open ended questions

Conversation Tips: Asking Open Ended Questions

Whether you want to be a better conversationalist, interviewer, or leader, or just want to know what your teenager did last night, asking open-ended questions is the best way to get there. Open-ended questions are an excellent way to generate more information and encourage conversation. In this article, we’ll provide the benefits of asking open-ended questions as well as specific examples you can use in a variety of situations.

Closed vs Open-Ended Questions

Closed-ended questions and open-ended questions are two different types of questions used to elicit information and responses from others.

A closed-ended question typically has a limited set of possible answers and requires only a short response. It usually seeks a specific piece of information, such as a fact, a preference, or a yes/no answer. Examples of closed-ended questions include:

  • “Did you enjoy the movie?”
  • “What time is it?”
  • “Have you ever been to New York?”

On the other hand, an open-ended question is designed to elicit a more elaborate and thoughtful response. It allows the person being asked to respond in their own words, giving more detail, opinion, or context. Examples include:

  • “What did you think of the movie?”
  • “How has your day been so far?”
  • “Can you tell me about your experience in New York?”

Open-ended questions often begin with “what,” “how,” “why,” or “tell me about.” They give the responder the opportunity to provide more detail, context, or perspective, which can help to foster deeper conversations and relationships. Closed-ended questions, while more direct, are better suited to obtain quick, concise information, or confirm a fact or answer.

Benefits of Asking Open-Ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions can provide several benefits, including:

  1. Encouraging deeper thinking: Open-ended questions often require more thought and reflection than closed-ended questions. By asking questions, you can encourage individuals to think more deeply about a topic and express their thoughts and opinions.
  2. Generating more information: Open-ended questions elicit more detailed and nuanced responses than closed-ended questions. They can provide a richer understanding of someone’s perspective or experiences.
  3. Allowing for greater creativity: You can encourage individuals to think creatively and come up with new ideas or solutions. Article: How to Improve Creativity
  4. Building rapport and trust: By asking open-ended questions, you can demonstrate an interest in someone’s thoughts and opinions, which can help build rapport and trust.
  5. Avoiding assumptions: Closed-ended questions can sometimes lead to assumptions and generalizations. Open-ended questions can help avoid this by allowing individuals to express their thoughts and experiences in their own words.

Overall, asking open-ended questions can facilitate more meaningful conversations and help individuals feel heard and understood.

Examples of Asking Open-Ended Questions

Before we get into the examples, let me remind you of the importance of listening. It doesn’t matter how good your questions are if you aren’t actively listening to the responses.


Closed EndedOpen Ended
How was your day?Tell me about your day and your favorite parts of it?
When did you get home last night?Tell me about your night.
Do you like Asian food?What type of food sounds good tonight?

Friends & New Acquaintances

Closed EndedOpen Ended
How was your vacation?Tell me all about your trip to “Venice”
Where do you work?What type of work do you do?
What are your hobbies?What do you love about golf (gardening, painting, basketball, etc.)?

In this example, you can see although the word “what” was used in the closed-ended example, it still results in a very limited response. The response to this question would elicit a list instead of an elaboration on that list. You might start with “What are your hobbies?” and then follow up with “What do you love about it?” to allow the other person an opportunity to elaborate.


Closed EndedOpen Ended
Is the project on schedule?What barriers might prevent the project from being completed on schedule?
Do you know how to create a spreadsheet?Tell me about your skills using Excel.
What are your strengths?Tell me about your strengths and provide an example of when you’ve exhibited each one.

Open-ended questions are also a great training tool when teaching someone a new process or procedure. Instead of the standard “telling them” how to do the job, try asking “What do you think we should do next and why?”


Asking open-ended questions promotes conversation, allows the other person an opportunity to elaborate, and provides more details than closed-ended questions. They are helpful in a variety of environments and you will learn so much more by using them. They are also a great training technique. By utilizing open-ended questions, you’ll improve your communication skills and gain buy-in.

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