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Questionable Questions
by Susan RoAne

There are far too many people who think that asking a lot of questions is how to make conversation that puts people at ease and makes them open up. I have said….and written… for many years that people who ask too many questions often don’t come off as ‘interested’. They are INVASIVE. Nosy is more exact.

The Grilling is GRUELING
While good questions are stimulating to conversation when mixed with observations and some self -revelations, asking too many questions can kill a conversation. There are people who conduct interviews for a living who must transition from that mode in order to have real give and take exchanges. Those that have many questions… just TAKE… information, energy and time.

And they can be charming… and annoying at the same time. But my vote is for annoying. I have met with people who are curious about how I got to where I am now. (ex-teacher to keynote speaker and author) To be polite I have a 2 –3 sentence summary. Just recently, I was with someone who had question after question after question… and I was getting more drained (and annoyed) by the moment.

Even after I cheerily said, “Enough about me… I really want to hear how you are doing and what is going on with you”…. the response was, “ I’ll get to that in a minute...I have two more questions.” Yes, yes I should have ended it there. Unfortunately she was a passenger in my car as she needed a lift home at night from an event. My colleagues warned me… but I had a soft spot for someone having to take 2 or 3 buses at night. Unlike James Bonds’ vehicles, my car has no EJECT button. Now that would be a wonderful ‘extra’ for any auto manufacturer to add to its next models. But, I digress.

Maybe some people love the grilling…it feels like attention that so many people sorely need. But as a born and bred Chicagoan, my three decades in San Francisco haven’t altered my reaction to the prying who could become the preying.. What I may be saying in my head or out loud is usually said, hand on hip, left leg in back as if to back out of the conversation: “Hey, What’s it to ya?”

“I’m just curious,” is not a sufficient underpinning to a real conversation. That old cat was killed by curiosity. Satisfaction only brings you back to life if you have nine of them!

Good questions are asked because of sincere interest not because the answers will provide a mini needs assessment. The best conversationalists ask questions that allow us to be part of the dialogue without feeling put upon. The ConverSENsation LISTENS to the answer and makes an appropriate and relevant remark. To get better at it, observe those who are connected conversationalists. Watch and Listen to how and what they say and do. And watch the reactions of others.

Remember: The banquet of banter is a potluck… and that means you must bring tasty and meaningful morsels that include stories, observations, revelations and questions. The MAGIC is always in the MIX.

Susan RoAne is sought after speaker, consultant and best-selling author of How To Work A Room, as well as The Secrets of Savvy Networking and What Do I Say Next? Her audio-book, RoAne's Rules: How To Make the RIGHT Impression is also available in local and on-line bookstores She is the nation's leading and original networking authority.

Copyright Susan RoAne. All Rights Reserved.

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