407: First Meetings

What question do you hope to be asked when first meeting someone?

Full episode script

I’m a little bit obsessed with questions – if that hasn’t been made seriously clear by now. The form, the function, even the structure of questions fascinates me. In mid-September I gave a TEDx talk about exactly this obsession with questions in mid-September, and if I’m timed things out correctly, this episode should be releasing around the time the video is available on YouTube. Or will be soon.

But part of why questions fascinate me is that I’m terrible at small talk. I tend to be very awkward, and the questions that I ask regularly break the script of what people are usually prepared to answer. So this question – when you’re first meeting someone — is important.

But why? Because asking a question is creating a shared framework for communication. Rather than assuming about another person, an honestly or earnestly asked question helps indicate that you do not intend to assume about the other person. It extends an invitation, and if you take responsibility for how the question is asked and they take responsibility for how they interpret and answer the question, then what’s created between you is a building block.

Martin Buber would call it a spiritual child – a creature created by, nurtured by, and reliant upon both of the individuals, but separate from both as well.

So when you first meet someone and a question is asked, you’re showing respect. What kind of question you want to be asked or are prepared to answer can also reveal a lot about the types of conversations you are ready or willing to have.

So how do you like to kick off a new relationship or a new conversation? What question do you hope others ask you?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.