Talking with others about certain issues can be challenging for you or the other person. You may leave such conversations feeling awkward or worse, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Social interaction and language researcher Elizabeth Stokoe, along with colleagues, looked into what we should say and how when talking with others. They have some tips to ensure that your conversations don’t go off the rails.
Do use: some (instead of any)
“Anything else I can do for you?” Sounds like a perfectly reasonable question, doesn’t it? But John Heritage and Jeffrey Robinson, conversation analysts at the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at how doctors use the words “any” and “some” in their final interactions with patients. They found that “Is there something else I can do for you today?” elicited a better response than “Is there anything else?”
“Any” tends to meet with negative responses. Think about meetings you’ve been in – what’s the usual response to “Any questions?” A barrage of engaging ideas or awkward silence? It’s too open-ended; too many possibilities abound. Of course, if you don’t want people to ask you anything, then stick to “Any questions?”
What to say Try not to use “any” if you genuinely want feedback or to open up debate. “What do you think about X?” might be a more specific way of encouraging someone to talk.
Talking to yourself is a good way to reason through problems, so there’s no reason to feel awkward about your big debates you have with yourself while walking down the street. At least according to some new research from a few universities.
This new research in questions stems from Talking Aloud Partner Problem-Solving (TAPPS) which is meant to help people reason through problems while a person just listens. It turns out that the partner’s role is negligible.
In recent research on TAPPS, reported in the University of Arkansas publication Research Foundations, Spring 2011, the author noted that the increased speed and effectiveness of partner problem-solving has little to do with the monitor and much to do with the problem solver’s own behavior; thinking aloud or TA. The constant verbalization of their thoughts out loud encouraged the problem solvers to continuously correct faulty steps in logic. The causal mechanism of success was the problem-solver’s metacognition.
Another study on talking aloud reported in the journal Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition carries the intriguing title, “How to Gain Eleven IQ Points in Ten Minutes: Thinking Aloud Improves Raven’s Matrices Performance in Older Adult.” At the end of the article, following the usual identification of study limitations, the authors stated, “Nonetheless, these studies provide some evidence that individuals with lower fluid ability (e.g., children and older adults) may benefit most from concurrent verbalization.”
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