62 Types of Questions and Why They Work

So, I have this running list of about 4000 questions.

Questions to ask yourself.
Questions to ask your team.
Questions to ask your customers.

And I update it whenever I’m asked, hear, read or think of a good question. Probably about twenty new ones a week.

Fortunately, they’re sorted by category, i.e., “Creativity,” “Sales,” “Leadership,” and the like.

Otherwise, going through that list would (as my girlfriend says) make my eyes bleed.

Anyway, a few months back I heard a question that has become one of my new faves:

“What words govern your questions?”

A question about questions. Imagine that 😉

Interestingly, when I first read that question, I thought it might be cool to go back through my list of 4000 to look for some language patterns.

Pretty neat exercise. Teaches you a lot about yourself.

So, here’s what I came up with:

62 Types of Questions and Why They Work

1. Are you saying…?
Identifies someone’s language patterns.

2. Are you willing to…?
Tests someone’s limits.

3. Can you give me…?
Encourages examples and specifics.

4. Can you remember…?
Taps into someone’s memory.

5. Did you ask…?
Questions someone’s questions.

6. Have you considered…?
Non-threatening proposal of options.

7. Have you given any thought to…?
Suggestive, yet doesn’t sound like advice.

8. Have you thought about…?
Forces someone to think!

9. How are you constantly…?
Promotes consistency of action.

10. How are you creating…?
Proves that someone has a choice.

11. How can you become…?
Future oriented, motivational.

12. How can you make…?
Enlists someone’s creativity.

13. How could you have…?
Focused on past performance improvement.

14. How do you feel…?
Feelings are good.

15. How do you measure…?
Clarifies and specifies someone’s statement.

16. How do you plan to…?
Future oriented, process oriented, action oriented.

17. How do you want…?
Visualizes ideal conditions.

18. How does this relate to…?
Keeps someone on point, uncovers connections between things.

19. How else could this be…?
Encourages open, option-oriented and leverage-based thinking.

20. How long will it take to…?
Clarifies time specifics.

21. How many different ways…?
Enlists someone’s creativity, explores various options.

22. How many people…?
Clarifies and specifies.

23. How might you…?
All about potential and possibility.

24. How much energy…?
Identifies patterns of energy investment.

25. How much money…?
Identifies patterns of financial investment.

26. How much time each day…?
Identifies patterns of (daily) time investment.

27. How much time…?
Identifies patterns of energy investment.

28. How often do you…?
Gets an idea of someone’s frequency.

29. How well do you…?
Uncovers abilities.

30. How will you know when/if…?
Predicts outcomes of ideal situations.

31. If you could change…?
Visualizes improvement.

32. If you had to…?
Possibility thinking.

33. If you showed your…?
Imagining what others would say.

34. If you stopped…?
Cause-effect question.

35. If you were…?
Ideal situation.

36. In what areas…?
Searching for multiple answers.

37. Is anybody going to…?
Deciding if something even matters.

38. Is there any other…?
Challenges someone to find ONE more answer.

39. Is there anything else…?
Yep, there probably is. Answers are rarely absolute.

40. Is your idea…?
Forces someone to think objectively.

41. On a scale from 1 to 10…?
Putting a number to an emotion clarifies it.

42. What are some of the…?
Encourages list making.

43. What are the biggest mistakes…?
Negative based for preventative measures.

44. What are the keys to…?
Searching for best practices.

45. What are the patterns of…?
Uncovering commonalities.

46. What are the things that…?
Because there’s probably more than one answer.

47. What are the ways…?
Freedom (not) to resign to one solution.

48. What are you currently…?
Assesses present situations.

49. What are you doing that…?
Assesses present actions.

50. What are you willing to…?
Explores limits.

51. What can I do to…?
Demonstrates a desire to serve.

52. What can WE do to…?

53. What can you do right now…?
Focuses on immediate action being taken.

54. What can you do today…?
Focuses on daily action being taken.

55. What causes your…?
Uncovering true motives without the dreaded, “Why?”

56. What challenges are…?
Identifies barriers.

57. What did you learn…?
Because people don’t care what you know; only what you learned.

58. What do you need to…?
Needs assessment.

59. What does that tell you about…?
Encourages someone to figure out the answer individually.

60. What else can you…?
Because there’s always options.

61. What evidence…?
Because specificity is persuasion.

What words govern your questions?

Share your list of question prefixes (and why they work) here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

If they can’t come UP to you; how will they ever get BEHIND you?

