Effective Questions for Engaging Clients in Educational Conversations

I often get asked how to educate clients so they will listen. As my mentor many years ago, the late Geoff Maitland would have asked me: “How can you ask a better question?”

The answer to this would be “How do I listen to know when my client is ready to be educated?”

One of the key challenges many clinicians face is how to engage their clients in a way that fosters active listening and meaningful learning. In this article, I will explore a set of thoughtfully crafted questions that can help you gauge your clients’ readiness to be educated and guide you towards fostering productive conversations.

1. “What do you know about…?”

This question serves as an excellent starting point to assess your client’s existing knowledge on a specific topic. By understanding their baseline knowledge, you can tailor your educational approach to match their level of understanding. This not only avoids overwhelming them with information they already know but also paves the way for a more focused and relevant conversation.

2. “What information would you like me to provide you with?”

Empower your clients to express their preferences by inviting them to specify the information they are seeking. This question places the client in the driver’s seat, making them an active participant in their own education. By addressing their specific queries, you demonstrate your commitment to meeting their needs and fostering a collaborative learning environment.

3. “What do you need to know from me now?”

Sometimes, clients might have immediate concerns or questions that are at the forefront of their minds. By directly asking them what they need to know in the present moment, you show attentiveness and create a space for addressing their most pressing issues. This approach enhances engagement and relevance, making the educational exchange more meaningful.

4. “There are two types of people in this world: those who want to know as much as possible about … and those who prefer minimal information. So I can provide you with the relevant education that’s of interest to you, which category do you fit into?”

This question, inspired by the insights of Phil M Jones from his book “Exactly What to Say,” cleverly acknowledges individual preferences in learning. It acknowledges that not everyone seeks the same level of detail and allows you to tailor your educational approach accordingly. This approach not only respects the client’s autonomy but also ensures that they receive information in a way that resonates with them.

5. “How open-minded are you… (add discussion point)?”

Inviting clients to reflect on their openness to new information sets the stage for a constructive conversation. This question encourages clients to consider their receptiveness to different viewpoints and encourages them to approach the learning process with an open mindset. It also paves the way for a more interactive and engaging discussion.

6. “I’m not sure this is for you but…(add information that may be challenging to the client)”

This intriguing question creates an element of curiosity while addressing potentially challenging topics. It prompts clients to reflect on their willingness to explore unfamiliar territory, encouraging them to expand their knowledge boundaries. By acknowledging potential resistance upfront, you create a safe space for clients to engage with new information.

7. “When would be a good time to discuss…(add what you want to educate the other person on)?”

Timing plays a crucial role in effective communication. By asking about the best time for educational discussions, you show respect for your client’s schedule and mental state. This question enhances engagement by ensuring that both parties are mentally prepared for a productive conversation.

8. “Do you have any questions?” To “What questions do you have for me?”

This subtle shift in wording transforms the question from a yes/no query to an expectation of active engagement. Encouraging clients to ask questions positions them as co-creators of knowledge, fostering a sense of collaboration and curiosity.

Incorporating these questions into your conversations with clients can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your educational interactions. By adapting your approach to their readiness and preferences, you create an environment where learning becomes a dynamic and mutually beneficial experience. Remember, the art of communication lies not only in what you say but also in how you listen and respond to your clients’ needs.

What I offer you and your staff?

Skills practice and reflection will be the cornerstone of my training. I am available for both in person and limited Zoom PD for your group.

If you have a staff member who is struggling to keep new patients or confidently present treatment plans, you might be interested in one-on-one coaching for him/her. I take on a limited number of clients each year.

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