As the last article in this series of The Importance of Asking Questions, I want to get back to basics. The basics of healthy, helpful conversation.

I have become acutely aware of the number of conversations I have that are one-way conversations. The type of conversation that are primarily about the other person. The kind of conversations when I ask questions, but questions aren’t reciprocated. Conversations where the burden of carrying the conversation falls on me. Conversations that sound like this one that could take place at a business networking event or conference:

Michel: Hi I’m Michel. What is your name?

            Shannon: Hello, I’m Shannon.

Michel: Nice to meet you Shannon. Tell me a little about what you do.

            Shannon: I’m a realtor and I love working with people who are downsizing and looking for the final home after raising their kids.

Michel: Ahh, so empty nesters.  How long have you been in real estate?

            Shannon: I’m in my 17th year.

Michel: Wow! I bet you have seen the market ebb and flow.  I heard the market is pretty strong right now. Is that true?

            Shannon: Yes, it is true.  I have had one of my best quarters ever and it seems it is going to continue for a while.

Michel: How great to know there is stability in your work.

            Shannon: Yes, I am really fortunate.

Michel: In the 17  years you’ve been in real estate, what has been the most challenging and the most rewarding?

            Shannon: The most challenging was when there was a big influx of new agents. When they are new, their inexperience shows. If they are representing the buyer for example, I spend a lot of time coaching them so things go smoothly for my clients who are selling. The most rewarding … finding the perfect home for someone.

Michel: That makes sense.  Thanks for sharing.

            Shannon: You bet. Oh, it looks like we need to take our seats now. They are getting ready to start.

What you may have noticed in this conversation is that Michel is the only one asking questions. Michel is responsible for moving the conversation forward.  Michel is interested in learning about Shannon, yet Shannon isn’t so interested in learning about Michel.  Conversations like this are flat, and they can leave someone feeling annoyed or empty.

Imagine being Michel. You would become exhausted trying to keep the game of conversation going. If you want to engage in healthy, helpful conversations, they should be like a game of volleyball.  The ball, or conversation, should go back and forth. In the example above, it was more like Michel hitting the ball over the net to Shannon who caught the ball and held on to it.  Then Michel would pick up another ball and hit it over the net to Shannon, and Shannon caught it and held on to it again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Shannon could have tried asking, “What about you? What do you do?” Maybe at some point Shannon could have said, “I appreciate you being so interested in what I do, but I’d like to also learn about you.”

So, what can you do to show interest?

Get SET!

Short answer. Do it in one word or one sentence.

Evidence. Back up what you say. Give an example, share a story, offer a fact or supporting information.

Transition. Turn the conversation back to the other person.


This is how the conversation between Michel and Shannon might have gone IF Shannon knew and employed the Get SET technique.

Michel: Hi I’m Michel. What is your name?

            Shannon: Hello Michel. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Shannon. What brings you to this event?

Michel: I’m a close friend of the speaker and I wanted to support her. What about you?

            Shannon: I’ve been a realtor for 17 years and know there is always more to learn. I came because the topic is intriguing to me. What do you do Michel?

Michel: I am in accounting at a mid-size manufacturing company about 20 miles from here. Have you been able to meet anyone else here yet?

            Shannon: No, you are the first person I’ve spoken to. Is there anyone you think I should meet?

Michel: Honestly, I haven’t had a lot of time to talk to others either. If there is time after my friend speaks, I’d be happy to introduce the two of you. Sound good?

            Shannon: Sounds fantastic. Thank you.

Michel: It looks like she is getting ready to speak, so I’m going to find a seat. You are welcome to join me if you’d like.

            Shannon: I think I’ll do that!

Now, that is a two-way conversation with two people who show interest.  It is a more healthy, helpful one too!

Are you ready to Get SET?

If you want to learn more about the importance of asking  questions, take a moment to check these out:

Connect the Dots

Solve the Right Problem

Seek Understanding

Ask the Right Questions

Empower Thinking