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Your primary task is to diffuse defensiveness

This week I’ve been working in The Bahamas with my friends at Homesteaders Life Company. We’re having a blast! (This is a picture of my mobile office to the left. Sigh...)

Too bad I gotta go back to the four inches of ice in St. Louis. Grrrr…

Anyway, these folks, who sell pre-need funeral and burial arrangements, have QUITE the challenge when approaching new customers. So, one of the key topics in our workshop yesterday was on disarming immediate concerns.

Because defensiveness always exists.

In the minds of every single customers you engage with, there’s always something.

Some concern.
Some insecurity.
Some annoyance.
Some stereotype.

Something she can’t get out of her mind.

And until she does, she not going to be fully comfortable talking with you.

It’s like a wall that, until you get over it, prevents meaningful conversation from advancing.

WHICH MEANS: Your primary task is to diffuse defensiveness.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s your most IMPORTANT task.

Just your first one.

Because when comfort exists, the rules change.

See, comfort is the baseline from which engaging, open and approachable communication stems.

Think about it. When someone feels comfortable, they’re a LOT more willing to:

o Talk
o Open up
o Ask questions
o Voice concerns
o Share problems
o Express emotions
o Volunteer information
o Say how they (really) feel
o Listen to what you have to say
o Give you their phone number

Just kidding about that last one ☺

Anyway, that’s the big challenge: diffusing defensiveness.

So, I’m curious…

How do you diffuse defensiveness – of prospects, customers, employees – in YOUR profession?

Share your three best practices here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

Want your staff members to open up to you?
Tune in to The Entrepreneur Channel on NametagTV.com!

Watch video lessons on diffusing defensiveness!

28 Ways to Challenge People’s Assumptions

Some people are full of BS.
Some people make assumptions.
Some people are nothing but talk.
Some people speak without thinking.
Some people use invalidated, vague, baseless arguments to prove their points.

Your job is to challenge them.

To (not) blindly accept everything people say.

To spot hidden assumptions and avoid mindless acceptance.

You do this for two reasons:

1. YOU gain clarity on their motives, intentions and beliefs.
2. THEY gain an opportunity to restate, reform and rethink their ideas.

Your best tool is to use an ICY Question, which stands for, “I Challenge You.”

Here are seven examples of common situations and dialogues where you can use them:

THEM: “I never thought I’d say this, but…”
YOU: “Why did you never think you’d say that?”

THEM: “I can’t do that!”
YOU: “Why not?” or “Says who?”

THEM: “Well, they say that…”
YOU: “Who’s ‘they’?”

THEM: “So, is this your full time job?”
YOU: “Yes. Why do you ask?”

THEM: “I’ve been calling you all week and I’d really like to get together to talk about a business opportunity!”
YOU: “What is your positive motivation for wanting to meet with me?”

THEM: “I heard/read it was terrible…”
YOU: “Who’d you hear that from?” or “Where’d you read that?”

THEM: “I dunno, this seems pretty expensive?”
YOU: “Compared to what?”

– – –

BONUS! 21 (other) ICY Questions examples include, but are not limited to:

1. How did you arrive at that?
2. How do you measure that?
3. Is that always the case?
4. So?
5. What do you plan to do with this feedback?
6. What stops you?
7. What would happen if you didn’t?
8. What’s (really) bothering you?
9. What’s your point?
10. When did you decide this?
11. Why?
12. What’s your proof?
13. How do you know that’s true?
14. Where’s the evidence?
15. Are you sure that’s true?
16. Why do you believe that?
17. Can you prove it?
18. Why did I receive this email?
19. Why do you think that happened?
20. Why is that so important to you?
21. Why was I put on this list?

Ultimately, the whole reason ICY Questions work is because they break people’s patterns.

Which catches their attention.
Which causes them to stop and think.
Which causes them to clarify their remarks.
Which causes the REAL motives and beliefs to surface.
Which causes you to better understand where they’re coming from.

So, as EA Sports says, challenge everything.

Challenge irrational thoughts.
Challenge programmed knowledge.
Challenge people’s positions.

If you want to be more approachable, start by being more challenging!

How do you challenge people’s assumptions?

Share your three best ICY Questions here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

…only 8 more days until NametagTV.com goes ON AIR!

Clarify the type of conversation you’re having

One of the primary tasks of Growing Bigger Ears is to guide the conversation into focus.

To help the speaker clarify what type of conversation she wants to have with you.

