Ask the Right Questions

It’s long been established that getting the right answer is highly dependent on asking the right question. Composing the perfect question is essential if you are—like I am—in the business of communicating.

That’s why, when I stumbled across this article (“Ask these questions instead of ‘How are you?’”), I was intrigued.

I have recently been frustrated at my failing attempts to get more than a few words of conversation on the phone from my elderly parents. Granted, they have never been fans of talking on the phone (due in some part to their belief that talking long distance is a luxury to be used sparingly), but things were getting almost comically brief.

“Hi, Daddy.”
“Hello Mary Celeste. Do you want to speak to your mother?”
“Hi, Mom. How are you?”
“Pretty good. Well, let me let you go.”

Like I said. Frustrating.

That’s why I, when I saw this article, I immediate stopped to read it. And as I read it, I realized that the problem was not with my parents, but with me…and my questions.

In the article, the author, Elizabeth Yuko, gives us alternatives to the traditional “How are you?” She then takes each of her alternative questions and points out why each is more effective at eliciting a response. My favorite new question? “What’s been on your mind lately?”

Maybe it’s just because the question is not what’s expected. Maybe it’s because I know that I, personally, could talk for hours about what’s been on my mind lately. But whatever it is, I’d like to tell you that it works. I had a full five-minute conversation with my mother. Try it next time you’re faced with a reluctant conversationalist.

Celeste Tillson, owner of A&M Writing and Publishing, offers writing and editing services on a contract basis. Contact for more information.

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