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Questioning Positions Advance the Dialogue

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Before asking questions, it is essential to know from what position an individual wishes to ask something. It is part of the questioning process to determine the stance he or she needs or wants to take in order to obtain the desired information. It is useful to adhere to the following steps in order to begin defining and determining question positioning.

First, the issue, concern or topic must be defined along with restrictions or expansions. Next, the main topic or issue “aspect,” or the angle or point of view on the matter is identified. The “aspect” often includes a phrase within a certain question that tends to end in “of,” as in “the importance of” or “the implications of.”

It is essential to be clear about how the “aspect” relates to the topic at hand. Aspect questions can reflect an example, a point of view, a stage in the questioning sequence, a cause and effect relationship within the topic or issue, or even one solution that represents a problem in regard to it.

The questioning “aspect,” which often comes at the beginning, must also be identified along with what it means and what it requires in terms of incorporating specific words and phrases. The particular viewpoint must be delineated as well as whether it is the same one the questioner wants the responder(s) to have.

The individual asking questions should not jump to conclusions about what they consider to be an acceptable answer. Different questioning positions or stances should be applied to move dialogue and information-gathering forward.

Below is a list of the most common questioning positions to take with examples.

Account for – Requires an answer that gives the reasons for the subject of the question:

  • Can you tell me why there is a need for the large-scale production cutbacks?”

Analyze – Requires an answer that breaks an idea, concept or statement down in order to consider all of its components. Answers of this type should be very methodical and logically organized:

  • “How do you go about isolating the changes in company policy toward our competitors?”

Compare – Requires an answer that sets items side by side and shows their similarities and differences. A balanced, fair and objective answer is expected:

  • “Will you tell me about the contribution of our research development and product testing in regard to the product distribution cycle?”

Consider – Requires an answer in which the responder describes and offers his or her thoughts on the subject:

  • “In what way has our human resources management department been involved in the training of our employees?”

Contrast – Requires an answer that points out the differences between two items:

  • “Will you inform me about the various positive and negative factors and influences in regard to our major competitive products?”

Criticize – Requires a balanced answer that points out mistakes or weaknesses, or one that also indicates any favorable aspects of the topic or subject of the question.

  • “To what extent is an understanding of the various approaches useful or not useful for allowing us to make better sense of existing employment relationships?”

Define – Requires an answer that explains the precise meaning of a concept. A definition answer will include definition structure, and one that is likely expanded.

  • What does the concept of ‘management roles’ mean to our managers?”

Describe – Requires an answer that explains what something is like or how it works:

  • “Will you enlighten me about the criteria used for determining the company’s expenditure policy?”

Discuss – Requires an answer that explains an item or concept and offers details about the topic or issue with supportive information or examples, and can point for and/or against something, where explanations for the facts are brought to the forefront. It is important to give both sides of an argument and come to a conclusion:

  • “Will you help me understand the main requirements of the law in respect to employer-employee relationships?”

Evaluate/Assess – Requires an answer that decides and explains how valuable or important something is. The judgment should be backed by a discussion of the evidence or reasoning involved:

  • How would you factor the contribution of our customer service policy into this situation?”

Explain – Requires an answer that offers a rather detailed and exact explanation of an idea or principle, or a set of reasons for a situation or attitude:

  • “What exactly is the concept of management roles?”

Explore – Requires an answer that thoroughly examines the subject or topic and considers it from a variety of viewpoints:

  • “Will you tell me more about the economies and diseconomies of our company’s various profit centers?”

Expound – Requires an answer that explains what something means and renders points clear and coherent:

  • “What deductions can be made after studying the graph exhibited in element C?”

Illustrate – Requires an answer that consists primarily of examples to demonstrate or prove the subject, topic or inference within the question. It is often added to another response or question:

  • “To what extent does the public participate in the research and development process?”

Justify – Requires an answer that gives only the reasons for a particular position or argument. The issue to be argued may be a negative one as well as positive:

  • “What factors determine client and customer demands?”

Prove/Disprove – Both of these require answers that demonstrate the logical arguments and/or evidence connected with an idea or proposition. Proving requires “pro” points; disproving “contra” points:

  • “Will you give me a verbal description as to the functional importance of the IT department in its current operational capacity?”

State – Requires an answer that briefly and clearly expresses relevant points without lengthy discussion of minor details:

  • “Our company is often at a disadvantage when dealing with industry at a technical level. What do you think we can do about it?”

Summarize/Outline – Requires an answer that contains only the main points of the information available on a topic, issue or subject. Questions of this type often require short answers:

  • “Will you support your answer through detailing a typical profile of where it applies and how?”

To What Extent Is This True? – Requires an answer that discusses and explains the ways in which something is true and untrue:

  • “Could you please disclose some of the ramifications of employee behavior in situations involving authority?”

Trace – Requires a statement and brief description in logical or chronological order of the stages or steps in the development of a theory, concept, process, etc.:

  • Will you detail examples of the use of positive and negative behaviors in workplace situations and some of their recent applications, hindrances and limitations?”

Excerpt: Comprehensive Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD


Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

The Use and Application of Advanced Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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