When you ask a really big question, people can respond like you have asked them a question on a gameshow – they think for three seconds and say “I don’t know”.
That conversation might be killed at this point. Or with some awareness, it could become something special.
Don’t be afraid of an uncomfortable pause. After the person says “I don’t know”, it’s not necessarily the end of their consideration. Let the pause linger enough for the person to think of their answer. Often this is as little as 10 seconds.
Maybe an answer won't eventuate then & there. But the person comes back to you another day and says “I was thinking about that question you asked me. And….”
As a society, we have become far too expectant of conversation remaining light. We make small talk or witty banter. We keep people at arm’s length. We don’t throw curveballs. We give pat answers to pat questions.
Why are we so afraid of big questions?
It’s because big questions can mean big answers.
Conversation can be full of revelations, it is life changing. The catalyst of it can take you down unexplored paths.
You’re outside your comfort zone, thinking outside the box. You’re seeking undiscovered angels instead of sticking with the devil you know. It’s new territory.
And that’s all bold & scary. And extremely rewarding.
Opening with a big question can be too much too soon. But be pro-active in asking one after the opening chit-chat.
When did you last ask a big question? And which big question could you ask today?
If you aren’t listening, the conversation doesn’t evolve. It’s just two people saying things they each already know at each other.
Some things are good for us to hear, even if they are things we already know.
Martin Pistorius was diagnosed as being brain dead. Yet he was conscious, alert, and could see & hear everything that was happening around him. No one realised for 11 years.