One of the first times that I went out to coffee with my friend Jo Ann, we had a conversation about her recent weight loss. She lost 102 pounds in a rather short period of time. I asked her if she felt different after she lost the weight. She mentioned how much more energy she had and how much better she felt, but that was not what I was looking for. “No,” I pressed. “Does losing the weight make you feel different as a woman or see yourself differently?” She answered me and the conversation went deeper as we get to know each other better. Before we left for the evening, she turned to me and thanked me for asking her questions that make her think.
I love conversations. I’m terrible at small talk. I’m awkward. I actually don’t care what you think about the weather or the government. I don’t really care that your day was “good.” It’s why I’m really uncomfortable at parties. I’m great one-on-one or even with a few people. I look at you, and I want to know what’s in your heart. Tell me that you love painting, and I’ll ask you what happens inside you when you are painting? I’d want to know how you choose the colors you use. I’m dying to know how an idea first percolates in your brain and what you do to get it on paper. I want to know if you are attached to it after you finish. I love pointed questions that get to the root of who you are.
Jo Ann’s Before Pics
My friend Karen sent me this link tonight – The Questions That Will Save Your Relationships. I immediately knew I wanted to write about it. Earlier this week, my sister-in-law Laura posted this quote on Facebook:
is so close to being loved
that for the average person,
they are almost indistinguishable.”
― David Augsburger
I learned early in my life that people like to talk about themselves. If you let people talk about themselves and really listen, they will think you are the most fascinating person on the planet. I read this in How to Win Friends and Influence People. It was such a relief to know that I didn’t have to impress people. I just had to let them impress themselves. But, it does take the right questioning. If I ask, “How are you?”, I will get an answer of “fine.” The answerer doesn’t really think I want to know, so they don’t really give anything. It’s just a passing remark. So, I don’t like to do that very much. I try to ask something specific.
Men and women like to talk about themselves. And, bringing them out is so much fun. I’m not always a good listener. Sometimes I’m distracted. Sometimes I’m waiting to talk. I know I like to talk about myself, too. But, when I ask a question that makes someone think or explore something about themselves that they’ve never explored, it really ignites the conversation. That’s the beauty of asking the right questions. I get to have fun. Some people don’t like it. They’d like to stay with “fine” and get on with it. That’s okay. But, it’s not much fun.
The article Karen shared with me has some great insights about asking questions that matter. Asking people about their feelings is a great place to start. Some groups I have attended started our gatherings with a “check in”. We were asked to give two feeling words at the beginning of the circle and two at the end. When someone tells you how they are feeling – anxious, fearful, happy, closed down, giggly, isolated, etc. – it gives you so much information. Plus, it helps them get in touch with what’s inside themselves. Most often, the feelings would change by the end of the meeting. It was interesting to see how they ebb and flow. My ex and I used to have a list of feeling words hanging on the refrigerator so that we could find words for what we were feeling. It really helped. And, often, as I’d ask questions about how he was feeling, he’d refine those to something that fit better. We often ignore our feelings. We are emotional beings. It’s how we roll… and don’t think it’s just limited to women.
I’ll leave you with some pictures of my friend Jo Ann. She’s an amazing woman that has lost 102 pounds in a short period of time. Now, I ask you, do you really want to know how she did it or what her health is like? Or, do you want to know more… like what has changed inside of her? How she sees herself differently… what goes through her mind when she looks in the mirror? How does shopping feel different now? I’d ask her husband Robbie what he sees differently in her? I’d ask what he misses about the old Jo-Ann? Is there anything new he’s discovered in the process about her? About himself? To me, that’s infinitely more interesting. Following the photos is one of my favorite poems that begs you to tell me who you really are … skip the BS, please.
I always loved that poem The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.