Asking not Why — but What and When

Did you know that powerful connections with your clients, patients, students, and care providers begin with how we ask questions? As providers, our communication matters—not only in what we say but also in how we say it. Communication is also embedded in how we receive what was said. We can’t provide effective communication tools if we don’t know our partner’s communication profile. They know their own communication and needs—and they can teach you those needs if you let them!

Ask questions to find out how language fits into their day-to-day—rather than telling them what their day-to-day should look like. Being thoughtful about how you ask your questions creates authentic connections and leads to better outcomes.

Let's start here:

Asking open-ended questions Asking yes/no questions
Restating exact words Paraphrasing
Stopping to summarize Waiting to summarize
Asking questions one at a time Asking multi-step/multi-part questions
Following with questions Asking leading questions
Using what, who, and when questions Using why questions


Go to ASHa’s Practice Portal page on Cultural Responsiveness for more information on how to collect case histories and conduct an ethnographic interview.