CAREER ADVANCEMENT / FEB. 22, 2014
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Win Friends & Get Ahead With Social Intelligence | 8 Questions Never To Ask

Your social network is perhaps one of the most untapped resources for your professional career. You have heard the saying, "It is not what you know, it is who you know." Your friends can be the golden ticket you are searching for. And friends can be won or lost in a single conversation.

Nothing is worse than putting your foot in your mouth. That moment when those incredible stupid words just escape from your mouth and there is nothing you can do but stand in awe of your own foolishness. In the aftermath, you can only imagine the tragic internal commentary that is going through the mind of that person or group you were trying to impress.

We have all been there and done that. Prevention is certainly better than cure. Not quite sure that a cure even exists. Build strong friendships and get ahead by avoiding these 8 questions:

1. "How much did that cost?"

Whether it is a new watch, jacket, jewelry, or furniture, steer away from asking how much the item costs. Money is not simply a value-exchange tool, it is symbolic and can conveys elements such as status and success. Indeed the person may be very forward about how much they spent, but generally, people become very uncomfortable with this question. You may as well be asking, "How successful are you?"

If you are honestly interested in the price of something because you intend on buying the same product, then ask instead, “Did you get a good price on that?" Let them know you are thinking about buying the same item and let them decide whether they would like to go more into detail.

2. "What ethnicity/race are you?"

Race and ethnicity is another topic to tread carefully about. Many people are tired of being identified by the label of a particular race- especially if they have had difficult experiences in the past. Reframe the question to a more informal, “Wherabouts are you from?” Broadening the scope of the question gives the person you are talking to the freedom to be as vague or specific as they please. Remember, the more comfortable you are able to make another person feel, the greater the rapport will be.

3. "Are you pregnant?"

Perhaps the most simple and classic example of them all. If it is not obvious, never ask this question. It is a sure way to turn any conversation south and turn you beet-red with embarrassment when they tell you "No." On the other hand, if they are pregnant, it is better to be less blunt and straighforward. Ask rather, "When are you due?"

4. "How come you are no longer at your old job?"

Most likely, this is just a nicer way of asking, “Did you get fired?” Definitely check your own motives behind asking this question. If you are sincerely interested in their career change, it is better to ask, “How come you decided to make a career change or switch jobs?”

5. "How come that relationship ended?"

Regardless of who was at fault, the person you are talking to needs empathy more than anything. Do not dig for details, but listen and do your best to encourage them. Steer the conversation away from the negatives of a broken relationship and more toward a better future situation.

6. "Do you get paid doing that?"

Whether it is a new venture that someone has just stepped out to pursue, or something that they are doing on the side, do not take the love, passion, and courage that it took to step out and make it all about money. This is certainly a question that will highlight more of your own character and will say much about your priorities in life than you would like to reveal.

7. "How much weight have you lost?"

Everyone is sensitive about their weight and body image. If someone you know is on a diet, simply ask them how the diet is coming along. Asking them to give a specific weight cannot be responded to without any sort of judgement. Yes, they may have successfully shed quite a few pounds, but if they have not, you will make them feel miserable about their efforts.

8. "Why haven’t you tried doing this?"

Not only will you sound like a mister know-it-all, it assumes a level of ignorance on the part of the person you are talking to. Avoid making people feel intellectual inferior. If you would like to give advice go for, “Can I make a suggestion?” or, “I found this to be very helpful.”

Do keep in mind that becoming more socially intelligent in conversations does not mean that you cannot talk about subjects concerning money, relationships, and work- otherwise it would be a very silent conversation! The key aspect is reframing questions in a way that does not trap the person you are speaking to into a very vulnerable position. 

Win friends, strengthen relationships, get more doors opened by avoiding these 8 questions in your very next social gathering. 

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