by Kristin Kuiper, LMSW, MSW
My husband returned from a work related trip out to the east coast this past weekend. Although his conference was professionally rejuvenating, the return trip home was less than stellar. He got stuck over night in Chicago, had multiple delayed flights, even boarded a flight home and then was told it was cancelled and had to get off the plane. So frustrating! Anyways, he ended up driving home from Chicago after the whole flight fiasco, with three other travelers who needed to get to Grand Rapids that day. Four people who didn’t know each other, spending three hours together—probably all quite tired from travel and frustrated with the trip logistics that were very much out of their control.
The interesting part of all of this was that these four people got to know each other quite well. My husband came back knowing about the lives of three other people, in a lot of detail actually. When I asked him what made the conversations go so well, he said “Well, we all asked each other good questions.”
Asking good questions--open ended questions-- is a key part in getting to know some one or nurturing a current relationship. These questions get more than “yes” and “no” answers. If you think back to a time you were in a social situation that went well, or a conversation that tanked, the presence of open ended questions most likely determined some of that success or failure. Asking questions of another person encourages dialogue, conveys that we are interested in them and not just ourselves, and is also a skill that we can all build if we want to grow our ability to connect well with others.
Some examples of open ended questions that you can practice in a variety of relationships are…
- What kind of day did you have today?
- What brought you to the area?
- How did you become interested in…?
- What are some of your plans for the summer?
- Tell me more about your family…
- What is on your mind?
- Interesting…tell me more how you came to view things that way…
When we ask questions, we invite relationship to happen. People feel understood and quite often will follow their response with a question back to you!