OF ALL SORTS
The ability to ask open-ended questions is very important in many vocations, including education, counseling, mediation, sales, investigative work and journalism.
An open-ended question is designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer using the subject’s own knowledge and/or feelings. It is the opposite of a closed-ended question, which encourages a short or single-word answer. Open-ended questions also tend to be more objective and less leading than closed-ended questions (see next page).
Open-ended questions typically begin with words such as “Why” and “How”, or phrases such as “Tell me about…”. Often they are not technically a question, but a statement, which implicitly asks for a response.
Do you get on well with your boss?
Tell me about your relationship with your boss.
Who will you vote for this election?
What do you think about the two candidates in this election?
What colour shirt are you wearing?
That’s an interesting coloured shirt you’re wearing.
How do you feel?
Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) open-ended question is “How does this make you feel?” or some variation thereof. This has become a cliché in both journalism and therapy. The reason it is so widely used is that it’s so effective.
In journalism, stories are all about people and how they are affected by events. Audiences want to experience the emotion. Even though modern audiences tend to cringe at this question, it’s so useful that it continues to be a standard tool.
In psychology, feelings and emotions are central to human behaviour. Therapists are naturally keen to ask questions about feelings.
A leading question is a question, which subtly prompts the respondent to answer in a particular way. Leading questions are generally undesirable as they result in false or slanted information. For example:
Do you have any problems with your boss?
This question prompts the person to question their employment relationship. In a subtle way it raises the prospect that there are problems.
Tell me about your relationship with your boss.
This question does not seek any judgment and there is less implication that there might be something wrong with the relationship.
The difference in the above example is minor but in some situations it can be more important. For example, in a court case:
How fast was the red car going when it smashed into the blue car?
This question implies that the red car was at fault, and the word “smashed” implies a high speed.
How fast was each car going when the accident happened?
This question does not assign any blame or pre-judgment.
Obtaining Responses to Suit the Edit
In journalism, leading questions can be used in various ways. For example, a journalist might want a particular type of answer to edit alongside some other content. This can be good or bad, as illustrated by the following example.
A hypothetical journalist is doing a story on the moon hoax theory1. First of all the journalist gets the following statement from an advocate of the theory:
“Photographs of the moon landing show converging shadows were they should be parallel. This could only happen in a studio so the photos must be fake.”
The journalist then interviews a NASA engineer. This response will be edited to appear immediately after the accusation. There are several ways to ask the question, each with very different results:
How do you explain the missing stars from the Apollo photographs?
This question leads the engineer enough to answer the specific question, while being open-ended enough to get a complete answer. This is good.
How do you respond to people, who say the Apollo photographs were fake?
This question elicits a tenuously-relevant reply without actually answering the accusation. The engineer will give a broad answer such as “I think these people have got it wrong”. This gives the impression that the engineer is being evasive and can’t answer the question.
How do you respond to conspiracy theorists, who accuse you of faking the landing and lying to America?
This question adds some spice with provocative phrases designed to encourage a stronger response.
Of course the ethical journalist will avoid using leading questions to mislead.
Children are particularly susceptible to leading questions. Studies have shown that children are very attuned to taking cues from adults and tailoring their answers based on the way questions are worded2.
A closed-ended question is a question format that limits respondents with a list of answer choices from which they must choose to answer the question. Commonly these type of questions are in the form of multiple choices, either with one answer or with check-all-that-apply, but also can be in scale format, where respondent should decide to rate the situation in along the scale continuum, similar to Likert questions.
A closed-ended question contrasts with an open-ended question, which cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”, or with a specific piece of information, and which gives the person answering the question scope to give the information that seems to them to be appropriate. Open-ended questions are sometimes phrased as a statement which requires a response.
Examples of open-ended questions:
- Tell me about your relationship with your supervisor.
- How do you see your future?
- Tell me about the children in this photograph.
- What is the purpose of government?
- Why did you choose that answer?
At the same time, there are closed-ended questions, which are sometimes impossible to answer correctly with a yes or no without confusion, for example: “Have you stopped taking heroin?” (if you never took it), see “Loaded question“.
TABACCO: You may not get one, but Closed-Ended Questions solicit & encourage Honest Answers!
Mom, “Junior, did you break this dish?”
Junior, “Yes, mom!”
You probably won’t get Honest Answers with Open-Ended Questions either, which solicit Evasions, Equivocations & Outright Lies! And by leaving an honest respondent with too many options, you will probably get a response that is unintentionally off the mark.
Mom, “Junior, who broke this dish?”
Junior, “Sis did!”
If you believe that conventional open-ended questions are the best way to debrief Politicians and Salesmen, then you have no hope. My suggestion is that you apply for a spot as Anchor on the Evening News. That’s the way they generally do it.
Mike Wallace, American News Icon
Mike Wallace asked VERY TOUGH questions, and he kept after his ‘PREY’ until they responded to those questions. You must think of Politicians and Hostile Witnesses as ‘Prey’ just as Mike did!
There will never be another Mike Wallace on Network TV! Why not? Because Mike Wallace himself would not be permitted in the 21st century!
Network Evening News or Nightly News is NOT intended to inform but to DISINFORM & PACIFY!
You can’t initiate Iraq Wars with a Mike Wallace. You can’t soothe the Public into acceptance of the ECONOMIC DISPARITY between Have-Mores and Regular Joes with a Mike Wallace. And you can’t sell SUPREME COURT ABOMINATIONS with a Mike Wallace.
