Why stop with one open question? Dig Deeper.

I know the power of the open questions. I design with them, facilitate with them, and evaluate with them. But, are they enough?

I often feel that some people are good at giving me just what they think I want. I ask a question and they give me an answer with just enough detail to keep me happy. But for real change to happen in my workshops and other learning sessions more is often needed.

Digging deeper questions can help.

When I follow an open question with a digging deeper question, I get more and different information. Often, the more I ask these sorts of questions the more personal and real the answer gets. In fact, the more important information or idea is sometimes buried (and protected) under layers of other “stuff.”

Here are some digging deeper questions that I have found especially helpful to getting to the root of concerns, a story, or personal experience:

  • What else?
  • Who else?
  • What more comes to mind…?
  • What other reasons…?
  • Where else have you…?
  • Where else has this…?
  • How else have you…?
  • How else has this…?

Sometimes a statement can help to dig deeper:

  • I am interested in what you are saying. Please explain more.
  • I want to understand what you just expressed. Please share more.
  • This is so helpful – I would love to hear more.
  • Your experience is important. Please tell me more.


Another way to get more information, ideas, or thoughts from a learner is to just sit in silence, affirm what you are hearing and wait. More will come! Often, we just need to slow down and show genuine curiousity to the person we are with. There is always more information to share; it’s just a question of your intention. Show through your questions or your posturing, that you really want to know.

Open questions are critical for inviting dialogue. Adding some digging deeper questions often encourages even deeper sharing and re-telling.

What question do you often use to get to the root of the matter?


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Diane Averill (daverill@crcna.org) is works as a trainer, consultant, and writer for Global Coffee Break, a small group Bible study ministry of the Christian Reformed Church of North America.

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