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Asking questions

When you talk to staff about a complaint, information will emerge naturally without asking questions if you actively listen and reflect back what they are telling you.

If you need to find out more, avoid asking WHY questions.  Instead, ask questions starting with HOW, WHEN, WHAT or WHO.

Use questions to help the person clarify their feelings and attitudes.

There are three major kinds of question:

  • Closed questions - lead to a specific answer.  Ask a closed question if a specific answer is needed, for example, "Who is your supervisor?"  It is not usually appropriate to ask a closed question to determine how someone is feeling, for example, "Are you angry?"
  • Open questions - give people scope to explore relevant areas.  Use open questions to encourage people to expand on the story, for example, "How did you feel when that happened?"
  • Clarifying questions - check your understanding of what is being said, for example, "Do you mean...?" or "Am I right in thinking that what you are saying is...?"

Questioning Techniques

Here are some examples of ways to ask appropriate questions after statements have been made about an incident of discrimination or harassment.

Statement Possible question
"It's better now." "Better than what?"
"Nothing can be done to improve the situation." "What makes you think nothing can be done?"
"They're all being mean." "Who is?"
"My friends will suffer if I make a complaint." "How do you think your friends will suffer?"
  "What repercussions do you think there will be?"
  "Have your friends supported you throughout the incidents of harassment?"
  "Can you think of any ways which might make it easier for them if you make a complaint?"
"I feel very scared about this situation." "What makes you feel scared?"
  "Can you think of anything which could help you feel less scared?"