ASK QUESTIONS THAT HELP INCREASE THE CONVERSATIONAL FLOW!
Sometimes people will get stuck in their conversations and have little or nothing to say. The following suggestions are designed to help other people find their conversational flow so that they can have a more enjoyable experience of sharing with you:
• Ask with positive intent.
Make sure that you are agreeable and positive in your intentions. If you do this, then you’ll be sending out the right kind of supportive energy that the speaker will naturally pick up on. You don’t want to make the other person feel defensive by making them wrong about what they are talking about. Get a sense of what direction they’d like to go and choose instead to go along with them on their verbal ride. For example, if the other person describes an experience of theirs as being “challenging”, ask a question and gets them to say “yes” like, “So it was no joke then. This thing that happened to you was more than challenging, right?”
• Ask them to elaborate.
If a person should come to a quick halt in their discussion with you, it could be because they are afraid of boring you with a subject that may be of no interest. You can take that fear away by allowing them more freedom by simply asking for more content or information. Therefore, an appropriate question to ask in order to get them to elaborate more with you would be, “That sounds interesting. Could you tell me more about that?” Or you might want to widen the scope of their topic by asking, “How else is that true?”
• Ask them for more clarity.
Sometimes, people will speak in broad, general terms. I’ve been guilty occasionally of making a statement like, “Women love to talk, while men hate to listen.” Since I might be afraid of a person’s reaction to that statement, I might leave those words hanging without further explanation. But you as a listener could keep on that theme by simply asking, “How do you mean?” That question gives me permission to talk more about the subject I brought up and puts me more at ease.
• Ask cleverly for sensitive information.
There will be many times when you’ll be asking a question in the hopes of expanding a conversation that may get you into sensitive areas. These are areas that many people don’t want to talk about unless they feel safe with you. To avoid an instant negative reaction you can begin by saying, “I’m just curious. What is it that you hate so much?” What often happens is that a person will counter with, “Why do you ask?” or “What made you ask such a question?” And the reply that handles this objection is for you to say, “Oh, don’t mind me. I was just curious.” The key here is to be aware of sensitive areas that might cause a person to be defensive. Then it’s a matter of having an acceptable reply if you happen to stir up unwanted initial responses from other people that you ask.
• Handle the “I don’t know” answer.
Here’s a little verbal trick that I learned from seminars that I took in the field of neuro-linguistic programming. Whenever you meet resistance to a question that you pose in the form of a “I don’t know” response, quickly reply by saying, “Well, what would you say if you did know?” or “Just suppose that you did know.” The secret here is to do this in a very “matter-of-fact” way so that it works seamlessly into your style. Try it on your friends. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised by the results which are to keep a conversation flowing and opening up a lot of new directions and choices for topics.
• Ask them questions to keep them resourceful.
Sometimes, you’ll need to support the person you’re listening to with occasional creative questions like: So that was a lot of fun for you? I guess that made you proud? How could you not be excited by that? Or you must have really loved that one? The idea here is to access a person’s resourceful emotional states by asking questions that make them focus on being that way. Notice that the key words to use include positive emotional ones like: fun, excited, proud, and love.
• Ask them questions to break bad moods.
In a similar fashion to the suggestion in the previous paragraph, the right question will elicit a certain emotion. Instead of supporting the person who you’re listening to, there might be a time when it is necessary to break their bad mood and change their focus. An example of this would be to say, “That’s not the real you, is it?” when that person is feeling discouraged, frustrated, or disappointed. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Are we having fun yet?” This is often said with the purpose of changing people’s focus when things aren’t fun.
By experimenting with each of these suggestions, you can greatly improve your ability to interact effectively. You do this by keeping the conversation flowing in the direction that you both want to go. And that is for an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When you ask like a winner, other people will begin to appreciate your sincere involvement in a conversation. You will be communicating to them that you care about whom they are and what they say. And most of all, by helping them get into the flow of a conversation and letting them express themselves fully, you’ll be making them feel important.
Steve Nakamoto is a two-time Writer’s Digest Award-Winning author, former Dale Carnegie Instructor, and personal development trainer for motivational expert Tony Robbins. Steve has served for nearly six years as the iVillage.com Mr. Answer Man relationship expert.
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