What is in a Question?

A question is the beginning of information sharing with another person. This is so important in communication, but most of us never receive any formal training in inquiry. For some, this subtle art comes easy to help maneuver daily life. In the business environment; massive training programs help investigators, data scientists, and other professionals build the foundation of their competency for information gathering in their role.

Professionals of different efficacies receive training into how to properly ask a question. What is in a question and how you ask one, may be part of a missed opportunity in your life or line of work. Questions can be a competitive or cooperative pursuit for information. The science of inquiry generally places importance on the challenge, tactics, structure, tone and group dynamics when asking a question.


The challenge is different between the inquisitor and interviewee, and whether the pursuit is competitive or cooperative. Competitive inquiries are those times when a personal or group interest is better served with not disclosing certain information. Cooperative inquiries build cohesive relationships and pursue productive information. The nature of your inquiry can help you use tactics so that your information search can be successful.


Competitive inquiries are characterized by a reluctant source. Your questions should be structured to confine answers to a duality such as a yes/no, positive/negative or other. Your follow up questions should be detailed and border on redundancy to create more specific answers. Most sensitive questions could be led with to influence later ease within interviewee. Your questions should have pessimistic assumptions when any assumptions are present allowing interviewee to build up to correct level and not just lower the standard assumption.

When answering; you should prepare and decide what information not to share. Keep at direction and goal of question by dodging or deflecting when necessary such as to a question that is similar to the raised one, or on that you would prefer or have ability to answer. Consider when to share negative information rather than refusing to answer.

When part of cooperative inquiries you can ask open ended questions to allow shared control of subject and question content by both individuals. Ask least sensitive questions first, frame tough questions with negative assumptions. When answering Cooperative questions avoid narrating in a prolonged and unproductive manner, use energy, humor and storytelling to guide and invigorate the search or share of information. Not immediately specifying your answer helps in leaving an openness to invite other for further information or other’s expression of their answers. Lastly deflect tough questions with humor and charisma.


Previously describe in tactics; the sequence is important to control, especially in competitive challenges. For any challenge, rapport comes first. Sequence in questions are important to consider whether to start with or end at more specific or sensitive questions relying on the challenge. Follow up questions have a special use in a cooperative nature they allow us to build on inquiries establishing with interviewee that we are listening. One question’s answer can influence a following question’s answer, so be mindful of the sequence of your questions. Sequence is important in court proceedings to establish details or causes of an event, or in interviews and leaving prospective employees on a good note when finishing their interview. Using the Socratic Method to review lessons from a curriculum presents a cooperative challenge. An initial definition is set, exceptions refine that definition and can be given by multiple parties, and eventually a new definition is created or questions cease after arriving at the essence of the answer. The opposite occurs in a cross-examination between an investigative agent and an interviewee; Investigators want to obtain facts and not have interviewee close up, while interviewee is helping the record of a crime and is thus a competitive challenge.

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