I had an awesome night out recently...
I went out with a group of my coworkers who I knew to varying extents in my as of that moment, short stint working with them at my new job. Our plans for the night had hit a wall so we all decided to just hang out at a local draft house to chat and relax after a long week. When there was a natural lull in the conversation, I noted how I love great questions and have collected a list over time. This peaked my colleagues' interest and I started rattling off some of the questions to the group. After a few questions (and maybe a few drinks) we were sharing stories and experiences from our lives and bonding over the deep dialogue we were having.
I learned some profound things from evening that I feel like can be helpful to others, especially my colleagues out in the wide world of student affairs. I learned the importance of people feeling safe, the value in self-disclosure, and the power of great questions.
Throughout the course of the evening, I made sure to really listen to the people in my group. They were sharing very personal anecdotes at times so I wanted to really hear them and appreciate their bravery being vulnerable with the group. We all got meta at times where we felt like I was being a group therapist but many of the skills I learned in my counseling courses during graduate school are just great tips for life when listening to people and encourage genuine emotional connections. No one would have been into my gauntlet of questions for us all to get know each other better if they hadn't felt safe in the group. Everyone bought in and helped create a safe environment, even in a public place like a bar, which was an important foundation to build off of for the entirety of the discussion.
Being an unofficial leader of the discussion as the keeper of the questions, I had an important role in the discourse. While people felt safe through my active listening and appreciation of their vulnerability, taking it all one step further was my own self-disclosure. I didn't fancy myself better than anyone else there and would often give my own answers first, if not second. I have a strong feeling the steam of the conversation would run out pretty quick if I was never sharing anything about myself
Lastly, the engine of this fascinating chat I had was my questions. I felt out the vibes of the group and kept my questions to more positive ones that asked about interesting concepts like what would be your desired superpower, your personal motto, the best vacation you ever had, and what profession you'd like to attempt other than your own. People shared as much or as little as they wanted and weren't made to share anything too vitriolic. The questions were some of my own creation, submissions from others, and some from the famous list used on Inside the Actor's Studio. Great questions get people thinking and sharing beyond topics relegated for "small talk". My all-time favorite question was the inspiration for one of my favorite blog posts, and simply asks "what do you geek out about?". I've gotten a wide array of answers to this question and it never fails to get a great conversation going since people are talking about what they love.
I always like to gleam grandiose life lessons from even the most mundane things. This night is a simple example of how personal conversations can create deep connections and allow for great positive change. People learned new things about people they thought they knew and appreciated each other not only for sharing, but for the new things they learned about one another. I hope for more fun nights like this in the future and I hope you can have some of your own too.
If you have any awesome questions you'd like to submit, leave a comment or tweet at me.