You do this for three reasons:

FIRST, clarify to … open up the space.
People need to feel free and relaxed in your presence. So, by first negotiating the space between you, you make it safe to share. This builds a foundation of comfort and approachability that endures throughout the entire encounter.

SECOND, clarify to … to set expectations.
Without an initial understanding of your conversational objectives, you’ll never know whether or not you and your partner were successful. So, think of this practice as sort of a mini-goal for creating a harmonious climate.

THIRD, clarify to … establish boundaries.
Listening is a process of suspending your own agenda in the service of the speaker. So, when you know what your respective roles are – and what areas are off limits – you prevent yourself AND the speaker from wasting emotional energy.

OK! Now that you understand the value of clarifying, let’s explore five questions you can pose to help the speaker guide the conversation into focus:

1. What needs to happen during this conversation for you to feel that it was successful?
2. What type of conversation do you want this to become?
3. Do you want me to suggest ideas or just listen?
4. Is this a dialogue or a discussion?
5. How would you like me to listen to you?

CAUTION: be sure to pause for at least three seconds after every question AND answer. Let the pearl sink.

REMEMBER: when you clarify the conversation by asking future-focused, positive questions, you not only open up the space, set expectations and establish boundaries; but you also demonstrate your willingness to move forward together.

And that’s what approachability is all about.

When you’re The Listener, what questions do you ask yourself?

Share your best two questions here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

…only 21 more days until NametagTV.com goes ON AIR!

Don’t take this wrong way, but…

Framing is everything.

So, when approaching your staff, employees, volunteers or members, be careful of using “Kill Phrases.”

These types of setup comments negatively influence and/or negate whatever comes out of your mouth next.

For example:

1. “With all due respect…”

PROBLEM: people use this as a Get Out of Jail Free Card. A conversational passport to say whatever they want. As if insulting someone is OK if you say this first.

SILENT DIALOG: Oh, great. I bet he’s going to say something disrespectful to me next…

2. “Don’t get defensive…”

PROBLEM: mentioning the mere idea of defensiveness usually causes it.

SILENT DIALOG: Yeah right! Now I probably WILL get defensive about what she says next!

3. “Let me give you some advice…”

PROBLEM: this assumes superiority, even when advice wasn’t requested.

SILENT DIALOG: Um, did I ask for your advice?

4. “Try not to take this personally…”

PROBLEM: creates immediate self-consciousness.

SILENT DIALOG: How can I NOT take this personally?

5. “Don’t take this the wrong way…”

PROBLEM: puts people on the defensive.

SILENT DIALOG: Yep, here comes the insult…

6. “I’m only telling you this for your own good…”

PROBLEM: based on the assumption that the other person KNOWS what’s good for you.

SILENT DIALOG: My own good, or YOUR own comfort?

* * * *

SO REMEMBER: framing is everything.

If you can avoid these Kill Phrases, you will be sure to lay a foundation of approachability for the people you lead.

What other Kill Phrases should you avoid?

Post your examples here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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How to use an open book to open a conversation

Looking for a GREAT way to start a conversation with a stranger?

(Without talking about the weather, traffic or the long line you’re stuck in?)

Try making a reference to the book they’re reading.

It’s easy. It’s approachable. And it’s a great way to discover the Common Point of Interest.

NOTE: before you do this, remember a few ground rules:

1. If the book addresses a controversial, dangerous or potentially awkward topic, don’t do it. This could backfire BIG time. (Especially books like The Kama Sutra and 101 Ways to Murder Complete Strangers on Airplanes.)

2. As with any approach to a stranger, first take note of the person’s posture and non-verbals. If she doesn’t look receptive to casual conversation, don’t bother her. People’s personal bubbles deserve respect. Waiting until the reader takes a break is usually a good time to jump in. That way you’re not interrupting.

OK! Now that you’ve decided to say hi, here are six ways to use an open book to open conversation:

1. How do you like The Da Vinci Code so far? A positively framed, open-ended question. Gives people permission to open up.

2. I’ve heard that book is great! What do you think? Also positive AND compliments their taste.

3. You’re lucky to be reading that book; I just finished it and could read it again! Excites them about their book.

4. Excuse me; I was actually thinking about buying that book. Would you recommend it? Appeals to a human being’s inherent helpful nature. What’s more, it’s kind of hard to get shut down with this approach.

5. So, what’s the best thing you learned from that book so far? Good for non-fiction and business books.

6. Don’t you just love Norman Vincent Peale? Who doesn’t?

How do you use open books to open conversations?

