Accidentally Intentional

How To Ask Better Questions (& Get BEYOND Small Talk) In Conversation | 5 Techniques You Can Implement TODAY

January 18, 2024 Zoe Asher Season 3 Episode 1
Accidentally Intentional
How To Ask Better Questions (& Get BEYOND Small Talk) In Conversation | 5 Techniques You Can Implement TODAY
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Feel awkward in conversations and/or hate small talk? Then this video is for you. In this episode, Zoe shares her personal experience on how she learned to ask better questions, revealing 5 killer techniques that you can use today! We are exploring open-ended questions, emotional intelligence, the power of "what" and "how" oriented questions, and more, all to help to create meaningful connections.

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In this episode, we are answering the question, how do I ask better questions? So stay tuned, because here we go. Welcome to accidentally intentional The show where we are destroying loneliness by building rich relationships, aka relational wealth. And in this episode, we're discussing the question, how do I ask better questions, because let's face it conversation as an adult, can be hard sometimes. And as I was reflecting on what we're going to talk about today, I thought about how growing up, we are taught as children to be so curious, we want to learn about everything, we want to understand everything. We're asking questions about everything. Sometimes those questions were just a saying, Why, why? Why? And we'll explain later on, in this episode, why asking why as an adult isn't the best way to get an answer from somebody else. But now that we are out of being, you know, 456 years old, and we're in high school, college, we are adults in the workplace, we have to find and stretch ourselves, to create avenues for meaningful connection, and conversation. So we're going to discuss six ways in which you can get better at asking questions. And a lot of this comes from my own personal experience. And for those of you that are new here, here's my story. Basically, in college, I had one friend, that friend and I had a falling out, leaving me with no friends. And so I created a new year's resolution, to eat a meal with someone different every single day on my college campus, and get to know their story, which meant asking them a lot of questions. And I actually continued it. So by the time I graduated college, I got over 250 different meal dates, as I called them with people on my college campus. And through that process, I learned how to ask great questions and conversations that were able to open my mind in my eyes and my thought process to something completely brand new. And so that's what this whole thing is going to be about. And so let's start off by saying this. Curiosity is key. Curiosity is key. Because if you're not curious, then why would you have a good conversation? Let's face it, we've all had that circumstance in life where someone comes up to us. They're like, Hey, how you doing? What's new, and it feels super awkward. And you're not sure why until afterwards, because they asked two questions. And then the conversation kind of stopped. And then you both just turned your head the other way and walked away. This kind of happens at networking events, sometimes, it's super awkward, and for good reason. Because genuine curiosity needs to be present. And if it's not, you're going to realize it, or they're going to realize it, and they're not going to want anything to do with a fake conversation. So how can we be curious? Well, the best way is to appear genuinely interested. And the best way to appear genuinely interested is by being genuinely interested. Now, I know you're like, Okay, that's not helpful. But this is, and this is something I have been learning. Because I am not good at this. A part of curiosity is being willing to let assumptions go. Now, if you're like me, I am a chronic overthinker. But not only am I an overthinker, I create scenarios that other people are thinking, doing feeling saying, and very few of them are actually happening. I don't know if I love stories in my head. But it can be dangerous, to be honest, because I couldn't assume something very incorrect about a person, let alone their character. And so part of being curious is being willing to let those assumptions go entirely. And I heard this great quote that really hit me square button between the eyes. The quote was, you can't be both curious and offended at the same time. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized, wow, this is so true. I mean, think about it. If you're offended at something, you're closed off, your your mind is made up, and you're not really looking to be persuaded or think anything different about the situation. And so, another element of curiosity is really learning to embrace the unknown. Because if we're curious and we aren't going to make assumptions, then a conversation could take us in a lot of different directions and being willing to kind of be flexible here. or somebody out, and maybe go into territory you didn't expect could definitely be a positive thing for both parties. You gotta listen, to genuinely understand. And I think that often we can assume about ourselves that we're good listeners, just because we listen to YouTube videos, we listen to podcasts, you know, we listen, we're listening to things all day long. But are we truly listening? To understand versus listening? To get to the next question, we're going to ask or listening to get something from somebody, there's got to be a certain level of authenticity, that's up in your face in these conversations, it has to be clear from the jump, in fact, Gen Z, I would say, yearns for this, and