Questions – An Underrated Superpower

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• In order to interact and engage more fully in conversations, we need to work against our not-so-useful habits and learn better ones.

• A non-negotiable habit is becoming a master at using questions. The right questions help people feel closer to us, communicate our attention and care, share our competence, show that we’re aware and paying attention, deepen intimacy, guide the conversation, and make us more trustworthy.

• All exchanges, and hence all questions, are typically on one of three possible levels: those exchanging factual information, those exchanging feelings and emotions, and those communicating deeper values. In social situations, you’ll lean more heavily on the last two, but a good conversation works when people have similar conversational goals and are matched in the level they’re interacting on.

• Conversational narcissism is an impediment to curiosity, engagement, and good question asking. Whether unconscious or conscious, this usually results from us placing something other than connection with the other person as our goal for conversation, i.e. to brag, to defend, to compete.

• We can reduce our own conversational narcissism by using questions. Follow-up questions are very effective, as are open-ended questions that don’t make people uncomfortable, but may gently push on the barrier or normal etiquette.

• Just as a role model can be a guide and inspiration for your own behavior, a model can also help you stay curious when you talk to others. Talk show hosts are experts and placing their conversation partners front and center, so we can ask, what would they do? Usually, the answer is “treat my guest like the most interesting person in the whole universe.”

• Curiosity needs to be genuine. We all have a bias against others sometimes, assuming they’re not very interesting, but unless we ask, we won’t learn about their more fascinating sides. Assume that everyone has something to teach you, and foster genuine inquisitiveness. into the details of their world. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

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