When you don’t ask sincere questions and talk it out, there’s a lot of important stuff that ends up never getting said.
Video Blog Post:
6 Questions (video transcript):
“Hey, what’s going on?” Marc asked.
“Not much,” I said. “And how was your day?”
“It was OK,” Marc said…
And just like that our conversation would be over. For the longest time, this is exactly how Marc and I initiated conversations with each other at the end of long workdays.
Sure, we greeted each other and asked a couple questions, but they weren’t the right questions. They were meaningless inquires that were stale and thoughtless. And, not surprisingly, our conversations went nowhere. Which, in time, ended up hurting our relationship.
Thankfully, before it was too late, we learned to communicate more effectively. We learned that if we really wanted to deepen our relationship – if we really cared to know what’s going on in each other’s heads and hearts – we needed to ask better questions, and then really listen to each other’s answers.
Specifically, we learned that we needed to ask questions that carry this fundamental message: “I’m not just checking the box here. I’m asking you because I really care how you feel and what you have to say. I really want to know YOU.”
So today, we want to help you ask questions that will save your relationships from a lot of grief. The bottom line is, if you don’t want to have shallow, meaningless conversations with the important people in your life, you can’t ask shallow, meaningless questions. A thoughtful, caring question is a key that will unlock the closed doors inside the people you love.
And although Marc and I learned this the hard way, we’re happy we learned. We don’t ask shallow questions anymore, like, “What’s going on?” After several years of practicing more mindful question-asking, we now find ourselves naturally asking questions that strengthen our relationship. Let’s take a look at some examples…
1. What made you feel good about yourself today?
Ask a loved one this question to help them celebrate what’s right about their life, right now.
It goes without saying, not every day will be good, but there will always be something good about every day. The key is to notice these things and celebrate them. We must train our minds to see the good. Positivity is a choice. The happiness of our lives, and our relationships, depends on the quality of our thoughts. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change how we think about it. And the first step is celebrating what CAN be celebrated – the lessons, the laughs, and the love we’ve experienced along the way.
And best of all, when you help a loved one celebrate these things, your gesture, in and of itself, becomes something worth celebrating and smiling about.
2. What has been making you feel alone and unworthy?
This is a difficult question to ask, and an even more difficult one to answer. But it’s worth it.
Sometimes we feel as though the world is crashing down around us, as if the pain we are experiencing is unique only to us in the moment. This, of course, is far from the truth. We are all in this together. The very demons that torment each of us, torment all of us. It is our challenges and troubles that connect us at the deepest level. Once we accept this, our relationships become a place where we can look each other in the eye and say, “I’m lost and struggling at the moment,” and we can nod back at each other and say, “Me too,” …and that’s OK. Because not being “OK” all the time, is perfectly OK.
If you think about the people who have had the greatest positive effect on your life – the ones who truly made a difference – you will likely realize that they aren’t the ones that tried to give you all the answers or solve all your problems. They’re the ones who sat silently with you when you needed a moment to think, who lent you a shoulder when you needed to cry, and who tolerated not having all the answers, but stood beside you anyway. Be this person for those you care about every chance you get.
3. What have I done recently that helped you feel loved and appreciated?
This is a great question, not only to ask someone you care about, but also to ask yourself. Think about it. How ARE you showing your love and appreciation?
If you struggle with this question in any way, here’s a wake-up call for you: No matter how sure you are of someone’s love, it is always nice to be reminded of it. Loving someone and having them love you back is the most precious phenomenon in the world, and it should be expressed as such. When you truly love someone, be loving in words and deeds every single day. Don’t beat around the bush. Be straightforward.
If you appreciate someone today, tell them. If you adore someone today, show them. Hearts are often confused and broken by thoughtful words left unspoken, and loving deeds left undone. There might not be a tomorrow. Today is the day to express your love and admiration. (Read The 5 Love Languages.)
4. What scares you about our relationship?
Truth be told, what often scares us the most is our vulnerability – how we are unavoidably vulnerable to each other when we choose to be in a relationship. So discuss this fact openly. Clear the air with the people you care about.
Consider the fact that all of us are subconsciously hardwired to connect with each other – through friendship, love, intimacy, and so forth – and your willingness to be vulnerable is the gateway to the affection you crave. But it takes serious courage to push the limits of your vulnerability, to dig deeper and deeper into the core of who you are as an individual, and not only love and accept the imperfect parts of yourself, but also expose them to someone else, trusting that this person will hold them lovingly.
Ultimately, to love is to be vulnerable, and to be willing to be vulnerable is to show your absolute greatest strength and your truest self. Finding and nurturing the right relationships that make this kind of love possible is a beautiful, lifelong process.
5. How much have you loved yourself lately?
No one in this world can expect anyone else to love and respect them more than they are willing to love and respect themself. Period.
So, if you want to awaken happiness in a relationship, start by living a life that makes you happy and then radiate your happiness into your relationship. If you want to eliminate suffering in a relationship, start by eliminating the dark and negative parts of yourself, and then radiate your positivity into your relationship. Truly, the greatest power you have in this world is the power of your own self-transformation. All the positive change you seek in any relationship starts with the one in the mirror.
Decide this minute to never again beg anyone for the love, respect, and attention that you should be showing yourself. Today, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I love you, and from now on I’m going to act like it.” It’s important to be nice to others, but it’s even more important to be nice to yourself.
When we practice self-love and self-respect, we give ourselves the opportunity to be happy. When we are happy, we become better friends, better family members, and better lovers. (Marc and I discuss this process in detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
6. What else hasn’t been asked or discussed?
This is a simple question you have to ask yourself, as it leads to other relevant questions you might ask a person you’re in a relationship with. It’s about tapping into what you already know is going on in their life.
For example, if your husband had a big meeting today, you might ask, “How did you feel during the meeting today?” Or if your daughter has been talking about a new friend, ask her, “What did you say to your new friend during recess today?” Or if you know a friend’s mom is fighting cancer, don’t avoid the topic, address it directly: “How is your mom’s chemo going?”
At the end of the day, you can’t be afraid to dive deeper and have certain conversations. Remember that questions are like gifts – it’s the thought behind them that the receiver feels. We have to know the receiver well enough to give the right gifts and ask the right questions. Generic gifts and questions are all right, but personal gifts and questions feel better. Because love is personal. The more attention and time you give to the questions you ask, the more beautiful the answers will become, and the stronger and stronger your relationships will grow.
Marc and I thought it would be fitting to end this post by asking YOU a question. So please leave a comment below and let us know…
What’s one question you need to start asking the people you love, more often?
Photo by: Darrell Godliman