As much as I enjoy meeting people at weddings, church meetings, or other social events, I have lately come to dread them. For a seemingly absurd reason: the questions I know they will ask me.
Let me explain.
When I was pregnant, the two questions people would ask me where:
- How’s the pregnancy going?
- When’s the due date?
- (Never mind those who suddenly start patting and rubbing your belly!!)
Honestly, by the end of the nine months, I just couldn’t hear them anymore. Especially as the due date approached and I had been hearing these two questions many times each week for almost 40 weeks.
I know people meant well but, seriously, can’t you think of another question to ask? Before I was pregnant, we had different conversation topics and it was great. Is my sole purpose on this earth suddenly only about being a baby production machine? Does all else not count anymore for the next 9 months?
Since having my child, people – even complete strangers – ask me these two questions:
- How are the nights?
- Do you still have milk?
Honestly? Do you still have milk? What’s with that question anyway? Who cares??
On top of that, my son, who actually usually sleeps very well at night, always has a bad night after a day where someone asked about it and we had said he sleeps fine. So much so, that I don’t even want to answer that question anymore for the sake of everyone’s sleep that night. In fact, it has even made me reluctant to go places because I can be sure to be asked that question if I meet anyone.
Finally, to give another “non-mom-related” example: when my husband was still studying, he usually only ever got two questions from people:
- How’s the studying going?
- When do you have exams? / How did the exams go?
What if it’s a real struggle and the person doesn’t want everyone to know about it?
And don’t these questions just give away that you know nothing about that person except a “visible condition” or some information about their profession?
Do you even know their hobbies? Or do you know if they happen to have any other projects going on?
What to ask instead
It doesn’t take long to come up with some alternative questions you could ask someone to have a real conversation, get deeper and get to know them better. Questions that are fairly safe even with a stranger.
Here are some alternatives:
- How was your week?
- What did you do this week?
- What was the highlight of your week? (gets people thinking about the positives)
- What did you find challenging this week? (gets people to see problems as challenges for growth and change rather than just a fruitless negative)
- What are you planning on doing next week?
- Is there a highlight planned for next week?
- Is there anything challenging ahead of you this week we can pray for or help with?
- Do you have any plans for today?
These questions are so simple, yet they dig right into the core of someone’s life. You can learn so much about their life, their activities and their personality.
At the same time, it gives the other person the freedom to decide how much information about themselves they feel comfortable sharing. They can choose to “take the bait” and play the game, or stay on the sidelines.
You might discover that they love doing sports or that they are part of a particular club. Or maybe they volunteer at a charity once a week.
You get to know them better by discovering what they do in life, what their hobbies are, what they consider to be highlights and what they consider to be challenges.
You can offer encouragement. If you share a similar hobby or interest, you might even want to suggest doing something together in a few days.
Next time you meet someone at a social gathering, stop asking them how they’re doing at work or how their condition is.
While some people with an illness (or a “condition”) enjoy talking about their ills to everyone in detail and just need a prompt to do so, most people are just tired of only ever being asked the same questions by everyone over and over again. The truth is, for many people, their condition or profession just doesn’t change that much and many find it discouraging – if not annoying – to always ever have to give the same boring news.
Next time you see a person you haven’t seen for a while, feel free to ask the “red flag questions” as an introduction to the conversation. But do choose a few of the alternative questions listed above and you will be surprised at the turn your conversation can take and how you will walk away from it feeling like you just got to know someone and how refreshing that feels.
After all, conversations were not made to be dull and boring interrogations, but they are all about sharing and exchanging experiences.
I’m sorry if this post turned into somewhat of a rant, but sometimes, it helps vent things and hopefully, it will inspire you to redirect the quality and purpose of your “small talk” and turn it into “great talk”. 🙂
And if you’ve been feeling the same about this as I have, feel free to share this post on social media to let others know.
Have a great week everyone,