Try one of these today!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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Grow Bigger Ears: Don’t Add Too Much Value

Adding value is essential to growing bigger ears.

But be careful.

Because it’s (really) easy to add TOO MUCH value to a conversation.

FOR EXAMPLE: imagine your colleague, Karen, is enthusiastically telling you about her great new idea. She’s excited, optimistic and really “getting into” her explanation.

So, a few seconds into the conversation, you can’t help but interrupt with suggestions to make it better.

“You know that’s a great a idea Karen! Here’s what you should do. Start by going to this website and buy these two products. Then, talk to Mark, he’s good with this kind of stuff. Oh, and instead of selling ads online, you know what would be a BETTER idea? Well, one time I told one of MY clients…”

And all of the sudden, the momentum is reversed.

And Karen is thinking, “Wait, um, wasn’t this MY idea?”

Well, it WAS, until you hijacked the conversation by trying to add too much value to it!

Which means you did three things wrong:

1. You weren’t listening — you were too busy trying to contribute.
2. You weren’t collaborating — you were too busy trying to prove yourself.
3. You weren’t helping — you were too busy trying to take ownership of someone else’s idea.

BIG mistake.

Because even if you DID make Karen’s idea a little better, you still took away some of her ownership of that idea -– which made her feel A LOT worse.

Not a good trade off.

AND HERE’S THE PROBLEM: some people don’t even realize THAT they try to add too much value.

(I should I know: I used to be one of them!)

SO, REMEMBER THIS: while adding too much value is not always intentional, it’s still an unconscious display of disrespect.

And the people you’re engaging with will know it.

Because it’s rude, frustrating and unapproachable.

So, if you want to avoid adding too much value to your conversations, remember these DO’s and DONT’s:

DON’T … match or one-up people’s points.
DON’T … try to solve the problem too quickly.

DO … give them the glory.
DO … trust in your ability to add value after (not during) listening.

DON’T … feel the need to prove yourself every ten seconds
DON’T … respond too soon or rush to give answers.

DO … allow the speaker to set the pace of the conversation.
DO … let the other person fill in the empty spaces.

DON’T … impose your own structure on what is being said.
DON’T … project your own meaning onto the speaker.

HERE’S YOUR CHALLENGE: post these caveats in a visible location somewhere in your office. That will help you become more mindful of this dangerous interpersonal habit.

AND REMEMBER: listening is not the same thing as waiting to talk.

So, next time a colleague comes to you with a new idea or a business challenge, don’t try to add too much value to the conversation.

Grow bigger ears by biting your tongue.

Are you trying to add too much value to the conversation?

Share your best three tips for monopolizing the listening.

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

Are you a friend of The Nametag Network?

Read more blogs!
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Corny doesn’t mean ineffective

Yes, all that positive attitude stuff is TOTALLY corny.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

I say:

Believe in whatever makes you more focused.
Believe in whatever makes you more motivated.
Believe in whatever makes you more productive.

Because if you have a negative attitude, all the nametags in the world won’t make you more approachable.

Which means:

It’s about your thinking.
It’s about your questions.
It’s about your responses.

So, here’s a quick list of what to say (and what NOT to say) so you can attract more people, more business, more ideas and more opportunities into your life:

1. If someone says “No!” the next word out of your mouth should be “Next!”

2. Don’t say, “Ouch!” say, “Ah-ha!”

3. Enjoy, don’t compare.

4. Don’t say, “What’s going to happen to me?” say, “What can I do?”

5. Don’t say, “What if I can’t?” say, “How can I?”

6. Next time someone challenges your attitude by saying, “Don’t you ever worry that…” say “No!” no matter what.

7. Whenever something happens to you (good OR bad) ask yourself, “Now what else does this make possible?”

8. Also ask yourself, “What do I have to become to get all that I want?”

9. Next time someone tells you that something you created SUCKS, smile and say, “I respect your opinion of my work.”

Sure, stuff like this is corny.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

Does corny mean ineffective?

Make a list of three corny techniques that work for you.

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

Are you a friend of The Nametag Network?

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Ball in Their Court Questioning

PICTURE THIS: you’re chatting with someone you just met.

During a conversational lull, you ask the default question, “So Mike, what do YOU do?”

And all of the sudden, his posture weakens. His eyes avert. And his smile fades.

“Actually, um, I’ve been out of work for the past 8 months, so…”


Well, good thing I brought THAT up! you think.

A few minutes later on your way to the hardware store to purchase a crowbar to pry your foot out of your mouth, something occurs to you.

