Want better conversations? Then ask better questions.

This time of year is notorious for having to do the social rounds.. Often, these conversations are just variations on a theme. “How are you doing?” “Have you been busy?” “How has work been this year?” etc etc. There’s not too much thought put into the questions, and so subsequently, the answers are usually less than exciting. You can quite easily go through a whole evening having versions of the same conversation, which can be draining and lead to a sense of dread upon arriving at said social events.

That’s not really here nor there, except for the fact, that if you have the choice between a superficial, not engaged, going through the motions interaction and an engaged conversation where you feel some sort of connection, on some sort of level, then why not choose the latter? Particularly, if it only means not much more effort on your behalf than tweaking the questions you ask.

Let me show you what I mean. So, if you ask someone — “how’s work been?”, the likely answer will be a version of good/bad/ok/busy.  You’re not really much further ahead than if you’ve said “nice weather we’re having”! But, say you asked “what’s the best thing that happened to you at work this year?” or “what are you most looking forward to next year?” or “how would you describe this year?” Then, well, then you’d get an answer that will either be detailed and conversational from the start, or will provide you a good (even great) entree to a follow up question.

The great thing about taking more care and thought with your questions, is that you reap the benefits. The conversations are more interesting, more engaging and you find out things about people that you never knew. And this applies to people who you already know and those that you are meeting for the first time.

And, this is even better news for people who are naturally a bit shy or who don’t particularly like social events.  Find some great questions, and settle back to listen, rather than having to stand awkwardly, frantically racking your brains for closed question after closed question, or worse, stand in pained silence desperately panning the room for an escape route.

At a Christmas do yesterday, someone asked me a great question about my work — which led me to talk about the coaching I have been doing this year. She responded with the fact that she had been learning how to coach, and we went on to have a great conversation that naturally progressed in all sorts of interesting and unexpected directions.  I have known this person for some time and clearly we’d fallen into a rut around the sorts of questions/answers/topics we asked each other.

So, if your social interactions are leaving you a bit cold, perhaps ask yourself what you can do to shake things up a bit. How can you take responsibly for improving the quality of the conversation? Challenge yourself to ask better questions, and see what happens!

Until next week, happy leading.

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