We’ve all been there. You’re invited to a wedding. You know the bride and groom, but you don’t know that many of the guests (or maybe you don’t know any). You get your place card (or maybe it’s one of those weddings where they have you seat yourself – eek!), you sit down at the table, and you proceed to make small talk with the other 8 or 9 people sitting at the table.
There’s some silence for a few seconds, and then some brave soul (usually the drunkest one) begins the inevitable round of introductions and questions:
So….what’s your name? My name is so-and-so. How do you know the bride and groom? Ah, that’s nice. I know them through so-and-so.
Gosh, I wonder when the food is coming…
Suddenly you realize it has been silent for what seems like forever. Someone else does too, panics, and asks:
“So, what do you do?” to no one in particular.
The conversation goes back and forth like that for a bit. You eat your food. You chat some more. You get up. You dance. You eat cake. You drink lots of alcohol. You do dance moves you never knew you could do. And by the end of the night, you’re friends with everyone.
Ok, that’s not always how the story goes. Sometimes you don’t get sloshed (though I’m sure your dance moves would still be equally impressive). And sometimes, to your pleasant surprise, you end up having the most interesting conversations, and even meeting new friends.
The other night, my husband, Ted, and I were at a wedding. Beautiful setting. Beautiful couple. It was like something out of a fairy tale. It was one of those seat yourself kind of weddings, so, when the time came to eat, we desperately found those we knew and made a beeline toward a table. We put our water glasses down to mark our spots, just like we used to do when we were young (bad memories of, “I’m saving this seat for my friend, not you” washed over me. I wasn’t the coolest kid on the block. I picked my nose a lot. Any-way).
As Burning Man had just wrapped up, some of our new friends were talking about their “re-entry” experience back into normal life. The conversation was flowing, and the people were delightful. Thank goodness.
When Ted got up to go to the bathroom, I started chatting to the guy he had been previously chatting with. One probing question (I can’t remember what it was), revealed that he was a photographer for professional cyclists in Europe. This entire hour, Ted had been sitting next to him, not knowing this very important piece of information! You see, Ted loves cycling. He loves talking about it. He loves watching in on TV. He loves doing it. And he loves reading about it. He also happens to work with a pro cycling team called BMC every year in Europe and California. Naturally, I assumed that Ted and this new friend were bound to know some of the same people.
I immediately rectified things when Ted got back from the bathroom, and of course, it turned out that they did indeed know a lot of the same people. Suddenly, their relationship deepened. And all it took was one vital tidbit of information that may have been meaningless to someone else, and yet, meant a heck of a lot to Ted. Their conversation now more focused, their continued talking led to the fact that this guy rides his bike and trail runs all of the time, which Ted also does. Now there just might be a plan to get together to ride and run.
Sigh. A deep bond was born. It was beautiful.
My work there was done.
In all seriousness, as we walked together from the table to the dance floor (because, obviously, we were all besties now), I was struck with a thought:
Everywhere we go, we can be sitting next to people who have so much in common with us, but if we don’t ask the probing questions, the ones that peel back the layers to reveal people’s true character, passions, motivations, and delights, we may never know a person. And as such, we may miss out on what could be a great connection, relationship, or even just a great conversation.
Human interaction is such a magical thing, and yet, it makes sense that so many of us will have things in common. We are made up of the same things (which, incidentally, is more bacterial cells than human ones, but that is a story for another day). We lay our heads down to rest at night under the same beautiful sky. We face the same challenges. And yet so often we tend to forget that that much is true, especially at a big group dinner at a wedding or large group function.
So the next time you find yourself sitting at a table full of strangers, here are some questions you can arm yourself with to get to know these fabulous new potential friends (besides, of course, the usual, what’s your name, how do you know so-and-so, and what do you do for work):
1. What’s new and good in your life?
2. What do you like to do in your spare time?
3. What’s the craziest experience you’ve ever had?
4. What’s the most fun you’ve ever had and what were you doing?
5. What gets you up and excited to start your day in the morning?
6. If I were to Google your name, what would come up?
7. How many friends do you have on Facebook? Followers on Instagram? Just kidding!
8. Where are you from?
9. Where do you live?
10. What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
11. If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead (you can bring the dead back to life for one night), who would it be?
12. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
13. What is your most favorite vacation spot, or place in the world?
14. What book are you reading right now? Do you like it?
15. What movies have you seen recently? Do you recommend them?
16. Have you read (enter name of book here and then be prepared to discuss it)?
17. If you could have any superpower, but only one, what would it be?
18. Best Meal you’ve ever had and where. Go!
19. What is your favorite TV show/movie(s)?
20. What do you do to work out? Favorite way to work out?
The questions are not necessarily that important. It’s the conversations they lead to that are. So maybe you will find out that someone is from your home town, and you know someone in common. Or maybe you will discover that you both love to ski, and will both be in Jackson Hole at the same time next winter.
The possibilities are endless! And that’s the beauty of it.
So get excited for your next group outing and get to know your fellow humans! You never know – they just might be as cool as you are.
Love, love, love,