An old pair of sneakers were discarded in a small wastebasket at work. Anytime someone popped their head around the cubicle they’d ask my neighbor, “You’re throwing your shoes away?” The question pickpocketed productivity since it only had one (glaringly obvious) answer. I was reminded of how BAD we are at asking questions and connecting socially.
The intent, I understand. We use the first accessible variant as a “way in”. We want to break the ice with questions about a black eye, hickie, cast, flat tire, divorce etc. There is nothing wrong with using the obvious bridge to cross the moat…except for the fact that our abundantly hollow question may be agonizingly unpleasant to the recipient. “Hey, you broke your arm?” “How’d you get that black eye?” “I heard you are pregnant?”
THE CHALLENGE: If you ever feel the need to question the obvious as a means of kindling a conversation, try to come up with a new angle. Instead of, “You’re throwing your shoes away?” You might consider something like:
(1) What was the best adventure you’ve ever had in these shoes?
(2) How many pairs of shoes do you own? What do you think the average is for most people in America?
(3) Tell me about the day you purchased those sneakers? How much did you pay? Was there an alternate brand or style? What was the deciding factor?
(4) How much would you give me if I can sell these on eBay?
(5) If these shoes could talk, what would they say?
You get the idea. Putting a twist on the “obvious question” demonstrates that you are unlike the previous 99 people who just asked the same exact thing. This practice will lead to more meaningful conversations and rich relationships.
For more ideas about asking the right questions, you might enjoy this post.
Photo by Tom