During my 8 years as an owner of a boutique wine and cheese shop, I learned early on the power of asking the right questions. In fact, my staff was petrified talking about wines that they had never tried until I showed them how to effectively ask questions which removed a lot of their fears. There is a big difference between asking a customer “How much do you want to spend?” -vs- “What price range do you want to stay within, $10-12, $12-15 or $15-20?” The latter is much less threatening to an uneducated consumer and makes them feel empowered.
Here are some examples of how to change closed-ended questions into open-ended questions:
Instead of “Are you upset?” you could ask “What’s bothering you?” or “How are you feeling?”
Instead of “Would you like to do something else?” or you could ask “What would you like to do?”
Instead of “Any questions?” you could ask “What questions do you have?”
Using open-ended questions requires effort. However, the effort is well worth it, especially in a tense situation. The next time you are in a tense conversation, make your questions open-ended, and watch the dynamic change. You will have a much better conversation, and the other person will appreciate your communication skills! So go get the conversation started.
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