Curious affirmations

6 seconds in your follow-up comment, show “curious affirmation”

You’ve given your speaking partner a chance to reply. You listen with curiosity, of course. Show that you care about what they say. Some people will hardly say anything, others you’ll have a hard time stopping, Because we are, in this course, talking about a very brief conversation, you may have to interrupt. That’s okay, just so you do it out of curiosity.

There is a way of doing this, called “Keyword feedback.” You simply summarize the key concepts of your speaking partner’s response. When you do that, it’s okay to interrupt because they will understand you have good intentions. Then you pose a follow-up thought.

The keyword search is the approach I have used for years and years in conversations, coaching, mentoring, and leadership situations. It is the core of my longer course: Talkshow, Podcast, & Conversation Magic: Immediately turn your coaching and interviews into Eureka moments also available on Teachable.

It’s almost the same thing as a brief summary, but with keywords and phrases from your speaking partner or paraphrased by you.

When you do keyword feedback, your speaking partner knows not only that you’ve been listening but actually understand the gist or point of what they said.

Let’s say you are both on a break at a conference and you meet and greet a colleague, or if you are adventurous, mingle with one or more people whom you don’t know. You ask what they thought about the presenter and say they thought she was very dynamic. 

You can reply: “You thought that she was a dynamic speaker. I often wonder how I could be more dynamic as a presenter and think about what I could do. You too?” This type of response zeroes in on the keyword, “dynamic,” explains your connection, and offers your speaking partner a chance to self-reflect. Now, you could get into a longer conversation, but it is often simply enough to note the keyword, which in itself helps your speaking partner reflect. If not now, then maybe later and that is just fine. This will certainly make you more of an interesting person to talk to. Don’t pry; just give an opening and then move on or close the conversation for the time being. Of course, you also have the option to stay on and exchange many more thoughts. 

Please don’t talk about yourself too long. Coaches sometimes say, “Park your own story”. A brief self-reflection or anecdote could be okay like the one above, but your purpose is always to put your speaking partner in first place, not you. I started with a personal anecdote from Paris, but don’t fill this course with dozens more.

Another example. You meet your teenage son or daughter at home after school. You could say, “How was school today?” which is neutral and gives options for answering but will usually lead nowhere. “Fine.” “Okay,” or “Nothing special.”

You could ask, “What was different at school today?” Or “What was the most unusual fact you learned today?” Or, “What did your favorite teacher do right today?” These questions may not lead to the world’s greatest responses either, but they certainly have more potential than “How was school today?” The point is not always the answer but the potential for a deeper conversation and relationship down the road. Now or later, ask a question that provides a potential for more thought or conversation. You might not get a response now, but you are opening up doors. It doesn’t take long to open up a door.

Other examples of questions:

· What did you get out of X?

· What would you like to know more about?

· Did any special idea stand out?

· What is one thing that you will take with you or remember?

· Where can you get more information?

· Who knows more about this and can help you?

· When and where can you apply this learning?

· Anything specific you disagree with?

· What would you have liked to be more focused on (meeting, lecture, conference, etc.)?

The advantage of these types of questions is that they confirm your curiosity. They are also openings to a longer conversation in the future if you don’t have time right now. You get your speaking partner to think and that makes you an interesting person to talk to. Just don’t overdo it. This is a conversation, not an interrogation.


Don’t expect solutions. Sure, it’d be great to put your finger on a specific behavior for the next day to move each other forward. No problem going for that, but don’t expect it. Identifying the next step is a consequence of a good conversation, and you can try to for that, not always expect it.

Don’t expect emotional catharsis. That’s not what you want. Instead, these brief interactions should primarily focus on thoughts and cognition. Sure, if your friend or colleague needs and wants to vent their feelings, you listen and accept and perhaps ask a few questions, but that’s a longer and different type of conversation.