So often when we talk about having better conversations in English, we focus on the questions.
But here’s the thing: asking better questions assumes that:
- you’re going to be the person in charge of the conversation,
- you’re going to be the person leading the conversation, and
- you’re going to be the one engaging the other person in conversation.
For many people, being the person initiating the conversation and leading the conversation can actually be quite stressful.
Rather than talking about the questions, I want to focus on your answers so that your responses actually encourage and contribute to the conversation.
Remember, the goal of your conversations is almost always to connect with the other person.
At times you’re going to be the person asking those questions, and at times you’re going to be the person answering those questions.
Today, we’re going to focus on three elements for creating strong answers to questions that enable you to connect with the other person.
On top of that, they’ll show that you’re participating and that you’re truly involved in the conversation.
A Strong Answer Enables The Other Person to Learn Something About You
First of all, a strong answer to a question enables the other person to learn something about you.
As I keep emphasizing, when you want to connect in conversation with the other person, you really *do* want to know something about them.
If you answer a question, but don’t reveal any details about yourself, the other person’s going to sense that you’re not that interested in talking to them.
Whether you’re in a personal or professional situation, if someone’s asking you a question, they often want to hear a little bit about your personal experience.
Your response to questions should enable the other person to learn something about you.
While you don’t have to reveal too much personal information in the conversation, your answers should enable the other person to learn at least a few details about you.
You may share a perspective that reveals aspects of your personality, tell a story specifically about your past experiences (whether that’s in the workplace or an experience that you’ve had in your normal life), or show something as simple as your reaction to a particular topic.
If you’re looking to connect in conversation, your answers should give enough details to enable the other person to find something in common with you or provide an insight or experience that you can continue to talk about.
A Strong Answer Invites Others to Share Their Own Experiences
The next essential element of a strong answer to a question is that it invites the other person to share their own experience.
Like I said, when you are responding to a question that the other person asks you, you want to share your own experience so that you can find something in common.
When you’re responding to a question, you also need to find a way to encourage them to share their own experiences. This is what’s going to enable you to connect.
When you’re responding to someone’s question, you want to share a little bit about yourself, but also show interest in the other person.
You may want to ask them questions or turn the question around using one of these expressions:
- Do you know what I mean?
- Have you been there too?
- Have you ever experienced that?
Choose questions that will enable them to continue the conversation and share a little bit about themselves.
It doesn’t have to be complicated! You don’t have to keep the conversation going by asking really in-depth questions.
You just want to turn the question around so that they have a chance to respond.
A Strong Answer Leaves the Conversation Open So It Can Evolve Naturally
Last but not least, when you’re responding to questions, you want to leave the conversation open.
By this, I mean that you want to leave space for their conversation to evolve in a natural direction.
This means that you don’t want to finish your answer with a saying like these:
- That’s all I have to say about that.
- That’s all I’m going to share about that.
- That’s all I think.
- That’s all I’m going to say.
All of these expressions finalize the conversation and don’t enable it to evolve.
Instead, you want to leave a little bit of your story or perspective unsaid so that the other person can ask you for more information.
You probably don’t want to reveal every detail of your story or share every single bit of your answer.
A lot of non-native speakers tend to give a lot more information upfront because they were afraid that the other person’s not going to understand them.
Instead, you actually want to become more comfortable with letting the other person ask you more questions so that they can take the conversation further.
If the other person is the one asking you questions, they’re going to be the person asking additional questions!
This means that you can leave the conversation some space to evolve. You don’t have to share every single detail up front.
You need to understand that the person can and should continue to ask you more questions.
This is also important to understand in job interviews or other professional situations. You don’t need to share all of the details right at the beginning.
The conversation will evolve and if you leave out a couple of details that gives the other person something that they can ask you.
Most of the time, people are not looking for a very thorough, very complete answer. They expect the conversation to evolve.
Let’s review the three elements to creating a strong answer to questions in English:
- A strong answer enables the other person to learn something about you.
- A strong answer invites them to share their own experiences.
- A strong answer leaves the conversation open so that it can evolve naturally.
Now that you’ve learned these three elements to a strong answer, I encourage you to review these small talk questions and think about how you would respond to them.
Practice creating strong answers to these questions that include these three elements.
This will really help you make better small talk and have better conversations in English. Once you’ve come up with a strong response to one of these questions, leave a comment below and share the question and your answers. I’ll keep the conversation going!