Leap Year Lesson #57: For Great Conversation, Ask Questions

Posted: February 27, 2012 in Communication
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Great conversationalists are not people who talk the most, but those who ask questions that get others talking.

For many people, their favorite subject is themselves. That isn’t a criticism. It’s just an acknowledgement that we like to talk about what matters to us, and all of us care about ourselves, what be believe and what we are passionate about. We welcome questions from others that give us an excuse to say what we think, to tell some story or to share our expertise.

A couple of years ago I remember seeing a gadget advertised online that, when worn around the neck while in a group of people, would calculate the percentage of the conversation dominated by the one wearing it. I can’t imagine that there were too many people actually willing to wear it themselves, although I’m sure many of us could think of others we’d like to have wear it from time to time.

As someone who has always scored as an introvert on personality inventories, I am only comfortable and fairly decent at conversation with those I have come to know and trust over time. It’s hard for me to strike up conversations with strangers and keep it going unless I ask a lot of questions.

Imagine two scenarios. In both scenarios, person A talks 90% of the time while person B only talks 10% of the time. The difference in whether this is a good conversation or not depends on the wishes of both participants involved.

In scenario one, if person A talked 90% of the time and person B wanted to talk more but could only rarely get a word in, this wasn’t a good conversation and person B won’t want to be around person A much.

In scenario two, however, if person A talked 90% of the time because person B asked questions and encouraged person A to talk, then it was a great conversation. Both parties got what they wanted.

What is needed is the ability to discern what the situation is and adjust as needed. Don’t dominate conversations uninvited. People will enjoy being around you more if you get them talking instead.

Leap year lesson #57 is For great conversation, ask questions.

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