Learning Objectives

  • Trainee to demonstrate the capacity to formulate open-ended questions
  • Trainee to interpret what others are saying in the best way


Trainee to bring the prep work to class.
Trainee needs a computer and internet for this exercise.


Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness and on the quality of your relationships with other people.


Open-ended questions (20 minutes)

Goal: Practice asking open-ended questions in a pre-defined scenario

Pair and practice asking open-ended questions.

  • One individual will play the role of speaker and the other one the role of listener, then switch.
  • For each of the scenarios below, the listener should ask at least 5 questions.
  • Once the person finishes their thought, the listener should demonstrate engagement by asking specific, open-ended questions.

At the end of each scenario, make sure to discuss how it went and provide feedback.

For example, ask:

  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “How did you feel?”
  • “What made you pursue that option?” 
  • “What can I do to help?” 

*Avoid asking questions or making statements that indicate judgment. For example, instead of:* 

  • “Why would you do that?” try asking “What motivated you to do that?” 
  • “You didn’t really mean that, did you?” try asking “What did you mean by that?” 
  • “That doesn’t make sense” try asking “I’m not following, could you explain…” 

Joe is a new team member that just joined. Joe will start by introducing himself:

Speaker: “Hi my name is Joe, I am a software developer that just joined the company. I worked previously in SuperTech as a database developer where I used to develop database reports and support an SQL database. As a hobby I enjoy playing piano and running.”

Listener: Using open-ended questions, learn more about Joe with the objective to build trust and a strong working relationship.

Lucy is your colleague and today she looks sad. When asked about it, she explained that she just had a conversation with her manager about her performance and unfortunately it was not great.

Speaker: “My manager just told me I was not meeting expectations. This caught me by surprise as I thought I was doing exactly what was expected from me. I think it is unfair. How can I make sure I do well if I don’t know what I am being assessed against?”

Listener: Using open-ended questions, demonstrate empathy.

Jane is very unhappy with how John provides feedback on her pull requests.

Speaker: “It is really difficult for me to take John’s comments as constructive when he uses statements like ‘unacceptable piece of code’ or ‘this is poorly written’. I am not sure if this is because English is not his native language but I am now scared to submit my code for review!”

Listener: Use open-ended questions to help resolve this conflict.

Active listening while discussing a topic (35 minutes)

Goal: Practice active listening in a group conversation.

In many ways, active listening is a mindfulness practice. The listener is trying to stay focused on the present, with what is being shared. And they are working to accomplish this without judgment.

In groups of at least 4 people, sit in a circle and discuss each of the topics below ensuring there is always only one person speaking at all times. At the end of each discussion, discuss how it went and provide feedback.

You will have to ensure you follow these rules:

  • Avoid interrupting
  • Listen without judgment
  • Paraphrase and summarise what the other person has told you to avoid miscommunication
  • Let the other person know you are listening by showing it through positive nonverbal and body language behaviour
  • Ask specific, open-ended questions.


  1. Topic: What do you think are the most wanted technical skills and programming languages today in the job market and why? What do you think you need to do to be ready to showcase those technical skills?
  2. Topic: How prepared do you feel to start interviewing for a software developer job? What do you think will be the most challenging parts of the whole recruitment process (initial recruiter call, behavioural interview, technical assessment)? What can you do to prepare better?
  3. Topic: Talk about something personal you would like to share with the rest of the group. It could be a personal achievement, a struggle, a recent event that impacted you either positively or negatively, it could be just sharing your personal story!