Clarifying Questions: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 What Did You Mean?
  • 1:31 Types of Clarifying Questions
  • 2:24 Situations for Clarity
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joe Ricker
Clarifying questions might be one of the most valuable tools to help you better understand information, eliminate confusion during a discussion or keep yourself from getting punched in the nose.

What Did You Mean?

We've all been in a situation or discussion where there is some element of confusion. We've taken things out of context, and we've been in situations where we don't exactly know how to respond. All of these situations require one thing that will help us better understand what is going on or to keep someone from being upset with us: clarity.

Clarification is essential in our day-to-day understanding during communication.

Clarification is a form of reflection that seeks to eliminate ambiguity, confusion or misunderstanding. Clarifying questions are tools used by active listeners to ensure understanding and obtain essential information. These types of questions are simple inquiries of fact. They require brief or concise answers that don't typically provide new information, simply a more concrete understanding of the matter at hand. Clarifying questions are used in interviews, interrogations, class discussions, presentations and pretty much anywhere there is information being given to an audience. They require little thought to answer and attempt to shore up any confusion in the information already present in the discussion or presentation. In short, clarifying questions remove ambiguity from a situation to promote accuracy and create a smoother path to new information.

Types of Clarifying Questions

There are two types of clarifying questions: open clarifying questions and closed clarifying questions. Open clarifying questions help the speaker find direction in what is confusing or lacking in the information they've provided. Open clarifying questions can take the form of when, where, how or why questions.

  • When did you graduate high school?
  • Why did you decide to fill out your job application with a crayon?
  • How did you get on the roof without a ladder?

Closed clarifying questions ask for a yes or no response. They serve to obtain accuracy in a more direct aspect of a discussion or presentation and are often framed as did or were questions.

  • Did you eat the last piece of cake?
  • Were you involved in the bank robbery?
  • Have you ever gone on a blind date?

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