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Asking Questions for Effective Interpersonal Communication

Many factors can influence communication and make it more effective for the benefit of all participants. Of the eleven central rules described by Rane (2011), the ninth, “Ask Questions and Extract More,” warrants particular attention (p. 50). Questions can serve multiple essential roles in communication, ultimately enhancing the quality of the information exchange. Klapproth (2016) highlights information questions, which provide clarification, counter and targeted questions, which help explore specific topics in detail, and summarizing questions, which confirm one’s understanding or expose issues. However, one should be careful to avoid leading questions, which are unproductive, produce limited information, and evoke negative reactions in the person being questioned. If the conversationalists challenge each other in good faith and seek to generate information through discussion, the quality of their communication will improve substantially.

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In practical situations, questioning can create substantial benefits regardless of one’s position within the organization. By exploring ideas through questions, teams can expand them and expose any flaws before it is implemented. As a result, the products and initiatives that it produces will be of a higher quality than otherwise. However, other benefits may not be as readily apparent. Van Quaquebeke and Felps (2018) claim that it satisfies followers’ basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness but note that a respectful inquiry is rare in many business contexts. Particularly in leader-follower situations, neither side must disregard effective communication in favor of other perceived gains. Questioning may take time and effort, but it makes the speaker feel valued and improves the quality of the cooperation that takes place in the organization. On the other hand, its lack may cause the environment to become divided and unproductive, which should be avoided.

References

Klapproth, J. (2016). Effective communication as a key to success for managers: The art of convincing and winning over others to achieve one’s goals (2nd ed.). Norderstedt, Germany: Books on Demand.

Rane, D. B. (2011). Good listening skills make efficient business sense. The IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 5(4), 43-51.

Van Quaquebeke, N., & Felps, W. (2018). Respectful inquiry: A motivational account of leading through asking questions and listening. Academy of Management Review, 43(1), 5-27.

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