You may have found yourself in an awkward silence with someone you’d like to get to know better. Suddenly, nothing comes to mind and you can’t think of anything to say or ask. You can’t even find a way to ask open-ended questions. Your mind is racing and you’re wondering how it’s possible that you can’t talk to the person next to you. In other words, you don’t know how to ask open-ended questions.
We often blame it on not having common topics, experiences, or enough alcohol :D. The truth, however, is that you simply may not be a conversational type. Yet. But you can easily become one.
There are many ways to ask the right questions and start an interesting conversation. However, they all have one thing in common: openness – listening more than talking. Curiosity, a hunger for human stories, and admiration for human diversity will also help.
Carmen Kindl-Beilfuss wrote an excellent book on how to ask open-ended questions. These are questions that, as the name suggests, open up a conversation and, regardless of who you ask them to, bring a variety of answers. Well-asked open-ended questions:
- open up the possibility to answer more broadly than “yes” or “no”
- do not contain the opinion of the questioner
- do not judge, criticize, or label the other person as problematic
- encourage openness and build trust
- reveal more about a person’s personality (their feelings, personal story, experience) than their biographical information
- … and above all, people enjoy answering them!
Another TIP: Playfully find the right answer when you don’t know how to spell a problematic word or phrase correctly.
And so we don’t just stick to theory, I offer you a selection of my favorite questions from the mentioned author (and not just from her):
- What do you think makes a successful day?
- Do you stay true to your principles?
- What was your biggest childhood dream? How does it reflect on your adulthood?
- If you could conduct a survey across the entire city, what would you like to find out?
- What was your worst job?
- What scent reminds you of your childhood?
- If you had the opportunity to fix something in your life, what would you definitely want to fix?
- How would you like your children to remember you?
- Which of your fantasies or dreams would you like to film the most?
- What criticism has pushed you forward in life?
- What would you like to be an expert in?
- If you could guarantee one thing in your life, what would it be?
- What do you think almost everyone disagrees with you about?
- If you could send a 30-second message to the whole world, what would you say?
- How could a person who hurt you in life make it right?
- What is the first real sign that you are in love?
- When was the last time you spontaneously and completely without shame stopped controlling yourself?
- If you could change one thing about your life in an instant, what would it be? Why?
- When you want to make yourself happy, what are the first three things you do?
- What can people do to win you over?
- Who in your surroundings would you say is a hopeless case, but you still love them very much?
- What feeling would you like to exist as a word in your language?
- If your friends couldn’t recognize your voice on the phone, how would they know it’s really you?
- What was the biggest adventure of your life?
- If you had to spend a year somewhere alone, where would it be to make it pleasant for you?
- Who gave you your first kiss, and what led up to it? What happened after it?
- What is something you like, but most other people hate?
- Which decision has had the most significant impact on your life?
- When were your parents most disappointed in you?
- What keeps (or can keep) you in a romantic relationship?
- Which otherwise unattainable man/woman would you like to have an affair with?
- Which photo have you carried with you the longest?
- When are you most content with yourself?
- At what point in your life do you think you became an adult?
- Which experience would you like to spare someone you love, and why? How did you handle this situation?
- How did you discover your profession?
- If you had to give others advice on how to handle life, what would that advice be?
- Which film has had the most emotional impact on you and why?
- Where do you feel most at home?
- What is the movie you’ve watched the most?
- What do you think people around you complain about unnecessarily and what rightfully annoys them?
- What does a person have to do to lose you as a friend?
- What gift hit your taste exactly? And what gift offended you?
- What do you like to do most with money?
- What is your favorite place from childhood? From life? Recently?
- If you were to write a novel, what message would you want to convey to your readers?
- Who in your life has a particularly positive influence on you?
- What movie role would make you happy if it was offered to you? What would you not take?
- When were you really proud of yourself and said, “You did that really well!”?
- What little thing did you last enjoy?
51. What would you do if you were the prime minister?
52.How would you spend a lockdown with your current knowledge?