Welcome to the second installment of the Subtle Art of Communication. Today’s topic is going to be on the subtle closed endedness that many coaches, managers, leaders, mindfulness teachers, meditation practitioners, yoga teachers, hypnotherapists and parents fall into. It’s a very subtle switch that we can make in our language, that can make a huge difference in the results that we get with those around us.
My name is Tony Husted, Master Certified Coach. I’m glad to be bringing you this series to help you improve your communication so you can get more of what you want out of your life. This story of this closed ended versus open ended, started for me all the way back 20 plus years ago, when I realized that I was really good at what I was doing, which at the time was teaching dance. However, I wasn’t very good at selling additional lessons. And as a dance instructor working in a studio, your primary goal was first to sell dance lessons. So you had dance lessons to teach. Being a great teacher was secondary to being able to sell.
So I had a discussion with my wife, Vanessa. And we went back and forth for a long time about the best way to learn to sell. And I listened to Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, and I had heard it over and over that if you can learn to sell, you can do anything. And so I set my mind to learning to sell and the decision that we came to, was that I was going to take a position selling cars. I opened up the newspaper. Yes, 20 years ago, I opened up the newspaper, looked through the want ads, and I found a whole list of car dealerships looking for salespeople to start today. So I went and I interviewed at a car dealership and I immediately got a job.
I started working for a manager, his name was RJ. And over the first few months, I remember him repeatedly telling me that I asked too many closed ended questions. And that I should go back out there and ask my client more open ended questions. And I remember on more than one occasion being asking him, Well, how do I ask more open ended questions. And you’ve probably read a book or watched a video or a you know, looked at some information on how to ask open ended questions. And a lot of the material out there would say you know, we’ll ask who questions what questions were questions when questions, why questions? How questions, ask questions that go deeper, ask questions that are more inclusive, ask questions that go beyond the facts.
At that time, I had a tough time figuring out good solid questions that I could ask that would take my clients further. And then RJ would get frustrated with me, he would go out to the clients, and he would work with the clients. And he was very masterful at what he did. Although, asking open ended questions wasn’t really his forte, because he could never teach me how he asked open ended questions. But what he did to close these folks and get them to buy a car is a topic for another day.
You probably also know that common closed-ended. Questions are either or questions, right, wrong questions. Yes, no questions, past oriented questions, questions where the answers are known, or the question is leading to an answer. Also rhetorical questions and any question that has one answer only would also be classified as closed ended questions. Now closed ended questions can be great. Closed ended questions are great for gaining confirmation, gaining commitments. Clarifying if you misunderstood somebody, did you say this?
There are a lot of good uses for closed ended questions. And what I found over the years, though, is that many, many people subtly and unintentionally use a lot of closed ended questions when they don’t really mean to use them. They are using them thinking that they’re softening up the question that they’re leading into the question in a way that is more likely to get the answer that they want aka a leading question from a client for example. I also am very aware of the old school sales techniques where the salesperson is taught that if they can get seven yeses on any topic, seven yeses in a row, then they asked the closing question that close up the deal, that the eighth answer will be yes, as well.
If you’ve ever been on the opposite side of a table of somebody that’s doing that to you, it’s easy to read very, very quickly, when they’re asking you, did you like the color? Did you like the interior color? Did this meet your criteria, you can see them setting up all of these yeses. And there’s much more powerful ways, I believe, to really connect with someone and fill what they need. By understanding their needs at a deeper level through deep questioning, we’re gonna leave sales for another day, even though it is the door that I like to use to open up this conversation. So if you’re a coach or manager or leader, a parent, somebody who asks lots of questions, to open up communication, then this is going to be really powerful for you.
Now, as a coach trainer, and I teach an accredited coach training program, it’s accredited with the international coach Federation. And we’re going to teach you in that program, not only just these subtle, open ended tidbits, these little subtle tactics, to ask more open ended questions, we’re going to teach you nine powerful open ended frames that when put together, create the opportunity for you to ask an unlimited number of powerful open ended questions.
Today, I want to focus on some subtle closed ended questions. And again, these are questions that people ask, they’re actually entrances to questions that people ask that make powerful questions closed ended. And it’s really interesting, because it doesn’t matter how strong the question is that follows. When you start a question with these terms, they automatically make it closed ended. And the problem with that is that that automatically makes it a yes, no question. No matter how open ended, the rest of the question is, and you might not think that’s a big deal.
Who cares if it’s close-ended? If the end is open ended? Well, there’s a group of people. And in neurolinguistics, we sometimes refer to these people as being what we call mis-matchers. And mis-matchers are people who take and swing the other direction. It’s their natural innate way of operating. So if I were to say, Would you like to go to the movies, a mismatch? You’re not? Probably not. But if I really want to mismatch, or to go to the movies with me, I might say, hey, you wouldn’t want to go to the movies with me, would you? And the mismatch or will swing the other way? And this is a deep, hardwired, behavioral or sorting pattern that some people have is this mismatch or pattern?
