Friday, October 8, 2010

Want to Revolutionize Your Conversations with Others?

     I am testing a simple theory that the vast majority of our conversations are marked by statements we make about ourselves as opposed to questions we ask others.  It seems to me that the technology of our talking is attention-focused.  Part of me believes that our interest in blogs, facebook and twitter are desperate bids for attention and recognition.  There's nothing wrong here because we need these things, but I have noticed that when I shift the focus to others in conversation using questions, something radically different happens to the culture of that conversation.  True, my vocation includes asking questions and delving deeply into the words and worlds of others, but I have found that I am much more self-focused in my personal conversations with friends and family. 

     I am challenging myself to a different approach to my conversations.  I am simply calling it "Questionevertything".  The gist of it is to simply see how many exploratory questions I can ask someone about themselves in conversation.  Here's how it looks:

The Old Way:

"Wow, we had a great dinner last night at Bluestem." 

      "Oh, yeah, we ate there last weekend...loved the cucumber juice."

"My wife got a recipe for that, and it turned out pretty good."

     "My wife makes this great white chili dish, we eat it for our Halloween party every year."

"We're hosting New Year's this year, and it's going to be awesome."

    (UNSAID) "I'm better than you."

"I'm better than you."

     "Love me.  Acknowledge me."

"I hope you think I'm cool."

This is a ping-pong conversation that leaves both people wondering if they matter at all.

The New Way:  

    "Wow, we had a great dinner last night at Bluestem."

"Really, what did you order?"

     "The cucumber juice."

"Had you ever tried anything like that before?"

     "No, it reminded me of my grandma's garden."

"Did she live out in the country?"

     "No, she lived on the ocean."

"No way!  how did she manage to grow a garden on the ocean?"

     (UNSAID) "Hey, this person wants to know my story."

     Okay, you probably get the point.  When we engage others with meaningful questions, we validate their unique story, and we leave them with a sense of importance and value.  It's a risk, because they might not return the favor, but I would encourage you to try it anyway.  If you start to Questioneverything, share your experience here with comments.  It will make me feel very important. :)   


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posting...I just happened upon it. Gives me something to definitely think about. I tend to be very selfish without realizing it, and I do not want to be that way.

Hattie said...

I often leave conversations feeling like I talked about myself too much and wishing I would have asked more questions. A few of my friends I admire most are the ones who ask questions first instead of venting about their lives. Great post :)

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