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
Sandra Pawula says
The scene you describe is so typical! I think we all want more, but maybe we just don’t know how to get there. These are excellent questions that definitely carry the vibe that you care.
One question I would ask is, “How can I support you today?”
What a brilliant reminder this post/video is. Two questions come to mind that I love having asked to me, and try to remember to ask loved ones as often as I can:
What’s going well in your life today?
What can I do to help you in the next few minutes?
Ashley Hauck says
This is OT, but I am madly in love with Angel’s dress in the video. Can you shed some light on where I can find my very own?
Love is a very powerful word; it’s only four letters but its translated in many ways. I believe that open communication is a must – always talk about issues and find a resolution. Have the important conversations up front. It really comes down to asking thoughtful questions, listening intently, and being sincere, ALWAYS.
Angel and Marc, this is honestly what I love most about your blog, your book, and everything you share with us. You motivate us to ask the right questions, to ourselves and those we love. You inspire us to think differently and act positively, even when it’s easier not to. And for this I thank you.
The question I sneak in every so often with the people I love: “What have I done lately that didn’t make you feel good?” (And I make changes when appropriate.)
Thomas Matty says
This is an insightful post. My question would be:
How can I better love and support you today?
I would also suggest better understanding each other’s strengths as I’ve laid out here: thomasmatty.com/familystrengths/
Angel Chernoff says
@Sandra Pawula, Tammy and Thomas Matty: I love your positive, supportive questions. It really is nice when someone focuses on the good, and then asks you how they can add even more goodness to your situation.
@Ashley Hauck: Ha! Although I’m no fashionista, thank you for the compliment. It is flattering to hear that you liked my dress. And you’ll be happy to know you can get your very own right here: Olive & Oak Printed Chiffon Tie Back Maxi Dress
@J.J.: Thank you so much for the continued support of our blog and book. We truly appreciate you. And I love the question you’ve shared too. It gives people an opportunity to give us some essential feedback we otherwise may have never received.
Marc and Angel thanks for always giving and sharing.
Let me add this question: In what way are you proud of me?
Hello and firstly, I love that you guys do video blogs occasionally, so thanks for today’s video!
This blog rings amazingly true for me and my husband at the moment, as we are both feeling more and more distanced from one another. He tends to ‘check in’ on me never really wanting anything other than to know that ‘I’m fine’ which sometimes I’m not. So I appreciate hearing you say that that’s OK too because with my husband feeling always A-OK, it makes me feel like an over-sensitive numbnut! I just can’t see him bending to me if I ask him any of your questions ! Eeek. But thanks so much for this blog anyway, it gives me strength xx
How can I love you better?
Instead of ‘How was your day?’, I try to say ‘Tell me about your day’. Then, truly listen to the response and give loving, supportive feedback. This works for kids and adults.
Marc and Angel, I enjoy reading (and watching/listening to) your blogs. Thanks for all you do and keep up the great work!
Who/what made you laugh today?
Beth Clark says
My question would be: “Do you feel light or heavy when you are around me?” The next question would be, “Why? ” when they answer.
All your articles are really good because they are simple, and tell the things the most clearly I ever read.
And I really love your videos together, so sweet of you too.
Thank you for being so clear.
I loved Tammy’s question: “What can I do to help you in the next few minutes?”
In my work situation, if a colleague asked me this, I would be so happy! I sometimes ask this, but it’s not often returned…
I think the key point in relationships is to remove the focus on ourselves & to acknowledge the other person… It’s less ego & more compassion…
I need to ask my husband more often, “Are you happy?” We’ve been a tight knit team for nearly 40 years with all the ups and downs that everyone else has, but when I ask this question, we take pause and connect on a deeper more reflective note. I always say we’re so lucky. He always says, it’s not luck.
Harry Poliak says
What is one thing you appreciate about yourself right now?
My question would be:
How do I express my anger and conflict?
I think this is an important question because everyone has their own ways of dealing with anger and conflict. Sometimes you both have different interpretations of one’s expression or how to deal with anger and conflict. Hence, asking this question would help in finding how to solve a problem and have a better understanding of each other.
Thank you Marc, Angel, and everyone that comments on this great blog. Thank you for sharing your personal experience and inspiring words. I enjoy reading them and it truly helps in my daily life.
What makes us amazing, together as one?
My question: What can we do together right today that would make us both smile?
