Ask Open-Ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions of a detainee is meant to give them space to tell their story, feel heard, connect, and, if they choose, explore their immediate situation or plan for the future. Be careful about prodding, your questions are meant to keep the conversation flowing and serve the speaker.
Open Ended Questions 
  • Keep people engaged in conversation
  • Allow people to focus on what’s important to them
  • Keep information flowing
  • Break down the problem into manageable pieces
  • Protect your neutrality
  • Focus people on solutions
  • Generate more creative solutions
Examples of beginning of Open-Ended questions:
  • Describe…
  • Tell me about…
  • Break that down for me.
  • What do you mean by…
  • Explain…
  • What…
  • How…
  • Talk about…
  • Help me understand…
Asking “Why?” often puts people on the defensive.
Types of Open-Ended Questions
1. Asking for broad information
  • “Can you describe what it was like growing up in your home country?”
  •  “How is your relationship with your father?”
2. Asking for background
  • “What were things like when you were working there?”
  • “Can you tell me about your plans if you get deported?”
3. Unpacking loaded language
  • “You said your friend betrayed you, what do you mean by that?”
  • “When you say you’ll be in danger if you get sent to your home country, can you tell me more about what that means?”
4. Exploring systems knowledge
  • “You said you had a hearing coming up – what is your understand of what will be happen then?”
  • “You said you need a lawyer – can you tell me what you know about how people in detention get legal help?”
5. Going Deeper
  • “You said that was a really good time in your life, can you describe it?”
  •  “You said you’re ready to be deported if that’s what the court decides – can you say more about what it means when you say you’re ready?”