17 April 2023, New York, USA - UNITAR & Columbia Law School conducted the last session for the Spring series titled “The Power of Asking the Right Questions & Giving Effective Feedback”. Pelayo Alvarez, Programme Manager at UNITAR New York Office, started by welcoming our in-person and virtual audience and then introduced Rebecca Price, Director of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and the Columbia Mediation Clinic team. 

Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful relationships, whether it's in our personal lives or professional interactions. One crucial aspect of communication is the art of asking questions. Questions can be powerful tools that can facilitate understanding, gather information and foster meaningful connections. However, not all questions are created equal and knowing how to ask the right questions is an essential skill for effective communication.


Rebecca Price and the Columbia Medication team explained that the goal of this workshop is to explore the strategic use of questions in communication, with a particular emphasis on how culture influences our questioning styles. They examined how specific types of questions can be used in different contexts and how cultural nuances impact the way individuals ask questions. Understanding the cultural dimensions of questioning can help people navigate diverse settings and build more effective communication strategies. Asking the right questions is a critical skill in effective communication. Therefore, we must explore when it may be appropriate to use open or closed questions and how the framing of our questions can impact the responses we receive. The way we ask questions can influence the quality and depth of information we gather and the level of engagement we elicit from others.


To further enhance our understanding, our audience engaged in an interactive simulation exercise that explores the impact of open and closed questions on the types of responses we receive. Through this exercise, participants gained practical insights into how framing questions in different ways can affect the outcomes of our communication. Information-gathering tools and active listening techniques are vital components of effective communication. Columbia Mediation Clinic facilitated activities with the audience as a whole and in small groups to practice these tools, which helped them become better listeners and communicators. Active listening enables us to understand others deeply, demonstrate empathy and respond effectively to their needs and concerns. "The Mirror" is another important aspect that was highlighted in this workshop. Inward-facing questions, those that prompt self-reflection and self-awareness, can be valuable tools for personal and professional growth.

Lastly, UNITAR and Columbia Mediation Team encouraged active participation during the Q&A session, as it provides an opportunity for further discussion, clarification and learning. The workshop promised to be an engaging and informative experience for both participants joining us in-person and virtually.


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