I’ve done a good amount of connecting and interacting with people.
I’ve realized that the possibly the most difficult, yet most rewarding aspect when done correctly, is being able to ask good questions. Being able to ask good question not only lets the other person know that you are genuinely interested, you also get to learn more about the other person and their experiences.
As a student at UCSD, every interaction with a fellow student usually looks about the same. We exchange our names, class year, major, and college. But unless we have something in common, the conversation usually stalls and comes to a halt at some point after that.
Every single engaging conversation has something in common: An ability to ask good questions and give good answers. As I’ve picked up on the way that people ask questions, here are the common elements of a good question.
- A good question is specific to the individual, but general enough to create dialog.
- A good question digs deeper than surface level facts, but engages the emotions as well.
- A good question brings energy and excitement into the conversation.
- A good question seeks to establish connection and relationship.
- A good question helps people to think in different ways.
Asking good questions isn’t about becoming best friends with everyone, but about understanding a person beyond the superficial aspects of personality, allowing you to properly discern what kind of relationship you would have with this person, and if it could be beneficial on both ends.
Instead of asking things like “Where are you from?” or “What do you study?”, see what happens if you ask “What’s home like for you?” or “Why do you enjoy learning about ___?”. The difference between the two sets of questions is that the second set goes a little bit deeper, giving you a sense of a person’s values.
Another aspect of asking questions, relevant to both new and old relationships, is that it brings perspective. Questions can offer a perspective that a person has never thought about before, helping a person to consider more angles and approaches to a situation.
The commonly used mantra of “question everything” has immense value. By asking questions about everything, it helps you critically think about and analyze your options, results, and effects. Questioning everything helps you to analyze your progress and growth.
For example, consider these questions:
- “Why are you doing what you’re doing?”
- “Is what you’re doing effective?”
- “Is there a better way to get to what your ultimate goal is?”
Asking yourself those questions regularly will help keep you on track with the bigger picture and what kind of influence you want your life to have.
What has been a significant question for you?