The Power of Simple Questions

I am often asked at workshops, what are the best questions to ask a client or prospect? Too often we make the process more difficult than needed. [John McPhee](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McPhee), author and contributing editor for the New Yorker is known for his ability to interview by asking simple questions. Canadian investigative reporter [John Sawatsky](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Sawatsky) says reporters often ask the wrong questions. [37signals](http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/john_sawatsky_and_the_power_of_simple_questions.php) recently wrote an excellent synopsis of Sawatsky's thoughts on interviewing. The following are a few quotes: >The best questions, argues Sawatsky, are like clean windows. “A clean window gives a perfect view. When we ask a question, we want to get a window into the source. When you put values in your questions, it’s like putting dirt on the window. It obscures the view of the lake beyond. People shouldn’t notice the question in an interview, just like they shouldn’t notice the window. They should be looking at the lake.

>I can go into any newsroom and usually tell you who gets the best stories in the paper. It’s usually the reporters with the blander personality. They’re not the life of the party. They’re amazingly consistent if you eavesdrop on them during interviews: You’ll hear plain, neutral, bland questions. Colorless questions usually provide colorful answers.

See the original interview with John Sawatsky at AJR titled [The Question Man](http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=676).