There are very few questions that people enjoy hearing ad nauseam.
But often when we are starting conversation on the fly, we jump to the most obvious question.
You see someone with their arm in a cast, and you ask "what happened to your arm?".
You see someone is pregnant and say “oh you’re pregnant? How’s it going?”
To you, these obvious questions may seem perfectly fine. It's your first time having this conversation with them, hearing this information. But for them, it's a conversation they've had numerous times already.
Repeating the same activity becomes mind-numbing for humans. And irritating. We thrive on new experiences.
Asking a recently married workmate "how's married life" may seem an easy question. But newlyweds get this question all the time. And the truth is, "we are struggling" would be the honest answer an uncomfortable percentage of the time.
So instead of asking the obvious question, stop yourself and ask a stimulating question instead.
I got sick of being asked "what do you do for work?/ How is work going?", a bad social convention that many fall into. So I started Awkward Silence to revolutionise conversation.
I made a new friend recently who is blind. While I wasn't shy to ask him about his blindness, I also made the safe assumption that his blindness wasn't the key element of his identity. So I asked him questions geared toward his personality & interests. After knowing him for a little while, the first question I asked about his blindness was "can a blind person be afraid of heights?", a question that had popped up recently in the weekly Awkward Silence subscription email. I felt OK about asking this question as I was sure it wasn't something he was asked often.
Conversations can be exponentially rewarding if you put a little effort in. It doesn't need much effort, just enough to avoid social tendencies which have become tiresome.
Don’t ask the obvious question. This is the world of new conversation.