Can we talk about people we know personally?

 

I’m thinking of Thanksgiving dinner conversations as I write this one. And I’m thinking of the terribly contentious presidential election we’re all just emerging from. I know there are a lot of folks out there who are dreading the prospect of a political food fight erupting at the dinner table. If things start to get heated, you could always just change the subject. (“How about those Cubs finally winning it all?! Am I right, Uncle Breitbart?”) But I’ve never seen that work really well, myself. And it’s probably not productive. We DO NEED to be talking with each other. We DO NEED to listen across the party lines that exist even within our own families (ESPECIALLY within our own families!). But it’s difficult to hear each other when blood pressures rise and people start unholstering their talking points. Talking points… Pshh. Talk about a guaranteed waste of time. Instead, if you can’t (or don’t want to) avoid the political conversation, try this one: “Can we talk about people we know personally?” And follow it up with, “Because I’m thinking of my fishing buddy, Michael, who hasn’t had full-time hours at the plant in over a year.” Or, “Because I’m thinking of my dear friend Janice who is scared that her marriage will be invalidated…again.” Return over and over to ACTUAL PEOPLE YOU KNOW PERSONALLY. It’s disarming. Actual people are Kryptonite to talking points. If you keep the conversation about the people in your lives, both sides can end up with something productive even if you don’t ever agree. You’ll at least start to understand each other’s worldviews. Continue reading Can we talk about people we know personally?

A deranged serial killer points a gun at you and says “Make 1 phone call right now. If the person answers, I will shoot you.” Who do you call?

 

Haha! This question is too damn funny. Apparently it was making the rounds on Facebook recently. I’d call my mom’s cell. She often doesn’t remember to keep it on her so I’d have maybe a 60-40 chance of not getting shot. I struggle to come up with someone in my life who is just guaranteed straight to voicemail. Maybe that’s a blessing! Continue reading A deranged serial killer points a gun at you and says “Make 1 phone call right now. If the person answers, I will shoot you.” Who do you call?

If you could invent a brand new holiday, what would it celebrate?

 

What would it be all about? And how would people observe the day? My sister immediately answered this question by exclaiming, “National Nocturnal Day!!” She said on that day, everyone would sleep all day and work all night. As a natural night owl who often feels guilty waking up late after burning the midnight oil, she would love a day that was all for the nocturnally inclined. People would leave their lights on as they worked on passion projects, side hustles, and caught up on work. Coffee shops would be bumping at 3am. Haha! That’s her holiday. What’s yours? Continue reading If you could invent a brand new holiday, what would it celebrate?

Who is the most reasonable person you know who is voting for the other candidate?

 

Just a few more days until the 2016 presidential election season comes to a close. Thank God. Trump or Clinton. Boy oh boy. All indications point to a very close race. But no matter what happens, at the end of this, we will see (as we’ve seen for the past 4 elections), that the country is nearly split down the middle. Us vs. Them, with less and less common decency and civil interaction every time a new president is chosen. This is a trend that we need to reverse for the sake of our country’s future. So let’s all ask this question: Who is the most reasonable person I know who is voting for the other candidate? When you come up with a name, go grab coffee together. Talk about politics. Or don’t. But interact, listen, and continue to be reasonable with each other. It’s a low bar, but an important one. Continue reading Who is the most reasonable person you know who is voting for the other candidate?

Are there any “slang” words or phrases in your family?

 

So apparently my friend’s dad made up an expression that he would say any time he was about to go poop. And for some reason he’d say it to one of the family pets. For example: “Mr. Whiskers, I’m going to the super bowl! I’m gonna take you to the super bowl!” As a saying, it only kind of makes sense. (Presumably “bowl” comes from “toilet bowl” but why the super bowl? And why would the pets be brought along?) The point is that it’s funny, and random, and would only make sense within my friend’s family. It’s slang that’s localized to her single household. What do they speak at your house? Continue reading Are there any “slang” words or phrases in your family?

Do you have a favorite book that was read to you?

 

Any book that YOU yourself read is off limits for this question. What book do you really remember because it was read TO you by a real live person? (Audio books don’t count here.) When my sister and I were discussing this question, we both remembered the book “Bunnicula” that my mom read to us when we were in early grade school. Every night for a few weeks, we’d climb up onto my mom’s bed and she’d read a chapter or two before we had to go to sleep. I don’t remember a single detail about that book. But I remember the title and I remember loving that time together and being so eager for the next night when we could hear another chapter. My sister obviously remembers it too. I don’t think we’d talked about that book in 20 years but just today we both instantly were saying “Bunnicula!” Continue reading Do you have a favorite book that was read to you?

When was the last time that you had to build up your courage to do something?

