Deeper Conversations

Last February I introduced a new set of question cards I created called Comfort Zone Wheelies.  At the time, I had lead a few programs where the client has asked me to help the participants go below the surface level when asking questions of one another.  Asking deeper questions is a great way to help participants know one another on a different level.  Even groups that have known each other for a long time can always find new things they didn’t know about one another.  Then I paired this Icebreaker with the Comfort Zone Bullseye activity and it opened up the topics of perspective and empathy and enabled groups to go even deeper.  The feedback was phenomenal, and the depth of learning was vast.  Win!

On Sunday evenings my family of four holds a ‘scrum’ meeting.  The term Scrum stems from rugby, (short for scrummage), and involves both teams with heads down packing into a huddle.  The corporate world has adopted this phrase,  and in basic terms it means a ‘game plan’.  You can find numerous articles for how to lead an effective Scrum Meeting for your team with a quick google search.  We adapted this phrase for our family scrum meeting, and is basically a ‘game plan’ for the week… who has assignments or projects due, what kind of workload my husband and I have, whether we are traveling, who needs a ride, whether we have visitors, etc, as well as an established time we connect as a family.  Towards the end of last semester when there were lots of assignments due and a few grades needed to be raised, you could tell that the boys were starting to dread the scrum meeting.  When conversations around capability vs effort, accountability and follow-through were more dominant, we didn’t always leave the scrum meeting on a high note.  For one meeting I decided we needed to start out with something a little more fun before we dug deeper into the harder conversations.  I broke out the Comfort Zone Wheelies as an icebreaker for our meeting.  In this deck, the questions are color coded by level of risk:  Green Questions – lower risk questions, Yellow Questions – medium risk questions, and Red Questions – higher risk questions.  I put them into three piles, and each of us started with a green question, then moved to yellow, then finished up with red.  I wasn’t really sure how it would go, but figured it was worth a try. 

What happened next was something I didn’t expect.  I’ve always been a very involved parent.  I feel like I know my kids very well and that our relationships are solid and deep.  That night we sat for an hour asking each other these questions, and I learned more about my kids and my husband in that hour than I had in years prior.  We now use them every week, and we have had more in-depth conversations in the last few months than we have had their entire lives.  I feel like I know them so much better now than I did before, but the reverse is true as well.  They also know me so much better as a person and a parent than they did before.  We’re having real conversations about tough stuff that does not naturally come up in normal conversation…  “Hey Dawson, want to hear about the time I struggled most in life?”  They now know examples of what is hard in life for me, when I made mistakes and what I would do differently if I could turn back time, what stretches me outside my comfort zone and how I’ve changed in the last five years.  Overall, these question cards have strengthened us as a family in ways I cannot describe.  

Here are a few examples to get you started:

Green Questions:

  • Who is your greatest hero?
  • Name your ideal car.
  • Where is one place you’d like to go that you haven’t been?
  • What’s one thing you wish you knew how to do?
  • What was your best birthday?

Yellow Questions:

  • When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
  • What is one dream you have yet to accomplish?
  • What are three things you value most about a person?
  • If you could tell your former self one thing right now what would it be?
  • What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?

Red Questions:

  • What was the worst phase of your life?
  • What is one thing that people misunderstand about you?
  • What is something a past relationship taught you?
  • What is the greatest struggle you have overcome?
  • Describe something that takes courage for you to do.

If you want to make a set of these cards on your own, use different colored index cards or write the questions with different colored pens.

I love it when I create a new tool that ends up being a huge gift back to myself.  If you have any kind of relationship where you would like to know the other person better, I would encourage you to pick up a set of these cards.  Here’s to having deeper conversations and strengthening connections!

Have fun out there,  ~ Michelle Cummings, Training Wheels.