Engaging Adopters with Open Questions

by Sharon Kutsop

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Asking open questions during pre-adoption counseling is a conversation technique that encourages engagement. An open question is a question that does not have a “correct” answer and encourages the respondent to start a dialogue with the counselor. The potential adopters are required to reflect upon their knowledge and experiences to answer the questions, and think about situations they may not have considered otherwise. When counselors ask open questions, it shows respect to the adopters as well as an interest in the relationship between the adopter and the pet.

Posting beautiful pictures of adoptable pets on Petfinder is one way to get adopters in the door, but then we have to be sure to engage them correctly.

Some open question examples include:

What does that mean to you?

How did you arrive at that decision?

Tell me about your home and yard.

Closed questions have an expected answer. When given the choice of Yes or No, many people feel that they know the “right” answer and are at a disadvantage if they tell the truth and it is the “wrong” answer. Examples of closed questions are:

Do you own your own home?

Have you ever had a dog before?

Tell me about your fence.

Having a comfortable and open dialogue can not only provide valuable insight into the potential adopter sitting in front of you, but also allow them to feel comfortable enough with you to raise questions they may have without feeling judged. It may also allow them to talk themselves out of that 8 week old puppy and into the 4 year old dog who you knew was better suited for their home from the start. Please read this article for even more useful tips!