from a witness.

One has to be careful not to be coercive with this type of question, which is why in trials or court hearings you often hear the objection, "Counsel is leading the witness, your Honor..."

Leading question are used to build positive engagement and close sales, which is why they are a common marketing tactic.

There are several types of leading questions:

  • Assumption-based—e.g., "Which of our menu items did you enjoy the most?"
  • Leading questions with interconnected statements—e.g., "Many of our employees would rather work in the office. Do you feel the same way?"
  • Direct implication—e.g., "If you found this article useful, would you share it with your friends or social media followers?"
  • Scale-based—e.g., "How helpful did you find our product?" [Answer options: Extremely helpful; Helpful; Somewhat helpful; Somewhat unhelpful; Unhelpful]
  • Coercive—e.g., "You enjoyed our screening, didn't you?"

6. Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions are different from the other categories because they're not really intended to incite answers. They are essentially statements of opinion that are worded as questions to keep people and audiences engaged. They are also used to inspire people to think, be creative and come up with ideas.

On the other hand, rhetorical questions can be infused with sarcasm to invoke a negative sentiment about a competitor or rival.

Some examples are:

  • Isn’t this a fantastic offer?
  • Don’t you like the way this package is set up?
  • Have you ever heard of a better deal?
  • Aren't you tired of shady cell phone providers?

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.

— Tony Robbins

7. Clarifying Questions

Clarifying questions are used to verify information and usually come near the end of a discussion. You will often hear clarifying questions asked by customer service representatives and salespeople who want to summarize the content of the call and make sure all the details are correct.

This type of question helps to finalise deals and confirm what was discussed. Some examples are:

  • Just to confirm, you have taken the land line unlimited broadband and television package. Is that correct?
  • Before we finish, let me go through this. You need a caregiver to call you at lunch time and dinner, 30 minutes each. Is that correct?
  • Am I right in confirming that the delivery will be in three days’ time?
  • You all understand that tomorrow is the last day for submitting your paperwork, right?

Using Questions Strategically

Questioning techniques are used in all walks of life: at work, at home, among friends and in virtually all other relationships, too. Questions constitute one of the basic principles of communication.

To effectively ask questions, you need to listen effectively so that you are able to formulate the next question. Always use positive words and motivate the person with whom you're talking to answer effectively. Maintain confidence so that the customer, client, business partner or whoever it is you're talking to trusts you with the answer. Always ask relevant questions and never random, irrelevant questions.

By understanding and improving your questioning style, you can improve your interpersonal skills and the way in which you communicate with people. This is valuable in virtually every profession and endeavour.

Customer Service Qualifications

As a little side note, this article can be used as reference for people who are working towards any qualifications in customer service—particularly National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) Level 2 or 3 certifications.

In Unit A3, the focus is on communicating effectively with customers. You are asked: How do you use questions to check what customers are telling you?

People who work in just about any industry—from customer service to healthcare, education and law—need to have good questioning skills. Just being an attentive listener is not enough; you also need to know the right questions to ask to get as much information and as many details as necessary.

Questioning skills help you learn new facts, gather higher-quality information, assist others, build better relationships and manage problems and people effectively.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

Rajasekaran C on April 13, 2020:

Comprehensive enough to give full paradigm behind questioning.

vinodkumar Gandhe on October 17, 2018:

Questioning is also an art which I have realized after going through this page. Thank you so much, it is very useful.

kitamirike Gonzaga on August 31, 2018:

I can't find words to thank you enough for this article, it has been of a great use to me.

I thank you .

Monika chowdary on October 21, 2017:

I read this article,really good post & very useful to everyone,thank you so much,excellent post

saad butt on September 07, 2017:

I read this article.I appreciate your effort.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on March 15, 2013:

Thank you Billybuc for reading and sharing your thoughts and experience. Have a lovely weekend!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2013:

Great analysis of questioning. As a former teacher, I had to learn many of these techniques and help the students to learn by questioning. Thank you!

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on March 04, 2013:

Thank you Eddy. I am glad you liked. Thank you also for the vote and share! Have a great week ahead.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 04, 2013:

So very interesting and thank you for sharing

A vote up and share.

Eddy.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on February 11, 2013:

Thank you Teaches12345. I am glad this was useful!

Dianna Mendez on February 10, 2013:

Really good post and very useful. Asking the right questions is important in communicating and conversation with interest. Excellent post!