Hey guys! After I shared my tip of asking questions when meeting new people back in this post, I’ve had quite a few requests to make a post with more details. It’s great because while we are all in quarantine we can work on brushing up on our social skills, right? I think having social skills is a totally underrated skill, because like seriously, nobody talks about it. Yet it’s something we do daily (if not hourly) and it’s a great life skill to have. It doesn’t matter whether you’re naturally an introvert or an extrovert, everyone needs to learn how to properly communicate in social settings.
I’ll start with what you guys specifically requested, asking questions, what questions to ask, what are open-ended questions, etc. Then I’ll get into more of how to carry on a conversation with practically anyone, let’s get into it!
Asking questions. Let’s be honest. Sometimes meeting new people is a little awkward. Especially if you’re 1) Being introduced to someone and have no idea what to say and 2) If you’re having a one on one conversation and don’t know what to say and there is just this awkward silence going.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. It’s most definitely not just you. But there are some things that you (yes, YOU) can do to improve this.
When you know what kinds of questions to ask to keep the conversation going (with an adult, a fellow teenager, a younger kid, a relative you never see, etc.) that is SO powerful.
Ask open-ended questions. You might’ve heard this term before and you might even know what it means, but if you don’t (or need a little refresher) here you go:
Non open-ended question example: You: How was study hall today? Person A: Good.
Great, Person A had a good time at study hall. Bam! End of conversation. Now you’re left with the task of thinking of another question to ask Person A.
Open-ended question example: You: What did you work on in study hall today? Person A: Well during study hall I worked on my English essay and my Spanish homework.
Now you can easily and naturally ask Person A what their English essay is about or what they are learning in Spanish class to keep the conversation flowing. It wasn’t unnatural or awkward, and it forced Person A to give you an answer other than, “good, fine, great, tired, etc”
Here are some easy to ask open-ended questions:
(they’re split up into different categories based on who you’re talking to, there are also just some general ones you could use on pretty much anyone)
For talking to a friend…
Who has influenced you the most?
What’s your dream travel destination?
What have you always wanted to be?
If you had to change your name, what would you change it to?
Best joke you’ve ever heard?
For talking to an adult…
What was your favorite thing to do growing up?
What are some differences between now and when you were a kid?
Do you have any traditions that you’ve continued doing over the years?
What’s your best life advice?
For talking to someone you just met…
What school do you go to? Are you enjoying it? What classes are you taking?
Do you have any pets?
What’s something you’re looking forward to?
For talking to younger children…
What do you like/dislike about your classes?
What’s coming up at school that you’re excited about?
What are you hoping to do when you grow up?
For talking to anyone…
What did you do today?
What school do you go to? Are you enjoying it?
What’s something you’re looking forward to?
Do you have any secret talents?
When you are introduced to someone… It can be a little awkward if a friend of yours introduces you to another friend of theirs. But if your friend has told you “all about” the friend that they want to introduce you to, use that information to think of good questions to ask this person, prior to actually meeting them.
For example, if your friend has told you that this person is a teacher, you could ask them what age group they teach, what their favorite part of teaching is, etc. It doesn’t have to be like you’ve stalked them or something, just say, “(your friend’s name) told me that you’re a teacher, that’s so cool, what grade are you currently teaching?”
The person you are being introduced to will feel at ease, because everybody likes to talk about themselves and what they’re passionate about.
When you are prompted to have a one on one conversation… Let’s say you show up early and are standing there waiting around for the event to start. There is another person that you don’t know standing close by. You have two options 1) You can pretend there is something better to do on your phone and get on social media for a few minutes or 2) You can introduce yourself and possibly meet a new friend.
If you choose the 2nd option, here’s what you can do. If the person is on their phone there is a 70% percent chance that they won’t respond or they’ll respond with a “yeah, fine or okay” (and if that happens, it’s fine, hey, you tried!) If they aren’t on their phone you have a better chance, just say, “Oh hi, I’m (insert your name)” Maybe you guys will start having a conversation, maybe not, the point is you tried, you learned something about that person even if they never said a word or even noticed that you were talking.
When you are with a group of friends… Honestly, (at least for me) hanging out with a group of guys and girls is just a ton of fun. Believe me, it’s not near as fun if you just solely hang out with one or two people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you need a ton of friends to be happy or that you shouldn’t have one or two close friends. Nope. I’m talking about when you only and exclusively talk to one or two people in a large group of people. You know those people, we all know people like that. They only talk to that one person and if you try to talk to them they just blow you off with a short answer and return to the other person.
Usually for me I have one, two or three closer friends in a group of people, but we’re talking to and hanging out with everybody, not just each other. Sure, we might have more in common and have a lot of memories together, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy spending time with other people as well.
When you are with someone you don’t particularly enjoy… You guys have probably been wondering when I’d get to this topic, haven’t you? 😉 We all have those people, maybe we have a long history or maybe we just don’t get along very well. Despite best intentions to be kind and gracious to everybody, sometimes things just happen.
Here are the best things you can do when you’re having a conversation with someone you don’t particularly enjoy.
- Be nice. Don’t be mean, don’t be rude, don’t gossip, don’t fight, just be nice. If the person brings up a past offensive, it’s okay to talk about how you were hurt because of the situation and it’s okay to ask the person not to repeat their behavior, but don’t exaggerate and do it in a nice way. Don’t put the person down, just say, “You know I really don’t appreciate when you do that, please don’t do it again.” If you start a shouting match or a fight, the person (and all other observers will see that you are immature and don’t know how to handle a disagreement, it also probably won’t get you anywhere in terms of resolving the conflict)
- Ask them questions. People love to talk about themselves and what they’re interested in/passionate about. If you keep the conversation based on the other person and continue asking questions, the past offensive is less likely to come up.
When you are talking with a teacher, church official or other adult… Obviously, you don’t want to be that person who acts one way around adults and acts in a completely different way around peers, but you also don’t want to seem disrespectful by bringing up topics that you would typically talk about with with your peers.
Here are some tips:
- Unless you are specifically directed by the person, don’t use their first name. (and when in doubt, use their professional title) Saying Hello, Pastor Mike and Hello, Mrs. Brown, rather than Hey, Mikey and Howdy Lisa, is a lot more respectful and mature.
- Be yourself! Don’t completely have a personality change when around adults, but make sure to be respectful.
- Some good topics to talk about with adults are: school, asking them questions and finding common topics of interest (such as a favorite activities, eg. you both enjoy golf)
- Don’t talk to them about how frustrated you are with your parents for not letting you get a newer phone or for making you finish your homework before getting on social media, or the massive fight you had with your friend last week and how now you guys are best friends again. They don’t want to hear it and as tempting as it might be, this isn’t your person to rant to.
And I think that’s it guys! I’m not a communications professional or anything like that, but I have learned some things from personal experience and observing others. I do plan on making more posts like this in the future, so if you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Also, if you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, I’d love if you shared it on Pinterest! Thanks guys!