Situated Communication: Hargie (2011) Chapter 5 Reading Task

The main aim of this chapter is to convey the importance of asking questions. The author explains how, to most people, questioning seems very straightforward, but in reality, it is a very complex feature of communication.

As the author describes different ways in which questions are important, he repeatedly mentions the education system and learning. Other themes in the text include the effect of questioning in social interactions and also in a professional context.

A claim made in the chapter is that the way in which questions are contextualised can affect acquiescence. The evidence for this is in the context of asking people about their earliest memory:   if you say something like “If you don’t remember it’s all right” (i.e.  low expectancy conditions) as opposed to “Tell me when you get an earlier memory” (i.e. high expectancy conditions), you may not get the best answer out of the person. Hirt et al. (1999) showed earliest reported life memories from respondents of 3.45 years and 2.28 years respectively, showing that high expectancy conditions can produce a better answer.

Hargie states that “with over talkative clients”, open questions “may be less appropriate”. Despite agreeing with this to a certain extent, I disagree that this is the full picture. Open questions allow for room for an unexpected answer, which definitely does not always mean an irrelevant answer. Out-of-the-box thinking is welcome with open questioning: if we always asked closed questions, we wouldn’t have the platform for imagination and progression that open questions gives us.

When reading the chapter, I was unsure of the word “acquiescence”.  I looked it up to find that it means the reluctant acceptance of something without protest.

A concept in the chapter that I found particularly interesting is the effects of leading questions upon children. The section spoke about how easy it is to ‘contaminate’ a child’s statement through the use of suggestive language. This distorting effect particularly affects younger children (3 – 5.5 years) as they are less able to resist suggestion than older ones (5.5 – 8 years) (Hardy and van Leeuwen (2004)).

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the different types of questions and found it fascinating that questions have such a big impact on our every day life.

References: Finding out about others: the skill of questioning’, in Hargie, O. (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory and Practice. 5th ed. London: Routledge.

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