Ask Better Questions

By Shawn McQueen, Mentor for Two-Brain Group Coaching Course

This is the fourth installment of our series that is intended to help you be more effective communicators. If you missed part 3, check it out here: Creating Rapport

Questions open doors. 

Questions create rapport. 

Questions help us learn about one another, like things we can appreciate, and create space for empathy.

By asking questions, you give the other person the opportunity to be in control.

That someone isn’t just talking at you but listening to what you have to say. 

Questions can represent that you truly care.

When asking questions you must be congruent with words, body, tone and you must want to listen.

Questions can deepen relationships. 


But many times, conversations can be like a game of ping pong. 

What do I mean? 

You share something with me and instead of learning more about that, asking a question about that particular thing or your emotions around it, I share how I feel, or blurt out my first impulse reaction.

Ever been caught here?


“Man I’m so bummed, my dog has been limping around. I don’t know what happened to her.”


“That sucks…”

(Insert birds chirping…)

Ummm…great talk. 

Yes, I know it sucks.

All this person did was crap on my situation even more. 

What was really unfolding there? 

A share of emotional turmoil, met with a matter of fact statement that not only likely made me feel worse, but ended the conversation. 

I don’t feel that my situation is important to you.

Some may think a “that sucks” is empathy building.  You know, a way to “share in the suffering.”

Wrong approach. What you should do is ask questions.

So let’s try that exchange again:


“Man I’m so bummed, my dog has been limping around. I don’t know what happened to her.”


“Oh man, I’m sorry to hear that, you must be really upset. How are you holding up? 


“I’m worried, I don’t know if I should bring her to the vet or not. It’s hard to tell if it’s serious and I feel awful for her.”


“I am sorry you both are going through this. What do you believe in your gut is the best thing to do?”


“I don’t really know. I could bring her to the vet and it could be nothing serious or it could be something serious, like a torn ACL and I’m scared to get that news. Not only for her but financially!”


“I completely understand. If it were serious, and may cost you some money now but she’d no longer be in pain, would that be worth it to you to take her to the vet to help her?”




“It sounds like your gut is to take her to the vet to rule out the possibility of anything serious, would you agree?”


“Yeah, I’m just worried about the money.”


“I understand. Is it helpful to think about it this way…we get scared with big purchases, the possibility of the loss of money because of our survival instincts. But if you were to think back to a big purchase you’ve been scared to make, how often do you think about them now?”


“You’re right.”


“I understand your fear of the worst case news, and finances. Would you feel better if you crossed that bridge after you bring her to the vet. IF and when that even becomes a possibility?”


“Yeah you’re right.” 


“It sounds like your heart knew what it wanted to do all along. I’m here if you need anything!”


“Thank you for listening!”

How does that feel compared to the previous “that sucks” response? 

Listening intently is a communication skill. 

We have two ears and one mouth yet so often we talk more than we listen.

Everyone wants to be heard. 

To maximize the effectiveness of your questions, communicate with them as if you were on the same team by using the following phrases:

  • “Would you agree…”
  • “What do you think about…”
  • “How do you feel about…”

When people are talking to you, give them respect and listen. 

Don’t interrupt. 

Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. 

Listen to them.

What are they really telling you? 

Most people are craving to connect. 

Or are sharing a cry for help. 

And as coaches, we want to fix everything. 

You might even be better off asking them, 

“I just want to be clear on what you need – do you want me to listen and be ears, or would you like my input and advice on this?” 

Listening isn’t just looking at someone. 

It’s what you’re doing with your body, your eyes, your engagement. 

Listen without judgement. 

Let them talk all the way through. 

Combine these two skills we just covered, asking questions and listening intently, and your ability to genuinely connect with others will sky rocket. 


We’ll wrap up by helping you learn how to “speak their language!”

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