COMMUNICATION

Questioning Techniques

Questions are a crucial tool when interviewing your user. Only by using them wisely can you get to the information you need, and unlock insights you weren’t expecting. To boost your interview skills, read up on the different types of questions and which scenarios they are best applied to.
Goals
  • Lead more fruitful discussions with users
  • Identify issues and uncover insights

Tool themes
  • User research
  • Interviewing
  • Feedback

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Open Questions

Open questions are crucial for creating a candid, broad and detailed discussion. An open question is one that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” They start with words like “what,” “how” or “why.”
In this way, open questions provide space for the discussion to expand. You can also use open questions to keep following up on something your interviewee has said, enabling you to push the discussion further and wider.

Positive Impact
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Asking open questions leads to communication on equal terms. It creates   space for the interviewee to express their true thoughts and feelings, without being forced in a particular direction.



Closed Questions

If you want a simple “yes” or “no” as an answer, use a closed question.
They are a powerful way to quickly and precisely arrive at facts.

Positive Impact
-
A closed question helps simplify complex issues, structure your conversation and arrive at precise answers.

Negative Impact
-
A closed question requires a clear statement on your part, and this can lead to uneasiness or pressure on your interviewee. Moreover, a closed question may lead to a limited and one-sided answer.



Circular Questions

With a circular question, you ask from the perspective of someone else – that of a potential customer, for example. Make sure to clearly indicate whose perspective you are talking about.

Positive Impact
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A circular question enables both you and your interviewee to gain empathy for somebody else – and adopt certain behaviors and thought patterns based on that. Moreover, misconceptions can be identified.

Negative Impact
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For some people, it’s not easy to take the perspective of someone else. A potential reaction could be, “How should I know?” It will take some skill on your part to keep this reaction from cutting short your discussion.



Either-or Questions

Decisional questions are based on the principle of “either-or.” The responding person has just two answers to choose from. A decision can be made more easily, and irrelevant aspects rejected.

Positive Impact
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If there are too many options or a discussion is meandering, decisional questions help you to reject options and narrow your focus. Decisional questions are also helpful for summarizing discussions made.

Negative Impact
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When decisional questions are used tactically, they limit the element of freedom in the decision-making process.



Target-oriented Questions

You can use target-oriented questions at the beginning of your session to define goals: “What would be a good outcome from this meeting?” This type of question can also help you get back into a constructive discussion when individual standpoints are rather rigid.

Positive Impact
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The responding person is given the agency to introduce potential solutions.

Negative Impact
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If somebody doesn’t have a clear vision of how to solve a problem, it can lead to a feeling of being caught in a place of helplessness – which may provoke negative feelings.

Hypothetical Questions

Hypothetical questions aim at broadening the mind. They give both you and your interviewee more freedom to think and imagine. They usually open with the words “What if...”

Positive Impact
-
You can get to the core of what your interviewee really needs, free from the limitations and constraints of real-life situations.

Negative Impact
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Sometimes, the interviewee can find it difficult to look past the limitations of their situation and may react negatively.



Scale Questions

Scale questions ask for a personal evaluation of a certain topic. They usually start with, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is …?”

Positive Impact
-
The question provides a clear framework in which any answer is allowed. As the facilitator, you receive a very concrete answer.



Observational Questions

Use observational questions when you want to learn about a personal point of view during an experience. They start with something like, “What did you notice during …”

Positive Impact
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Observational questions are a great springboard into reflection, or to guide the interviewee to a specific insight you had during the same experience.



Reflective Questions

These questions target your interviewee’s emotions during an experience – both positive and negative. Examples are: “What does this remind you of?” or, “What did you find surprising during…”?

Positive Impact
-
Reflective questions give you detailed insights into your interviewee’s emotions about an experience.

Negative Impact
-
The question can provoke very personal responses. You need to first make sure your interviewee feels comfortable enough to share.



Interpretive Questions

Interpretive questions allow participants to reflect on the meaning or significance of a topic. They are oftentimes the starting point for a discussion within a group. An interpretive question could be: “What does this mean for us?” or “What did we learn?”

Positive Impact
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They can take a team’s discussion to a deeper level and advance the group to next steps.

Negative Impact
-
When an interpretive question is asked too early, the group may stop exploring other options and focus only on solutions – possibly without having a full overview.



Decisional Questions

In the end, it’s also about making decisions. Decisional questions are important for allocating responsibility and setting timelines: “Who will do what by when?”

Positive Impact
-
Decisional questions are very outcome-driven and force people to think in actionable steps.
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