The Lost Art of Social Question Asking ,From a Recovering Socially Awkward Man’s Perspective
By Joe DiBella
I am the first to admit that I feel socially awkward at times. I always seem to be analyzing my performance, sometimes even as my words are coming out. I even spent a month on Paxil, a social anxiety disorder pill, about 7 years ago. I quickly went off of it when I realized it was doing me no good. It actually caused me to wake up many mornings unable to decipher my dreams as dreams or reality. Honest to God, I woke up torturing myself about whether a dream was real or not. That was my signal to cut the chord on the social anxiety drugs. So for all intensive purposes I have spent 29 years and 9 months of my life tackling social graces with my own non-prescriptioned brain. Let me share with you what I have discovered about people when it comes to probably the most underrated, yet pivotal aspect of socializing. Come with me as we journey into the lost art of making someone feel important when you talk to them.
I am pretty sure that everything I learned about socializing can be accredited to my perplex social existence. In my own social walk, I have only in the last six months started to believe what God says about me ,and not what I think about me. I truly believe everyone wants to be made to feel important. Often times people will chase after this desire without any awareness or interest as to whether the person making them feel important really values them or is just pretending they are important for socializing sakes. My analytical tendency in this domain is both a blessing and blessing's contradictor. Sometimes I find myself asking people questions just to meet a quota that I have devised in my mind of how involved and important I want the person to think that I'm making them. However other times, I am truly interested in what I'm asking and aware of the level I'm involving them in a genuine way. I'll sometimes ask questions that I don't care to hear about the answers to. Even sometimes asking questions in which I hope and pray will have zippy,concise,and impeded answers. Like I said before, the most important thing when talking to someone is making them feel important. I want that importance to be a pure desire in my heart as I participate. Is that a realistic goal? I continue to try to grow selfless in my question asking. Who knows,maybe one day I'll be able to conquest the question asking to not only make the other person feel important at all times, but also peek my own interest at all times as well. Which brings me to my lesson on how to make people feel important when you socially interact. I'll take what I have learned, both good and bad,and melt it into one pot of advice that I hope will help you in your daily social settings. This is my lesson in the 3 categories of question asking that are essential to becoming the social butterfly you always wanted to be.
1) ASKING QUESTIONS THAT ARE COMPLETLY OBVIOUS:
It doesn't always have to be complicated. I once read somewhere of a husband who came home from a long day's work and decided to stab his wife. She lived through it and when asked by investigator's what happened right before the stabbing occurred she was quoted as saying, "I asked him how his day at work was." I'm pretty sure there was a little more going on there then a man stabbing a woman for being inquisitive about his day. Don't worry, more times then not when asking someone how their day was you will not get stabbed.But the simple questions are important.
I remember I once was fraternizing with a person who struggled to ask me the simple questions. Now maybe she just wasn't that into me. That is a story for another time. I found myself one day driving in the car with her, asking her a gauntlet of questions;” How was work?”,” How do you like the moon tonite?","How is your hang nail feeling?" I went thru the gamut of questions and she answered. But nothing in return. So I started asking myself questions out loud with her present, posing as her. I asked myself how my day was, how my bowels were moving, and if i needed to stop at the store for toilet paper. I was so frustrated that this person couldn’t ask me a good question, that I actually went inquisitive Ingrid on myself. This wasn't just a write off as a bad day for this person either. It occurred often. This act of inability to ask the simple questions has occurred with many people I have encountered in my days as a social human being. I just don't get how I can involve you so prevalently and you have no awareness to involve me. That incident above was the only time I stepped out and asked myself questions I wished my company was asking.However,it surely wasn't the first time I wanted to do so.
