Check this out. What you will see is a great riff by a psychiatrist on how hazardous yes and no questions can be to a relationship. Or even to a conversation. So many times when you get a curt yes/no response, what the responder actually means is “Yes (or no), but…..”
The plot thickens. Ask a person a series of yes/no questions, and the thought process behind the answers becomes more and more stilted. And more and more information gets left on the table.
AND. It is fairly easy to see that repeatedly being subjected to that kind of prosecutorial questioning can have a negative effect on interpersonal relationships.
Over the course of my 50-year career collecting information from physicians for my pharmaceutical company clients, I have increasingly moved from “interviews” to “conversations” for exactly the reasons talked about in this article. Only by using phrases like Dr. Adelman is recommending (“Talk to me about….” “Catch me up on…” “I’m all ears”) can we understand the whole story that the discussant wants to share with us. Only by using these phrases can we understand the salience of individual themes to the discussant. What comes up first? What gets talked about the longest? And by listening carefully to the story being told, we can also understand its overall emotionality, as well as the emotions engendered by various parts of the story.
Bottom Line. If you really want to understand what someone is thinking, don’t ask them questions. Let them talk!