Open questions are designed to encourage full, meaningful, open-ended answers using the respondent’s own knowledge, opinions and feelings. Open questions are good for developing a conversation and finding out more detail; they ask the respondent to think and reflect. The opposite is closed questions, which encourage short or single-word answers.

Open-ended questions typically begin with words such as “Why,” “How,” “What,” “Describe,” or encourage storytelling with phrases such as “Tell me about…”.

What do you think? Why is that important to you?
What does that mean to you?
Why do you think that is?
How does that work for you?
What is it about ____ that works for you?

How do you feel about that?
What is the strongest emotion right now?
What did you notice?
How did you interpret or make sense of what you observed?
What had real meaning for you from what you’ve heard? What surprised you? What challenged you?
What is mysterious to you?

What assumptions are you making?
How else can you think about this?
What are you missing or avoiding?
What’s missing from this picture so far? What is it we’re not seeing? What do we need more clarity about?
What can you learn from this situation?
What’s been your/our major learning, insight, or discover so far?
What would someone who had a very different set of beliefs than you do say about (your specific situation)?

What’s emerging here for you?
What’s the next level of thinking we need to do?
If there was one thing that hasn’t yet been said in order to reach a deeper level of understanding/clarity, what would that be?

What is your intention in telling me this?
What would you like for me to do with this information?

Future focus

What do you want? Why is that important to you?
What are you doing now to get what you want? Why is that important to you?
What are you not doing now to get what you want? Why is that important to you?

What is possible?
What opportunities can you see?
What are your choices?
What now needs to happen?
What would it take for you to do …?

What would you like to do?
What would you really like to have happen with this?
What would work for you?
How would you like it to be?
What would have to happen for you to (act differently, feel differently)?
What question, if answered, could make the most difference to the future of (your specific situation)?
What will you commit to doing?

What do you want for group/organization?
What story can you tell yourself about the group/organization and you that you haven’t told yourself before?