Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Motivates You to Ask?

Two days ago, I went on a hike with my friend Paul from the Netherlands and a woman that I met at the coffee shop who loves to hike. I've talked with her at different times in the coffee shop and there's  something about her that I just really like. She has a gorgeous smile, and her face is very expressive. She always seems to be doing something, like preparing for hikes. And, even though she is a quiet person who takes time to open up to people, she has shared several experiences she had on her hiking trips.

The three of us had a great time hiking. In three hours, we walked a trail up to the top of the mountain and saw amazing views of the Berkshires. We visited a little shelter that people use for overnight camping.  We chatted about nature, life, etc.

After our hike we ate lunch together while our sweat-drenched bodies cooled down and our wet clothes had time to dry!

That night, we listened to music together. (For the people living around Great Barrington: the Fuel coffee shop now has live music every Friday Night from 5 - 8pm). While there, I asked my new friend many questions.

My motivation that evening was to know more about her. What does she like? What does she hate? What is her biggest dream? What is her biggest fear? If she would make a picture of the most wonderful amazing future she could imagine, what would it look like? Would she have a partner? Children? What is she doing right now with her life? What does she like about it? What does she want to change? What does she see as fun and exiting? Etcetera...

OK, I think I turned out to be a little overwhelming! My enthusiasm for her and all the questions that I had for her seemed to result in her deciding to withdraw a bit. At this point, it is not clear to me that she would like to build up a friendship with me.

This made me think. A lot of you know that I also can be very quiet sometimes. More than once, Mark and I have gone out with people who later would tell Mark that they had translated my quietness into "Iris is not enjoying herself".   They felt that they had to pull me into the conversation by asking questions.

I personally do not believe that the amount of talking you do has anything to do with enjoying yourself or not. I do believe that people who engage me in conversation because they feel they "have to" or they believe I'm not happy  have something to work on themselves! It isn't their interest in who I am and what I think that motivates them to talk with me, it's their discomfort around my being quiet.

To make a long story short, I started this story because I was asking myself "did I do the same with my new friend?"

The answer  to me is a very clear "No". I do really want to get to know this woman, not to make her feel comfortable and not to change her, but because I want to develop a friendship with her. I believe that, in friendships, you can ask anything. It is a loving and supporting thing to do! It's an expression of care and love and interest in the person. Questions are a very helpful tool to get to know each other inside and out.

So, I want to leave you with these questions:
  • What are your motivations when you start a conversation? 
  • How do they change from person to person? 
  • Who have you conversed with to create a deeper friendship? 
  • Who have you conversed with in order to get something done (like a work situation or setting up an activity)? 
  • What's a time when you started asking questions (or even just talking to a person) in order to make yourself feel comfortable with their being quiet? 
  • Do you believe that, in friendships, you can ask anything? 
  • Do you ask your friends questions about what they are feeling and thinking, or do you wait for them to volunteer it?
I wish you a great day with people wanting to know more about you and you wanting to know more about them!

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