“Move replacement habits on to the home screen of your phone.”
“Media literacy is going to make the difference between whether kids are a tool of the mass media or whether the mass media is a tool for kids to use.” — Linda Ellerbee
The 3 Minutes It Takes To Read This Will Improve Your Conversations Forever
How to ask better questions.
Since my tips to improve your writing in two minutes were so popular, I thought I’d share some similar tips to improve your next conversation.
Following are the simplest tips I can give you to ask better questions, which will make your conversations more valuable to you and the people you engage with.
Don’t ask yes/no 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?”
Ask “why” three times.
This is the easiest way to deepen the level of a conversation.
Example: If you ask a person why they like movies and they answer because it’s a good escape, you can follow up with, “Why do you feel like you need an escape?” If they answer because their job is stressful, you can follow up with “Why is your job stressful?” Repeated “Why” questions can turn a simple question about movies into a much deeper conversation.
Ask about specifics, not generalizations.
Questions about specifics lead people to give you answers that are not generic.
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?”
Ask about reactions.
Frame questions around a person’s reactions to experiences in their life — what surprised them, challenged them, or changed their viewpoint.
Example: Don’t ask, “What’s it like to be a doctor?” Instead, ask “What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about being a doctor?”
Ask follow-up questions.
When you ask a question, 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 a question like, “What do you do to help make them more comfortable?”
Ask about lessons.
If your goal is to learn from somebody, the easiest shortcut to do that is to ask them what they’ve 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?”
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, ask “What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you in a class?”
Ask like a kid.
If you don’t fully understand something and want more clarity, ask a person how they would explain it to a kid or somebody with no experience on the subject.
Example: Instead of asking, “Can you explain that product feature again?,” ask “How would you explain that feature to somebody who’s never seen our product before?”
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. They will likely suggest a question that provides valuable information.
Example: Ask, “Am I missing anything? What’s the question nobody ever asks you but you wish they would?”
One more thing…
Each week I share a collection of 10 ideas like this to help you learn, do, and become better at your work, art, and life.
You can check out previous issues here.
“The story becomes our memory, the story gets rehearsed ever more, and the story becomes the thing we tell ourselves the next time we need to make a choice. If your story isn’t helping you, work to rehearse a new story instead.”
“Your offering is not your product. Your offering is your product, services, your employees, your experiences, your ideas, your other customers, and even your competitors. Sell them all.”
“Thanks to the internet, now each person with once-maligned views can see that he’s not alone. And when these people find one another, they can do things — create memes, publications and entire online worlds that bolster their worldview and then break into the mainstream.”
“Attention can be thought of as what you allow your eyes to look at.”
“Hip hop’s audience still rewards innovation. Hip hop has learned a lot from rock, but hip hop is not troubled by rock’s self-imposed restrictions. Rap songs have multiple writers and do not glorify instrumental soloists; hip hop stars do not pretend to be uninterested in commerce.”
“The problem is that the line of averages is not ‘real’ in the sense that most people are not on it. It is an average of the total, but is not where most people actually are.”
“People love exclusivity, but with an air of egalitarianism.”