Under Construction – Road Map for Conversational Skills (Part 2)

Extending conversations–especially on a topic that is not of interest–is difficult for many people, but is particularly difficult for those who have
social-pragmatic deficits.  I’d like to continue to use the car/road analogy to demonstrate one of the ways I teach and have students practice this skill.  Last week I shared how students can inadvertently put up a Road Closed sign by failing to provide detailed information.  The student can prevent closing the road/stopping the conversation by doing one of two things: 1) asking questions; and 2) sharing personal information.  I usually start by teaching, practicing and role-playing how to ask questions.   It tends to be a more concrete method of continuing the conversation/drive, and it prevents conversation “monopolizers” from making the conversation all about themselves. 

How to Ask Questions

So, in this example, I move my car forward by asking something like,

Beth Q: Do you have plans for this summer?
John A: Yes, we’re going to the beach.
Beth C and Q: That sounds fun, which beach?
John A: Bethany Beach.
Beth C and Q: I love that beach! Who is going with you?
John A: My mom, dad and sister.
Beth C and Q: I bet you are going to have so much fun. When are you going/how long will you be gone?
John A: Two weeks in July.
Beth C: Wow, sounds like a great vacation!


Most of my students will sit in awkward silence if I end the conversation there, and do not continue to ask them questions that focus entirely on them.  That has become their comfort-zone.  Adults and peers with solid conversation skills–to avoid the discomfort of the silence–typically meet the student more than half way, asking question after question about the student.  That student, then, does not experience the “natural consequence” (awkward feeling) of failing to extend the conversation, and therefore has no opportunity to repair and learn how to extend and show interest in the other person.

More on conversation skills in a couple of weeks…