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Let's Communicate Better!

Upping your communication game all starts with HOW you ask questions. Open-ended questions are key to effective communication.

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Open Ended Questions Promote Deeper Discussion

Open-ended questions can be powerful tools to facilitate deeper discussions around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). How can they help promote those healthy discussions? Here are a few thoughts…

They encourage personal experiences.

Open-ended questions invite individuals to share their personal experiences related to DEIB. For example, you can ask questions like, "Can you share a time when you felt included and valued in a diverse setting?" or "What challenges have you encountered when it comes to promoting equity in your workplace?" These questions allow individuals to reflect on their experiences and provide more nuanced insights, fostering deeper discussions.

Help participants explore perspectives and biases.

Open-ended questions enable participants to explore their own perspectives and biases, as well as those of others. You can ask questions such as, "How do you think your background influences your understanding of diversity?" or "What biases do you think exist within our organization, and how can we address them?" By encouraging individuals to examine their own beliefs and assumptions, open-ended questions create space for self-reflection and dialogue, leading to deeper discussions on DEIB.

Uncover root causes and systemic issues.

Open-ended questions help dig deeper into the root causes of DEIB challenges and address systemic issues. For instance, you can ask questions like, "What do you think are the underlying reasons for the lack of diversity in leadership positions?" or "How do you think our organizational policies and practices impact equity?" These questions encourage participants to analyze the structural aspects of DEIB, promoting critical thinking and more comprehensive discussions.

Give multiple perspectives a voice.

Open-ended questions encourage participants to consider and respect multiple perspectives on DEIB topics. You can ask questions like, "How do different cultural perspectives influence our understanding of inclusion?" or "What steps can we take to ensure that all voices are heard and valued in decision-making processes?" By inviting diverse viewpoints, open-ended questions foster inclusive discussions that consider a wide range of perspectives and promote empathy and understanding.

Identify actionable solutions.

Open-ended questions can help generate actionable solutions and strategies for promoting DEIB. For example, you can ask questions like, "What initiatives or programs do you think would effectively promote equity in our organization?" or "How can we create an inclusive environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging?" These questions encourage participants to brainstorm ideas, share insights, and collaborate on developing practical solutions, leading to deeper discussions on implementing DEIB initiatives.

You Guys Just Figure It Out

One of the biggest challenges we face is finding the time to deal with multiple and competing priorities, right? But, when it comes to maintaining a culture of integrity, our first priority as a manager has to be making sure all our employees always feel comfortable coming to us with concerns; and when they do, making the time to listen and address those concerns appropriately.

But… it’s all in how we ask those questions!

Use these open-ended questions the next time you are talking with someone to help to further discussions.

Old Statements

Open-Ended Question Replacements

That will never work here.

Can you tell me how you see that working here?

You’re too young to have a good idea.

Given your perspective, what new approaches can you think about to solve this problem?

You’ve been here forever.

From your past experience, what has worked well?

Good luck with that idea.

I hadn’t thought of that approach, can you explain the details?

I think this is the most important thing to consider.

From your perspective, what do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind right now?

That is too risky.

How do you think we can mitigate the risk?

I don’t trust the _______________.

Can you share with me your concerns over working with ___________?

You seem like you are in a bad mood today.

Is there something going on with you today?

I cannot believe you aren’t done yet.

Is there anything I can do to help you meet the deadline?  Or How can I be helpful?

It’s not my responsibility.

Can I help to solve the problem?

We don’t have the budget.

What do you think is critical to getting this done?

We don’t have the resources.

Can we do some quick brainstorming about creative solutions to this problem?
What is an out of the box idea for this?

______ doesn’t know what we are doing.

I wonder what prompted that decision from _______ department?

We cannot do that.

What process did you go through to determine your needs?

That isn’t a realistic deadline.

What expectations do you have for when you want/need this to get done?  Any factors we need to take into account for these expectations?

Make it happen!

What is it that you would like to see accomplished?


Open-ended questions can serve as a starting point to explore complex DEIB issues, encourage critical thinking, and drive meaningful change within organizations and communities.

Think before you ask!

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