Can you recall a time when an acquaintance surprised you by asking a question that was personal and meaningful? The kind of question that cuts through ordinary small talk and goes a little deeper into who you are as a person? It might feel uncomfortable and disarming at first, but perhaps it made you feel heard and respected.
Great questions and active listening are two critical manifestations of emotional thoughtfulness. The former can help forge surprising new connections with people who you previously saw as an acquaintance or colleague.
Learning to ask these kinds of questions is critical to forming new relationships, finding common ground with different kinds of people, and showing that you’re open and interested in those around you. Better yet, it’s a skill that can easily become a habit with a little practice.
Why It’s Important to Ask Personal Questions
Whether you’re building relationships with coworkers, in-laws, or a new neighbor on the block, it’s easy to coast by without getting to know them personally. But when you show genuine interest through meaningful questions, the benefits are pretty clear:
Encourages productive collaboration: When it comes to coworkers in particular, establishing trust can help both parties bring new ideas to the table without fear of judgment. Or speak up about an issue when you otherwise wouldn’t.
Invites self-reflection: Everyone comes to the table with a completely different life experience. Getting to know people’s stories is a great way to reflect on your own path, too.
Establishes trust: The more you get to know someone, the more you can rely on each other, confide in each other, and support each other through new challenges.
What Types of Personal Questions Are Appropriate to Ask?
What do we mean by personal or meaningful questions? There’s a bit of an art to this. Of course, you don’t want to ask questions that could put your colleague on the defensive. That old trope about avoiding politics and religion on your first date applies here, too. The goal is to ask questions that reveal personal information about the other person in a way that makes them feel valued and heard. It’s flattering to know that someone else is genuinely interested in you as a person!
Here are some examples of safe questions that can help establish trust and strengthen your connection with peers:
- What are you passionate about?
- What are you really good at?
- Where do you want to be in 5 years?
- Who or what inspires you the most?
- What movie or book has impacted you the most?
At Oats Overnight, we come to work every day as we are. Not one of us is perfect, nor do we have all the answers to our problems. But by encouraging a culture of emotional thoughtfulness, we can ensure every person on our team feels valued. We nurture new ways of thinking that help us, and those around us, grow together.
These intangibles are often undervalued compared to the hard skills we bring to the table. But in practice, it’s emotional thoughtfulness that guides our growth, our innovation as a business, and the meaningful relationships that have formed within the company.
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