Saturday, October 12, 2013
Ask Three Questions
Like a lot of people, I am quite shy about talking to others in certain situations. We all fear being judged or laughed at for saying something silly. Whenever someone I talk with is naturally interesting and charming, I try to analyse what it is about that person that makes them so easy to talk with. And of course see if I can emulate it in the future!
I read something interesting the other day. It was in an article about a women with a school-aged son with autism. She was teaching him how to engage well with others, and was training him to ask someone three questions before he spoke about himself.
This advice has stuck with me because I’ve not heard it so clear cut before. I know it’s more polite to ask after others than to talk about yourself, but for some reason I have thought about this lady’s advice quite a lot.
Remembering back to different conversations I have had with people, it is the people who ask more questions than talk about themselves that I seem to like more, and that is because it makes them seem interested in you.
I have tried the Three Questions technique a few times now, and am happy to report that it works! Plus the bonus is that it’s an easy thing to remember. More often than not, before you get to three questions, a conversation is sparked off and you’re away anyway, no struggle or awkward silence necessary.
I have been reluctant to ask questions in the past as I have not wanted to seem nosy, but there are plenty of open-ended questions you can use that are friendly and interested, not rude and cheeky.
Part of making this technique a success, and any form of interaction with others really, is to be aware of subtle cues as to whether someone is uncommunicative. It’s awful to watch a conversation where one party is uncomfortable or bored rigid and the other is blathering on not even noticing if they are being heard or not.
I really, really hope I am not like that and it’s something I am constantly working on. When in doubt, stop talking and just listen, or enjoy a little bit of quietness for a minute or two!
I use the Three Questions technique in the shop too when I am serving customers, whether I know them well or have just met them, and it seems to make the whole serving experience more normal and natural.
I’m like a mystery shopper everywhere I go now. As I have shopping experiences I look at the person serving me and see how I am treated and if I can either take some tips from it if it’s good, or avoid being like that it if it’s bad.
I do know that I am always really flattered if a shop assistant asks me a question, beyond of course the annoying, chirpy ‘how are you today, got any plans later on, is it your day off’ all in a row. If there’s nothing actually to chat about, I am happy with eye contact and a smile, and I try to remember that when I am serving.
Have you ever had an experience where a shop assistant just won’t shut up? Ghastly! The thought of possibly being that person keeps me quiet, or else I ask a (pertinent and not too nosy) question and just listen.
The image above is Paris in 1914, borrowed from dailymail.co.uk