I don’t mind being thrown into a group a strangers. The extrovert in me knows that I can handle it and the connector in me knows that I’ll find middle ground somewhere to make conversational magic happen.
Unless I’m not in the mood. And at a recent gathering where I didn’t know too many people, I was not in the mood. I found myself getting quiet, and weirdly in my head about having very little in common with the things they all were interested in talking about at the time. And then I took it one sulkier step forward all the way to literally I have not been asked a single question by a single one of these people. WTF.
As soon as I said it to myself, I knew that it wasn’t anything about them. It was about me. What was I doing to engage them? Was I asking them questions over and beyond the surface? Was I extending the energy I was so clearly looking for?
I was talking recently to a friend about having their feelings hurt by someone they love — it ended with this: She never asks a single thing about my life. If you talk to anyone who feels like they’re missing meaning in a relationships with someone, it can so easily be tied back to the lack of asking, the lack of inquiring, the lack of curiosity from the other side.
When we ask meaningful questions, we show our love. We say in a single sentence that we care, because we’re curious about how they think, where they come from, where they’re at, how things went. With strangers, it builds bridges. With close relationships, it strengthens that bridge.
Ask new humans not what they do, but what they care about. Ask how they got here. Ask what brings them the most joy. Ask ones you love how something made them feel, how they’re actually doing, where in their life they need some support.
There’s no wrong way to ask unless you don’t ask at all. So, ask more. Ask often. Ask with intention, with curiosity and heart. Those who don’t know you will feel full from their experience with you. Those who know you well will feel closer. And the more you give it, the more likely you are to receive this beautiful gift that you’re giving out.