Want to know how you can eliminate the awkward pauses, dead air, and uncomfortable silence during an exchange? Learn to ask good conversation questions!
Questions are integral in a conversation. They're not just ways to keep a conversation going, but they're also ways to take a discussion to a higher or
deeper level. When a person knows what questions to ask, and how to ask these questions properly, what otherwise would have been a boring talk can become
engaging and productive.
Below are 7 ways you can make conversation questions work to your advantage:
- Keep questions simple
Ask questions that are easy to answer. Don't ask questions that would require technical know-how from your conversation partner, or would cause a lot of
unnecessary stress to answer. While thought-provoking questions are always great, they must still flow well within the relaxed mood of a conversation.
Therefore, go for "so, what do you think about the health bill?" instead of "in what way has privatization of social services affected the delivery of
basic health benefits to disadvantaged communities in the urban setting?"
- Don't go on the offensive.
It's not a power struggle and nobody should be out to win. While banters are good, disagreements may not be healthy especially if the other person has
yet to be comfortable with you. Avoid asking sensitive questions. If you must ask a potentially controversional question, frame it in a neutral instead
of a slanted manner. Make the other person feel that he or she will be heard and listened to, not judged.
- Take your cue from what the other person just said.
Unsure what conversation questions to ask? Don't pressure yourself coming up with a list of questions in your head. Instead, take your cue from how the
other person is responding to the conversation. For example, if your co-worker's face grew animated at the mention of her grandchildren arriving on the
weekend, then that's a signal for you to ask her more about her grandkids.
- Ask open questions.
If you want to get more mileage out of asking conversation questions, then ask open questions. Open questions are those which are not answerable by a
mere yes or no. They are more likely than not to elicit an elaborated reply than closed questions. For example: asking "how did you find the trip?" has a
better chance of keeping the conversation going than asking "was the trip long?"
- Determine what to include or exclude.
When you're within a group setting, it's important that you don't ask conversation questions that only certain people can relate to. Not only is it
rude to indirectly exclude other people, it will make it more difficult for you to sustain goodwill in the group. Ask topics that everyone can form an
opinion on. If you must direct your question to one individual, make sure that you find a way to draw everyone in the discussion. Example: "Hey guys, Joe
here grew up in South Africa. How was it there, Joe?"
- Never assume familiarity unless invited to.
If this is your first time to hang out with a person, stick to generic, non-threatening questions. Asking about an intimate detail, or a subject people
generally talk about only to people in their confidence, is a surefire way to make the other person uncomfortable, annoyed or worse offended.
Below are some safe conversation questions you could ask:
There are also a lot of other questions you can ask as long as you stay on topics such as hobbies, media (movies, music or television shows), weather,
holiday vacations, general information, current events and gossips about celebrities.
- Where did you grew up?
- What is your favorite film of all time?
- How did you know (insert a common friend)?
- Have you heard about (insert current event)?
- Where did you get that (when giving compliment to a piece of clothing or jewelry)?
- Keep things fun!
If you want to keep things interesting, how about some icebreaking questions? Consider the following:
- What's on your iPod playlist right now?
- If you won the lottery, how would you spend the money?
- If you could have a day entirely to yourself, what would you do with it?
- What three adjectives might other people use to describe your personality?
- If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
Thinking of and preparing conversation questions may seem like hard work, but they need not be. Just follow these 7 tips and you'd be good to go.
More conversation question resources