formal training
ATD Blog

Add Curiosity to Your Training Toolbox

Thursday, May 17, 2018

If you have had experience as a facilitator, you know that a key part of delivering an interactive workshop has to do with asking the right questions. However, the right questions alone do not create engagement in the learning. Instead, if you pair a powerful question with authentic curiosity you can take your training to the next level.

During a recent session facilitating an ATD certificate program, a participant shared a story about a dealing with difficult participant. He felt he hadn’t handled the situation correctly. I asked, “What did you do, specifically?” He described actions that I felt were well thought out and respectful, but they still didn’t seem to work. This made me curious. So, rather than telling him that I thought he did a good job, I asked, “What about your actions concerns you?” After some reflection he realized he was OK with how he handled the situation. Having him come to his own conclusion was significantly more powerful than me telling him his actions were probably the best course.

You can help your learners in the same way by asking the right questions and engaging their curiosity. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Open Questions

If I ask a question with the intention of only looking for a specific answer, I may potentially disregard or fail to be open to a new viewpoint. I also am less likely to listen to what is being said and shift the answer to my own agenda or expected response.


Instead, use phrases like “Tell me more about that…” Start your questions with “what” and “how” to get the participant to open up and elaborate on a particular point. Avoid “why” questions as this tends to put people on the defense as it can come across as accusatory.


Body Language

If you are genuinely curious, you will be interested in what the learner is sharing. You will lean into the conversation and maintain eye contact. Your energy will be open and positive, and you will create connections with your learners. Trust me on this; everyone in the room will notice. People will be more comfortable being honest and at times vulnerable in sharing their thoughts questions and experiences.

Bottom Line

By being curious, you give your learners the permission to openly share stories and what they are thinking. This is the key to effective adult learning. Be sure to create a space between the question and what you are hoping to pull from your learners. Also, give room for participants to share experiences and opinions, which will engage them more deeply in the learning.

Fostering curiosity and openness is a win-win for everyone. What’s more, you never know when you may just learn something new about a subject that you think already have expertise.

About the Author

Kiran Mohan, a skilled facilitator, leadership consultant and certified executive coach, has over 15 years of experience helping organizations implement results and behavioral driven training and development initiatives that address the real needs that leaders and employees face in today’s competitive landscape. Clients rely on her ability to strategically diagnose training needs, and her inclusive style in engaging executives in development efforts that create customized solutions for their organizations. Kiran comes highly recommend for her talent in designing and conducting training, as well as her ability to equip in-house staff to be effective trainers. Kiran’s background includes supporting organizations with culture transformation, as well as strategies to increase employee engagement. Kiran received her CEC (Certified Executive Coach Designation) through Royal Roads University, and obtained EQ-i 2.0/EQ360 Certification from The Emotional Intelligence Training company in 2016. She is also affiliated with ViRTUS, one of the top leadership development and strategic planning companies in Western Canada. Most recently Kiran completed certification (October 2018) in the "The Leadership Circle Proile", which measures and provides feedback around leadership effectiveness.

1 Comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
I absolutely agree with not using "why" when asking a question. It puts people on the defense, and discourages others to participate, out of fear.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.