When you ask an open-ended question in a conversation, you are usually seeking information in a friendly, non-threatening way. This is a great way to get to know people better. It’s also a good way to have a conversation with yourself to learn more about yourself, and your immediate or future plans.
Open vs. Closed
As opposed to a closed-ended question, which requires a simple and definite response, an open-ended question requires more information and allows thoughts, feelings, and experiences to play a role. An example of a closed-ended question is “Are you going to the beach today?” An open-ended version might be “What are you doing today?”
Closed-ended questions eliminate the exploration of possibilities, differing alternatives. They bring thinking and ideas to a stop. Open-ended questions encourage thinking, open up new perspectives for further exploration in the conversation, and raise meaningful and relevant answers.
Have a Conversation with Yourself
When making decisions, having a conversation with yourself using open-ended questions is a useful way to explore possibilities, be creative, and discover opportunities and things about yourself you hadn’t considered. Your conversation with yourself might end with a closed-ended question leading to a decisive answer after working through open-ended questions, but you’ve “done your homework.”
When making a decision, especially a significant one, it’s easy to take the “knee-jerk” approach, quickly asking yourself internally for a yes or no, black or white closed-ended question. I recall times in my life, when considering a job or career change, I phrased my decisions as a binary choice between “Do I?” or “Don’t I?” without taking the time to ask open-ended questions of myself that would have better aligned my decisions with who I was at the time, my talents, experience, and priorities.
Look to God for the Answers
Those who have a personal relationship with the Lord, have the benefit of being able to ask the ultimate open-ended question of themselves, “What does God want me to do?” In fact, the prayer life of all who turn to God in the face of decisions, regardless of how important they might be, should be packed full of open-ended questions in a conversation with themselves and the Almighty to discern his will.
Listen to God's Words
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (Proverbs 3:5)
The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception. (Proverbs 14:8)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
Also read: Proverbs 18:13, Proverbs 21:5, James 1:19
In the Words of Others
“Courage doesn’t happen if you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” Shannon L. Alder
“At the end of the day, the questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people that we will become.” Leo Babauta
“If you live the questions, life will move you into the answers.” Deepak Chopra
Think About It
Describe your usual decision-making process on important decisions. Do you start off asking yourself a closed-ended question and quickly answering it, or do you use open-ended questions to explore the best decision to make?
When you have a decision to make, large or small, do you involve the Lord in the process? Do you ask the Holy Spirit for guidance?
Do you sometimes approach God for guidance already knowing what you want to do? When he gives you different guidance, do you still proceed with your plan?
How would your life change if you consistently asked God about what he wants you to do and followed his guidance? Consider examples.