Questions for which the answer is either “yes” or “no” are universally known to be poor ways to dig into an issue.
If you are trying to investigate something about your relationship with your partner, you need to learn how to ask open-ended questions. Almost any question can be reformulated to be open-ended. The trick is figuring out how to do it.
The hallmark of an open-ended question is the variety of potential responses the question might generate when asked of different people. An open-ended question should offer your partner the opportunity to dig into themselves and come up with an answer that is true to them.
An open-ended question defies a simple “yes” or “no” and attests to the sophistication of the human mind and the world in which we live.
When developing open-ended questions, ask yourself the question first, and explore the possible answers.
If the only two possible responses to the question are “yes” or “no,” or some very limited answer like, “I like that,” or “I don’t like that,” then you do not have an open-ended question.
Take the question you are trying to ask and look for the underlying theme that you are trying to address in it. For example, you might want to ask your partner, “Are you angry right now?” This question can only be answered “yes” or “no.” It isn’t an open-ended question.
What you are really trying to find out in asking a question like this is how your partner is feeling.
Reformulate the question to allow them to address what is going on for them.
A simple reformulation would be, “How are you feeling right now?”
This question gives your partner the opportunity to express what is going on for them with any complexity they want to add, rather than limiting your partner to your own single guess.
I hope this helps you to ask better questions.
DBA, MBA, BBSc, MPsych (Clin)
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