Sunday Self-Scaler 22
The art of asking conversation-fueling questions, a YouTube channel that WILL make you wiser, and a podcast episode I want ya'll to watch.
The Art of Asking Conversation-Fueling Questions
Questions are an integral part of any conversation, and the questions you ask can make or break a conversation. Here are two sample conversations to illustrate:
You: Hey bro! Long time. How are you?
X: Hey, man! I’m great. What about you?
You: I’m doing fine as well. So, had breakfast?
X: Not yet. I just woke up. How about you?
You: I did. Woke up this late? What time did you sleep last night?
X: Around 2 AM. I was playing Valorant late into the night.
You: Oh, I used to game but haven’t heard of this one. Which year was it released in?
X: 2020 I think. Um, sorry, bro, I gotta go. Talk to you later. Bye!
You: Sure, no problem. Bye!
With the conversation being bland and uninteresting, X gets bored and ends it abruptly with a polite excuse.
You: Hey bro! Been a while. How are you and what have you been up to?
X: Hey! I’m doing great, bro. Well, quite a few things actually. I started playing the guitar, trading on the stock market, and writing online. What about you?
You: Wow, that’s great, bro. Even I trade. How did you start and how has it been going?
X: That’s rad. Well, I stumbled across an article about the recent stock market crash and……….
The conversation goes on for another hour and both you and X walk away from it feeling good. There are very few things better than a nice wholesome conversation.
What Caused the Difference?
Conversation A fell flat while B turned into a lively and fruitful exchange. And the difference lies only in the questions asked.
If you notice, in A, the questions, “Had breakfast?”, “What time did you sleep?”, “What game were you playing?”, “When was it released?” are close-ended — ones that can be answered with a Yes/No, a single word, or a short phrase.
Now, consider B. The questions, “What have you been up to?” and “How did you start and how has it been going?” are open-ended — ones that don’t have a simple short answer but rather invite the other person to elaborate and speak.
The Key Is to Ask Open-Ended Questions
When you ask open-ended questions, you don’t constrict the other person to a specific answer but allow him/her the freedom to elaborate. To quote an article by Nielsen Norman Group,
Open-ended questions allow you to find more than you expect: people may share motivations you didn’t expect and mention concerns you knew nothing about. When you ask people to explain things to you, they often reveal surprising mental models, problem-solving strategies, hopes, fears, and much more.
This way, like a tree branching out, the conversation grows more interesting and lively.
Moreover, when the other person answers an open-ended question, you are presented with opportunities to ask more open-ended questions. And this way, like a tree branching out, the conversation grows more interesting and lively.
Take B for example. When you asked X what he has been up to, he answers with a list of activities out of which you found something common and this really ignited the conversation.
With close-ended questions, on the other hand, the conversation ceases to be a conversation and starts to feel like an interrogation or an interview. To quote Nielsen Norman Group again,
Closed-ended questions stop the conversation and eliminate surprises: What you expect is what you get. You may also accidentally limit someone’s answers to only the things you believe to be true. Worse, closed-ended questions can bias people into giving a certain response.
How to Ask Open-Ended Questions
Therapists ask open-ended questions all the time. I’ve never been to one but I’ve heard they’re annoyingly vague — “Tell me about your relationship with your parents.” “How did that make you feel?”, “How would you describe your general mood?”
But this is the key to open-ended questions — being deliberately vague.
Specificity is the villain here. Asking, “Which restaurant did you dine at last night?” will give you only the name of the restaurant while “How did you spend last night?” will give you an account of the entire experience.
Also, think of framing your question in terms of “Why-How-What-When-Where-Whom” rather than “Did-Could-Have-Would-Are-Is-Want”
“Did you have dinner?”, “Did you win the competition?”, “Do you listen to music?”, “Are you free tonight?” are yes/no questions.
Now, reframe them to “What did you have for dinner?”, “How did the competition go?”, “What music do you listen to?”, “What do you want to do tonight?” and you’ve got yourself some good open-ended questions.
The Bottom Line
All in all, in conversations, avoid asking close-ended questions — ones that have yes, no, or specific simple word answers. Instead, invite the other person to speak by asking open-ended questions.
You can do this by being intentionally vague and framing your questions in terms of “Why-How-What-When-Where-Whom”. This simple tweak can work wonders for your conversations.
Now, let me end this article with an open-ended question — What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear about them.
A YouTube Channel that WILL Make You Smarter
A friend of mine sent me a YouTube video, that so sparked my interest that I couldn’t help but check out the channel and its other videos.
Academy Of Ideas is a gem hiding in the (mostly) morass-filled YouTube landscape.
As the name suggests, it’s a channel that explores powerful ideas of all kinds → mainly psychology, philosophy, and social issues - and often, all married together.
With historic paintings, illustrations, photos, quotes, and a clearly spoken narrator with a soothing voice, this channel is every intellectual’s wet dream.
A Podcast I Want You to Listen To
He also runs a podcast named “The Tim Ferris Show”. Even I stumbled across it only today (thanks to another friend sending an episode over).
It’s just 18 minutes and if you’re like me, with it sped up to 2X, you can listen to it in under 10 minutes. It’s a worthwhile listen and talks about one of the most important success-related questions, “To be the jack of all trades or the master of one.”
As a jack of many trades myself, I MORE than agree with Tim. And for the “specialist” folks out there, this might very well capitulate you towards the “generalist” side.
That’s all for today! Since I had skimped a bit on the earlier scalers, I decided to really pack this one up. Hope you enjoyed and found value in this.
Cya in next week’s Thursday Talk-Thread! Until then, take care, stay safe and conquer the coming week!