 

#11 on this really great list points out that courage is not something we need to have at all times. To have a really fantastic life, in fact, we only need to be courageous every now and then for like 20 seconds at a time, max. That’s usually the amount of time it takes to make that uncomfortable phone call, or finish speaking the actual sentence where you ask your boss for a raise, or walk over to that person you’ve been wanting to meet. You don’t have to walk through life as a constantly courageous person. You just have to be able to build up enough courage for that 20 second sprint. So when was the last time you had to build up your courage to do something? Continue reading When was the last time that you had to build up your courage to do something?

If you had to give a toast tonight, what story would you tell about [Name] or [Name]?

 

Dang! I just made up a brand new category for this single question. I don’t normally make new categories until I have at least 5 questions but I couldn’t resist. This one is too good. (And I’ve been going to too many weddings in the last several years not to share it.) So you know how at some weddings you and your +1 are seated at a table for dinner with people you only kind of know? And you know how conversation that involves everyone at that table is sometimes hard to get going? Well next time, just wait for that lingering silence and then throw out, “Hey, if you had to give a toast tonight, what story would you tell about [Name] or [Name]?” You’ll have the tightest table at the whole reception faster than you can say, “Cupid Shuffle.” You’re welcome! Continue reading If you had to give a toast tonight, what story would you tell about [Name] or [Name]?

What’s one thing you’ve learned from an animal?

 

The animal could be your own pet. Or it could be a deer you saw on a hike. It could even be a killer whale from that crazy Blackfish documentary that blindsided Sea World and forced them to start phasing out their orca shows. The biological diversity on our little planet is truly staggering. Humans plus, oh you know, just a couple million other species. So what’s one lesson that you’ve learned from interacting with or observing an animal? Continue reading What’s one thing you’ve learned from an animal?

What’s something you own because you just like the idea of having it (more than you actually use it)?

 

I grew up in Southern California (310 represent, baby!) and I’ve always loved the beach and the ocean. I learned to surf as a Junior Lifeguard when I was 10 years old. I’m not great, but I do love it. When I moved to North Carolina it meant living as far from the ocean as I’d ever lived. That was really unsettling for me. So when I got to NC, one of the first things that I started looking for on Craigslist was a surfboard. As soon as I found a good deal on a decent board, I snatched it up and IMMEDIATELY felt a sense of relief wash over me. Security blanket effect, for sure. In the five years that I’ve owned it, I’ve surfed it three times total. In fact, I’ve surfed way more often on my old boards at home when visiting my family back in SoCal, haha. But I’m always going to own a surfboard out here in NC, regardless of how little use it sees. I realize that, logically, this makes no sense. But I don’t care. And I have a feeling I’m not alone. But you tell me… Am I? Continue reading What’s something you own because you just like the idea of having it (more than you actually use it)?

Do you want to hear about my day?

 

If you’re just having no luck getting your kid to answer ANY question (fun, unusual, or otherwise), give this one a shot. Sara Ackerman in the Washington Post writes that when she asked her daughter “Do you want to hear about MY day?”, her little girl was indeed interested in hearing about mom’s meetings and the jammed printer. And after Sara shared about her own day, her daughter, “like she’s taking her turn in a game of Go Fish” opened up about what she’d done that day. The article explains the genius behind this question better than I can. Check it out right here and let us know if this finally gets your gradeschool kid talking! Continue reading Do you want to hear about my day?

Outside of your own place and your own bed, where do you sleep best?

 

Seriously, is there anything better than a deep, rejuvenating, re-centering night’s sleep? Outside of your own place, where do you go to get that? Some people swear by the sleep they get while camping. I’ve heard of grandparents’ houses being another location that lulls people into deep sleep. One of my best friends has a back bench in his big van that can turn into a full bed. He raves about the sleep in there. Where do you sleep best?
Continue reading Outside of your own place and your own bed, where do you sleep best?

Do you remember us making up any games as kids?

 

Perfect question to ask your siblings because, together, siblings come up with some weird ish, man! My sister and I made up a road trip game called “Mr. Brown”. We were probably 5 and 6 years old, respectively. This is how “Mr. Brown” game would go: Someone would ask, “Hey, do you wanna play Mr. Brown?” The other person would say yes so we’d find this one pillow that my mom always put in the car for us during road trips. It was a square, off-white pillow with a thousand small fabric tassels around the edge. We’d each yank off one tassel and proceed to chew on it like gum while saying, “Mmm! Yum! Mr. Brown.” That’s it. That was the whole game. W.T.Effff? The tassels tasted salty and starchy and disgusting. There was no winner. It wasn’t even a game. But we still played it every road trip. Don’t ask me… Continue reading Do you remember us making up any games as kids?

What was the first thing that you saved up your own money to buy?