There are mornings when my husband is super grouchy for no reason. Like this morning. He prefers that I just give him his space and avoid any unnecessary conversations. These questions are great, and when he is in a good mood, I will be sure to ask them! This morning, I will probably just tell him that I love him and let him know what time I will be home this evening. That is how we roll.
Once you have asked, delved and made the changes asked of you and the other person STILL is NOT happy, them I think the healthier alternative is to remove yourself from it…maybe not forever but for a while. Give yourselves a break and realize that no one can MAKE someone be happy if they are not open to it themselves. You end up being sucked down with them. Your life matters too. Do the work but if nothing changes, take comfort in knowing you did all you could but in the end, your happiness is important too.
My question to those that I love and are feeling overwhelmed, as we all sometimes can is: What can I do to help you?
It is our actions in relationships that speak louder then words. Do what you say and others will see and feel your love and support. Thanks Marc and Angel you are a positive and wonderful inspiration. Don’t ever stop sharing your lessons learned in life.
Wow this is a good one today. I have to say that I am at the point in my current realtionship where I am finding it hard to ask the “hard” questions about future and commitment. I tell myself to accept the time that we do have together and that tomorrow is never promised. But there is also a part of me that longs to plan a future of hopes and dreams.
So MY question is this Marc and Angel: How do you find the will within yourself to ask someone the hard questions and how do you go about asking the “serious” questions in a blooming relationship especially with a man who is very intutive and tends to keep emotions in?
Dave Nordella says
“How did I get so lucky as to have you in my life?” Of course, this is really a rhetorical question to myself.
I ask questions of my wife all the time to learn more about her. Some of your questions seem incredibly risky to me, which means that I should ask her those questions. Thanks so much for writing this post.
“What happened today that was interesting to you?” And “What are you grateful for today?” are two of my favorites. Also I ask my son to tell me one thing he learned today. It reminds him and me) that every day we learn something.
Susan Luscombe says
Is there anything I owe you an apology or explanation for?
As stated before, my question would be, “how can I help?” Many times people just don’t know what they want or need. By actually asking, hopefully they will be honest and tell you how best to help.
Loved this post and the video. Thanks much. Also great comments from everyone, thank you as well.
Thank you so much for this post. I’m thrilled to say that I have caring open-communications today. This reminds me of how far I’ve come! My last relationship I tried very hard to be present and inquisitive in a caring way about his day and in return he was annoyed and told me that I was prying into his life (we were engaged and living together). I had a very difficult time letting go and moving on. Today I am so grateful for not only that relationship but also to him for being part of my journey (i never thought that I’d feel this way about him).
Lesson learned… If you can’t even have an intimate conversation, it’s time to move on. However long it takes, it does get better!
Here’s mine for daytime: What was the first thought you had upon waking up this morning?
And here’s one for evening: What do you hope to dream about tonight?
Tope Fabusola says
How can I tell you how timely this is?
OK, that question is clearly rhetorical.
Yet, I must tell you that you have brought out some new, relevant, and eye-opening questions we should never forget to ask from time to time, not just in our special relationships, but in other areas of life too.
Thank you so much, Angel!
Innocent Mahenge. says
It’s really a good thing to know were weakness lies in any relationship. And that is what I learned today. Xo. My question is obvious… “What is my weakness in my relationship that sometimes makes us feel unworthy or discouraged?”
Thanks so much!! I felt so embarrassingly identified with the opening lines… I truly appreciate these ideas right now. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful questions!
Thought provoking. I would have to rephrase these, otherwise they sound too much like touchy feely psych speak for my partner. But the idea of asking more meaningful questions than ‘how was your day?’ makes a lot of sense, and I’m sure our relationship needs this kind of communication.
What an absolutely thought provoking.. potentially relationship changing, video.
I feel like sending this out to every couple I know.. including my hubby to get us talking on a deeper level.
My one question?
“What can I do to support what matters most to you right now?”
This is a great set of probing, open questions. They do two things, in my mind: asked appropriately they can demonstrate a true and caring interest in your relationships, and two, the responses can provide practice for active listening.
A variation of one, that I ask my son after his day at school, is, “What was the best thing that happened today?” It disallows a closed answer to the question “How was your day” where you might get a single word response (Good/OK/etc.), and it also creates a habit for him to reflect on what did happen, and describe it.
Ando Mierzwa says
Here’s what helps me:
As soon as I get home, BEFORE I ask any questions, I find my wife and give her a hug. A GOOD hug.
