5 Potent Conversation-Starting Questions.
“I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (1903)
That’s one of his most famous quotes, and Rilke’s right: The questions matter. However, finding the right question is tough because there are so many of them, surrounding us, everywhere at once — in our heads, at our work, and throughout our lives.
Many are important, some are intriguing, and a few are misleading, but the answers are often the questions themselves. Over the years, I’ve become a big fan of questions. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. What question are you most scared of asking, and why? This gets straight to the heart of the soul. What truth are you fearful of knowing? What is the one thing you don’t want to know? Why not?
Is it because you already know the answer but don’t want to admit it, or is it because you’re scared to admit that you’re right?
2. What would you truly lose if you lost what you’re scared of losing? It takes a minute to wrap your head around this one, but it’s a great question. Why would it be bad to lose the thing you’re scared of losing? What would it mean to you, but more importantly, what would it mean for you?
How would things change? How would your life be different? Sometimes, we give our fears too much credit and we scare ourselves into submission without thinking it through. This question puts some perspective into the process of loss.
3. If you could go back in time and witness any event in history, where would you go and why? I love hypothetical questions, and this is a personal favorite. It’s a brilliant ice-breaker, and the answer will invariably tell you a lot. Personally, I’m interested in first encounters.
I want to watch the moment my parents met and I want to witness my grandparents make eye contact for the first time. Most importantly, I want to know what those memories feel like.
4. How do you make love stay? Everyone wants love, many find love, but few of us keep love around. It’s one of the most powerful forces there are, but it’s also among the most elusive and mysterious.
Figuring out how to keep love around is is one of life’s most rewarding quests, and I’m always open to new ideas.
5. What are you passionate about? This is my favorite conversation starter. It’s quick, deep, and meaningful, and most people are surprised to hear it asked. It’s an amusing and powerful moment to watch people’s eyes open wide as they consider the purpose of their lives for the first time. Try it.
Your turn. What are your favorite questions?