Open Questions #3 - the Five-and-Out Technique
Headlines and putting it all together
Open question sequences should start with a broad open question, such as “Tell me about …” and then continue with follow-ups until you have all the necessary information. But there is a better way to start the sequence - the Headline.
What is it? Newspapers use headlines to orient readers to what follows. To entice readers to divert their eyes to that article. In questioning sequences, the Headline accomplishes the first – but not the second – of the two goals. If you want to discuss an accident, use that word in a headline. “Let’s talk about the accident of August 3.” Or maybe, “Now, I’m going to ask you about the accident that brought you to see me.” Your following questions don’t have to use the accident details or even the word. Your initial question could simply be, “Tell me about it.” Or, “What happened?”
Your question sequence then becomes:
· Broad open question
· Targeted follow-ups
· Next Headline
Exercise: using the new technique, interview May Donoghue about her story.
Apply this technique to a case in your own practice or, if in law school, to a court case you are studying. If you have performed the exercise for the first two chapters of the Open Questions series, you should already observe how your skill is already improving.
If you want more detail and exercises, consider The Art of the Interview - How Lawyers Talk with Clients, available from Irwin Law here.