‘The way that you become world class….. is by asking good questions’
~ Tim Ferris
Most people aspire to be thought of as interesting. It feels good when people enjoy spending time talking with you.
Being perceived as interesting doesn’t have to come from talking about yourself and airing your views. Research has shown that people are perceived as most interesting when they are interested in others.
There are two key ways that you can be perceived as interesting without sharing any of your own thoughts; asking great questions and listening with fascination.
1) Asking great questions
Most people love to talk about themselves. In fact, research from Harvard University has shown that about 40% of everyday speech is spent telling others about how we feel or what we think. It revealed that talking about ourselves triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money gives us.
The simplest trick to be perceived as a great conversationalist is to ask lots of questions. It sounds very basic and straightforward but asking great questions like any other skill, takes practice. When you master it, you should find you will have better quality conversations.
Try to ask open ended questions to get real insights. Questions with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “how,” or “why” lead people to share much more information. Avoid closed questions with “would,” “should,” “is,” “are,” and “do you think” which often all lead to yes or no answers. A good open-ended question is non-judgmental, shows interest, and is likely to lead to a more full answer.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of asking a question and then when you hear the answer to start talking about your experiences or views based on what the other person has said. To become great at asking questions, instead of immediately sharing your views, wait for the response and then use follow up questions to find out more.
Asking too many questions could make you come across as a bit intrusive, so it is important to consider the way you are asking them so you appear interested, friendly and non-threatening. You don’t want people to feel like you are interrogating them!
Asking great questions takes practice. Give it a try and you’ll find yourself improving this skill over time.
2) Listen with fascination
It is highly likely that you know already how to listen, it’s not hard right, you sit there and let the other person speak. Wrong! Actively listening is actually a much harder skill to accomplish, but it is critical to great conversation. It’s not a passive activity, it’s a highly active process that takes much focus and skill.
Listening with fascination is about believing you are going to be interested in everything the person says to you and actively listening to them without intention. When you are listening to someone have you ever found yourself doing any of the following?:
- Thinking about your view on what is being said
- Thinking about the next question you want to ask
- Finishing their sentence for them
- Thinking about what to have for dinner later
- Sending a text!
It is very common to listen with intention. As someone is speaking we are usually processing what they are saying and making it relevant to us, thinking about our opinion on what they are saying, whether we agree or disagree with them, thinking what else we want to ask them about the subject. Try really listening to what they say without interrupting or evaluating.
If you go into an interaction with someone with the belief that what they are going to say will be truly fascinating and that you are just going to listen without responding or giving your view or opinion, you will find that you start to listen at a different much more powerful level.
When you are listening with fascination you will pay attention to the words they are saying as well at the non verbal messages. It’s about noticing what is left unsaid, their body language, their facial expressions and the tone of their voice. It’s about truly understanding the message they are conveying to you.
Notice the voice in your head that is talking to you when you are listening to someone else. The more dialogue going on in your head, the less well you are able to listen. Practice how to quiet this down. The less conversation you are having with yourself in your mind, the better able you are to listen.
Try not to interrupt the person you are talking to, however excited you are about what they are saying. It can give the impression you don’t value their input. It can also stop their train of thought and steer the conversation in your desired direction, not necessarily where the other person was taking it.
By learning to ask great questions and taking the time and interest to listen with fascination, you are laying the foundations for more fulfilling, and intimate conversations. You can make an excellent impression by saying amazingly little. The people we like the most often say the least.
Try out asking great questions and listening with fascination and I’d love for you to share the outcome in the comments below.