The aim of active listening is to understand what the young person is communicating by facilitating the conversation in a way that is responsive to the young person’s own communication style and language, without imposing one’s own language or structure upon them.
Questions can shape the way we communicate. Depending on how and when they are used, questions can introduce new ways that a client may think or reflect on a situation. This includes new perspectives that have not been available to a client. As with other counselling skills, care needs to be taken in the use of questioning to ensure that people do not feel under attack or too exposed.
The most basic categories of questioning are Open Questions and Closed Questions.
Open questions require an explanation for the answer.
“What has brought you to the service today?”
Closed questions require a specific answer, like yes or no, or particular information.
“Did you get admitted to hospital?”
“Do you have a child protection worker?”
Open and closed questions can be used together effectively to gain large amounts of information (open) and then clarify specific points (closed).
There are many other types of questioning that can be used to promote certain effects and discussions with clients (Tomm 1988). Questioning also orients the worker in certain directions. For example, if you ask too many closed questions in a sequence it may result in the client feeling ‘interrogated’ and not an active participant in the process.