In this day of political correctness, it’s sometimes difficult to come up with conversation starters that won’t come back and bite you. Many people, especially if they’re the shy type, may feel that there are no appropriate questions to ask people for fear of causing offense or misunderstandings from which they can’t recover. The result is a bunch of wallflowers, dying on the vine for any meaningful communication. Here we take a look at five questions which will stimulate everyone’s thinking and offer a venue for the exchange of ideas. This is what communication is all about. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn. You might well make some new friends, too.

When thinking of questions to ask people, keep in mind that everyone loves talking about themselves. This is not a bad thing. People are so different in the way they perceive the world, and you can gain some interesting insights on how another person has arrived at an opinion on any subject.

For example, global warming is a hot topic these days. The only opening you need is a very hot or cold day. Wow, can you believe this heat? Did you see Al Gore’s movie, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’? If the person has, there’s much meat here for a lively conversation. If not, you can throw out a few remarks to capture their interest. Did you know that polar bears are dying out because they can no longer swim from one ice floe to another?

There are a range of answers you might receive. Perhaps this person doesn’t think global warming is real. That’s your cue to find out why they hold this opinion. Don’t try to be argumentative. Part of the art of successful questions to ask people requires a genuine curiosity on your part to understand their position. Another person of whom you ask the same question might be very involved and knowledgeable on the issue. In either case, you’ll learn a lot.

Let’s say you’re into the fashion scene. A simple question like, Where did you find those beautiful earrings?, can launch an entire conversation, beginning with the earrings and ending with an invitation to a fashion event. If nothing else, you’ll certainly gain a sense of that person’s fashion perspective and probably learn a thing or two.

When you formulate questions to ask people, it’s essential to remember that what you’re after is learning what others think on any given subject and how they arrived at their conclusions. You don’t need to agree with the other person. When you learn to draw people out, without disagreeing in an offensive manner, you’ll learn a great deal about humanity in general. The more people you talk to, the more enriched you become. It’s a two way street, because both parties are equally satisfied in having learned a new perspective. When you practice the art of questions to ask people, everyone wins.

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