Going beyond "How was your day?"

When I was a kid, I remember my parents asking me to tell them about my day, and not having any idea what to say. What did they care about? What was important? I wanted them to know about my life, and I had plenty I could have said, but I needed more direction. I needed specific prompts.

Even as an adult, I love the power of good questions to engage people and open up conversation. Here are five questions I've been using at my own dinner table that seem to work really well:

  1. What is something you are grateful for today?
  2. What is something you would like to be thanked or acknowledged for?
  3. What is something you noticed or learned?
  4. What is something that frustrated or disappointed you?
  5. What is something you'd like to be forgiven for?

I love these questions for so many reasons. I love the way they welcome and normalize the full range of human experience. I love that there are no wrong answers or invitations for judgment; just opportunities for each person to share what it's like to be them. I love that the questions can be answered by people of all ages, and are therefore a great way to connect across generations. And I love the way they bring out stories from people's days that I wouldn't otherwise hear.

It occurs to me that the same questions could be used for many different time periods, too, not just the end-of-day review: What were you grateful for this past year? What would you like to be acknowledged for in this moment? What have you noticed or learned in the last few hours? What was frustrating or disappointing about your week? What in your life would you like to be forgiven for?

One could fill hours of interesting conversation with just those five questions.

What about you? What questions do you like to ask people? What questions do you wish others would ask you more often? How do you create opportunities to have conversations that matter? If you did an end-of-year review for 2016, what did it consist of? I'd love to hear what you have to say.