That is a question and answer all by itself! 🙂
This are great questions- specifically, I like the one that says, “What have I done recently that made you feel loved and appreciated?”
Angel Chernoff says
@Mollie: Give it a try; your husband may surprise you. =)
@Lin: You’re absolutely right, in the end, the price of happiness IS responsibility. As soon as you stop making everyone and everything else responsible for your happiness, the happier you’ll be. If you’re unhappy now, it’s not someone else’s fault.
@Michelle: Information is the grease that keeps the engine of communication running. Always give the important people in your life the information they need to understand you. And communicate more than just problems – communicate the good things too. Share what you love about your lover. Share what is going on in your mind and heart. Share your deepest thoughts, needs, wishes, hopes and dreams.
Talk openly and set aside a time where these conversations can happen. Put yourself in an environment where you’re both enjoying the moment, and share what’s on your mind first and then go from there.
@VS: Lesson learned is right! Communication isn’t just an important part of a relationship, it is the relationship. Relationships often fail because of trust issues, commitment issues, and above all, communication issues. So be honest, commit, and COMMUNICATE always.
@Rafael: We’re all guilty. No need to feel embarrassed. =)
@Steve: These aren’t just good questions for intimate relationships, but for all relationships including the ones we have with our children. Great point!
@Ando Mierzwa: Love it!
@All: Great communication is the cornerstone of a great relationship. Thank you for your additional questions and insights. Marc and I just went over each and every one one of them with each other, asking questions back and forth. It was fun! 🙂
Did you/we express gratitude today?
What do I do that makes you feel loved? Once I know, I can do it more often!
Cody Butler says
I think number 6 is probably the big question. I would ask the question are you holding on to anything in the past that’s stopping us from moving forward together? The rest doesn’t really matter to much until those issues are dealt with.
My husband has taken to asking me “what did you do fun for yourself today?”
At first, it bothered me that he asked this. I felt like it was a jab because I work from home and have more time to “have fun” during the day, and I know it’s something that he’s a bit jealous of. I finally asked him about it one day and he admitted that yes he’s jealous but he really did want to know that I’d done something for myself during the day. Reading your post brought that home and makes me feel a lot better about his question. I need to find a good question to ask him each day. I’ve really been wanting to help him build his self-esteem and I think that your first question: “What made you feel good about yourself today?” is a great one for that. Thank you.
Donna Karson says
Another great post! I’m a follower. My added question would be: “What aren’t you saying? What are you keeping to yourself that maybe we should talk about?”
Angel and Marc, what to do when your “hardwiring” from when you were quite small contradicts every question you’ve posed here?
1. What made you feel good about yourself today?
No one ever has asked me this question. When I used to share, I was told “it’s not about you, why do you think the world revolves around you?” When you hear that over and over again, I didn’t look for the good anymore.
I could go on but won’t. I want to change this all. My close family doesn’t want to hear my questions, not my husband nor my daughter. They also don’t want to hear my “truths” even when I ask them to please listen to me. I’m suffering in silence. If anything they continue to shame me for my mistakes for which I know I am not perfect, shame me for my shortcomings and leave me out here feeling rejected, alone and heartbroken.
I read your blog and posts faithfully. I love your wisdom. Thank you for listening.
It’s the art of actively and consciously listening which we also struggle with. People today seem to not be present with so many distractions and with narcissism creeping in we tend to only think of what we want to say next rather than allowing someone to speak and be completely heard.
Conversation is the key to success of every relationship and it is the first action I recommend for any issue ‘have you spoken in person about this’… no text or email.
Marc and Angel, thank you for this post. It makes us remember that each and every relationship requires nurture and open communication.
I would like to ask my loved ones, “how are you feeling today” because often times people do not talk about their true feelings and brush them aside.
Two questions I like to ask my grandchildren:
1) tell me something good/exciting
2) tell me something new you learned today
Easy, simple, conversation!
I would like to start off by saying I fell in love at first sight. It never occurred to me to put more thought into the questions I ask and I’m baffled as to why.
I’m a perfectionist so my question would be what can I do to on my part to make our time together happier( I was thinking of my bf and making him happier) because I’m happy when I’m making someone else happy.
Although I’m young but I hope that doesn’t show in my comment I post as I’m super nervous for some reason posting one. I cant wait to hear more 🙂
What can I do to help you?