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The Problem with Asking Questions: Sharing Techniques for a More Meaningful Conversation

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If you want to develop deep connections and healthy relationships with communication skills that are authentic, you need to learn the art of conversation that doesn’t include questions. When you interview someone with questions, you imbalance the investment in the relationship and make it impossible for rapport building to happen. It’s also a sign of lacking confidence, showing that you’re trying to make the conversation keep going (you’re afraid of losing rapport), and that you have shame around sharing information about yourself. By learning to phase questions out of your conversations, you’ll become a more socially confident and well loved person.


Full transcript

This video is an excerpt from my upcoming course on building rapport, how to go beyond small talk with advanced communication skills. In this video, we’re going to talk about the problem of asking questions. And I’m gonna share some techniques for more meaningful staff communication.

Most people will default to questions when they’re trying to get to know someone, especially at the beginning. And it’s generally seen as a socially acceptable way to communicate with people. And I think this is why most people struggle to connect, because questions are actually a barrier to connection, not a precipitant.

See questions create the interview frame, right? One person asking, the other person answering. And it’s very rare for this to be perfectly balanced, it can happen and if that does happen, it’s okay. But most of the time, one person will do most of the asking, and the other person will do most of the answering. And you’ll often notice that this pattern continues throughout the relationship. So there’s always someone who asks more and somebody who answers more, and they don’t take turns. And this leads to imbalanced sharing.

So if you’re asking the questions, I’m not getting information from you, other than some vague ideas about things you might be interested in based on the questions you’re asking, assuming that they’re genuine questions, which I’m not even sure of. And you, on the other hand, you’re digging and mining information out of me, you’re getting all kinds of information.

So if we look at our mental bank accounts about how much information we have about each other, you way outweigh me, you’re much wealthier than I am. Because every time you ask a question you add to your account, whereas I actually don’t get anything in mine.

And of course, if you accept the idea that a balanced investment and a balanced sharing of information is what’s important to rapport and important to a connection, then you understand why questions simply don’t work very well.

Questions don’t share, they just take information. Unfortunately, because information is flowing, it will feel like you’ve got a connection. You know, I get this a lot from guys I’m working with and I’m trying to help them in the dating scene. And they’ll say something like, Oh, she told me all about herself, you know, I got all this great information about her, but she won’t text me back.

And he can’t understand the that because there’s so much information being shared, he thinks it must have been a good conversation. He doesn’t see that his bank account is full of information. But she’s got nothing about him other than the guy asks a lot of questions, and it’s kind of annoying. So of course, she’s not texting you back.

If you’re a needy kind of person, or you’re an undersharer who tries to hide and shame themselves and keep information secret from others, you’re gonna feel like you interact a lot. If you ask a lot of questions, you’re gonna feel like you’re having lots of conversations and connecting with people. And then you’re going to wonder like, why don’t I have deep friendships? Why don’t I have long lasting relationships? What’s the secret factor here? I’m doing everything right!

Well, actually, you’re not!

Not only do questions cause imbalance, they actually force a limited sharing from the other person. See, it’s almost impossible for someone to overcome the hurdle of a question. If you ask me a question, I feel compelled to answer it. I feel very uncomfortable saying something totally random, something else that’s come to mind that’s off topic or doesn’t answer your question. I’d even feel quite uncomfortable challenging you about your questioning.

So you might be interviewing someone and they don’t like it. But they feel like they can’t stop you. Not only can they not stop themselves from answering the question, they might not even have the courage to challenge you on asking too many questions. And so you’re actually keeping them in this narrow range, they’re only allowed to talk about a narrow range of information that would suitably answer the question, which is such a tiny slice of who they are.

Like, if I ask you, what do you do for a job? If your job isn’t actually a really relevant factor to your personality, and all you’re now allowed to talk about is your job, I don’t get an accurate view of you. Maybe you’re a great father and that’s the real role you play in your life. But if you tell me “I’m an accountant”, all I think is Accountant. I don’t actually know you. I don’t know that you’re a great father. I don’t know that that’s the main role in your life. I haven’t allowed you to share that information.

Unless you’re particularly skilled and bold, you’re not going to say something like “My work, doesn’t matter, what really matters is my fathering. And you know, I’m really all about parenting”.

Very few people have the skill and courage to override a question and say what they really want to say. And they might want to tell you things, they have this truth, but it can’t get released. They feel like they must get past your questions first, which is impossible because you’re probably in the interviewer frame and every time they answer, you follow up with a question. And I see people get into this trap all the time.

