Good conversationalists lead people with whom they’re speaking to towards vistas. Vistas are sprawling, psychic valleys of old memories behind and new ideas ahead. Valleys as wide as the mind can remember and imagine. These valleys are for exploration, play, and curiosity.
Conversationalists incept vistas into people’s imaginations with explorative questions. Composed of only a few words, explorative questions lift our eyebrows, activate ancient neural synapses, and reconstitute our perception of ourselves and the world.
Cages, on the other hand, are traps.
The bars of these cages are built out of combative questions. Combative questions are like weapons, weapons equipped, locked, and loaded with an agenda. Combative questions are pre-designed, twisted to fit whatever bias this person has against you. Combative questions coil and squeeze our minds like snakes slithering up a tree.
These questions demand answers. They’re engineered to reveal a truth. Usually, the only truth revealed is the truth about who’s asking the question. That truth is usually, “I don’t like you.” Ultimately, if the trap is setup properly, any answer is bound to be incorrect. I can’t think of a better example of a combative than this. Conversations made out of combative questions tend to be popular because hey, who doesn’t love a good cage fight?
The point of a conversation isn’t to win friends and influence people. The point of a conversation is to create a particular context. What you do in that context matters. You can either come out on top, or both of you can come out together. Your choice.