In math and engineering, there is a concept called “an elegant solution.”  An elegant solution is one where the most desired effect is achieved with the simplest effort.

Coronavirus social distancing has taught me that the most elegant solution for connecting with people–really connecting in a meaningful way– is to ask the simple question: “What are your core values?”

In February, I launched The Me-Suite podcast.   Every guest is asked “what are your core values” at the top of each interview.  By design, the core values segment is an opportunity to understand where the guest is coming from and learn what has helped steer their personal and professional decisions along the way.  It’s a listener favorite. The most in-common core values across 60 guests are curiosity, integrity, helping others and adventure.

Fast forward to July, a time that is tilting toward dystopia.  “What are my core values?” is the elegant solution for meaningful connection.  People need this question right now.  The question forces us to reflect on “what am I about, what do I stand for, what am I doing, what do I want now and in the future? And…when you are asked the question “what are your core values,” the only natural next step is for you to then ask “So, now tell me, what are yours?” And then you find yourselves truly connected.

The impact of this simple question is reaching far beyond the podcast episodes.  Listeners have shared:

  • A quarantined mom covered her kitchen table with post-it notes and led a family core values meeting.  They plan to revisit their family core values quarterly.
  • A laid-off man drafted his core values list and hid it in his pocket.  He then asked his friend to write down the values the friend thinks are on the list.  They compared notes.  Two of three were the same.
  • A dad sat next to his grown son on the porch, perhaps a little beer-happy at sunset.  The son had heard the podcast and asked “what are your core values, dad?”  Dad called to tell me that was one of the most special conversations of his life.
  • One couple had nightly video calls with the husband grounded in Asia and the wife and 5-year-old in the US.  They held a Zoom session to discuss their core values.  Even the 5-year-old developed her own: “Mind my teacher, and love my momma.”

Asking “what are your core values?” is the elegant solution for building meaningful connections in 2020.  My core values are Curiosity, Freedom and Respect.  What are yours?