Updated: Jan 14, 2020
I spent 30-odd years being bored out of my brain by small talk. I heard 'So, what do you do?' or 'Where do you live?' and my hands would desperately want to cover my bowed face.
I should mention how grateful I am to have been able to work on my patience over the years I spent teaching secondary school children a language they, by and large, had no interest in learning. So now instead of face-covering, I am really proud that my instinct is simply to roll my eyes with the predictability of it and do so internally. I coach myself, what's going on with you here?!
Firstly, having just stepped out of 'work' headspace and into a social situation, I'd rather not bring work with me. Not that I don't enjoy talking about it - I love my job - it's just that it's now 'switch off' time. Secondly, I do (and am) so much more than my job. Most importantly, can we talk about stuff that's super fun and relaxing for us both, please?
I'm privileged to have spent the last week meeting new friends and colleagues from all over the coaching world (I think we had 7 native languages between us). Our deep and meaningful conversations have humbled and inspired me. In a space of mutual appreciation for 'realness', intimacy and connection are in abundance, no barriers to overcome, like judgement or getting it right.
How amazing would it be if we could feel this connected to all new people we meet, let alone to people we already have relationships with!
Finding this connection in new relationships or improving intimacy in existing ones can't be done without vulnerability and honesty when answering someone's powerful questions. Likewise, play and creativity in the questions themselves, and really listening to the answers (see my blog on how to listen effectively) is required on the part of the question-asker.
So here are some questions to get you started on the D&Ms. When someone answers them wholeheartedly, these are surefire ways to access what's really important to them. You will really get to know them, and in addition, it guarantees to help you find something you can connect about.
What are you grateful for today?
What's the one thing you couldn't live without?
What makes you feel alive?
Who would you have at your ideal dinner party?
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
What are your dessert island discs?
Where's next on your travel list?
What's the one thing that should be taught in school that isn't currently?
What do you love doing? (Alternate to 'what do you do?')
What one thing would you change if you had to do it all over?
Most importantly, go with the flow. This isn't a gameshow of relentless questioning and no points are given for speed! Take it all in, ask for more details and witness how their face lights up when you hit on something that's important to them. Not only will they be grinning and giving you loads of interesting conversation, they'll be so animated their hands will be flying around all over the place, instead of covering their face.