Have you ever been frustrated by a conversation you feel is going nowhere?
One where you’re looking to get to know someone better but it’s plagued by one-word responses? It may be because of the kind of questions you’re asking.
Yes and No
Sometimes “yes” and “no” responses are your friend, but not when it comes to meeting and learning about a new connection or friend. If you’ve come away from a conversation frustrated that you didn’t really learn what you set out to, evaluate your line of questioning.
Consider this: Instead of “Has your summer been a good one?” which will likely yield a yes, or no, response and little else, ask: “How has your summer been? Or ask: “What have you’ve been up to this summer.”
Open-ended questions lead the person you’re engaging in conversation with to dig deeper than the dreaded one-word answer. They cause the person you’re speaking with to consider how they feel about something and their personal ideas and beliefs. They are also likely to make the person you’re talking to feel like you’re more interested in knowing the answer, versus just making conversation for the sake of being polite.
Still want to learn more? Ask for it! Follow up a response with “Oh really? Tell me more!” or “How did that make you feel?” or even “What will you do next?” Consider how a reporter or therapist might talk to a subject in pursuit of information or getting to know someone. This line of questioning really keeps the flow of conversation going and can create a real, genuine connection – which is what your goal should be!
Finally, remember conversation should strike a balance. In order to not come off as an interrogator, be sure to offer up information about yourself, too. It’s important to relate to the person you’re speaking with and to engage and share. It’s a two-way street!
Nikki Murry is editor of Berks County Living magazine and a freelance writer, editor, proofreader and blogger. In her free time she is an active dog rescue volunteer and enjoys spending time with her 15-year-old son, Riley, and her three dogs: Buddha and Shelly, French Bulldogs, and Bruno, a Boston Terrier.