 

Kids aren’t exactly known for long-term planning. So it’s always interesting to find out what single thing was so desirable in your young life that it got you to forego candy and arcade games and whatever else so that you could save up some dough. For me, the 1991 release of the Super Nintendo console made me quit my 7-11 beef jerky and gummi bears habit faster than you could say “Hadouken!!” I also sold the original Nintendo console that had been gifted to my sister and me (along with all the original Nintendo games I’d gotten from past birthdays and Christmases). $200 bucks and a few months later and I was on my way to Toys R Us, boyyyy! Continue reading What was the first thing that you saved up your own money to buy?

What was your AIM screen name?

 

This question is aimed pretty squarely at the older Millennials out there. Remember AIM? (AOL Instant Messenger) I’m an old Millennial myself and I can say that all of my peers are at least a little bit embarrassed about their AIM names. Mine was PBDiy1polo. “PB” for “paintball” because I played a lot of it in middle and high school. “Diy” for my last name. The number 1 and “polo” because I was a water polo goalie and goalies are always assigned the number one. Haha. It’s funny to remember this stuff! This is a great date question because it’s a throwback, it’s a bit embarrassing/vulnerable, and it actually tells a lot about people in most cases! (The question can be modified for anyone by asking the more general “What was your first online screen name?”) Continue reading What was your AIM screen name?

What is your very earliest memory?

 

I spent a lot of time this past weekend with the two-year-old son of one of my close friends from church. I saw the little guy on the first day he was born and I’ve seen him several times a month ever since. This is the first time in my adulthood that I’ve watched an infant develop like this. The little dude is just hilarious now. In the past 6 months he’s become so much more verbal and has started to show so much more of his personality (loves throwing frisbees and bouncing balls, is silly and active, but is also cautious with new things…) Anyway, as he cracked up about the frisbee game we were playing yesterday, I wondered… “Is there even a chance of him remembering this?” My earliest memory is from four years old; it’s of my sister and I playing in our apartment complex. I can’t remember a single thing before that. Can you? Continue reading What is your very earliest memory?

In what area of your life are you okay with being just “average”?

 

And in what area of your life are you okay with even being BELOW average? And in what area of your life do you KNOW that you need to be above average in order to be able to sleep at night? This trio of questions is a guaranteed conversation starter with any group of friends. I know because I’ve tested this a few times now and I’ve watched some interesting things happen. You definitely will learn what skills and what relationships your friends prioritize in life (that’s number one and is interesting all on its own). But inevitably some people will pick something silly to be below average at (like juggling or ventriloquism or some other thing they don’t even really do). Someone will ask how to define the word “average.” Someone will probably ask if “average-ness” in this hypothetical situation is a matter of skill or of effort. The conversation really takes off! And it’s hard to say all the directions it could go. You ask it and let me know what happens! Continue reading In what area of your life are you okay with being just “average”?

Which of your friends has been in your life the longest and what initially did you bond over?

 

Ryan and Mike have been my best friends since 1st and 2nd grade respectively. Ryan and I clicked because on the 1st grade playground, I liked how he could kick a soccer ball really high into the air. Mike and I connected because in 2nd grade I was way jealous of the skinny crayola markers he owned (you know the fine-tipped ones with better colors like teal and gray that were way cooler than those clunky “normal” markers?) and so I made it my mission to sit next to him. Haha! Over 25 years later and these guys are still among my closest friends and brothers for life. Thanks to soccer ball hangtime and skinny crayola markers! It’s so stupid and random! And also somehow sacred because of that. Continue reading Which of your friends has been in your life the longest and what initially did you bond over?

What’s a tradition you’ve participated in without knowing its significance?

 

At a friend’s wedding earlier this year, I helped lift him (and the chair he was in) into the air as people danced and clapped. Jewish tradition, right? I bet you knew that. I did too. But why did we do that exactly? With the chair and all? I mean, what’s the significance? No idea. The same goes for the Oktoberfest beer I just drank. What is Oktoberfest about, again? Apparently it started as a public wedding celebration in 1810 for Kronprinz Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Huh. Thanks Wikipedia! But I’d be lying if I told you I knew that 2 minutes ago. What’s a tradition you’ve participated in without knowing the larger significance? (And when you come up with an answer to that, I challenge you to learn more about it! Come on! Do it for Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen!) Continue reading What’s a tradition you’ve participated in without knowing its significance?

What circumstances tend to repeat themselves in your life?

 

Every few years do you become restless with your work and wonder if you should switch to something that makes more of a difference in the world? Do you exercise religiously for 3 months straight and then hardly at all for the next 15 until you sternly recommit to the importance of working out again (for 3 months)? Are you drawn, continually, to writing? (Guilty on 3 counts over here in my corner.) These are patterns that I see in my life. What are yours? They could be any range of things. Maybe you’re repeatedly asked to take leadership roles. Maybe you’ve had a string of bad bosses. Maybe you feel a strong urge to travel abroad every few years. These cycles are not necessarily positive or negative; they’re just patterns. And when it comes to self-awareness, I think patterns are worth finding. Continue reading What circumstances tend to repeat themselves in your life?