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Building conversation- asking questions

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With an awareness of suitable small talk topics to talk about, you can have the confidence to be proactive and ask questions. Asking questions is vital skill that, if done correctly, will demonstrate genuine interest, deepen your relationship and set a good model of communication for your conversation partner to follow. Here are 3 things to help guide you when asking questions:

 

1. Open

2. Follow up

3. Names

 

1. Open

It is advisable to open a conversation topic with a yes/no question. In other words, a question that starts with a form of do, have or is. These questions make great openers because they do not demand too much from your conversation partners, for example:

 

“Did you have a good flight?”

“Is this your first visit to Japan?”

 

For further practice, think of yes/no questions for the following small talk topics: weather, hometown and freetime plans in the visitor’s schedule.

 

2. Follow up

Once you have opened a topic with a yes/no question, follow up with question-word questions. Such questions start with who, what, which, when, why and how. The questions you ask however, depend on the answers you have received, for example:

 

“Did you have a good flight?”

“Yes.”

“That’s nice, which airline did you fly with?”

 

“Did you have a good flight?”

“No.”

“I see, what was the problem?”

 

To practise this, which follow up questions might be good to ask in response to positive and negative replies to, “Is this your first time to Japan?”?

 

 

3. Names

A good way to build your relationship with somebody when you first meet them is to use their name a lot. Use small talk as an opportunity to recycle your conversation partner’s name frequently. It is very likely that they will begin to follow the model of communication that you are setting.

 

“Yoshi, Did you have a good flight?”

“No.”

“I see, what was the problem, Yoshi?”

“My plane took off late.”

“Oh, that sounds tough, Yoshi. How long were you delayed for?”

“More than 6 hours, Anthony.”


Role-playing is an effective way to improve your question asking skills. It would be a good idea to ask somebody pretend to be a visitor to your office. Use the above 3 techniques and see if you can set a good model of communication for your partner to follow.

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