Spice Up Your Conversation

by Joseph Kwon in


You're here again. Another lunch or social event with a coworker you like, respect and maybe even rely upon, but with whom you have zero conversational chemistry. It might be your boss, a person who works for you, or a fellow team member. There are typically two flavors. The first is the "unintentional silent treatment." It's so quiet at the table you hear yourself chewing and not much else. Awkward glances here and there and you wish for a time machine or a remote control that could speed up the meal. The second is the "one-way street." One of you is doing all the talking and the other is giving nothing back. It's like playing tennis where the ball only goes over the net once so it's impossible to get a good point going.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, there are 3 EZPZ types of questions that you can use to spark a good conversation. These are universally appealing questions because they share 3 traits: 1) they allow the person to talk about themselves; 2) they are easily answered; and 3) they tap into feelings and not just facts.

1. God questions. The ability to make things happen. Ever since we discovered this ability as small children, it has added to our sense of achievement and confidence. Of course, we also quickly learn the limits of our influence. But what if we had unlimited power? What would we do? What could we do? Tap into that fantastic world by asking the following questions.

What is the one thing you'd like to change about _____? This place, your job, your partner, your boss, etc. If you could be anywhere else right now, where would it be?

2. Story questions. Stories naturally tap into our imagination and take us on a journey. When you invite someone to be the hero of their own story, the tale is automatically more interesting than a factual account. As the story unfolds, explore the settings involved. Identify other heroes and villains. Pay special attention to obstacles and how they are overcome. Here are a few sample questions to get started.    

What brings you here? When did you know you wanted to ______? Why did you decide to ______? How did you survive _____? Who were the people who helped you _____? Where on earth you find ______?

3. Maverick questions. Merriam-Webster defines a "maverick" as a person who refuses to follow the customs or rules of a group. Everyone, some more regularly than others, likes to think about breaking the rules. It's part of the balance of human nature between going along to get along vs. maintaining autonomy and individuality. Use the following to tap into the little devil on everyone's shoulder.

Just between you and me, what is the problem with _____? Have you ever had the urge to _____? If you could get away with it, ______?

Good luck! And if all else fails, you can always go with, "Talk to me, Goose!"

Next post next Saturday, 6:30 a.m.