Questions and/in Conversations

Hello, how are you?
Where have you been all this while?
Where’s your son these days?
I heard there was a fracture in your left leg. How’s your leg now?
How was the exam?
Mom, what’s for dinner?
Can I bring Kiran home?
Can I go play outside Mom?
Have you finished the assignment I gave you?
Is the work over?
Will you come for a coffee with me?

The list is endless but the essence remains the same! Questions begin (and sustain) conversations………and I had not realized the importance of ‘questions’ in conversations until I gave it a thought today! How does small talk happen? (there I go with a question again!!!!!). And for that matter, an involved discussion too! I have heard so many people expressing their inability at sustaining small talk. And when I thought about it a little more, I realized that small talk (in particular) is essentially a lot of questions (asked and answered).

Now, imagine a conversation without questions!

Person 1: Hello
Person 2: I’m great
Person 1: I’m great too
Person 2: I was not in station, hence I didn’t see you for a while
Person 1: Oh!
Person 2: The trip was very good
Person 1: I was around only. While you were away, I was just polishing my
billiards skills.
Person 2: Great
Person 1: I think I have come as far as challenging you for a game
Person 2: This sounds great
Person 1: Saturday sounds fine. Let’s have a game

I’m sure the importance of questions in making the conversation above complete (or at least, understandable) is way too evident here. What COULD we tell if the person across us doesn’t want to know anything? Won’t the conversation reach a dead-end if no one would ask or answer questions!

The relevance and frequency of questions also depends on what kind of a conversation is happening. Conversations can essentially be divided into three categories broadly.

1. Small Talk – A lot of questions are sent back and forth in this kind of conversation. The general aims of such conversations are to find out about the well-being of the other person, kill time, make acquaintances etc. The answers are generally small and are normally followed by small questions of the same kind asked back. The common content of these talks are people, or their states of mind (happiness, being busy, being tired, prosperity, education, health etc.)

2. Big Talk – These talks often don’t involve too many questions. Most such talks are co-operative answer seeking by two people, in the sense that the question asked is the same and BOTH people are joining their head in seeking the answer. These can also be called discussions where one person talks for a considerable length of time and the other person interjects with small Hmmmms and Ahaans……such talks often involve deeper subjects e.g. Philosophy, Science, Politics etc.

3. One way talk – These talks hardly involve questions of the real kind. The questions here are mostly exclamations that are mistaken for questions. Such talks often happen between an extrovert (or egotist) and an introvert. The questions asked here are likely to be of the kind – Really? Is it? Did you? Did he? Is that so? Such conversations are mostly one-way conversations where one person is the source of talk and the other, sink!

4. Introspection – This is one form that possibly involves maximum questions and often, no answers. One of the most difficult forms of conversation, this is the one that’s rarest too (understandably so). Some call is soliloquy, some reflecting, some musing, names may be many, but this (according to me) is the one where the lack of questions will probably go nowhere!!!!

No matter what the kind of talk may be, the fact that questions play a key role in the existence of conversations is indeed irrefutable! So, the next time you converse, try counting how many questions you ask and answer………I tried that exercise and started off with a question, How many times did I ask/answer a question during this conversation!!!! See, the inevitability of asking questions in ANY conversation (even though to oneself)! 🙂



  1. Ananth said,

    September 19, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Nice one. I think that is a pointer to people trying to improve their comunication skills. But your next blog should be about what kind of questions to ask. Because, sometime a question like, “Why did your girl friend ditch you?”, will take the conversation nowhere. Some people tend to ask embarassing questions, and don’t know they are being embarassing. Maybe you could throw some light on that too.

  2. SHAMIT said,

    September 19, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Well written. Questions in a conversation start right from the initiation of a conversation and continue till perhaps the end – like ‘when shall we meet again’ or ‘are you coming to such and such place on such and such day’ etc …. And thinking deeper, its a method of breaking ice, and is almost a necessity to start a conversation – out of the first few sentences in a conversation one will invariably be a question.
    One more point it may be a way of brainwashing/marketing by saying something like ‘did you try this’, ‘have you heard about that’ etc; however on the other hand these can also come from a person who is really concerned/caring.
    Questions can also help in profiling a person – Now am I thinking like some sinister intelligence officer/interrogator? Again a question … 😉

  3. chandni said,

    September 19, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    its quite well written i’d say but i think u missed one more category and that is when u ask questions(or u are asked questions) wen u study a subject…the essence of being a good student is of asking questions cause the type of questions u ask, reflects how deep u think and to wat extent u r capable of understanding…also the basis of having a good conversation with ur teacher…and this type of attitude helps otherwise too because u automatically switch to the listening mode wen ur atually able to understand things than jus letting the words fall on ur ears…ya questions definetely form the essence of conversations…

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