A few years ago my wife had to take a class at her work on how to talk to patients (she’s a nurse practitioner). It stressed the importance of asking open-ended questions. For instance, ask, ‘What else can I do for you?” rather than “Is there anything else I can do for you?” The latter invites a simple yes or no. The former draws out more information and communicates more care.
Ever since she shared that with me, I’ve been more aware of that principle. I immediately notice when I hear a doctor, nurse or anyone ask a closed-ended question. I always think, “Weren’t you there for the class?” I also work very hard to remember to ask, “What other questions do you have?” “What else can I do?” “What do you need right now?” More often than not, the answer is, “Nothing.” But at least I gave them the chance.
I made a post-death pre-funeral home visit today and carefully worded my questions to the family. “What other questions do you have?” “What else do you need to know?” Each and every time I asked, I learned more about what to include in the memorial service, a little more about the deceased, and allowed the family to express a little more grief.
I remember some of my market research training from years ago. You always ask, “What else?” Several times, until you have heard all that the speaker wants to share. Asking the right questions can make you a much better listener! I wish I had known about this earlier in my career.