Last week I attended an evening at “The School of Life” called A Night of Better Conversations. The School of Life is the brainchild of Alain de Botton, a Swiss-born, British philosopher. The ‘school’ offers educational programs and events that explore ways to make work more fulfilling, improve relationships and make life more meaningful.
The inspiration for the event was the idea that many of us are looking for deeper more meaningful conversations. The facilitator posed the notion that for many of us our conversations and interactions are often superficial. That most of the time we are presenting a busy and achieving version of ourselves to impress our fellow conversationalist. Or we keep to very superficial discussions on real estate, high schools or the weather. Over time that kind of conversation whether at work or at home causes stagnation to occur. We miss out on juicy life-affirming connections with others.
Great conversations can create bonds, build trust, promote understanding, boost careers and deepen friendships.
Last year The New York Times featured an article about 37 questions (designed by psychologists) that will make you fall in love. The premise was that if you asked each other all 37 questions there was a high probability that you would fall in love. The questions were designed to create mutual vulnerability, which in turn fosters closeness. So great conversations can even cause us to fall in love.
Back at the ‘School of Life’ our work was to practice having better conversations. We were provided with some oxygenating questions to try out on total strangers. It was fun and energizing.
I loved this event because I certainly crave conversations that explore the bigger questions of what it is to be human.
My favourite questions from that night are:
What in your life do you feel most grateful for and why?
What surprises you the most about your life right now?
What do you regret not doing because of fear?
With those first few Christmas gatherings already in the calendar, I want to be better prepared to have great conversations. Please post and share those stimulating questions that take you out of the shallow end of the conversational pool and get you well into the deep end. Be brave and try out a few at your next work lunch or school picnic. Like oxygen, we all need good conversations.
“Ah, good conversation - there's nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.”
― Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence