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  • Writer's pictureTamsin Hartley

Keeping the conversation going

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

I had a conversation recently with a friend who is a self-confessed introvert. The thought of meeting new people and being in large social gatherings fills her with a sense of dread. However, she’s discovered that having the following two Clean questions up her sleeve in these situations has made all the difference:

  • What kind of ‘X’ is that?

  • Is there anything else about ‘X’?

(where ‘X’ is a word or phrase the other person has used)

She starts by listening to the other person. She then picks up on something they have said, repeats back a few words, and asks a Clean question.

She explained the impact this has had for her:

I no longer have that inner panic, with my mind searching frantically for what I might say next.

For example, when I met a colleague at a works party last week I asked him how things were going. He replied with the throw-away comment, ‘Work is OK-ish’. So I asked him, ‘What kind of OK-ish?’ He started talking all about his job and the things that weren't OK.

Clean questions help to keep a conversation going without me having to think of clever things to say. They reveal the common ground so we can talk some more. I’ve noticed that these questions make people feel heard: they encourage people to talk more, which takes the pressure off me. It helps reveal the common ground so we can talk some more.

Being armed with two simple questions has made social situations a less daunting prospect for my introverted friend. Perhaps you know someone who would also find this a useful tool to have up their sleeve?

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