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My dear friend Mike Kennedy shared this Loneliness book by John T. Caciooppo and Wiliam Patrick on Instagram today and it reminded me that I wrote this unpublished blog post a few weeks ago on questions to ask instead of “how are you doing right now?”

What struck me about Mike’s post was that feeling connected not only makes us feel good, it also helps us feel secure; something that I feel is critical right now, as everything has changed and not going back to normal is bringing a rollercoaster of exciting and unsettling feelings. The more I connect more deeply with friends and the more I spend time in nature (gardening, walking etc.), the more I feel secure, connected, and present.  In my online re-authoring narratives work and offline food community experiential work, I’m noticing that the “magic” (innovation, amazing new projects, moments of bliss, incredible experiences etc.) happens most when there is a deep sense of connection and belonging that I feel and the participants feel. It can be quick to get into deep connection space, but it requires transportive questions and experiences that take us to another space in our heads, hearts, and bodies.

So here’s the blog post from a few weeks ago that I’m just publishing now.

I’m so grateful to have friends and colleagues who all ask, “How are you doing?”  I know they really mean it, but my response is often the same these days during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also keep finding myself asking the same question by default and answering this question with some form of, “I’m hanging in there, all things considered. I’m lucky to have the privilege that I do.” While this question is meant to invite deeper connection, it often only scratches the surface of connection, because it’s too easy to default back to standard answers.

While we are at a distance with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to show engaged body language and impossible to connect with physical touch or many of the shared experiences we usually have,  so questions become even more valuable for connection. I feel grateful to be doing the Narrative Project with How We Thrive and Weaveast right now, connecting with many amazing facilitators and storytellers who ask great questions, so I thought I’d share a few fun questions with you and invite you to play with them:

  1. What did you eat today? What have you been eating that you are enjoying the most? What’s the history of that food in your life?
  2. How are you taking care of yourself today?
  3. Can we try a fun story share question? Take me to a moment that moved you or inspired you lately? Who was there? What happened? What did you see, feel, hear, smell? Really take me there.
  4. What’s a story- from a movie, book, article, a conversation that moved you lately? What captured you in it? What’s the history of this story for  you?
  5. What’s the easiest part of isolation/quarantine for you?
  6. What’s a place in your residence you’ve come to appreciate most? What’s your cozy place or refuge?
  7. What habits have you started or broken during the quarantine?
  8. What are things you realize you don’t really need?
  9. What do you value most in your friendships right now?

“Thickening” followup questions and going deeper:

  1. Who would not be surprised by you sharing this? (followup to any of the above questions)
  2. What has being at home shone a light on that you didn’t see before? 
  3. What is your wildest dream for your everyday life post COVID-19?
  4. What are some things you realize that you don’t really need?
  5. Now that everything has changed, what are your wildest dreams for your life the future?
  6. What’s the last thing you experienced that made you laugh or cry?
  7. What’s giving you hope right now?

Some of these questions are borrowed and adapted from Behavioural Scientist Elizabeth Weingarten at Quartz at Work, are from the Re-Authoring Narratives practice of Transformations, and some I’ve picked up from my many teachers and colleagues.
I invite you to “try these questions on,” even just one question, and play with them in your next check-in conversation with a friend, colleague or family member. If you want to increase the sense of connection and reduce loneliness, you can try the very difficult practice of NOT giving feedback, assumptions, judging, or fixing in your responses. I started practicing the re-dignifying practices when first took re-authoring narratives training with my dear friend Dr Chene Swart  at http://transformations.co.za  and they have transformed my life and conversations. I can’t even describe how exponentially deeper my relationships are now since using this practice of avoiding these responses.

Instead of giving feedback or complimenting, I try to respond with either asking more open questions like (tell me more, what’s bubbling up for you now etc.) or sharing “what touched me or moved me about what they said, a moment that I was transported to…

Wishing you great conversations and connections today!

If you try any of these questions on, please please please let me know how it goes. I would love to hear from you here in the comments or send me an email duncan@risingtidens.ca