“This is practice for you to react to others, and see what the range of reactions can be to demonstrate that you’ve heard them. You may also discover that you have to exaggerate your reactions a bit to be understood, and that something that seemed so obvious to you actually was not.

Chapter 4: Use specific statements, not open-ended questions.

Rule of Improv Comedy: Don’t force others to answer broad questions because it puts a conversational burden on them and interrupts banter.

We ask questions all the time because they come easily to us.

We often navigate the world based on questions, and wondering about what we see, hear, and know.

But if you’re trying to get a great conversation going, questions, especially open-ended ones can lead to minefields .

Remember that great conversations involve a frictionless back and forth. Topics just come up naturally in the minds of the two people talking, and there is no limit as to what they can and will share. This doesn’t happen when you continually ask questions that stop people in their tracks, make them dig deep, and take them out of the present.

Open-ended questions make people work.

When you ask open-ended questions like, "What do you like to do for fun?" this has a tremendous impact on the free flow of the conversation.

The recipient of the question ends up having to do a lot of work. Answering an open-ended question like that takes a lot of mental work . The more open-ended the question, the more work is involved. This has a net effect of forcing your conversation partner to stop whatever they’re doing just to come up with a reply.

How do you really answer that question of what you do for fun, anyway? Uh… I like to go running sometimes and watch movies.

A better example would be “Have you seen any good movies lately” or “Have you seen the latest Toy Story?”

One more: “Are you into working out at all? I love the gym.”

Worst of all, when you ask open-ended questions, you put the burden of keeping the conversation going on your partner. The examples above are easily answered, and will lead somewhere.

Instead of feeling that they are equal partners in keeping the conversation going and contributing to a flow of easy information, they feel overburdened . They feel that the conversation has become imbalanced . In many cases, they feel that they’re doing all the work and you’re just sitting back there shooting out all these questions. Eventually, it becomes more of a chore rather something enjoyable.

Not surprisingly, when people feel that they are being interrogated , they start resorting to simple one-sentence answers. The sentences keep getting shorter and shorter until the conversation pretty much freezes. Instead of feeling that you’re doing a scene together, asking too many questions shifts the conversation. Eventually this leads to a chill in the air and the conversation stops.

The more specific your questions the better.

If you feel that you can’t really continue the conversation without asking questions, you need to ask specific questions.

The reason why open-ended questions poison any kind of conversation is because they put a lot of interpretive work on the part of the person who is supposed to answer. They have to filter the question and then make a judgment call as to what’s the question is really asking. They have to dig for information that would answer the question.

In many cases, they might feel that the question is so broad that whatever answer they come up with would fall short. That’s too much responsibility for any one side of a conversation.

This is why it’s really important for you to try to ask very, very specific questions. Very specific questions are easier to answer because they often only require one piece of information. This is good news because when people are prompted to supply this piece of information, the person asking can then contribute to follow up on that question or with a statement. It’s much better than simply asking somebody to explain themselves with a very open-ended question. It simply maintains flow .”