EightShapes
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EightShapes

Still from the movie All the President’s Men. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman sitting in an office, both on the telephone.
“You broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters? Tell me more about that.”

The Definitive Guide to Asking Follow-up Questions

Still from the movie All the President’s Men. Two men talking. One is Robert Redford.
“Stop asking me why why why why why.”

Five Whys and One Better Trick

Still from the movie All the President’s Men. Robert Redford bursting into an office with a man standing next to him.
“Is now a good time for a follow-up?”

When To Ask a Follow-up

Still from the movie All the President’s Men. Dustin Hoffman on the telephone in a newsroom with his hand over his ear.
“I have so many questions they’re coming out of my ears.”

Forming Follow-Up Questions

  1. Ask for elaboration: You want them to provide further details on their initial idea.
  2. Ask in a different way: You want them to approach their idea from a different perspective.
  3. Ask about an orthogonal topic: You think there’s a connection to be made.
  4. Ask them to challenge assumptions: You want to surface what’s unsaid.

1. Ask for Elaboration

Still from the movie All the President’s Men. Robert Redford is on the telephone in a newsroom.
“While I stare off into the middle distance, please elaborate.”

2. Ask in a Different Way

Still from the movie All the President’s Men. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford sitting on a couch.
“We are each going to ask the same question in a different way, but you’ll humor us because we work for the Washington Post.”

3. Ask about Something Orthogonal

Still from the movie All the President’s Men. Two men and one woman in a newsroom, all on the telephone.
“Ask about orthogonal topics, but only one at a time.”

4. Ask Them to Challenge Assumptions

Still from the movie All the President’s Men. Two men looking at each other across a table in a fast food restaurant.
“Follow-up question: Does Deep Throat own a McDonald’s franchise?”

Getting Out of Your Own Way

The Pressure of the Script

Cognitive Load

Propriety and Etiquette

Still from the movie All the President’s Men. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman casually sit in a newsroom.
This is what it looks like when you’re too confident about asking follow-up questions.

Perfecting the Art of the Follow-up

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Dan Brown

Designer • Co-founder of @eightshapes • Author of 3 books on UX • http://bit.ly/danbooks • Board gamer • Family cook