Questions are an important part of communication and keeping an open dialogue with your children and teens. Here are several benefits to asking questions you might not have considered.
No more misunderstandings: Have you ever gotten into an argument with your teen because one of you misunderstood the other? You can use probing questions to avoid misunderstandings. Probing questions are questions that prompt clarification and allow you to discover more information.
Journalists use probing questions to get all the facts and get to the heart of a story – Who? What? Where? When? Why and How?
This also helps you to avoid jumping to conclusions. Probing questions are open-ended, don’t place blame, allow multiple options to be explored, and move the conversation from reactive to reflective.
A few examples:
“I’m not sure I understand, can you tell me more about…?”
“Can you explain to me what you feel about…?”
“Can you give me an example of…?”
“What is another way you might look at this?”
You can used closed-ended questions when you are closing a conversation and want to make sure you have understood what you have heard. These are usually statements with a yes or no answer. If the answer is no, then you have to go back to make sure your facts are correct and you truly understand.
Learn from your teen: Your teen is a wealth of experiences and information, you can probably learn something from them! This is also a great strategy to find out what your teen knows and what gaps they have in their knowledge.
If your teen is struggling to study or prepare for an exam, ask them to teach you. Make sure you ask lots of questions. This will allow your teen to realize what information he/she knows well and what areas they struggled with and require a bit more study. Ask both open and closed questions. Use probing questions to stimulate learning and curiosity.
Build Your Relationship: If you ask your teen for an opinion or their input, they will generally respond enthusiastically. If you do this in an positive way, for example: “Tell me what you like best about ___”, you will help start a conversation.
Make sure you ask “open-ended” questions that require a longer response instead of “closed-ended” questions that usually result in a yes/no answer. The perfect time to ask these questions is around the family dinner table – with no electronic devices to distract you!
De-escalating a heated situation: If a conversation is escalating, you can calm an angry situation by using funnel questions to get your teen to give you productive feedback. Funneling questions are so called because the process is like a funnel. You start with general questions and go into more detailed questions based on the answers you get. As you ask more questions, you are going deeper into conversation and gaining more information. It is a common interview technique.
This will not only distract them from their emotions, but will help you identify what you can do to make your teen feel heard and validated. Sometimes this requires actions, sometimes just simply feeling like they are being heard is enough.
Coaching through Questions: In coaching your teen, you can use leading questions. Leading questions tend to be closed yes/no type questions or questions with very limited choices. You can give your teen a choice between two options, or phrase the question in such a way that it is easier for your teen to say yes.
Leading questions can help get your children to reflect and to commit to courses of action that you’ve suggested: “Wouldn’t it be great if you could go out tonight without having to worry about having to finish that paper hanging over your head?” or “Your paper is due tomorrow, will you be working on it after lunch or before you watch TV this evening?”
Knowing why you are using questions during communication allows you to accomplish your communication goals. Any conversation with your teen is a great opportunity to grow creativity and strengthen your relationship. Bonus: These tips work for younger children too!