Why Is There So Little Questioning Used In Social Media Conversations?
The other day, I was involved in a conversation with a person trying to get his new business service going, and I commented something to the effect that I thought perhaps he was off base in his understanding of consumer psychology.
I didn't go into detail because advice offered without being asked is often interpreted as intrusive, but I did expect that someone starting off a business would be eager to hear more about how s/he might be more successful.
Not in this case. Crickets. No acknowledgement at all.
Then I started thinking. How often do I see people actually ask questions of others during conversations on the various social media platforms oriented to business - BeBee and LinkedIn.
So I went to look.
I was fully intending to choose a few posts and their comments at random, and calculate the percentage of comments that actually involved asking questions to clarify others' statements, facilitate discussion and/or get to know others and their thinking. Not a pleasant task -- tedious to be truthful.
As I went through one post, dutifully counting, I realized that the number of comments containing real inquiries/questions seemed to be close to zero. Maybe five percent.
So, I decided to spare myself the tedium, and just eyeball a number of posts and comments. Same thing. Almost none.
So What's The Deal With The Lack of Questioning?
If you are not aware, using questions in interactions is THE major way we can learn about others, acknowledge their importance, and clarify another's opinions, perceptions, attitudes and so on.
While statements, even those that express sympathy and empathy can be useful in discussion, it's the questions that drive dialogue.
And there's almost none of them on social media. It's weird.
The absence of questioning may be a reason why we are spending more and more time "talking" on social media and feeling less and less connected and "heard".
So, absent the sense that others are genuinely interested; interested enough to ask us things about what's going on in our heads, we move on to yet more conversations seeking out people we hope will be more interested. And they aren't.
So, Just A Simple Reminder
This is just a simple reminder of the power of questioning as part of how you communicator online (and offline). Keep in mind:
- Questions show much more of an interest in another person because they take more effort than simply saying things like "Me, too".
- Artistry in using questions will make you stand out in the crowd of others who are NOT showing the interest you may be showing.
- Use questions to request clarification of fact, to ask about whether someone is aware of other ways of thinking, to ask about another person's life experiences, etc. Different kinds of questions can be used for different purposes. For example what questions are good for factual clarification. Why questions are good for learning about how someone else thinks, their attitudes and values.
- Avoid asking questions to "lead" someone to adopt your position. Remember that questions are an opportunity to advance dialogue and better understanding of the OTHER person, not an opportunity to manipulate the other person.
- Keep your questions relevant to the discussion topic or thread. Asking about someone's goldfish during a conversation on computers is tacky, and shows you are completely clued out.
- Ask questions that are not overly personal, and don't delve into the privacy of others. It's off-putting.
- If you ask a question, acknowledge the answer and respond to the answer. Again, remember that questions are about the person you are asking, not about you. It's akin to using listening skills in a face to face conversation.