is really taking the lead in fighting for authenticity. So shout out to Gen Z, if you're watching this video, and if you love all of you guys proud of what you're doing. And here's why. We're sick of all the crap that's thrown in our face on social media, everywhere, we don't know what's true, and what's not. And so we are on a desperate search for authenticity. Now, I'm not Gen Z, but I feel similar to them in that respect. And so that's how those are some ways some tools that I feel like you can use in order to be curious. So that was all number one. Number two is thinking through open ended questions. Let's say that you're a parent, and you're asking your kid, how was your day at school? What do you think they're gonna say? Good. You don't have to be a parent to know that this is how conversations like how is this is going to go for you? Because you're not really giving someone an opportunity to think through or share more about it? Unless they of course, want to. But what if we could reverse engineer that question and ask it a different way? So instead of saying, how was your day, for instance, something like that? You could say, what was the best part of your day? Now, I actually love this example, specifically. Because when you ask questions, like, what's the best What's something you're looking forward to? It actually Prime's the brain to look for positive things? So that can actually change someone's entire aura about them too. Oh, okay. This is actually going to be a pretty fun chill conversation we can have because this person wants to wants to know, we want to talk about exciting things, et cetera. Now, I talked about why at the beginning, growing up, remember, we say why whenever our parents tell us anything, why? Why, as an adult, asking why is not a good question. Nor is it an open ended question that I would advise asking. And here's why. And there's a lot of scientific psychological data on this, when you ask the question, why it actually implies defensiveness. And it can come across as accusatory, which leads to someone who may feel like they need to defend themselves or rationalize their thought process. So here's some ways in which you can get to a y without explicitly saying y, which will create a more open ended dialogue. You could say, Oh, can you tell me more about that? genuinely curious about how they're coming to that conclusion. Here's one that I really liked, though, starting a question with what? Or how, let me give you an example. Let's say that you're having a conversation with someone you haven't seen for a while. And as you're in this conversation, you're realizing that you guys don't see the world the same way. In fact, some of the things they're saying, are kind of hard for you to accept, because you don't necessarily believe them to be true. Our instinct would be to say, Why do you think that? Like what, you know, something that could come across as accusatory, but you could ask instead, what makes you come to that conclusion? I'm so interested to hear your perspective, something like that, or what's been your experience that's led you to believe that those are great options, because they're starting with what? And you can start with how, in the same way, but I've been practicing this lately. And it's been really interesting. How what could normally feel like maybe a tense conversation, let's say in conflict, which we're going to have a whole episode about later this season. But let's say you're in a little bit of conflict and the gut reaction is to say why Do something, just reframing the conversation starting with what? Or how are you thinking through this? Something like that? It's amazing how it just makes the other person be so relaxed. Because you're not saying I, you that, you know, you're just saying, Tell me more about that. On that subject when we're talking about thinking through open ended questions, networking question that I love to ask, for instance, is the following. What does it take to be successful act? Fill in the blank, but it doesn't need to just be networking. This can be asked, in any format, it can be asked in a friendship as well. Here's why I like this question. Because when you're asking, What does it take to be successful at fill in the blank, you are implying that the person you are asking is already successful at that. So it serves as a compliment, plus, also an opportunity for dialogue to open up and you can learn more about the person what they do, how they see the world what they think, etc. So that's to thinking through open ended questions and trying to really dig for that staying away from why, and going more towards what, how questions that make someone give more than a one word answer, of course. So Tip three is embrace emotion that a certain question could invoke. This is something I have been continuing to see. And it's made me realize that people are desperate for connection. We're all desperate for connection. We know the stats on loneliness, we're all so desperate to be seen, loved, heard known. And so when someone engages in a conversation that actually makes you feel like they genuinely want to get to know you, or vice versa, it's very powerful. And because of that, a lot of emotions could actually bubble up. There have been so many times it continues to shock me, where I will ask someone a question that I had no idea it could cause such a motion for someone. For instance, I remember when I was on a set, I was talking to one of the nurses that was there. And he was sharing that he likes Pennsylvania weather, because he's from Colorado, to which I said, Oh, man, what, what brought you to Pennsylvania from Colorado. And he got choked up, and then went on to share that his father had passed away, and