Ask Closed, Rather Than Open, Questions in Your Emails
“Closed” questions can be answered with a single word or two; for example “Are you coming to the meeting today?” or “Do you want the document in PPT or PDF format?” The first question can be answered with a “yes” or “no” and the second question can be answered with “PPT” or “PDF”. These responses are easy to write and easy to read.
“Open” questions cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. It requires more text to answer properly. For example, “What were your thoughts on today’s meeting?” While this question could potentially be simply answered with the word “great” or “waste of time”, by its nature, it’s soliciting a longer response. A second example is “Why don’t you want John to attend the meeting?”
The issues with asking open questions in emails are:
• The person you are communicating with feels required to send a well thought out and time consuming reply that hurts his/her productivity.
• You must then read his/her thoughtful reply and follow up with a reply email.
• If you’re not careful, your initial open question can turn into a full email-based conversation further reducing your productivity and the productivity of others.
Of course, sometimes you do need to ask and reply to open-ended questions. My suggestion here is simply, if possible, ask closed, rather than open, questions because it can save you some additional time.
If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at
eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.
Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.