You’ve done the most difficult part; you have started a conversation and you have got some response from the person you are talking to. That is not the end of the need for questions within the conversation though. A conversation needs to be a bit like a tennis match, where exchanges go to and fro like the tennis ball in a rally.
You need questions to keep a conversation going. Questions help to progress the conversation and allow you to find out more about someone; they make it possible to gain understanding. And questions work well to bring in quiet people, to keep a lively conversation flowing and to include everyone.
Questions to Progress a Conversation:
These questions help the conversation along by relating to what you have been talking about and taking it to a greater depth. The question should be easy to answer, include everyone and not cause offense to anyone. Some examples would be:
If talking about sport:
- What did you think of their last game?
This is particularly useful when you have established a mutual liking for a sport with the person that you are talking to. Perhaps you have even discovered that you both support the same team.
- What do you think of their chances of winning this season?
Again, this is great if you like the same sports and at least know which team(s) you are talking about.
- Have you got membership of a club or a gym?
This shouldn’t seem like you are suggesting they need one, but if you have discovered a mutual interest in keeping fit or saunas or something like that, you may find you belong to the same health club; or perhaps if you don’t you could progress the friendship by taking up a club membership together so that you will meet regularly doing something you both enjoy.
- What sports do you like to take part in as well as watch?
This question is useful because you react quite differently to sports as a participant rather than simply a spectator.
If talking about pets:
- Have you ever entered a pet show?
This is useful if the person you are talking to seems particularly proud of their dog, cat, etc. You can then go on to chat about the experience of participating in these shows or preparing the pet for it. It may even lead to some humorous stories along the way.
- Why did you choose that particular breed?
People will love the chance to reveal the wonders of their particular chosen breed of pet.
- Was your pet easy to train?
Again, this can lead to funny stories if you find that they have trained their pet in some way; it could be as simple as house-training; it doesn’t have to involve elaborate circus tricks.
If talking about fashion:
1. Have you got a favorite perfume that you tend to buy?
2. What’s your favorite clothes store?
3. Which celebrity’s fashion style do you like?
4. Have you got a favorite item of clothing that makes you feel really good when you wear it?
Fashion works well as a topic for women especially. It can lead on to talk of celebrities and/or embarrassing fashion mistakes. It should be light hearted and you may also find out you like the same celebrities who can lead on to a discussion of their art form or sport.
Talking about children:
People love to talk about their children. You’ll find this an easy one if you discover the other person has children.
1. What hobbies do they have?
2. Do they get on well with each other?
3. Which school do they go to?
Talking about food:
None of us can live without food and for most of us it is a real pleasure which will remind you of happy times.
1. What is your favorite meal?
2. Do you have a favorite restaurant?
3. What style of cooking do you like the most?
4. Do you have any favorite recipes?
You will see that some of these questions are closed questions which, strictly speaking, could be answered with a one word ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer; but realistically, because the topics are easy and because they are subjects about which people are likely to have an opinion about, they are likely to relax and say much more than one word.
Questions to Include Quiet People:
To draw a quiet person into a conversation you need to show some sensitivity; they may not like much attention drawn to them; they may not, however, speak, unless you address them directly by name, so that is a useful technique. Make the question an easy one to answer, such as ‘You saw that movie too, didn’t you? What did you think of it?’
Don’t put people under pressure to answer but if you use an appropriate question and leave a pause for them to answer, more often than not, they’ll answer. Good questions follow on from the topic being discussed and allow a person to give a simple answer based on their personal opinion, rather than requiring them to possess any particular knowledge.