we strive to build our influence and rapport with people, we all need to know more of what other people are feeling and thinking, wanting and planning. To do this, we need to use questions that “open” people up instead of “closing” them off. Our usual "yes/no" questions actually tend to shut people up rather than opening them up.
You can encourage others to share more of their thoughts and feelings by asking the right questions. Open-ended questions allow for a wide range of responses. For example, asking "What did you like best about that movie/speech/food, etc.?" will evoke a more in-depth response than "Did you like it?" (Which could be answered with a simple "yes" or "no"). If you do ask yes/no questions, be ready to follow them up with probing questions that will move the response beyond a one-word answer. “Are you having a good day?” – “Yes.” “What has made it so good?”
Asking questions is like any other skill. It can be learned, understood and mastered with study, practice and persistence.
The idea behind asking questions is to show interest, learn more, and make the other person feel good. To do this, start with feel good areas that establish rapport. FORM is an acronym standing for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Money - basic building blocks of life that people are interested in talking about. Here are some examples of FORM questions:
• “What have you been doing with your free time?”
• “How is the economy treating you?”
• “What projects have you been working on?”
• “I’d love to know more about your family. What are your kids involved in?”

As we learn to ask good questions. I’ll share three of my favorite questions to ask. I've found that they invariably produce meaningful conversation. I like to call them the story question, the passion question, and Larry King’s favorite question.
The Story Question: “How did you get started in the (XYZ) business?
Everyone loves to tell his or her story. So ask a question that allows them to do it. “How did you get started in (whatever it is they do)?”
The Passion Question: "What do you love best about what you do?"
People love to talk about the things they are passionate about. So ask them for details and just watch the room light up. An example might be, “So you are a stay at home mom, that’s great. What do you love best about being a mother?” Let people share their passion and excitement for what they do.
These two questions open people up because they have a chance to talk about two of the most important parts of their life.
The third question is designed to go deeper:
Larry King’s Favorite Question: “Why?”
Larry King makes a living as a talk show host; asking questions is what he does. He interviews everyone from top celebrities to world leaders on "Larry King Live." He has often said his favorite question is “Why?” “Why did you do that?” "Why did you go there?" "Why did that interest you?" "Why is that important?"
That one, simple, three-letter word,– “Why?” – has enormous power. It probes. It digs. It illuminates. It gets to the heart of the matter. It puts thought process and motives into context. It is at the center of meaningful dialogue and understanding.

Remember, it’s not the person talking who controls the conversation; it’s the person asking the questions who controls the conversation.

Author's Bio: 

This is an excerpt from Ty Bennett's book - The Power of Influence, which Olympic Champion Peter Vidmar descrived as, "How To Win Friends & Influence People for our day." To get a copy - go to www.increaseinfluence.com