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The truly great questions are the ones that create the kind of conversation we want. And the good news is that finding those questions is pretty easy!
Believe it or not, but the art of asking great questions is easy to master.
All it requires is a little bit of preparation and an idea of what kind of conversations you want to have.
You see, most people ask the same standard questions over and over again.
And while there’s nothing wrong with asking these questions if you genuinely want to know these things, they otherwise rarely create sparkling conversations.
In fact, most people will reply with their standard, autopilot answers. Followed by mentally checking out from the conversation since they expect it to be identical to most other conversations they’ve had.
Luckily there’s a simple way to avoid this. All you have todo is ask your questions.
When I say your questions, I mean questions that you are excited or curious to hear the answer to.
Now in the past, I’ve written about how to create meaningful conversations, and even about how to find out what you’re truly interested in learning about specific people.
And while you can use the knowledge from those articles to create your questions, today I want to encourage you to create general-purpose questions that are interesting to you. Questions you can ask to create better conversations almost no matter who you’re talking to.
When you replace the standard questions that everyone ask with your own personal go-to questions, your conversational skills will instantly improve.
Let me give you some examples of questions I use, so you’ll see what I mean.
Instead of asking, “how have you been?”, “what’s going on with you?”, or other similar standard questions, I like to ask people “what’s exciting in your life these days?”
And instead of questions like, “what do you do?” and “what are your interests?”, I enjoy asking, “what are you passionate about?” or “what goals are you working towards?”
When I ask questions like these, most people have to pause for a moment and think about it. And when they do, their autopilot turns off and they tune in to me and the conversation more fully.
The simple fact that these questions are unexpected means that they have to be present in the conversation with me to answer them. And the fact that they are unusual makes the conversation stand out from all the other ones they’ve had.
Coming up with great questions is easier than most people think.
The first step is to decide what kind of conversations you want to have with people. Once you’ve decided on that, all you have to do is use a little bit of creativity and prepare.
Personally, I enjoy conversations where I get to talk about exciting things. Or about passions or goals. And almost anything else that people tend to be happy and enthusiastic about. And I’m sure you can see how that preference is reflected in the questions I ask?
Someone who enjoys talking about current events might come up with a question like, “what have you been following in the news lately?”
Someone who likes discussing entertainment might ask about what movies people have enjoyed lately, or what kind of music they have in their current playlist.
So what do you enjoy talking about?
Once you know the answer to that, all you have to do is come up with a handful of questions related to those things.
Then memorize those questions. Write them down on your phone if you have to. And practice.
Start asking those questions in as many conversations with as many people as you can. Do it until you've replaced the standard questions that everyone asks with your own personal new ones.
Once it becomes as natural for you to ask your own questions as it has been to ask the standard ones in the past, you’ll far more often find yourself in conversations that are both more enjoyable and connected.
You can, and should, also create such questions for specific situations that are important to you.
If you work in sales, for example, you’ll build a lot more rapport and trust with your customers if you create questions that lead to more interesting conversations.
If you’re going to a networking event, take some time to think about non-standard questions you can ask people in that context.
When you’re going on a date, or meeting your in-laws, going to a job interview, or whatever else – take some time beforehand to come up with some non-standard questions. When you do, odds are that you’ll separate yourself from the pack in a great way.
Want to learn more conversational techniques? My course about social confidence & communication and my course about assertiveness both include tons of great ones.
Hi, I'm TJ Guttormsen.
Since 2009 I’ve coached clients ranging from Olympic gold medalists and billionaires, to people who simply want more out life.
I’ve done over 100 national media appearances, published books, and created online courses that have earned several “Highest Rated” titles from their 11 000+ members.
Today I coach clients from all over the world, and teach seminars for business and events from my home in Las Vegas.
Come join me in my Facebook group, follow my Instagram, or subscribe to my YouTube channel for fresh content on a regular basis.