Dear Abby: Conversations are ruined by a deluge of questions
Dear Abby: I am a big fan and read your column daily. I am writing because I have a very hard time making conversation. I read your mother’s booklet which suggests asking people questions about themselves to stimulate dialogue.
Apparently, I am doing something wrong because family and friends accuse me of “interrogating” them. I’m not! I am truly just trying to chat. I have also failed several job interviews, so I must be missing something.
What’s the correct way to have a conversation? How many questions are too many? How do I make amends to the people who aren’t speaking to me anymore? I honestly never meant to offend anyone. Thank you very much for your help.
-- Ignorant, Not Interrogating
Dear “Ignorant”: You may have taken my late mother’s advice too literally. What she was trying to convey is that people are usually attracted to those who find them interesting, and asking a question is a conversation opener and a way to draw someone out.
However, conversations are supposed to be an EXCHANGE of information. Because people accuse you of “grilling” them, you may be asking a barrage of questions without giving anything back. A better example of a conversation starter might be:
Q. “How was your weekend? We went skiing on Sunday afternoon.” Then describe something that happened. (Saw the cutest family, got a nasty sunburn, etc.)
Q. “Did you hear about (insert news item). I was really surprised (shocked, fascinated, etc.).” Express how it affected you and ask what the person thinks about it.
You may have better luck with this approach.
Dear Abby: My husband and I have been married for 10 years. I lost my job and have had no luck finding one in our small Florida town or the surrounding area, so I started looking elsewhere. I found a great opportunity in Nashville and got the job. It meant I had to move, but my husband refused to move with me. He’s a technician so he can work anywhere.
We both used to live in Nashville — it’s actually where we met. I couldn’t pass up the job because I’m 53 and may not get another opportunity like this.
It has been eight months and we are still living in two different states. I’m happy in Nashville because I visited often after we moved away and I always missed it. Not only do I not WANT to leave, I can’t afford to.
I never stopped looking for a job in Florida, but there aren’t any that pay anywhere close to what I’m earning here. My husband could be making at least $20,000 more a year here if he moved, but he absolutely refuses. I’m not sure what to do. I love and miss him. He rarely visits me. I must go to Florida if I want to see him. Help!
-- Long-Distance Love
Dear L.D.L.: It appears you have an important decision to make. What is more important to you, your marriage or the money? That you want more financial security is understandable. You need to understand EXACTLY why your husband has taken the stance he has. Once you have the answer to that question, you will have a better understanding of what you need to do. A trusted mediator may be able to help the two of you to improve your communication.
To My Readers: I wish you all a joyous and meaningful Christmas. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.