For years I wondered why I struggled to hold a conversation with some people, I would ask how they were doing and all I would get back was one word answers. I was mulling this over for some time and asked a healer friend what she thought… what she told me opened my eyes to a world of conversation issues I had no idea existed. It turns out there are 2 kinds of conversationalists; questioners and story tellers. When you get 2 people the same together all is well, but when you have one of each it all goes wrong.
Questioners focus outwards, they ask the other person direct questions, such as “how is your aunt now?” or “how was your day at work?”. When you get 2 questioners together the conversation is made up of short snippets back and forth as questions are asked and answered. Questioners are often fairly open people happy to talk about themselves.
Story tellers are more inward focused and will either tell their own story or give the other space to tell theirs. They are, in general, great listeners because they give space for the other person to say what they need. These people are often quite complex and like their privacy, talking about themselves when they want to.
When it all goes wrong
As I mentioned, the problem starts when you get both kinds of people together. The questioner gets frustrated because the story teller is taking too long to say what they need to say and they aren’t asking the questioner how their day was. The story teller gets frustrated because the questioner wants to rush ahead and keeps asking prying questions.
So, as a story teller, when I was asking my friend “what have you been up to?” I was giving them space to tell their story but wasn’t being direct enough.
But what is the answer?
In understanding this we can learn to read people and understand their needs in a conversation. If wide open questions are too big try to be more specific. If it seems that the person takes a while to get to the point give them the space they need and know that when it comes to a time when you need to talk at length they will be the person to go to as they will sit quietly and wait until you are done.
Which are you, a story teller or a questioner?