One of the best ways to keep a conversation going is by asking questions. But what questions do you ask?
Not all questions are created equal. Some can keep a conversation going for hours while others can bring it to a dead stop.
So what kind of questions should you ask? Read on to find out.
Open-ended vs. Closed-ended questions
Closed-ended questions are those questions that only require one or two words to answer. These may be yes or no questions or questions like “how was your day?” (which often gets answered with “fine”).
If the other person only answers with one or two words, that cuts to conversation short. If you keep asking closed-ended questions over and over, especially on unrelated topics, it then can make the other person feel like they are being interrogated.
Open-ended questions require more of a response than just a couple of words. These are questions that might ask someone to elaborate on a topic and may require more thought. Instead of “how was your day”, it may be something like “what did you learn today?” or “what was your favorite part of your day today?”.
Open-ended questions are the best to ask in conversations. They dig deeper and require more of a response from a person than a closed-ended question.
Closed-ended questions can be used in conversations, but they are often best matched up with a follow-up open-ended question.
Superlative questions are questions that use words like best, worst, favorite, least, most, etc. They are good open-ended questions that really ask people to dig deeper and can make them think.
What was the best part about the concert?
What was your least favorite experience when hiking last week?
What is the most favorite part about school?
Challenge questions also dig deeper by asking people to think about what was the challenging parts about whatever situation they were in.
What was the most challenging part about flight school?
What was your biggest challenge when climbing the mountain?
What has been your greatest challenge as a middle school teacher?
Some of the best questions to ask are from the situation you are in. You just have to use your senses.
For example, if you are at a coffee shop, you can ask about coffee, or their experience at the place, or if they have tried the tea, or what they think about the music in the background.
If at a party, you can ask about the music, the food, their relation to the host, the people they know, etc.
If on the street, you can ask about the city, the area of town, the vehicles passing by, the parking, and so on.
You can even ask about what the other person is wearing or doing. If they have a nice necklace, you can compliment them on it and ask them about it.
Asking questions doesn’t have to be hard
Asking questions doesn’t have to be hard. With a few simple tips and a little practice, you can be a master with questions. Remember to use open-ended questions that ask people to elaborate and dig deeper (and if you use a closed-ended question, remember to follow it up with an open one).
Remember that asking superlative or challenge questions often make a person think and go deeper on a topic. And, whether you are trying to start a conversation or find something to talk about, using your senses and the situation you are in can often provide plenty of topics to discuss.
What questions have worked for you?