During this part of the year, regardless of what holiday(s) you are celebrating, the chances are good that you will be gathering with people in some context. Perhaps it is with family, friends, or even work colleagues in a different context than normal. You may be traveling and meeting people in airplanes, trains or buses and conversations begin.
Some of us dread or look forward to the conclusion of such encounters – at least with some of the people with whom we will be gathering.
How many times have you been bored with the level of conversation – kids, ailments, complaints, weather – those mundane topics? What did you do? Shrink into a corner with one person with whom you could discuss at least one interesting topic? Volunteer to help in the kitchen or run to get a missing item from the store? Simply walk around, nodding and engaging in very brief exchanges and moving on?
Or perhaps discussions begin where there are wide differences of opinion, judgements, and it’s quite clear the conflict is going to escalate. I discovered this intriguing approach that might give us a way to prevent or diffuse some of these situations.
Kathryn P. Haydon encourages us to facilitate connection with others and poses this question: “What if the best gift we can give is to ask more meaningful questions?”
Kathryn encourages us to start by getting into a curiosity mindset and “think about what ideas, patterns, or topics spark your curiosity and try to connect these to the people you are going to see.” Ask a question about something you know about that person, and then follow-up questions that will deepen the conversation. Her favorite follow-up questions begin with “What might be all the…..”
This kind of conversation helps you connect with individuals and makes them feel that you value and understand them. It can also divert away from the controversial topics. Isn’t that what we all want? Hopefully, people will ask you questions in return and before you know it, you are really enjoying the gathering you were not so excited about. In addition, there will be more to look forward to the next time you see these people. It’s a win-win.