Saturday, June 7, 2008

Social Settings: Asking Questions Can Break the Ice

A friend told me that her daughter, just finishing 10th grade in high school, didn’t go up to an acquaintance standing alone at a youth group function because her daughter didn’t know what to say to the other teen. The daughter (incorrectly) believed that she would have to talk about school or movies or clothes – topics with which the daughter is uncomfortable.

In reality, teens who are “shy” about talking to other teens are under a misconception as to what to say to start a conversation. It took my being a journalist in college to learn that asking questions about someone else is a terrific way to start a conversation.

Imagine the teen standing by herself – we’ll call her Nan. And imagine my friend’s daughter – we’ll call her Alice – standing with her two best friends. Then imagine Alice going over to Nan:

Alice: I’m glad to see you at this event tonight. Are you thinking about becoming more involved in the organization next year?

Nan: I’m not sure. I just wanted to come tonight to see what the group is planning.

Alice: Are you interested in school literacy projects? Because I’m chair of that committee next year and I could really use some help.

Nan: What kind of help do you need?

Alice: Why don’t you come sit with me and my friends and I’ll tell you more?

By this point the ice should be broken, and Nan should be able to go sit with Alice and her friends and take part in the conversation.

The moral of this story is this: When you don’t know what to say to another person, asking questions of that other person can start a conversation. Of course, the questions shouldn’t be rude. Instead they should be questions that invite a pleasant conversation.

Try this technique of asking questions the next time you’re at an event and spot someone standing alone. You may be amazed at the appreciative response you get.

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