Hello ladies, gentlemen and gentle friends.
Sorry for the delay, but finally, here is the post you've all been waiting for. The one that will relieve you of all conversational pressure and anxiety. The sole piece of writing that will help you survive your very first Grow & Gather.
These are crucial in making people feel comfortable and accepted, especially if you're like me, and have invited people that don't know each other, or don't know each other well. If you have invited people you already know, I tried to make questions that will still help you learn more about each other.
- What is the story of your name? This can include what it means, why your parents chose it, were you named after someone, do you like it etc. etc.
p.s. I definitely stole this question from the beautiful Alice Andersen. A killer #girlboss poet, blogger, mumma and all-round life coach.
- What are your highs and lows of the day/week? I know this cheesy, but it seriously works, and is really interesting. It's a Tanner family tradition. Kia ora Mum (she's gonna be so happy she got the shout out eh mum!?).
- What are some of the things you are passionate about? What are you working on at the moment relating to your passions? Or do you have ideas about what you want to do with those passions?
Note: You don't need to ask all the questions, if any. Feel free to come up with your own. It's about making everyone feel comfortable, and letting each other see glimpses into each others' humanity.
If you want to be next level like my sister Rachel you can ask your guests to all bring something surrounding a theme (e.g. a photograph of your grandparents, an object that has sentimental meaning to you, or wear your favourite piece of clothing"). This can be another easy conversation creator: not too dissimilar from sharing time at primary school. Ha.
"How important do you think it is that we know our cultural, and genealogical heritage?" Encourage personal anecdotes.
- Perhaps to segway into this central topic, first, ask a question that is smack bam in the middle of a get-to-know-you gem and the topic. My suggestion is something like, "Where do you say you are from, and why?" Then you can ask the big ol' question.
- What are the implications of knowing vs. not knowing our heritage?
- Do think if more people in New Zealand, and the wider-world knew their heritage that it could change how we view and treat one another?
- If you think you have covered everything under the sun, you could wrap up discussion with a quick round-table of what people have learnt, realised, or enjoyed the most about the conversation.
Note: Don't worry, you probably won't have to ask all these questions. Conversation will naturally flow and likely cover them without you even asking.
Sneaky questions for the lulls
I said I'd provide some sneaky questions, but I think I covered that above. Although, one sneaky question that has resounding influence on how deep discussion goes is:
- Why? There is no end to how many times you can say why to someone's answer to a question. Don't be annoying and ask 5000 times. A few "why's" can go a long way. "Why do you believe that?" "Why do you do that?" "Why do you feel like that?" It gets to the heart of the subject.
One Last Thing
Conversation is as much listening, if not more, as it is speaking.
If you don't have time to watch it, these are her ten top tips:
- Don't multi-task. Be present in the moment, physically, mentally and emotionally. Leaving the conversation is better than only half being in it.
- Don't pontificate (yes, I had to google that word. It means to "express one's opinions in a pompous and dogmatic way"). "Since true listening involves a setting aside of the self [our opinions and personal agendas], it also temporarily involves a total acceptance of the other. Sensing this acceptance, the speaker will feel less and less vulnerable, and more and more inclined to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener." - M. Scott Peck.
Always assume that you have something to learn.
- Ask open ended questions. Who, What, Where, When, Why and How? If you ask a complicated question you are going to get a simple answer. Instead of "Were you terrified?", answers ranging from yes to no, ask, "What was that like?" Let them describe it.
- Go with the flow. When someone is speaking, stories and ideas are going to come to you. You need to let them come, and let them go.
- If you don't know. Say you don't know. Err on the side of caution when you know you are not an expert.
- Don't equate your experience with theirs. It's not about you, it's about them. All experiences are individual (I completely agree that experiences are never truly the same between individuals, but I also think that sometimes people want to know that they are not alone in how they are feeling about something. As long as you are not making the moment about you, and you acknowledge that your experiences likely differ, share your story if you think it would be helpful for them.)
- Try not to repeat yourself. Don't rephrase your same point over and over again, like parents do to their children.
- Stay out of the weeds. People don't care about all the intricate details of a story that you are struggling to remember (e.g. names, dates). People care about you, what you are like, and what you have in common.
- MOST IMPORTANT: Listen. "If your mouth is open, then you are not learning" - Buddha.
- Be brief. "A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject." - Celeste's sister.
It all boils down to this: "Be interested in other people". Prepare yourself to be amazed and you will never be disappointed.
And that's a wrap my friends!
Hope you have a beautiful time, and I can't wait to see your pictures and hear your stories.
Remember to hashtag #samediff
10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation - Celeste Headlee
Image - lissiejane
The Riccarton Bush Farmer's Market with Ally Cat, Lyddy Newpants and camera shy Henny, in early 2016. The mouth-watering joy of Bellbird croissants and apple-turnovers are most certainly worth getting up for on a Saturday morning.