How to Ask Open-Ended Questions

Most People Crave More Meaningful Conversations

In part, the 5 Radical Minutes program teaches us to listen without interrupting one another. In doing so, we also learn that sometimes our kids respond more than others. Whether they respond a little or a lot, it quickly becomes apparent that kids are pretty amazing. They’re willing to have deeper exchanges, even craving them. We’re hoping you want to rise to the challenge and engage in deeper exchanges with them. Below are some tips to help you draw them out, and provide a safe space for them to share.


What Are Open-Ended Questions?

Asking yes or no or close-ended questions begs a brief response. It only leaves room for specific information. When we learn to ask questions differently, we invite a longer conversation and deeper thinking. Think about what typically happens if you ask your child, “How was school today?” You probably get one of the following responses: a “Great,” a “Fine,” a shrug, or a grunt. But what would happen if you ask, “What the best thing that happened today?” You open up the opportunity for a glimpse into their day. This can make the world of a difference in your relationship!


Open-ended questions typically start like this: what, how, why, or in what way.

Here are a few open-ended questions to consider asking:

  • What was your low and high today?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • What’s your favorite memory from this week?
  • What is it like to be [x] years old in today’s world?
  • What’s something you like about being home?
  • What’s something you really appreciate about a friend of yours?
  • What made you happy today?
  • Can you tell me what happened?
  • I’d love to hear your story about why you bought / choose / decided that.
  • What’s the hardest thing about being a kid your age?
  • What was it like to … ?
  • What surprised you the most about … ?
  • How did you know … ?


When to Use Open-Ended Questions

These questions work for everyone, not just kids. Consider taking these or something similar to a  business meeting or lunch get-together. Use them with the barista at the coffee shop or your neighbor when you’re both getting your mail.


Additional Resources

According to recent research, adults only have an average of 12.5 minutes per day to talk to their children. Approximately 8.5 minutes of that time are usually spent on accusations and prohibitions, and only 4 minutes are left for friendly conversation! Here are some additional resources to help you have better conversations with your kids and other you love.

  • 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation. Celeste Headlee shares the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. “Go out, talk to people, listen to people,” she says. “And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”
  • How to Never Run Out of Things to Say in ConversationThis animated video includes 5 tips to make sure you never run out of things to say in conversation​.


Whatever questions you decide to ask, make sure you really listen to the response. Consider asking a followup question. This not only clarifies things for you, it lets the other person know you really are interested in what they have to say! Let us know how your conversation goes.