Sitting down and sharing a meal with a friend, colleague, or loved one, is about so much more than the meal itself. The ritual is an opportunity to unplug, enjoy time together, and connect over meaningful conversations that deepen your relationship.
We asked our Thrive community to share with us their go-to questions or conversation-starters that they use when sharing a meal with others. Which of these questions will you ask at your next meal?
What’s been keeping you busy lately?
“I find the obvious ‘how are you doing’ too transactional, while asking someone about their current priorities allows them to delve into as much or as little detail as they feel comfortable sharing with me. It’s a great conversation-starter to use with someone you already know or even during a first encounter.”
—Marta Rzeszowska Chavent, change and management consultant, France
What’s the best thing that happened today?
“I love to ask people this question because it helps to cement successes and moments of joy in their minds. In my work as a communications coach, I help clients feel confident when they speak. A lot of them seek my help because they struggle with imposter syndrome — one of the reasons is that they don’t remember and hold on to their successes. By asking people to focus on what’s going well and what they’ve achieved that day, you’re giving them the gift of resilience and confidence.”
—Vanessa Cuddeford, communications coach, London, U.K.
What feels important to you right now?
“I love engaging others with this question because it cuts through the small talk and the noise in our lives and zeros in on authenticity and happiness. This question allows whomever I am with to dig deeper and to really think about what is important and meaningful in their lives. Whether answered from a personal or a professional vantage point, this conversation-starter is sure to bring a smile to someone’s face and to open the door to a deeper discussion and connection.”
—Randi Levin, transitional life strategist, N.Y.C./N.J.
What are you currently reading and watching?
“I’m always seeking suggestions for books, podcasts or films to watch, so I’ll ask about what someone is watching, reading, listening to or what’s next on their list. I also like to know what they’re looking forward to so I’ll ask about any upcoming adventures or plans.”
—Kristin A. Meekhof, author, Royal Oak, MI
How are you feeling?
“When I’m sharing a meal, the first question I always ask is, ‘How are you feeling today?’ I’ve found that asking how your meal partner is feeling is an emotional and mental health check-in. It’s lovely to meet up in person in this post-COVID period, but it can feel equally as overwhelming. It’s important to assess whether the conversation that follows should be light or if it’ll be heavy. It sets the tone to spark thought provoking and meaningful conversation.
—Sammi Sontag, freelance marketing specialist and publicist, Brooklyn, N.Y.
How have you been tapping into your purpose lately?
“An amazing conversation-starter I love to ask while having a meal is how the other person is tapping into their purpose. It isn’t your normal dinner conversation, but you can get the honest truth from those you sit with. It brings down a guard because you really have to reflect. I like to shock and surprise those I eat with this question because I want them to leave our meal with a new perspective, a better feeling, or with action steps they want to take. The question is just personal enough and not invasive to where the person becomes defensive or apprehensive about responding.
—Jessica M. Williams, career consultant, Fairfield, CA
What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
“When sharing a meal with someone, I always like to talk about travel and ask what their favorite place they’ve been is, or their favorite memory from a trip. I am a travel junkie myself and I have always found that this topic allows me to better understand a person. Travel can provide experiences that are incredibly transformative, so asking someone about a memorable trip provides me a little window into who they are.”
—Eliza W, client engagement, West Palm Beach, FL
What’s one thing you wish you could do, even if it seems impossible?
“When sharing a meal with others, I like to ask, ‘What is something that would be impossible for you to do, but if you could do it, it would improve your life to an unimaginable degree?’ Then I ask why they picked that thing, and what steps would make it possible.”
—Mark Goulston, M.D., author and coach, Los Angeles, CA
How are you finding a more mindful pace as the world opens back up?
“Recently, I have started asking friends over dinner, ‘How are you finding or maintaining a more mindful pace as the world opens back up?’ I find this question is a reminder for both of us on keeping the important things near to us. Quarantined life was much slower.My friends and I noted how we enjoyed a slower pace for a while. While we also are excited to have options of going back out, there is a middle ground. We want to be mindful so we can choose the pace that is healthy.
—Tracey Lynn Pearson, mindfulness coach, Omaha, NE
How are you really doing?
“As an introvert, conversation-starters are my go-to way to relax and break the ice. Lately, I find myself asking others how they’re doing. With the effects of the pandemic, remote work, and everything else happening, I’ve found asking this question gives people an opportunity to vent. As a remote worker myself, sometimes speaking with someone about the hurdles and challenges of staying motivated can help me push negative emotions away and focus on the positives. From there, I just let the conversation take its course before you notice, you’re already in conversation discussing topics that matter to you both.”
—Geraldine Orentas, freelance writer, Coral Springs, FL
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