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Questions - hint list
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The phrasing of questions when fact finding is skill that can be developed.

Here are samples from four types of questions to help you develop your skills.

Open Ended Questions

Clarifying Questions

What happened?

How come?

What has happened?

What do you mean?

What’s going on?

Why do you say that?

What was it like?

What do you mean by …?

What did you think about it?

Can you give me an example?

What did you feel then?

Can you be more specific?

What are you feeling right now?

When did it last happen?

What is it about “X“ that …?

When did he/she/they do that?

What did you think?

What’s happened to make you say that?

When did that happen?

What have … done that makes you say that?

When will you do that?

What is that connected to?

When did things change?

What’s the relevance of …?

When did you decide that?

Tell me what you mean when you say …?

Where does that leave you?

How do you feel about that?

Where will you find that?

Tell me about a specific instance.

Where are you in all this?

Is there more to this?

How will you do that?

What have you done about it so far?

How will you find out?

What are you considering?

How do you feel about …?

Have you any other ideas?

How will you deal with it?

Are there other aspects to the problem?

How have things been since …?

I’m not sure what you mean…

How did you feel when …?

Can you explain …?

How do you see things now?

Why did you do that?

Why was that done?

Why did you change your mind?

Door Openers

(invitation to talk)

Acknowledgement Responses

and Minimal Encouragers

What’s on your mind?

Sitting facing each other

What happened?

Eye contact, a posture of involvement

Want to talk about it?

Appropriate body motion/gestures

Would it help to talk about it?

Facial expressions

Where do you want to start?

Attentive silence

How about starting at the beginning?

Non-distracting environment

Care to tell me about it?


Want someone to listen?

 Mm – hmm…

Want to tell me about it?


Can I help?


I’d be interested to hear how you feel about it.

So …?

I’d like to hear about it.

Then …?

Would it help to get it off your chest?

And …?

I’ve got the time if you want to talk…

But …?

Tell me how you are feeling…


How are you feeling?

Go on ...

I’ve noticed …, can I help?

I see

I think I understand


I see what you mean


Tell me more

Listening to Complaints[1]

Establish the intent of complaint conversations:

What outcome would they like from this conversation?

Don’t have conversations when intentions are undeclared, obscure, or unknown.

If they don’t know what they want, have them come back when they do.

Are you looking for a solution or time to vent? (Ask this when you know and trust each other.)

Some issues are solved with an ear.

Second venting sessions are complaints. It’s time to design solutions.

Explore the hidden agenda:

#1. If we could go back…

What should have happened to prevent this problem?

What could you have done to prevent this problem?

What could I have done to prevent this problem?

#2. What would you like me to do about this?

Asking doesn’t mean you’re going to do it.

It’s the beginning of a conversation about real solutions.

An alternative: What would you like me to do for you?

#3. What needs to happen for you to feel good, when our conversation is over in twenty minutes?

#4. If you don’t mind me asking, “What makes you care about this?”

Explore assumptions and values.

Nagging issues intensify with time.

What hidden agendas might complainers have?

How might leaders deal with underlying issues?                                                          “Learning by Doing” Workbook

[1] Source - Leadership Freak blog post