So when you start with a yes, no, on the front end, and you’re trying to get to an open ended? Yes, or open ended expansion. On the other end? What happens is they automatically go, No, they go inside? And Nope, nope, that’s, that doesn’t work for me. And even if it’s just subtle, it’s still a little speed bump for these people.
Now, the other category that this falls into, hugely, and actually one of my absolute favorite meditation teachers in the whole world, in his recorded meditations, he uses many, many of these subtle, closed ended entrances. And as a bit of a mismatch for myself, what I find myself is, I he’ll ask this really deep question, and I’ll go Nope, and then I have to relax into it. And he repeats these phrases over and over at the entrance of these questions. Now, if you’re a coach, and you use backtracking, you use the client’s words back to them. And as part of a powerful question, this is really important for you as well.
Don’t start your questions with these entrances, because no matter how great the backtrack, which is using the clients keywords back, no matter how good the backtrack, no matter how good the question, these could create a a speed bump for your client. So what are these subtle closed questions and close ended entries into sentences?
So there are several of them: Can you, could you, would you, will you, have you, is there, and are there. So let me give you some examples. Can you tell me if you’ve got a mismatch? Or or somebody who swings the other way? Can you tell me? No? Could you imagine yourself accomplishing that? That could again lead to a no. Would you tell me that somebody who’s got that little bit of away from likes to go the other way likes a little bit of banter, and likes to challenge other people? Would you tell me? What could bring up a? Well, I don’t really want to? Will you take those action steps? It still leaves the door open for No. Have you done this before?
Which is still a closed ended question, because it’s past oriented. But have you ever thought about this? You can get a No. Is there? And or are there? Is there some steps you could take? Are there some steps you could take any type of sentence that opens with that? So can you could you would you will you have you Is there an are there, just cut those right out of your vocabulary, especially if you’re a coach, coaches, you don’t need to enter the sentence with that it doesn’t make the question nicer, gentler or softer. It just gives your client the opportunity to stop the thinking process because it brings up an internal note for them. So here are some additional ways that you can take those closed edits, and just delete them.
First off, just delete them. You don’t even have to do anything else. Just cut them out. Can you tell me? Tell me? Could you take some action steps? What action steps are you going to take? Would you mind describing that? Please describe that for me? Will you move forward on that this week? When will you move forward on that this week? Have you ever thought of what or what have you thought of already? Is there something you could do? What is something you could do? Are there actions you could take? What actions could you take? So just by deleting them and making it an action oriented sentence, that’s your first way to get beyond those.
A second way to get beyond is to use what I call linking phrases. And so it carries one thought into the next. So some linking phrases that you could use to be subtly more open ended are: as you, as you think about that, what are your best ideas, while you feel that sense of inspiration describe to me what steps you might take? At the same time as you’re feeling that? What does your heart say to you, as you continue to go deeper into that relaxed state?
What else do you feel? As you begin to ponder this question? When you are ready to feel that, go ahead. Let yourself see the next action step that you’re going to take.
So some subtle entrances to get rid of those closed ended entrances as you while you at the same time as continue to begin to when you and let yourself. Now I want to tell you again, that these are just subtle ways to link in and bridge from one thought to another. without there being any no entering into the conversation. As I mentioned earlier in the video, I teach in our program, several more open ended frames to give you a wide variety that will cover all of your bases and give you an unlimited number of coaching questions to ask. And I would invite you as you go forward in your week.
Try to delete just remove Can you could you would you will you have you is there are there from your day to day speech patterns as you’re asking people questions. Ask who what, why, when where how deeper, inclusive questions. Maybe try out that, as you continue to begin to when you do let yourself at the same time as, especially for those of you who are into where you’re like a meditation teacher as can instead of can you feel that as you feel that can you sense the space around you. When you begin to sense the space around you build these linkages.
Just to keep the yes’s in the client’s brain going, keep the positives in the clients brain going, keep the moving forward going. So these are all subtle tools you can use to be more engaged in your conversation. And really, at the deepest level, what they do is they allow you to create more engagement with the person you’re asking questions to. So I hope that you enjoyed this session. I look forward to hearing what was valuable for you out of this, please go down just below this video. If you haven’t already, hit that subscribe button, hit that like button, it gives me the opportunity to share this information with more and more people. And by subscribing you make sure you don’t miss any of my messages so that you can stay right on top of being a more engaging leader and communicator in your life. If you’ve got questions, please go down to the comments section and ask your questions.
If you’ve got suggestions for upcoming lessons, please let me get here those suggestions down in the comments as well. And if you would do me the deepest favor, I would invite you to share this video on your social media. I look forward to session three of the subtle art of engagement. Thank you and have an awesome day.