Up for today: a few of the questions I can’t stop thinking about.
A few weeks ago in the MMD Book Club, we chatted with Kelly Corrigan about her memoir Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say.
I loved this book, have read it twice already, and included it in yesterday’s blog post about great books that celebrate the power of female friendships, because my favorite moments in the book were about Kelly’s relationship with her friend Liz.
In Tell Me More, Kelly relates the story of their friendship: how they went from being social friends to being intimate friends, the kind who truly could talk about anything. (I’m sure Anne Shirley would have a different phrase to capture their relationship.)
I’ve talked to so many women, both in Book Club and in real life, who read Tell Me More and come away from it thinking, I wish I could be a friend like that, or, I wish I could HAVE a friend like that.
But it takes bravery, and a heck of a lot of relational savvy, to get to that place. When it comes to friendship, how do you bridge the gap between What are you doing this weekend? and feeling truly understood by another? How do you build a relationship where you can talk about anything—including the things that aren’t considered fit for polite conversation?
This is the question so many women wanted to hear Kelly answer. And so I asked her: What are the baby steps in getting from here to there, from a shallow relationship to an intimate one?
Her answer: Ask better questions.
In Kelly’s words, “It’s helpful in a tactical sense to have better questions in your back pocket for your daily interactions.”
Sounds easy enough. But what does that look like?
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The process begins with one core assumption, according to Kelly. “Everyone is starving for intimacy,” she says. “Everybody would like to be in a more intimate conversation than the one they’re having. You have to believe that first.”
That belief gives you the nerve to say something different. So that even at cocktail parties, Kelly has come to ask a different kind of question.
Not How are you?, but What are you working on this week?
Not Are you going to work out today?, but What’s driving you crazy right now?
Not Are you going to that party tonight?, but Who are you worrying about this week?
We may want better, yet our default mode is often to participate in the superficiality that drives everyone all so crazy. It doesn’t have to be that way. According to Kelly, “it’s very easy with a slightly different question to fall into something more interesting and more revealing.”
If you ask a slightly different and slightly better question, that might yield a different and more meaningful conversation.
And while you’re at it, Kelly advises that, when you’re talking with friends, or potential friends, you let it hang out a little bit. “You don’t want to be running around town like a TMI machine,” she says, “but reveal a little bit.”
Kelly pointed out that when you tell someone your life is amazing (or even pretty good) right now, that’s great for you, but it’s death to a conversation.
Instead, make a point to open up a little bit, and share the stuff that’s not so great. As Kelly says, “When you include the thorns of your own experience, you have something to talk about.”
Does it seem to you like everyone is starving for intimacy? What conversational openers do YOU carry around in your pocket? Please share your favorites, plus your thoughts on Tell Me More, in comments.