5 types of questions to build relationships, with examples

We don’t just ask questions for information, we can ask questions to build relationships too!

Here are 5 types of questions to build relationships, with examples to get you started.

1. Questions to build new relationships

Rapport is that sense of relating well to someone, that feeling that you’re on the same wavelength, that you’re connected. There are many aspects to this, but one of the simplest ways of building rapport is by asking questions (and showing interest in the responses!).

Think of this as ‘starting safe’ and using questions to establish some common ground.

In a work environment this might be:

  • Hey, how’s it going?
  • Have you worked on this type of project before?
  • How are you finding life here?
  • What are you enjoying most at the moment?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What are you learning about that’s of interest to you?

Be careful not to ‘interrogate’, take the time to share your own thoughts too and make these early exchanges a dialogue (learn how to become a better listener).

2. Questions that will deepen your relationships

At the other end of the spectrum, there are those relationships that feel too comfortable. Where we have known someone for so long it seems there’s nothing more to learn.

We slip into a routine of asking questions about the day-to-day, and forget to ask questions that will continue to deepen the relationship.

Does this sound familiar? Conjure up some new questions!

Here are a few examples that might help inspire you (from rather light-hearted to more serious). These are great questions to build relationships:

  • What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced, and how did you overcome it?
  • What are the top 5 ‘must dos’ on your bucket list?
  • If you could change 1 thing about your life (or work) what would it be?
  • If you were covered financially, and could do anything you wanted, what would you do?
  • Who has been the biggest influence on your life, and why?

There are endless opportunities to know more about those we’re close to, just ask!

3. Questions that encourage and guide your colleagues

This is a more subtle art. It’s easy to encourage with a “well done, that’s great” and guide with a “have you thought about this…?”. But there’s lots more that can be done.

Consider asking questions that help develop the person’s understanding of the situation:

  • That’s great, what was the secret of your success?
  • What have you considered so far?
  • What have you learnt that will help you in the future?
  • Can you explain why you think that will work? (Or not work!)

These types of questions show your interest, but more importantly they encourage others to explore, develop a deeper understanding, and share what they have discovered.

You can take this further and develop your coaching skills and use these coaching questions.

4. Questions that facilitate discussion

These questions are particularly useful when you’re working with a group of people.

There are 4 types of questions from opening a discussion, to an action plan. These are:

  1. Big, neutral questions
  2. Follow-up questions
  3. Questions that involve everyone
  4. questions that drive to action

For more, explore these workshop facilitation techniques.

5. Asking questions to seek help

Finally, we shouldn’t forget that seeking the help of others, even showing a little vulnerability, can be very positive for a relationship.

Consider these questions:

  • Any advice that might help?
  • What should I do next?
  • And the classic: what would you do in my situation?

Next steps

Asking questions to build relationships is an essential skill for connecting and communicating with those around us (at work or in life!).

Now, ask yourself:

  • Do I use questions in these 5 ways?
  • What types of questions could I ask more often?
  • With whom and when should I start?

Dive deeper: explore these 9 questioning techniques.