How to Ask Effective Questions Using Key Words

Learn How to Ask the Best Questions.

Technique: How to use key words and phrases effectively.
Purpose:
— To cut through drivel and quickly get to salient matter;
— To better discern between factual and judgmental information;
— To better understand and communicate ideas, opinions, and facts; and
— To create clear points of focus for resolving differences.
Tools: A few short lists of key words.

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When Searching for Facts, Begin Questions With…
How
When
Where
What
Who
These are the ideal interrogative words to elicit responses with substance, as they cannot be answered with a mere Yes or No (Yes and No answers are the quickest ways to end a conversation).
It can be quite a struggle to adjust from using words in the following list to using these words when seeking objectivity. Your endeavors will prove worthwhile.
For Approval or Rejection, Begin Questions With…
Am
Is
Was
Are
Were
Do
Does
Did
Can
Could
Will
Would
When you start your questions with one of these words, the answer will often be a conversation-stopping “Yes” or “No”.
Limit these words to start questions when you are seeking simple approval or disapproval of your statements.
Whatever you say after these initial words is taken as a statement of your interpretation of things or events, and the response is more likely to be placating, self-serving, or defensive, than to be truthful.
In conversation, Use Sparingly…
Why Asking a “Why” question often leads to an answer that is either an opinion, or (worse yet) whatever the respondent thinks you want to hear in order to placate you, to get you off their back. Makes it difficult for to discern if the answer is factual, opinionated, or placating, and does not usually address your concern or preconceived response you are seeking.
But “But” denotes a contradiction, not an additional idea. Even when you use it to contradict a statement, it tends to kick in the respondent’s self-defense mode and either stops or limits the effectiveness of further conversation.
It is more effective, instead, to use the word “And” in its place, or to rephrase your question so you can use “And”.
We are so accustomed to using “But” and “Why” without thinking, that we all too often unintentionally create a position that the respondent feels a need to defend or attack, shifting attention away from objectivity and more toward an emotional response.

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When Being Judgmental, Use…
Must
Should
Have to
Need to
Got to
Ought
These words are used effectively only when you are passing judgment (your own opinion), or expressing social norms (traditions, laws and morals).
Since these words move the focus away from facts and toward individual or group beliefs, they can be divisive.
When trying to reach agreement (and agreement is always the more pleasant result), avoid these words.
When Not Stating a Proven Fact, Begin Sentences With…
I understand that
I believe
I prefer
In my opinion
I think
These phrases generally express your beliefs (traditions, social norms, laws) and things that are not proven beyond an acceptable shadow of a doubt.
Use of these words is most effective when factual information is absent.

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