Graham King

Solvitas perambulum

Types of question

behaviour society

From a Greenpeace workshop

  • Open questions invite the other person to express their thinking freely rather than allowing a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions usually begin with Who, Why, When, Where or How. For example:

    • “How much petrol do you use per week ?”
    • “Where do you normally get your petrol from ?”
  • Closed questions can be answered with a yes or no. They tend to close a conversation down. However, they can be useful for checking facts, clarifying a point, or deliberately finishing a conversation. They can also control the length and form of the reply and allow a “yes” or “no” or brief response. They can be useful on the streets, especially as an opening line.

  • Multiple Questions combine many questions together, making it unclear which question to respond to. People can become confused. Less is more ! For example:

    • “Have you seen, heard or know about Greenpeace ?”
    • “Do you think Esso is bad, or just like the others, or what ?”
  • Leading Questions reflect an assumption, or give an obvious direction to the reply, indicating the desired response. Leading questions hint at what you want the answer to be. They don’t allow a person freedom of expression, or require them to really engage or think. They should usually be avoided and certainly abandonded if they are met with any resistance. For example:

    • “You like peace don’t you ?”
    • “It’s the only way, isn’t it ?”
  • Hypothetical Questions can be good for opening up options and helping people to explore possibilities. However answers bear little relation to what would actually hapen. For example:

    • “If I could prove to you that Esso have absolutely no commitment to the environment, would we get your support ?”
  • Probing Questions are good for following up information already received but can lead to a lengthy conversation which should be avoided! For example:

    • “Why do you say that ?”

    More details on the campaign to boycott Esso