Questions That Foster Conversation

Image by Matheus Ferrero | Licensed under Creative Commons Zero

You may have noticed in the office that conversations tend not to extend past the latest nutrition plan, weight loss goal, or general frustrations. Simon Sinek (@SimonSinek) has practical tips for breaking this trend and fostering meaningful dialogue. In his “Millennials in the Workplace” interview, he explains:

There should be no cellphones in conference rooms. None, zero. When sitting and waiting for a meeting to start, instead of using your phone with your head down, everyone should be focused on building relationships. We ask personal questions, “How’s your dad? I heard he was in the hospital.” “Oh he’s really good thanks for asking. He’s actually at home now.” “Oh I’m glad to hear that.” “That was really amazing.” “I know, it was really scary for a while there.” — That’s how you form relationships. “Hey did you ever get that report done?” “No, I totally forgot.” “Hey, I can help you out. Let me help you.” “Really?” — That’s how trust forms. Trust doesn’t form at an event in a day. Even bad times don’t form trust immediately. It’s the slow, steady consistency and we need to create mechanisms where we allow for those little innocuous interactions to happen.

But where does conversation go from there? In 1727, Benjamin Franklin founded the Junto, also known as the Leather Apron Club, as a club for mutual improvement. Members would debate questions of morals, politics, and natural philosophy, and exchange knowledge of business affairs. Franklin formulated 24 questions to direct those meetings, and they are helpful for conversation today (just substitute “Junto” with “office,” “university,” or other applicable institution). The questions are as follows:

It can be intimidating, but building richer relationships pays dividends. So put the phone away, consider these questions, and start having intentional conversation.

Have an experience with any of the Junto’s questions? Share it in a comment. Looking for a Junto? Modern examples are in operation today, modeled after Franklin’s: from New York City to Washington D.C., Chicago, Houston, London and more.

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