My ex-husband and I used to play a game we called, “The Question Game.”
Neither of us was interested in small talk; we’d met in a transpersonal psych graduate program and valued deep, real, honest conversations. (You could also say we were personal growth junkies.)
We’d sit down to a meal with community and invite everyone to play the question game.
Each person was invited to ask one question, which everyone would answer, then the next person could ask a question. It was fun, insightful, and engaging, and it cultivated the kinds of conversations that brought more aliveness to the table—and to all those seated around it.
What made the question game fun was that everyone got to participate by asking and answering. Sure, it could feel forced and un-fun if we just went through the motions. But when we really dropped in and invited ourselves to be vulnerable, we were often surprised by what emerged, even from ourselves.
In the decades since then, I’ve been amazed at how asking questions seems to be a lost art.
Do people view questions as prying? Do they not want to be nosy? Do they just expect that whatever wishes to be shared will be shared on its own, without needing a question to be asked? Were they taught it’s not okay to be curious? Are they just not that interested in really getting to know the people they’re hanging out with? Have they developed their mental telepathy capacities and already know all the answers to the questions they could ask?
I’m curious what your experience has been with this: are you a question-asker? Are you a wait-and-see-what-emerges-conversationalist? Do you crave deeper conversations, yet haven’t known how to invite in greater intimacy?
If you’re a question-asker, I’d love to know what question(s) you’d add to the list below. If you’re a wait-and-see conversationalist, I dare you to try on something new this holiday season and ask someone a question from the list. And if you crave deeper conversations and just haven’t known how to catalyze those, this is my holiday gift to you:
Here’s a top 10 list of questions you can ask around the Thanksgiving table this year (or the Hanukkah lights or Christmas tree or whatever other gathering they could contribute to) beyond the obligatory, “What are you grateful for?” (Which is another great question to ask!)
May these questions ignite new possibilities, discoveries, and magic for you this holiday season.
- What’s alive in your heart?
- What’s inspiring you these days?
- Got any creative projects you’re working on? (Followed up with, “Ooh, tell me more.”)
- Read any good books lately?
- If this past year of your life were turned into a book, what would the title of it be?
- If this next year of your life were turned into a movie, what would the title of it be?
- What are you celebrating in life right now?
- What’s one of your growing edges?
- Got any habits you’re going to “ditch” in the new year?
- If you could learn a new skill this coming year, what would it be? (Followed up with, “Why is this important to you?”)
How might asking one or more of these questions inspire more connection during the holidays? How might they serve as bridges to cross the divide between the generations or between the old unspoken words? How might they offer a respite from the arguments, politics, and frosty silences? How might they provide other options beyond faces in screens all evening?
And…what question would you add to the list?
I wonder how our holidays, our lives, and our futures might unfold when we take time to ask different kinds of questions of the people we care about and those we are just getting to know.
How might a question open our hearts to each other and ourselves? How might a question, when asked from a kind, caring, and curious place, be just the invitation someone else requires to know that they matter and are seen and cared about? How might a question inspire someone to go after something that’s really important to them?
The possible questions to ask are infinite. Go forth. Honor your curiosity. Ask questions. And remember to listen and receive the responses.