One person asking, the other person answering. The person answering can’t get out of talking about the answers to these questions, and they get more and more frustrated, more distant, more shut off. So even if this person stops interviewing them, they no longer want to share because they’re exhausted by having this information drawn out of them.

And they know nothing about the other person. So why would they invest? They now feel unsafe. This person’s got all this information on me, and I’ve got nothing on them. It’s not fair.

You can also quite often feel manipulated. When questions are being asked, you feel like the person’s pulling information out of you that you might not have shared freely, that you might not feel ready to share. And again, very few people have the courage to say, I don’t want to answer that question, or I’m not comfortable talking about that right now. Some people can say that, but a lot of people will answer your question, seemingly enthusiastically or you overlook the signs that they’re not, and you think they’re all good was sharing this information. And actually, they feel a kind of theft has taken place.

Of course, in terms of attraction and interest, the interviewer just kills it. Because anybody can ask questions. You’re replaceable. There’s nothing special about a person who asks lots of questions, even if they’re brilliant, curious questions. I can get questions from a magazine poll. I don’t need you for questions. So if all you do is provide questions, you don’t provide any unique information about yourself, anything that’s just you anything that changes my view on things. If you just asked me about me, Well, why do I need you? I can get that from anybody.

And how am I supposed to be attracted to you or interested in you if I don’t know anything about you? There’s nothing for me to be interested in. I’m not interested in someone who asked questions. That’s not a trait. Now you might be good looking. Or you might impress me with a skill or something. But once that’s worn off, what else have you got if you just got questions?

So in case it’s not obvious, you use statements instead.

Statements are the way to connect with people. And you’re going to feel that you have to use questions, you’re going to feel that statements might be oversharing, or bragging, or you’ll have some shame around statements. But I’m telling you right now, this is one of those critical shifts you must make in your communication style.

No more questions, only statements. Rather than ending a sentence with a question mark, you end up with a full stop and a silence.

I challenge you to try and do entire conversations with people without asking any questions. I’ll give you some tips and some practical guidance on how to achieve the seemingly impossible goal.

The great one is to reframe the question you were about to ask into a statement about yourself. Now what you can do is you can answer the question. So let’s say I wanted to ask you, how was your weekend? You know, I’ve just met you in the office lunch room or something, and that question pops up into my head. I can answer it and say the answer out loud. So instead of asking you how was your weekend, I said, Hey, I just had a terrible weekend. I can start the conversation like that, as if you asked.

And there’s really nothing wrong with just throwing information out there. You’ll notice that when you watch a stand up comedy, they just keep changing topics and throwing random stories out there, like “I was on the bus the other day, and I saw this guy…” nobody asked him what he was doing that day. You’re totally accepting of the stand up comedian just throwing topics out. They’ll change the topic three times in a single minute, you have no problem with it, it isn’t weird to do this.

And you’ll find it’s actually easier for the other person if you’re the one to throw the information out. First, you give them something to respond to, say, Hey, John, I just had a terrible weekend. He can do whatever he wants with that information. You’ve made it easy for him. Whereas if you ask a question, he’s forced to answer it, he feels under pressure, it’s difficult for him, maybe he’s too tired to talk right now. You haven’t given them an out. It’s a really uncomfortable conversation, generally.

And if you’ve been watching my reflection videos, you know another response is to just share your own story that’s relevant to it. Maybe that prompts an idea, like somebody says, I’m an accountant. You might say, I’m a coach. Oh, that reminds me what I do for a job. So instead of asking them, you just tell them a relevant piece of information about yourself that came up.

They tell a big story. Rather than asking for more details about their story, you share a story of your own. You keep the bank accounts balanced, so that you have equal amount of information about each other with equal depth and transparency and vulnerability. That’s a connection.

Questions play a role in society. Transactional conversations, for example, practical conversations, where do I put this? Over there? Thanks a lot. You do need to ask questions sometimes. You know, it’s no good being at the gas station saying, I wonder how much that gas costs. You’d just say, how much does it cost?

But we’re not talking about transactional conversations. We’re talking about rapport building, we’re talking about connection, talking about stuff that isn’t just about practical engineering type problems to be solved, but about each other, learning about the person.

If the information is about the person, there’s no need for questions.

Thank you for reading. I hope that was helpful. If you want to become a master of social communication and connect deeply with people, get in touch dan@brojo.org and we’ll talk about coaching

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