Questioning helps to get additional information and to check your understanding when discussing a conflict.  In addition, putting statements in a question form can make them more acceptable to the listener.

No type of question is better in every situation than another.  However, there are times when one type of question is more effective.  Two kinds of questions are open and closed questions.

Open questions generate discussion and get someone to open up and talk about a situation.

Closed questions usually limit conversations by asking for a brief and specific answer.  Closed questions can clarify information quickly and concisely and focus the speaker on the relevant facts and issues.  However, they can discourage a speaker from supplying additional information that may be relevant and can sound judgmental or biased.

Open questions are very useful in conflict resolution.  They get information from people without making them feel judged or blamed.  Open questions often begin with “what” or “how” but rarely with the word “why,” which can sound critical or judgmental.

Open questions:

  • Help get the complete story in a dispute
  • Help people talk about their feelings
  • Are non-judgmental and do not place blame, accuse or make suggestions.

Closed questions:

  • Can be judgmental or place blame
  • Allow for short or one-word answers
  • Can be uncalled-for suggestions or judgments.


Adapted from materials developed by Community Mediation, Inc., New Haven, Connecticut.