Post-Christmas Resolution, Day 47 – Ask a Question Like a Mentor (Part 4)

Today’s giving: Taking my son to a science lecture at Schnitzer Concert Hall tonight. He had a chance for free tickets and grabbed hold of the opportunity. I am most happy to spend two hours of my evening helping him learn about science & public or closed questions

You’ve prepared to meet your mento*. You know what you want to achieve. You’ve listened, and found something to ask. Now, you’re ready to ask that question!

*Mento – The person you’re mentoring

Asking that Good Great Question

An article by Gary Lockwood says there are two types of questions – open and closed.

Ask an open question to engage …

An open question opens the door to discussion. It puts your mento in control and let’s him find his way. “What” “How” “Who” “When” and “Which” questions lead to answers that require more than a single-word response.

Ask a closed question to frame …

Closed questions like Yes/No questions are more effective when you need to deliberately guide someone to a specific outcome.  “Does” “Is” “Can” are possible starters. Closed questions can help frame.

“Which” is an interesting question when used without specifics because it is both closed and open.

  • “Which is your favorite car in your speech?” (forces a choice & thus frames)
  • “Which type of organization are you using for this speech?” (chronological, event-based?)

Example of closed & open questions used together (assuming yes answers):

  1. “Does the speech have a message?” (closed – yes/no)
  2. “What is that message?” (open – may elicit an unclear answer indicating lack of framing)
  3. “Is that message clearly expressed? (closed – yes/no)
  4. “What elements of the speech support your assertion?” (open – should be multiple examples. If not, maybe ask #3 again.)

Sincerity – Try to ask questions where you care about the answers. Like John Goalby says about Toastmasters’ Table Topics questions.

I think we could make a huge difference in the quality of table topics if we first and foremost care about the answer we receive.

If you care about the answer, you’ll ask a better question.

Use the Mento’s Words – The vernacular your mento uses is a clue to how he or she is thinking. Try to use their words whenever possible, guiding to new words only when necessary.

Create Images – Use metaphors to create pictures in the mind. Be careful not to take the conversation too far off topic.

Specifically Specifics – Keep your questions targeted. Broad, sweeping questions not only are hard to answer, they can lead the discussion off-topic.

To the reader:

How can I improve this series, Ask a Question Like a Mentor?”

About Eric Winger

Our perception of time is key to how we use our time. The most fundamental way to change that perception is to give our time. This opens us up to new opportunities and ideas from which we can build to really make a difference. ... Yes, we *do* have time to make a difference!
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1 Response to Post-Christmas Resolution, Day 47 – Ask a Question Like a Mentor (Part 4)

  1. John says:

    Nice thoughtful series. Thank you!

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