If you have a romantic partner, author Andrew Sobel recommends you try these questions on Valentine’s Day but they can be used at anytime. If you don’t have a romantic partner at the moment, he assures you that they also impact anyone else you love—a parent, a child, or just a good friend.
1. What are your dreams? Sit down with a cup of coffee—or a glass of wine—and allow some silence. Smile warmly. Ask this question with no elaboration—don’t mess it up with other words. Then wait.
2. What would you say has been the happiest day of your life? (and Why did you choose that day?) Think of this question as the start of a much longer conversation. Why did the person choose that particular day? What other days have been happy ones? What is happiness, for him or her, anyway? Is it the same thing as joy or contentment? Allow an hour at least!
3. Can you tell me about your plans? We are all so FULL of our own plans, notes Sobel. Our own priorities. Our own goals. Our own stories. When we really, truly focus on our partner—not just use what he or she says as a springboard to talk about ourselves—we learn amazing things.
4. What do you think… (about this idea, news event, etc.)? “My coauthor on Power Questions, Jerry Panas, calls these the FOUR WORDS,” explains Sobel. “They are very simple: ‘What do you think?’ You’d be surprised how many people are never or rarely asked these four words. They can unleash a marvelous conversation—and help you make a warm connection.”
5. What do you wish you could spend more time on each week? Less time? Actually, this is a good one to ask if you got a blank stare or an eye roll when you asked your partner about his or her dreams, says Sobel. In some ways you’re asking the same thing—just in more pragmatic language.
6. Can you tell me something about yourself that I don’t already know—and that might surprise me? This question can reveal surprising, even astonishing things about someone you thought you knew well. “A friend of mine once answered this by telling me ‘I spent a night in jail in Lubbock, Texas,’” says Sobel. “Someone else said, ‘I rode on Air Force One with President Lyndon B. Johnson.’ Yet a third revealed they had been jilted the day before their planned wedding!”
7. Right now, what are you most passionate or excited about in your life? “This is what I call a ‘passion question,’” says Sobel. “When you tap into people’s passions, they come alive and the conversation comes alive. All of a sudden you’re not just chit-chatting about mindless trivia. You’re talking about the stuff that lights us on fire!”
8. What would you say gives you the most fulfillment in your life? This comes at passion from a slightly different angle from the previous question. Maybe the answer will be the same. Maybe not. But a conversation about what fulfills us in our lives is always a rich and rewarding one.
9. What are you doing this week that I could help you with or support you on? Even if the answer is nothing, you’ll make the other person feel supported and loved. If there is something—well, it’s a good day when you can identify how to help someone else.
10. Can I share with you the reasons why I love you so much? (or, value you so much as a friend?; or, enjoy spending time with you?; or, am so proud of you?; etc.) Think this one through beforehand, suggests Sobel. Really ponder it. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone—a spouse, a child, a friend—is to share with them why you think they are so special. Why you treasure them. Why you love being around them.
About the Authors:
Andrew Sobel is the most widely published author in the world on client loyalty and the capabilities required to build trusted business relationships. His first book, the bestselling Clients for Life, defined an entire genre of business literature about client loyalty. His other books include Making Rain and the award-winning All for One: 10 Strategies for Building Trusted Client Partnerships.