Did you know that we’re physically and mentally healthier when we have meaningful and fulfilling relationships? People who are ill get better more quickly when they have a loving support system. People who are broken-hearted from a romantic breakup get back to normal more quickly if they have someone to talk to and pour their hearts out to. Relationships are crucial to having a balanced, happy and healthy life.
Two-Way Conversations Are Best
An important key to a successful relationship is making sure the conversations are two-way. Although some people like to have others do all the talking, this is rare. Most people find a conversation much more interesting if they do at least part of the talking. In fact, many people are sensitive that they talk about half the time. Make sure both of you are sharing in the conversation.
One great way to be certain that the other person is talking enough is to ask the other person questions. Doing this will also communicate that you’re interested in what he or she has to say. Follow up with the next logical question.
For example, you’re discussing your co-worker’s vacation. She tells you that she went to Disneyland with her children. The next logical question is, “What rides did your children go on?” and “Did you go on any rides?” You might ask, “How long did you stay?” or “We had a storm on Saturday. Did you get caught in that?”
Use Open-Ended Questions, Not Closed-Ended Questions
In order to ask questions that help the other person share information, you need to know the difference between close-ended questions and open-ended questions. What do you notice in the following two conversations?
Ryan: Did you have a good vacation?
Ryan: When did you get home?
Ryan: What did you do on your vacation?
Elizabeth: Barry and I went camping at the island. We did some hiking and had a great campfire.
Ryan: How did you travel?
Elizabeth: We took the subway to 33rd Street, then we took the ferry to the island. It ended up taking us only an hour each way.
The first conversation had very short answers with little information. The second one asked for more detailed information and invited Elizabeth to open up more.
Close-ended questions elicit a one- or two-word answer. This type of question usually begins with words like when, where, which, who, do, and are.
It’s much better to ask open-ended questions that encourage people to generate longer and more interesting conversation. Open-ended questions usually begin with words or phrases like what, how, why, and in what way.
Examples of Close-Ended Questions and Open-Ended Questions
Close-ended question: Who are you going to vote for?
Open-ended question: Why are you voting for that candidate?
Close-ended question: What kind of a job do you have?
Open-ended question: How did you get interested in your line of work?
Close-ended question: Did you like the last speaker?
Open-ended question: What did you agree with that the last speaker said?
Close-ended question: When did you start playing baseball?
Open-ended question: What do you like best about baseball?
As the other person is talking, make appropriate comments to show that you’re listening and understand what they’re saying: “Really? Wow, that’s something!” “I didn’t know that happened.” “I’ll bet that was fun!”
If you use two these tips in your upcoming conversations, you’ll find they go more smoothly. In general, people love to talk about themselves, and by making sure the other person talks at least half the time and asking open-ended questions, most people will feel you’re a brilliant conversationalist.
Vivian Harte is the co-author of Self-Esteem for Dummies in the Dummies series. She has helped over 12,000 people learn and use assertiveness skills during the last 14 years. She teaches online classes on assertiveness, self-confidence, and teamwork. She has a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a Masters degree in Public Administration. She taught college classes for many years in Tucson, Arizona. She has two grown children who are both successful. She lives in Tucson with her husband, three dogs and two cats.
She offers kits with articles, guided visualizations, and songs as well as online courses, group coaching and 1-on-1 coaching, and you can find out more about these at her website, self-esteem-for-me.com. Discover how to improve your relationships by downloading her free kit Create Self-Confidence in Relationships.