Asking Follow-Up Questions During Small Talk When You Have SAD

Ask questions to get to know someone better.
Small talk often involves asking questions.. Getty / Taxi / Reza Estakhrian

Follow-up questions are an important part of conversation. Without follow-up questions, you and your conversation partner will end up asking and responding to a series of questions without ever talking in depth about any one topic.

Follow-up questions keep the conversation moving forward and allow for clarification and elaboration of details.

However, if you suffer with social anxiety disorder, asking follow-up questions or even making small talk in the first place may feel uncomfortable—or downright anxiety-provoking.

While you work on your social anxiety with the help of treatment, use the tips below to also brush up on your small talk skills.

Having this arsenal of questions in your pocket will give you confidence and help to reduce the social anxiety that you feel.

Steps to Asking Follow-Up Questions

Small talk generally starts with conversation about topics such as the weather, family, work, hobbies and other interests.

There are two ways to get another person to talk; by asking yes/no or open-ended questions.

Yes/No Questions

"Did you watch the season finale of Survivor last night?"

"Do you go to church on Sundays?"

"Do you like to travel?"

Open-Ended Questions

Obviously, you can see how some of the above yes/no questions would lead into conversation. However, you can also lead your partner deeper into topics by asking questions that take a bit more explanation.

"Do you have any brothers and sisters?"

"What do you do for fun on the weekend?"

"How do you like being an accountant?"

In both cases, you will want to ask follow-up questions to further the conversation.

Follow-Up Questions

If the person responds that he did watch Survivor (or any other show) the night before, follow up with a question such as the following:

"What did you think of the outcome?" or

"Who did you think was going to win?"

It is best to choose a topic that you know a little bit about, so that you can follow the other person's response with your own point of view.

If the person responds to the open-ended question by saying that he has one sister, some potential follow-up questions might include the following:

"Where does she live?", "What does she do?", or "How often do you see her?"

When thinking of follow-up questions, the following key words can be used to build upon:

How? Why? Where? When? Meaning? And?

Once you are in the habit of asking follow-up questions, simply rinse and repeat. Remember, though, to always listen carefully to what the other person has to say. Only formulate your question once the person has finished speaking, because what he says may affect what you ask next.

Tips

  • Show interest and encourage the other person to speak by smiling and nodding during conversation.
  • It will be easier to ask yes/no and follow-up questions if you keep up-to-date on news, entertainment and sporting events.
  • If there isn't a natural follow-up question, and the other person is still speaking, interject statements such as "Tell me more" or "Sounds interesting" to encourage the other person.
  • If someone discloses something personal, such as a recent death in the family or a divorce, offer sympathy and support rather than ask for more details, unless you know the person very well. That person may just want to explain his situation so that you know why he is not acting like himself. Leave it up to him to decide how much to share.

Use these tips when you find yourself needing to make small talk with a stranger or someone you don't know well.

Remember, even though your socially-anxious self may seek perfection—this shouldn't be your goal. Instead, picture your end goal of making a new friend and see the question-and-answer process as a necessary step in building that friendship.

Continue Reading