The art of asking questions
In day-to-day situations, people sometimes ask questions because they want to know something specific. For example:
Q. What’s for breakfast?
A. Green eggs and ham.
Q. Did you finish the report?
In a mentorship relationship, often the purpose for asking a question is to stimulate a conversation – a dialog – between the mentor and mentee. Open-ended questions are especially useful in getting conversations – and ideas – flowing.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
How would you handle …?
What would you do if…?
Tell me what you expected ….
What did you do when…?
Why do you think …?
Consider the purpose for the question
During the course of the mentoring relationship different situations will arise that will call for different types of questions. Here are some types of questions that you may draw on during the course of your mentoring relationship:
Hypothetical questions – for example: What if you volunteered to take on the task? By creating a situation that is not real, but that could happen, you plant an idea in the mentee’s head and possibly push them outside their comfort zone.
Probing questions – for example: Why do you think that? As the name implies, this type of question is designed to try to uncover what is going on below the surface; what is motivating a behaviour or response.
Reflective questions – for example: Can you tell me more about that? These questions are designed to get the mentee to explore an idea or issue in more depth.
Verifying questions – for example: Do you understand what I mean? These questions are meant to help you determine whether the mentee understands your point.