2) ASKING QUESTIONS THAT ARE SELFISH:
Thankfully to some of you, we have come to the portion where you can actually involve people, while still meeting your unquenchable selfish desires in the process. It's okay and even encouraged to ask questions that have selfish overtone to them. For example: If you call up your friend and want to go to the local chess tournament that is in town to rail your favorite chess prodigy and want to invite him,that's great! Heck you might be using them for the company because your first choice and best friend, 'Buckwheat' is out of town and he is the only other friend who hasn't blocked your number. Call him up and ask the obvious questions first. Then feel free to start asking the questions that require certain answers to make you happy. You can even twist his arm psychologically if you want to do so. Here is a sample conversation of what I mean by this selfish question asking that makes him or her feel important, but also gets you what you want. You: “Hey Tiny Tim, how’s the lazy eye?"Them: “It’s never going away, I told you this the last time you called." You: "Well you never know with technology these days. I just care about you man. You know I care about you right? You're like the brother I never had." Them: “Sorry I blew up. I know you care about me just by all the great questions you ask me every time we speak." You: "You're forgiven. You know how you can make up for your blind fit of rage? Would you like to go to the chess bonanza with me tonight? You owe me." Them: "Well I don't want to, but I feel bad for treating you like manure, and I'm flattered you asked, so yes." ......See what you just accomplished? You stroked your friend’s ego with your flattering questions, up to and including one that just bought you a friend date for the chess match this weekend. That's what we call a "Win, Win." Feel free to be selfish in some of your question asking. Actually feel free to be selfish in one third of your question asking. I will ask you how your day was, then ask if you can fill me in on which coffee shop my ex girlfriend is going to be hanging out at tonight so I can see who she left me for.Then I'll even ask you to go with me on my stalking venture. I involved you, garnered my own selfish information, and asked you three questions which made you feel like I care; and care I do.
3) ASKING QUESTIONS THAT ARE RECOLLECTIVE:
I always like to throw in the mixture of recollective questions, because it always makes me feel important when someone throws out a random question referencing something you never thought they would remember. When I'm talking to someone I'm trying to store away what they are saying. Sometimes this backfires. I am so focused on what they are saying that I forget to come up with something to say back that is clever. So lets say your telling me something profound like you think you found the cure for tooth decay. I might quip back with ,"Your socks are looking good." It's because I am so focused on what you just said I forgot to think about what I wanted to talk about. Anyways, I store away information because I really want to remember details of their dialect. I more often then not,sincerely want to know them better. I also do this because you can make someone feel good just by recalling a detail of what they said and transforming it into an inquisitive transition. For example, if someone tells you they have herpes of the mouth, you want to store away that information for those two reasons I stated above. This only will work as a conditional, because you can run into major problems if you store it away just for the broad recollective points later on and not also for the genuine sincerity factor. If your heart isn't in the right place, it later could come out all wrong as a question regarding the incorrect form and location of the condition he or she has described. So, a few weeks later when you see your friend you can say, "Hey Billy Bob, How are you, want to see a film at the local film showing place tonight, and how the heck is your herpes of the mouth?" I'm telling you, people feel good when you remember something they mentioned. Then to not only bring it up, but give them a chance to speak more about themselves..........
I wrote this piece with a cynical edge, but I really believe everything I wrote. Try to make sure you are involving the other person on a few levels of question asking. I would say keep a tab in your head of the percent of his or her questions, to the percent of yours. It should never deviate between the quarter poles either way. If it deviates towards you asking too many,run as fast as you can because this person is selfish beyond belief. If it deviates to the bottom quarter,with you asking less than one fourth of the time,fix it. It's not hard to make people feel important, and it's even easier if they truly are important to you. You never want it to be contrived, although sometimes I suppose it has to be.
There is likely no human way possible to be giddy about every word spoken into your ears. However a true selfless character will take those situations and see the person you’re engaging with as a soul whom is looking for acceptance and gratification. I always am trying to better myself as a socializer. I want to get to the point where I can make anyone feel important. Not just as an act of social awareness, but as an act of humanity. I love trying to understand people and why they do what they do and say what they say. The reason I suceeded in the world of poker is because I studied why people did what they did and said what they said ,and what it meant underneath the surface. I was generally interested in everything they said and did,because my night's pay depended on it. Now I am trying to take that negative energy and take the same theories and turn it into a positive.
One way to truly get to know someone is to involve them with the questions you ask. I hope this helps you to understand what I believe is the psyche of many people when corresponding with others. Of course, it could just be me who thinks this way. I guess the only way for me to find out is to ASK.