The Skill of Questioning

In Chapter 5 of his book, Skilled Interpersonal Communication, Hargie highlights the varied approaches to asking question and conveys the importance of being skilled in asking questions. The chapter focuses on the different types of questions, and the benefits and limits each approach can have giving examples of when they can be most effective. By comparing the methods of questioning the situations in which each would be suitable become more apparent. An interesting theme explored is the barriers that are faced during questioning, with people falling under specific gender, race and social groups feeling more at ease when being questioned.

Hargie claims that asking a question in a different way can result in receiving a different answer. The example he gives involves a conversation between two Priests and illustrates comedically an excellent example of when framing a question differently you can recieve a response that is more in your favour. He quotes Craig (2009, cited in Hargie, 2011, p. 137) “it is possible to ask practically any question provided you do so pleasantly. And you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”.

In discussing the acquiescence effect, Hargie demonstrates the leading power questions can have. Hargie gives examples of questions such as “How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the ark?”. Although most people know that it was in fact Noah who had the ark, they will still answer two. This is due to the fact that our brains anticipate questions and already answer them before fully interpreting what is being asked. This idea is further illustrated in Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow (2011) in which he outlines is theory that we have two modes of thought, one which is instinctive and one which is logical.

I was surprised by the concept that adopting a calmer interrogation method provided better results. Hargie provides many examples of when using more ‘gentle’ words can coax a criminal to give more information.

The concept of anchor bias, when numerical information given in the question affects the answer given, is discussed and I found it fascinating to reflect on times when I may have given answers after being influenced by information given prior.

Hargie, O. (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory and Practice. 5th ed. London: Routledge.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Communicating in Other Environments

During an input for the Situated Communication module, we were asked to build a den. We were placed in groups, and although I have already had the opportunity to interact with all the members it was my first time working in a group with some.

We worked well as a team and experimented with everyone’s ideas to help solve problems, for example ways to secure our roof without using tape.

After reflection, and reading about Hargie’s purposes of explaining I have been able to identify strengths that the group we visited displayed in their explanation of their den (2011). The group explained their den well, with added comedy and also responded to our questioning positively. It was interesting to hear their descriptions of their den as without this input we would have missed some of the creative design features. It was also nice to hear some of the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

Being outside of a usual classroom or lecture environment pushed me out of my comfort zone but encouraged me to take a more fun approach to the task. I think that the environment made a more informal feeling which reflected in my communication. I communicated with the whole group and with individuals, which I often think is harder to do when doing group work at a table. Being outside meant that we were more spread out and could solve problems in smaller sections as well as with the whole group.

We were in a sheltered area which meant that the wind and other noises did not affect our communication. In other areas outside, the volume used may have to be louder if there are other noises to “compete” with or quieter if you are sharing spaces with other members of the public. I sometimes found myself distracted by other noises, and at the start I was distracted by trying to scout out good materials! This could be overcome by explaining in a different environment, to keep instructional communication outdoors limited or by finding an area with less distractions, like the clearing we stood in.

We were unsuccessful in our negotiations, although we did try to trick another group into swapping materials with us. I think this was due to other groups also negotiating for other tasks and being distracted by the poem we were creating for the presentation!

It was challenging to consider what other groups may like in return, in order for the negotiation to seem fair.

Overall, it was enjoyable to challenge my communication skills in a different environment and with a new combination of people to work with in my group. This input has highlighted the importance of active outdoor learning in order to challenge learners in new contexts.


Hargie, O. (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication. 5th Edition. London: Routledge