Ever had a conversation that started with “How are you?” and abruptly ended after “Good?”
You’re certainly not the first, or the last. But there’s definitely a better way to interact with people—in fact, it’s as easy as rephrasing the things you ask.
Here are some of the simplest tips to asking better questions, which will make your conversations more valuable to you—and the people you engage with.
1. Ask Open-ended Questions
Open-ended questions generate more interesting responses because they unlock more information from people.
Example: Don’t ask, “Do you like movies?” You’ll get a more interesting answer if you ask, “Why do you like movies?”
2. Ask “Why” Often
This is the easiest way to deepen the level of a conversation.
Example: If you ask someone “What’s your favorite part of your job?” and she says the people, ask her “Why’s that?” If she says it’s because everyone works together and respects each other, ask “Why do you think that is?” Repeating questions can turn a simple back and forth into a much deeper discussion.
3. Ask About Specifics, Not Generalizations
Questions about specifics lead people to give you answers that aren’t generic or short.
Example: Don’t ask, “What was fun about your trip?” Instead, drill down and ask, “What was the single most fun moment of the trip?”
4. Ask About Reactions
Frame questions around a person’s reactions to experiences in his life—what surprised him, challenged him, or changed his viewpoint.
Example: Don’t ask, “What’s it like to be a doctor?” Instead, try “What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about being a doctor?”
5. Ask Follow-up Questions
When you ask something, pay attention to the answer and ask a follow-up question about it to dig deeper.
Example: If a person says the most surprising thing about being a doctor is how uncomfortable people get in hospitals, follow up with, “What do you do to help make them more comfortable?”
6. Ask About Lessons
If your goal is to learn from somebody, the easiest shortcut to do that is to ask her what she’s learned.
Example: Ask questions like, “What did you learn from working with that client?” “What do you wish you knew before you started working with them?” and “What advice would you have for others who want to get into your field?”
7. Ask for a Story
The most interesting information is found in stories, so ask people to tell you one.
Example: Don’t ask, “What’s it like to be a teacher?” Instead, try “What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you in a class?”
8. Ask Like a Kid
If you don’t fully understand something and want more clarity, ask a person how he would explain it to a kid or somebody with no experience on the subject.
Example: Instead of “Can you explain that product feature again?” try “How would you explain that feature to somebody who’s never seen our product before?”
9. Ask What Else You Should Ask
When you wrap up your questions, give the other person an opportunity to tell you what you should have asked. He or she will likely suggest something that provides valuable information.
Example: Try, “Am I missing anything? What’s the question nobody ever asks you but you wish they would?”
Use one, or all, of these tricks, and you’ll be sure to have longer and more exciting conversations every time.
This article was originally published on Medium. It has been republished here with permission.
Photo of people talking courtesy of Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images.
Josh Spector is a digital marketing consultant, idea collector, and creator of the 10 Ideas Worth Sharing newsletter. The former head of digital media and marketing for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he continues to oversee digital strategy for The Oscars in addition to working with entertainment industry clients and creative professionals. Say hi on Twitter @jspector.More from this Author