My partner and I just pulled in the driveway after a much-needed weekend away. We sat in the car for an extra few minutes mentally preparing for our return to reality. The truth is, part of what we were doing was avoiding the inevitable... receiving a barrage of questions from his family as soon as we walked in the door.
This is something that has happened 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒 we've returned after a trip.
As we sat in the car procrastinating, I reflected on what it is about this particular style of questioning has felt more like an assault than a conversation.
It occurred to me that two things tend to contribute to this:
The questions we get are of the fact-finding variety. That is, they are not designed to collect our experiences or feelings but rather mine data and details.
The questions come at us at a rapid pace, barely allowing time for us to answer before the next one is coming at us.
Sure enough, when we finally went inside, we got hit with them...
"𝐷𝑖𝑑 𝑦𝑜𝑢 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑔𝑜𝑜𝑑 𝑤𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟?" "𝑊𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑑𝑠 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑡𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒?" "𝐻𝑜𝑤 𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑦 𝑓𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑟𝑠 𝑑𝑖𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑠𝑒 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒?"
Now, I 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 believe these questions are coming from a place of genuine desire for connection... to be included... to feel close to us, or maybe even to show that our presence was missed and our return is valued.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗶𝘀, 𝘄𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘀𝗲𝗹𝘃𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝗾𝘂𝗶𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗱.
So...how can we engage in ways that attract the connection we want and not repel it?
Asking questions is a great start... when done with some considerations.
𝟏) 𝗔𝘀𝗸 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗮 Just like in my example above, instead of being asked questions like "How did it feel to get away?" or "How did you like the place you stayed?" we were asked for data points which weren't about us at all. And if what you're trying to accomplish is connection with someone - you will feel more connected when you ask about them and not the weather.
𝟮) 𝗔𝘀𝗸 𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗻-𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝗾𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 When we ask questions that don't have a predictable answer, we leave space for more of a rich response. For example, asking "Did you have a good time?" encourages a response of yes or no, whereas asking "How was the trip?" allows space for any number of things to follow.
𝟯) 𝗙𝗼𝗹𝗹𝗼𝘄 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝘂𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝗰𝘂𝗿𝗶𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝘆 Do you want to know if we had privacy away from the kids? Do you want to know what the impact of the trip was on our relationship? Ask! When we follow our genuine curiosity and let the other determine how much they want to share, we allow connection, closeness, and vulnerability. And we get to hear about what we're ACTUALLY interested in. And not what we are assuming is polite or acceptable to ask. If you're not actually curious about something: don't bother asking.
𝟰) 𝗥𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻 If you find yourself queuing up the next question while the other person is still answering, I guarantee you're not giving your full presence. Be with what's being shared. Listen to the words and notice the non-verbal queues. If you're following your curiosity, you may even notice that what you're interested in shifts as they speak. Keep following it!