Bond With Better Questions

At work, it may be challenging to connect with a new colleague or new team, but you don’t always have to talk about yourself. Honing the skill of asking good questions can help you create stronger bonds.
The questions you ask can make a huge difference at work

Philosopher Thomas Kuhn was a fervent advocate of asking good questions: “The answers you get depend on the questions you ask.”

People are often lauded for their ability to answer tough questions, or respond well in a tense situation. However, the ability to ask good questions is often overlooked.

At the workplace, asking questions well can provide insight into what your colleagues are thinking or feeling, and can also help to build stronger relationships.

Go Beyond the Basics

There are many good ways to approach someone you want to get to know better.

Since feelings are unique to an individual, ask questions about their feelings, and not just facts.

TIP: Go Beyond the Facts

Instead of simply asking "What went wrong during the project?” or “What did you struggle with during the project?”, follow up with:

  • "What did you find difficult while executing the task?", or
  • “How can we change things in the future to make the process smoother?”

In more casual settings, such as chatting about time off, ask about what someone enjoyed/regretted doing during their holiday (feelings) instead of what they did during that time (facts).

You can also ask about reactions. For example: “What was the most unexpected part of doing this?”

Being able to keep the conversation flowing will create a stronger, more positive impression.

Encourage Others to Share

Most people enjoy talking about themselves. Psychology Associate Professor at Princeton University Diana Tamir found that talking about oneself activated regions of the brain that is linked to value, motivation and pleasurable things like food.

However, taking up all the airtime to speak about yourself may backfire.

In a study of more than 300 online and in-person conversations between people just getting to know each other, Harvard researchers found that those who asked more questions during a conversation, especially follow-up questions, were perceived as more likeable – both online and in-person.

So, follow up with open-ended questions that encourage others to share more about themselves, over closed ‘yes/no’ answers.

Being able to keep the conversation flowing will create a stronger, more positive impression on the other person.

TIP: Everyone Loves Leisure

Asking about hobbies is a safe bet as people enjoy talking about their hobbies and having fun. Information on most common hobbies can also be found online easily, which helps in finding a new topic to start a conversation with.

Asking questions well helps you get on the same page with others.
Asking questions well helps you get on the same page with others.

Find Common Ground

If you are curious about how well your team will work together, ask your colleagues what keeps them motivated at work. Or ask about their views on the industry or sector.

For one, these questions will likely bring out their personal feelings over facts, and show you more of their personality. Asking about career matters you have in common will also give you the flexibility to ask more detailed follow-up questions.

TIP: Ask What Spurs Them on at Work

  • “What do you like about working in this role or industry?”
  • “What’s the best thing for you about working here?”
  • “What’s a work-related accomplishment that you’re really proud of?”
  • “How has your role here evolved over time?”
    Feb 9, 2023
    Amos Ng
    Siti Maziah Masramli
    Liew Xinyi
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