Big open-ended questions are usually best with strangers but sometimes they’re unanswerable. “So what’s your story?”
Uh... I don’t know. What do you mean?”
There are two internal responses a person has here: the first is desire. Everyone wants to be understood. But the second is fear. People are afraid of being judged and of not being articulate. That’s normal.
Our goal is not necessarily to get information but to in-agragate keep the desire while minimizing the fear. We do that by taking away the question and changing up into another direction.
“I’m just interested in you. You seem interesting. But yeah, that’s a bit of an unanswerable question. I like your shoes by the way. I think they’re fun and they look fast. I’m guessing you got an impressive 5K time.”
”Ha. No. These are just for walking around.”
”Oh. Yeah. I gotcha. Walking is the new black I hear. I don’t know how you feel about it but my favorite thing to do is walk around this area with my coffee in the morning.”
”Yeah. That’s not bad. is it?”
”So what are you doing, the rest of the day, if you don’t mind me asking?”
This is a nosey question so we offset it with the modifier. We show we are self-aware enough to know we are being nosey. Again, it’s not that important that the other person answers the question as it is that we build desire to be understood while minimizing the fear that is naturally present.
“I’m just going to a job interview in an hour.”
”Oh wow. That’s great. I’m thinking you’re going to get it.”
”You’re good-looking. It’s been shown by professional studies, the best looking person almost always gets hired. Not saying you’re not qualified as well. I’m sure you are. Maybe I should leave you alone so you can focus.”
”It’s okay. I think I’m as prepared as I can be.”
”Well in that case mind if I join you and you can give me all the interesting bits about yourself?”
Coming back to a form of the original question.
There’s a few conversational techniques layered in that example. But the over-riding idea here is people want to be understood. That is a form of desire. And our job is to build desire while minimizing fear. Often when I begin working with a client the first discussion we have is about how every move we make with people generates both desire and fear. Being successful conversationally is not about never creating fear. If we take that attitude we will never do anything. Instead it is about understanding the fear we create and using further techniques to reduce it while keeping the desire.
If you’d like to know more consider signing up for phone coaching, attending one of my events or just read more here.
All the best,