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Start with a Question    

Craig Freshley My name is Craig Freshley and I’m in Brunswick, Maine. My one-page Group Decision Tips are shared around the world and are all posted for free at: There are about 140 Group Decision Tips available: all one-page pdf’s. They cover all topics relevant to group decision making: communications, conflict, leadership, policy development, facilitation techniques, etc.

Sandy Heierbacher has been a fan of the Tips for years and I have been a fan of NCDD. She invited me to share some of my Tips via this blog.

One of my Group Decision Tips is called Start with a Question. If you want good dialogue and deliberation, no matter what setting, that’s always a good place to start.

Group Decision Tip:  Start with a Question

In principle, when I enter into a discussion with a statement rather than a question I am presuming to already know all the answers. Most conflicts are due to misunderstanding so when my opinion is based on presumption I am probably headed for conflict.

When I begin a discussion with a question I show respect for others, that I want to hear what they have to say. The longer I remain truly open-minded the greater the chances that my opinion is based on complete understanding.

Practical Tip: Even though you might have an opinion forming in your head, hold off expressing it and start with questions instead. Be genuinely open to changing your opinion based on new things you learn. Good questions start with “why”, “how” and “what.” Good questions are open ended. Examples: “Why do you think that? How has it worked well in the past? What do you think is the cause of the problem?”

When I start with a question I am less threatening to others, I am more likely to develop a well-informed opinion, and I increase prospects for avoiding conflict entirely.


Group Decision Tips are written by Craig Freshley. Please visit to subscribe and for a complete archive of all previously published Group Decision Tips. You can comment on any Tip and view comments of others. Also find handouts, links, and information about workshops. Group Decision Tips™ is the brand name for a specific set of beliefs and practices that help groups create new benefits and move toward peace in an efficient manner. Providing Group Decision Tips to others in any format is strictly prohibited for commercial purposes and/or for any type of compensation but free distribution for non-commercial purposes is encouraged in this format with proper credit to Craig Freshley.

Here's What 5 People Had To Say...

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  1. Comment added by Mino Akhtar on January 18, 2011:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom…I love starting with a question – notice how it calms down the mood of a conversation and gets us into a realm of inquiry. I look forward to reviewing your tips.

    Mino Akhtar

  2. Comment added by Craig Freshley on January 20, 2011:

    Thanks for your comment, Mino. Starting any conversation with a question has practical, tactical advantages, but also relationship-building benefits.

  3. Comment added by Jim Nelson on January 21, 2011:

    Two things came to mind as I read this. First was to start with the right question. Give it thought in advance and consider its effect on the process and the participant’s thinking.

    My second thought was to “be” in a state of question (curious) rather than in a state of having the answer (which is closed and can sound arogant). Remaining curious creates openess and trust.

    Thanks for the tip. I enjoy reading this wisdom.

  4. Comment added by Craig Freshley on January 21, 2011:

    I always love your comments, Jim. Indeed, “Start with a Question” is more than just an action, something you do. It is a disposition, a way of being.

  5. Comment added by Lucas Cioffi on January 22, 2011:

    Why didn’t you start this blog post off with a question? Haha– just kidding. Thanks for sharing these tips, Craig!

    This tip may work well with a ground rule that all statements in the dialogue should be viewed as provisional and that participants should be open to modifying their statements in light of new perspectives. In other words, encourage people to change their minds and to learn in public rather than digging in.

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