I'm a developer working in a team of around 10-15 people, with almost two thirds of them working remotely. We use scrum, and have daily standups, sprint plannings and other meetings over conference calls.
Sometimes during these meetings there are open-ended questions posed to the room which tend to be met with silence. For example:
"This user story does not seem very clear. Does everybody understand its scope?"
"Is everybody happy with the level of effort assigned to this ticket?"
Usually no one speaks up, but later I hear from colleagues that they did have something to say about it.
At least from my part, I believe that the reason why people don't answer questions or express opinions is because they feel they may be challenged, or that if they speak up they will be 'volunteering' for some task.
I don't want to just assume this is the case, though. So I would like to know what might be a good way to ask them how they feel about these questions.
What's a good way to ask this without feeling like I'm challenging them? I don't want to just ask "why don't you speak up?" if there's a better way to communicate that I'm just trying to understand if there really is a problem.
I feel there's willingness to improve communication and cooperation within the team, but we just don't quite know how to do it. So I thought a good place to start would be to ask around specifically about the silence after open-ended questions. I'm open to other suggestions, though.
edit: to clarify, I do already tend to speak up to try and lead by example, while trying to be careful 'not to overdo it'. Also, the team has been working together for less than 2 years, and we do have good relationship with management.
edit 2: I am not usually the one who is asking these questions.