You made assumptions.

That Mike had a job.
That Mike was defined by his work.
That Mike had a career he enjoyed talking about.

None of which were true.

And as a result, your connection was botched.

SO, THAT’S THE CHALLENGE: avoiding assumptive language.

Being curious, not judgmental.

And your job as an approachable communicator is to ask questions that are specific, yet STILL give someone permission to direct the conversation in manner that makes him most comfortable.

Because your NUMBER ONE GOAL in every conversation is to make the other person feel comfortable as soon as possible.

An effective tool you can use is called Ball in Their Court Questioning.

For example:

Instead of saying, “What do you do?”
You could say, “What keeps you busy all week?”

Instead of saying, “What’s your job there?”
You could say, “What’s your role there?”

Instead of saying, “Did you get hired yet?”
You could say, “What kind of progress have you been making on the job hunt?”

Instead of saying, “Are you actually making a living at this?”
You could say, “How are you moving forward towards your goals?

Ball in Their Court Questioning. (BTCQ, for short.)

And BTCQ is more than just asking open-ended questions.

For someone to engage comfortably with you about topics important to them.

From you looking like an idiot, and from the other person feeling embarrassed.

Framing your conversation with a positive, goal-oriented tone.

And ultimately, when you make these minor changes in your verbiage, you create MAJOR results in your conversations.

So, next time you meet someone new; transform assumptive language into approachable language.

And you’ll never need to use that crowbar again.

How long have you been working in the People Business?

Share your additional thoughts on the nature of this “industry.”

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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Even when you say no, you’re still marketing

PICTURE THIS: you get an email out the blue from a prospect.

But not just ANY prospect … the perfect customer.

Exactly the type of client you want to work with.

The good news is; they want to hire you!
The bad news is; you’re booked solid.

Looks like you’re going to have to turn down their business.

What do you do?

Well, first of all, saying no isn’t really BAD news. After all, it means…

You’re in demand.
You’re staying busy.
You’re attracting the right type of clients.

That’s a great place for any company to be!

BUT HERE’S THE CHALLENGE: how do you say no to new business … while STILL marketing?

Take a lesson from Progressive Insurance.

In 1994, Progressive became the first auto insurance company to provide its rates alongside the rates of other companies.

That way, consumers could easily compare and decide … even if they didn’t use Progressive!

I remember when their commercials first came out. EVERYBODY was talking about them.

“So, Progressive will give you the insurance rates of their competitors? That’s so cool!”

Cool, indeed.

Not what you’d expect from an insurance company, right?

Exactly. Which is precisely why that sentence became their widely recognized tagline.

Also, I snooped around online and found this great excerpt from their annual report:

“Fast. Fair. Better. That’s what you can expect from Progressive. Everything we do recognizes the needs of busy consumers who are cost-conscious, increasingly savvy about insurance and ready for easy, new ways to quote, buy and manage their policies, including claims service that respects their time and reduces the trauma and inconvenience of loss.”


Progressive LOVES and RESPECTS their customers SO MUCH, they’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy.

Even if it means forfeiting new business!

See, Progressive found a way to say no to its potential customers … while STILL maintaining (and reinforcing) brand integrity.

That’s the way the game of marketing should be played.

So, if you find yourself in a situation where you just HAVE to turn new business away, remember this:

Don’t just say no and then hang up!

“Well, we’re sorry sir. Can’t help ya out today. But, we wish you good luck fishing that dead raccoon out of your chimney. Bye!”

If you were that customer, how would YOU feel?

INSTEAD, TRY THIS: create a policy, procedure or protocol for saying no. Have options or a decision tree on-hand. Find a way to STILL serve the customer, even if he’s not your customer. Position yourself as a resource, and they’ll come back next time!

THEN, TRY THIS: consider your network of colleagues to whom you’d gladly refer client overflow. Whoever you think would be a good fit, send them a heads-up email or phone call first. Then offer their name to your prospect. Finally, follow up about a week later to see if it worked out. It’s good karma.

ULTIMATELY, REMEMBER THIS: when you forfeit new business to vouch for a colleague’s credibility, your credibility will increase as well. Clients will respect your discretion, honesty and generosity. And those characteristics will stay in their mind for the next time they (or someone else) needs you.

Because, as I learned from Seth Godin, even when you say no, you’re still marketing.

Do you build marketing in your no’s?

Share an example of how saying NO at one point … enabled a customer say YES at a future point.

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

Are you a friend of The Nametag Network?

Read more blogs!
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