that that's what home meant to him. And so he felt like he needed to rebuild a new life in a new place, in order to kind of heal and grieve properly. I had no idea that asking a question of Why did you move from here to here what caused that emotion. So that's what I'm talking about. Be prepared for the emotion that could bubble up for some people and and hope that, that space for them. Some people might cry. Don't get started by it. Don't get super uncomfortable, although it would probably feel like a natural place to feel a little bit uncomfortable. But know that your words and your questions can have power in a really powerful way for someone in order to be seen. And so being able to embrace the emotion with that is going to be so rewarding for the person who you ask the question to. And because this entire episode is about questions, I definitely need to give a huge shout out to today's sponsor party cues, which is the number one questions app for conversation starters. Listen, I love party cues. It is my go to conversation tool. Whenever I'm on the road, with friends with family, you name it, party cues is the social wingman. We all need. Why? Because in this free app, there is over 2000 questions at the ready, which you can use in order to start a meaningful conversation and deepen any relationship and connection. You can actually download it right now for free by checking it out on the App Store or Google Play. And also they have a web browser version as well. So if you're trying to do this at work with some co workers, this could be the perfect setup to get to know your tribe a little bit better. So head to right now or search party cues in App Store or Google Play. So we've just discussed curiosity, open ended questions, embracing emotion that may come up. And so the next one is expose yourself to ideas of thought that you might not normally vibe with something that could be outside of your worldview. We know the power of social media and how these apps are created to kind of feed us more content that we like, and less content that we dislike. So it's very easy to fall into this echo chamber where we're just hearing only things that we like, and yes, is it self serving? 100%? But does it actually help us become better humans? No, I fully believe no, it doesn't help us get there. Because part of what it means to be human is to go through life with people and not just with people that think the same way as us. But with people, period. And you know how the more you hear something that you agree with, it makes you become more resolute in your thought process, and you almost dig your heels in and become immovable on that. Which then can create this problem when you come across somebody who maybe doesn't think anything at all similar to you. And you might have a different thought process, but your goals and your vision for life otherwise, are pretty aligned. And if we get caught up in only wanting to hear what we agree with, then you are losing out on a potential beautiful connection, and rich relationship that can be made at the expense of someone maybe not agreeing with you on everything. And for those of you out here who are married like me, here's something we all have learned to be true. Our spouse is very different than us, they see the world a lot differently than us. Could you imagine if we were like Sorry, you don't think everything the same way that I do, you don't like the same things that I do all the way around, a lot of us probably would not be married, if that's what we thought. And if that's currently how you see dating, for instance, or how you're pursuing friendships, but don't really want to talk to anybody that doesn't think the same thing as you. Unfortunately, you're going to have limited success. So I want to challenge you to open up your mind to hearing at least hearing different perspectives and engaging in what could be some amazing conversation around that. I'll give you a great example. I do things a little bit differently than most people when it comes to relationships, friendships, etc. And so there'll be times in my life where I have come to my own conclusion about something. But that's not really fair to everybody else. Because if I'm not willing to hear somebody out, we're not going to go very far in our dialogue. So let's say that I was at a family gathering, and I asked my aunt, who doesn't even live near me, we don't see each other much. And I asked her the question, Hey, what is some awesome advice you have for me? For marriage? Now, this is a great question. Because who knows, we might not necessarily agree on it. But it's giving her the opportunity to share her heart share her insight from what she did wrong, what she's done, right? What makes a marriage flourish, etc. But I wouldn't ask that if I was actually closed minded all the way around. So these kinds of questions are really helpful for me, and could definitely be helpful for you to in order to open up some dialogue and ultimately, ask better questions for the people around you. Okay, number five, is the art of being mindful. Now, mindfulness is a word that gets thrown around a lot lately. And I don't think that's a bad thing. But I think it's a misunderstood thing. Because mindfulness is essentially being present and putting space between a thought and an action in many ways. And so when you're being mindful in conversation, you are being present, you are actually being very present in the conversation, which means that you might lose your train of thought. That's okay. If you are so locked in on what somebody else is saying that you forget the next question you're going to ask, I would actually say you're on the right track for doing that. That happens to me so often, and it's not