Closed-ended questions reflect our own assumptions about another person’s experiences. Open-ended questions allow space for the other to share openly.
There was a single woman whose younger sister was getting married. There was a great deal of hubbub and activity, and as the maid of honor, the woman was very involved. Two weeks before the wedding, the woman’s friend said “Are you feeling excited?” The woman smiled and said “Yeah, I’m excited.” The friend nodded and moved on.
Later, another friend came to the woman and asked “Hey, how are you feeling about the wedding?” The woman replied “Mm, good.” The friend said “Tell me what you’re feeling.” The woman sighed deeply and said “Honestly, I’m mixed-up. I love my sister and want the best for her, but I don’t like the guy that she is marrying. I don’t trust him and I don’t like how he talks to her. Part of me wants to convince my sister to call the whole thing off. Then part of me wonders if this is just jealousy that she’s getting married before me. Then part of me feels guilty for even feeling that way, but I’m still not sure if she should marry this guy. I mean, it’s her choice, but I don’t want to see her make a horrible decision. I don’t know. It’s funny. I’ve been so involved in planning for the wedding that I haven’t have time to dwell on how I actually feel about it.”
The first friend had assumed that the wedding would be a happy occasion for the woman, but that is not always the case. We would do well to not have our assumptions color our questions.