Photo courtesy of Jacob Botter
As I’ve become more in tune with my everyday experiences, I’ve starting noticing that a big indicator of success is how good someone is at the fine art of conversation.
That’s right – discussion, chit chat, a good old repartee: newsflash – if you can’t hold a solid, two-sided convo, your potential for success may be limited. How far you’ll make it on your quest for happiness, money, wisdom – whatever it is that you’re looking for – can be determined by how well you hold up your end of a discussion.
Regardless of the setting, be it professional, personal, or on a tier somewhere in between, so many of us ask simply awful questions. The average adult tends to go on and on in extended soliloquys without even noticing that their intended audience isn’t even listening.
Silence makes some people quite uncomfortable, as does looking ignorant or uninformed; therefore, they cover up their lack of knowledge and fear of quietude with a long line of monologues. Afraid to be direct, many people today just aren’t willing to ask the tough questions – instead they ask boring, yes or no questions just to fill the silence.
Rather than trying to fill a quiet room with sound, view every potential conversation with someone as a potential to grow and learn. Likewise, asking yourself the right questions can inspire you to take action rather than lead you toward apathy and stagnation.
Most people spend a lot of time thinking about how to answer things in the smartest, most favorable ways. As it turns out, asking good questions is much more impressive than giving the “right” answers.
- Ask open-ended questions. The best questions are formulated creatively. Avoid long-winded questions that leave your conversation partner confused, though. Be concise, creative and clear about what you’d like to know.
- Refrain from filling in the blanks. Sometimes, what starts out as a question ends up offering your respondent multiple choices, which can skew his or her answers. End your questions at the question mark, even if you’re not immediately presented with an answer. A little bit of silence is normal, and ok.
- Have the courage to ask tough questions. As a general rule, people love it when you ask them questions! It shows them that you are interested in what they have to say, especially if your questions are well-thought-out and graze more than just the surface. If it makes you feel more comfortable, add a disclaimer, such as, “Let me know if this is too personal, but…” Most people will respect your tenacity and appreciate your confidence, making them more likely to confide in you.
- Pay attention to the answers. Although asking the right questions is of great importance, remember to stay focused on the answers rather than dwelling on what to ask next. An authentic give and take is what a good conversation is all about.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a follow-up question. If you asked a difficult question and got a non-answer, don’t be afraid to stop them before they’ve gone off in a completely different direction. Gently interrupt and re-word your question, and be sure to apologize for being unclear.
Another good thing to remember is this: if you truly don’t understand something, avoid the temptation to nod along as if everything is perfectly clear to you. Ask as many follow-up questions as you need until the answer starts making sense.
“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” – Anthony Robbins