just because I have ADHD, okay. I get lost in conversation. And we have great conversations regardless because then I want to hear about this thing that they just talked about. And oh, now they just said this. Wait, tell me, tell me about that. Or how did you come to that conclusion, and it's just what we podcasters like to call, quote, pulling the thread on a lot of different things that people discuss and talk about. And when you're being mindful in a conversation to, you're going to be able to look out for things such as your pace, because the last thing you want to do is make it feel like you're questioning them and interrogation type of way. I'm definitely guilty of this. Okay. If someone doesn't ask me a question, I will fill that gap and ask them another question. Then an hour later, I've asked 15 questions. I'm being dramatic. And it feels like they asked zero. Am I keeping a scorecard? No, but I'm just used to wanting to know something about somebody. And I'm not saying that's a good thing. I'm actually scolding myself for that. Because what I need to be more comfortable with is some silence. Silence is okay. I know it feels like it's going to kill you when it's happening. Because we're like, oh, my god, 50 seconds of silence. Now that's being very dramatic, it was probably too. But silence is a good thing, because it makes our brains kind of recollect reconvene, reorganize what we were thinking about, and decide where we want to go in the conversation next. So I would actually say the biggest thing in that scenario is Do not be afraid for a little bit of silence. Yeah, it feels awkward. But it's only awkward. If you said, Oh my gosh, this is so awkward. That's the only way. Okay, silence is normal. And typically, in silence, the other person could definitely fill fill that gap that space to share more about they were what they were just saying. And if someone decides to share a little bit more than what you originally anticipated, and they're being somewhat vulnerable with you, that's a gift and a body language technique that you can use with that to reassure somebody that you are listening intently, is a slow head not not a fast head not. Why is this important? Because a fast head nod tells the person who's sharing something with you that you want them to hurry up and get on with it. A slow head nod, actually compels is read by our brains to compel us to share more, and feel as though this person is truly connecting with us. So that's a beautiful gift you can give someone when they're being vulnerable. Finally, to close this episode, as we're talking about how to ask better questions, I think it's really important to talk about the types of questions that are important to have in conversations for meaningful connections. And this is based on the work by psychologist Dan Adams, who called this three levels of intimacy. Now, let me explain what it is basically, all conversation or all relationships need to go through these three types of conversations in order to feel a depth and a sense of meaningful connection to it. So how do we go about it go through these three levels? Level one, is considered general traits. This is what you're going to be talking about in conversation where it feels like the small talk area, it's almost like a ketchup, Convo general traits, occupation, age, what do you do? Our brain has to learn the basics before we can go deeper. So level one is obviously what every type of relationship needs to start with. Then from there, once you know basic info, you can jump to level two, which is personal concerns. personal concerns can be things like motivations, or values, things like learning what gets somebody up in the morning? What excites them. Another question you can ask here is, is there anything exciting that you're working on recently? Or what's the best part of your week? These are great things right here, personal concerns, That's level two. And then level three, is what Dan McAdams calls self narrative. And in this in level three, this is really what helps you predict emotion deeply because you're learning things like what is someone's deepest fear? What drives you? What is their biggest passion, which is my personal favorite question to ask people who is your role model or hero? In Level Three, a sense of vulnerability has the opportunity to be put on this display. And all three of those need to happen in order for meaningful connection to form. So we're talking about how to ask better questions. With the end goal being we ask questions to build rich relationships. So I hope you found this helpful. Be sure to like and subscribe and share with somebody else who's on this same mission and we have so many more exciting things to come this season. We're gonna be discussing things such as how to stop overthinking how to navigate conflict, how to keep up with a long distance relationship and how to be less awkward meeting people. So make sure you're subscribed and have that notification bell on to get every single episode as it drops. Love you guys proud of you. Let's continue building rich relationships right now starting today because you are worth that and so much more. We'll see you next time.

Zoe shares her story about how she learned the importance of good questions
the first technique and approach you must take when asking good questions
technique #2 (and getting to open ended questions)
why asking “why?” Is NOT a good question to ask
the power of starting a question with “what” and “how”
a good question to ask in a networking setting
technique #3 (and why to embrace emotions)
technique #4 (and having a differing worldview)
technique #5 (and how to be more mindful)
the types of questions that need to happen for meaningful connection to be made