TOTW | Would You Rather | September 23, 2018

Would You Rather

How the right questions open doors to meaningful conversations.

September 23, 2018 | Social Belonging

Would you rather—

(a)   Be extremely lucky or
(b)   Be extremely smart

Good question, right? A question like this opens the door to a meaningful conversation.

Try it.

It’s hard not to learn something about the other person—and about yourself, too—with a would-you-rather question like this. You end up talking about your values and your insecurities. You end up sharing stories about what led you to become the person you are today.

Now consider a more superficial would-you-rather question:

Would you rather—

(a)   Drink Pepsi or
(b)   Drink Coke

This question also gets at your preferences. But it skims along the surface rather than delving more deeply into who you are and what you’re all about.

A recent series of experiments pitted these two types of would-you-rather questions against each other. In particular, researchers hypothesized that self-revealing questions, rather than superficial questions, would decrease anxiety and increase interest among strangers of different races.

They were right.

Not only did self-revealing would-you-rather questions do a better job of building psychological trust, they also improved performance in a group problem-solving task.

So, yes, it’s fine to chat about the weather. And it makes us feel a bit closer to another person to discover we share a birthday or a favorite sports team. But it is when conversation turns toward the self-revealing, and away from the superficial, that we find it most meaningful.

When we open up to another person and are recognized for who we are, we feel seen.

The basic human need for social connection is why the invisibility prank is especially cruel. There’s nothing more terrifying than not mattering—disappearing—to the people around us.  

This is why, I think, it’s substantive conversation, more so than small talk, that is reliably linked to happiness.

Would you rather—

(a)   Keep your conversations light or
(b)   Show people something of yourself

I know how I’d answer.

With grit and gratitude,
Angela