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John M. Gottman, PhD

As mentioned recently, I dislike vague questions. And I feel affirmed in this, as I've been reading The Relationship Cure. In a chapter on emotional communication skills, he writes:

Avoid questions that are too open-ended - questions like "What's new?" or "How's it going?" Too often, people give pat responses to such queries, perhaps because they're not sure you really want to now. But if you can ask the same type of question in a more tailored way, you're sure to get meatier answers.

There you have it, from an expert. And I recommend the whole book. It's an interesting study of human interaction and relationship-building.

Comments

Daniel Ray said…
Interesting. But it begs the question, "what if you don't want meatier answers?" It seems like questions like "how's it going" are effective ways to express interest in a person generally, but when you don't have time to get into the details of what's happening to them specifically...
Beth said…
but does it express personal interest, or a culturally obliged curiousity?

for me, the difference between, "hey, what's up?" and "hey, how was your sister's wedding?" is immense. it doesn't mean i'm invited to give a ten minute diatribe on the merits of her dress - but that you/the asker actually know and care about my life.
Daniel Ray said…
On the flip side,

one could come to naturally ask such questions, and just as easily be uninterested in whichever answers they produced as one would when asking a simple question, "how are you?"

Whereas I know that sometimes asking "how are you" with presence and an intention to listen can, in fact, invite as much of a diatribe as is necessary for the person being questioned to feel cared for.

I'll read the book and we can discuss it when you get back.

- dan
Beth said…
This is also true.

Do you have this book/are you really going to read it?? I'd definitely be interested in discussion.

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