Who owns NETWORK TELEVISION? Have-Mores, that’s who! Why would Have-Mores cut their own throats with Mike Wallace clones! Rank & File will watch the News regardless, but Advertisers (Have-Mores) won’t spend $-MILLIONS advertising on your Network if you tell the unvarnished Truth about Corporate America, Politicians and other Have-Mores!
Our only hope is Blogs like mine and other forms of SOCIAL MEDIA! Then all Have-Mores can do is ASTROTURF the Internet with Bloggers and Facebookers of their own, who press their side of the Issues. The NRA, almost all ThinkTanks, the Conservative Talking Heads, and a few minor conservative bloggers all speak for Have-Mores to muddy the waters and make it appear they actually represent a viable viewpoint – they don’t!
If you get the opportunity to debrief an NRA Talking Head or a GOPer in Congress in front of TV cameras – which you won’t – ask CLOSED-ENDED QUESTIONS or you waste your time! Focus your Question to prevent them from EVASION, PREVARICATION & OBSTRUCTIONISM!
And be prepared to
follow up with
HUMAN BEINGS &
PEOPLE YOU CAN TRUST
Now if you are dealing with honest types or everyday folks (you must decide whether or not this includes each one of your own children or your better half), you may want to read the following Article in its entirety.
In judging them, every preacher must stand on his own resume, not his attire!
Avoid asking questions that require one-word replies. Not only will closed-ended questions bring a conversation to a screeching halt, they usually provide inadequate answers as well.
I must know totally different types of people from those known to this author because most of those folks I know cannot be restricted to one-word answers outside of a criminal courtroom trial. Ask what day it is, and their response will be comparable to the Book of Genesis. So please read it “with a grain of salt”.
HOW TO EVALUATE
WHETHER OR NOT
INTERVIEWERS SUCH AS
ARE EVEN TRYING
TO GET AT THE TRUTH
When To Just Change The Channel!
1 – A guy has just been arrested and a TV personality is interviewing the D.A., the Defense Attorney or the arrested guy’s family and neighbors.
If the D.A. says, “We’ve got the wrong guy” or the Defense Attorney says, “My client is guilty”, then you have News! And family and neighbors? Were they witnesses? If not, change the Channel! I do!
2 – When Soledad O’Brien and CNN waste 2-hours of your life with repeat ‘Atlanta Child Murders’, attempting to persuade you they have anything new to add and that Wayne Williams, convicted of killing 2 grown men, is the Atlanta Child Murderer using innuendo, circumstantial fiber evidence and voodoo. Atlanta’s Black leaders decided in advance that the Murderer had to be Black because, if he were White, a RACE WAR would ensue. How’s that for Scientific Police Work! Columbo would be so proud.
3 – When the MSM spends 2 years following the O. J. Simpson murder case 24×7 and not 1 minute on the Robert Blake murder case, who decides what is Newsworthy and what is not!
Klaus von Bulow got NONE OF THE VENOM dumped on O. J., but – I forgot – Klaus was White. And nobody has ever been arrested or tried for killing Jon Benet Ramsey. How many years did you waste watching that never-ending story!
4 – When a foreign Chief of State (Ahmadinejad or Putin) criticizes the U.S. President (Bush or Obama), and the Mainstream Media focuses on the Flaws and Abominations of that foreign Chief of State while ignoring the Flaws and Abominations of our President and fails to even consider the ACCUSATIONS, it’s that time again.
5 – When the 5 O’clock News gives you a rundown of the 5 top movies for the week, interviews the lead actor in a current film or profiles a new pharmaceutical or medical treatment that has proprietary attributes, you are not watching News, you are watching a COMMERCIAL referred to as a VNR (Video News Release)! Time to go ‘Surfing’!
6 – Any News or Talking Head show that interviews anyone from the NRA is a signal to change stations NOW. When has the NRA ever promoted any “Solution” that did NOT involve the purchase, carrying and use of MORE GUNS! If you ask a Pharmaceutical representative what should be done about a particular illness, would you expect a reply that ignores or obviates the use of THEIR DRUGS as the Primary Panacea!
7 – The SECOND you realize you’re watching a REALITY SHOW whether on Network TV, Local Channels, HGTV, the Food Network or LOGO! I love Toni Braxton’s songs and videos, but I don’t give a farthing about her personal life, problems or sisters – unless they’re singing.
8 – When ESPN Jocks start discussing Fantasy Leagues, impersonating Comics or Philosophers, I get an itchy index finger. You had to know that 24×7 was too much time for a Sports Network, a Comedy Network or a Cooking Channel.
Incidentally, if you are a Novice and seek to learn how to cook, turn on the Comedy Channel, Tennis Channel or Nickelodeon rather than the Cooking Channel or the Food Network – although you might get lucky there once in awhile.
9 – Any show that identifies itself as a “Sitcom”! There hasn’t been a FUNNY SITCOM since Y2K!
10 – Any film on Channels that run Commercials (nothing ruins a good film more than obnoxiously placed Ads), and any film on a Cable channel not named TCM!
Tabacco: I consider myself both a funnel and a filter. I funnel information, not readily available on the Mass Media, which is ignored and/or suppressed. I filter out the irrelevancies and trivialities to save both the time and effort of my Readers and bring consternation to the enemies of Truth & Fairness! When you read Tabacco, if you don’t learn something NEW, I’ve wasted your time.
Tabacco is not a blogger, who thinks; I am a Thinker, who blogs. Speaking Truth to Power!
In 1981′s ‘Body Heat’, Kathleen Turner said, “Knowledge is power”.
T.A.B.A.C.C.O. (Truth About Business And Congressional Crimes Organization) – Think Tank For Other 95% Of World: WTP = We The People