How To Ask Thoughtful Questions at the Dinner Table

How was your day? “Fine”, “good”, and “ok” are my husband’s most common responses. One day I asked another question, and got a 10 minute long answer. How did I do it? I asked one of my best thoughtful questions at the dinner table.

We can talk about the weather with strangers on the street corner, so why do we spend precious time small talking with our family and friends? For one thing, it’s easy. The rain/lack of rain probably won’t cause a disagreement. But I’d argue that asking something a little deeper—through thoughtful questions—can foster meaningful connection. And in a social media driven society, we could all use a little more connection.

Dinner is an excellent time to connect over a meal. We all eat three times a day, so it’s a logical time to also enjoy someone’s company and strengthen our relationships. Breakfast is usually rushed, lunch may be at our desks, but dinner? Dinner is usually at the table.
And you probably have 15–20 minutes, so here’s what I recommend:

Ask About a Certain Part of Their Day (and Get Specific)
“How was your meeting with the boss?” is an example of a question that elicits a one-word response. Let me guess. Was it, “fine”? Instead of asking questions that don’t require elaboration, try another route. Did your boss give you any specific advice? How did you feel when you left the meeting? Did your boss say anything that struck you as interesting?

Ask “the Challenge Question”
My husband’s aforementioned lengthy reply was the result of this question: What was the most challenging part of your day? He not only responded to the question but dove into his opinion on his commission structure (he works in banking). I’ve known him for two years and had never heard these details or his thoughts on them.

This question is great for close friends, spouses, and even kids. We all have challenges to our day. Responding authentically to this question is a good way to show children that parents have challenging days, too.

Reminisce Together
When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be an architect. But a 4th grade class project using a “Fun with Architecture” kit convinced me otherwise (it was obviously mislabeled), and now I’m a writer, marketer, and blogger. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. This question is especially fun at dinner parties—it’s light hearted and you’ll get a kick out of the responses.

Ask Positive Questions
If you take time to reflect on your day, you’ll notice that the negative circumstances of the day will often surface more quickly than the positive. One of my favorite thoughtful questions to ask is, “What’s something nice that someone did for you recently?” The answers will restore your faith in humankind and encourage gratefulness in yourself, too.

Now that you’re armed with a thoughtful question or two, what are you having for dinner? Here are a few of my favorites:
Easy Vegetarian Curry
Sheet Pan Chicken & Beef Fajitas
Salmon with Mango & Avocado Salsa
Chicken Souvlaki

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