The Riddler

John Sawatsky of ESPN knows how to ask questions, and he thinks you don’t.

You need to ask questions every time you interact with a consumer, a job applicant, a co-worker with a great idea or even someone sitting next to you during an interminable wait for the airplane.

I found John’s seven rules in a search cache. Here’s a summary of what doesn’t work:

1. Asking a question with no query

Examples: "Your neighbors don’t like you." "Some people think you killed your wife."

2. Double-barrelled questions

Like: "Is this your first business? How did you get started?" You’re unlikely to get answers to both. One question at a time.

3. Overloading

Ask: short, simple questions. "What is it like to be accused of murder?"

4. Adding your own remarks

Again, this is not the time or place to say that you hate Chryslers… You’re not being interviewed.

5. Trigger words

One famous example of this was when TV reporter John Stossell asked a pro wrestler about the "sport” by volunteering this about the fighting: "I think it’s fake." The pro wrestler hit him–twice. "Was that fake?" he demanded…

6. Hyperbole by the questioner

Overstatement typically causes the interview subject to counterbalance by understating…

7. Closed query (Yes or No question)

If the question begins with a verb, its most likely a closed question — and will generate a one word answer.

Good starting point on John: American Journalism Review.