By Rob Furlong
A common question that will be asked around thousands of meal tables tonight will be, "How was your day?" If I was a gambling man I can almost guarantee that the answer will be something like, "Fine, how was yours?"
In this age of instant global connection via social media it seems to me that we have never been more distant in our understanding of each other.
We regularly hear stories of people who have thousands of online 'friends' and 'followers' but in the deepest part of their soul they long for just one person with whom they can connect with at an emotional and personal level.
This hidden loneliness is often found in many marriages where the couple may have lived under the same roof for decades but have never made the soul connection that is so essential to healthy intimacy in marriage.
The intimacy I am referring to is not sexual or physical. I mean an intimacy that frees two people to be open and honest with each and which produces a deep level of trust that lasts for a lifetime.
It is generally held by the communication experts that there are five levels of communication that progressively build upon each other: it begins with cliché conversation and then moves on to reporting the facts about others. From that point you start to move into areas that require a greater level of disclosure about yourself. You begin to share your ideas, then your feelings (an extremely vulnerable place to be) until you arrive at what is described as peak communication – the place where you are totally open and honest with the other person.
I think many people want to be at that place with another person – peak communication – but they simply don't know how to get there. This was highlighted for me in an article I read recently about a married couple who were struggling with this, and in telling their story shared how they learned to ask each other questions that required answers that went beyond the surface. In other words, they stopped asking each other "how was your day?"!
Kate McCombs blogs that there are six questions that couples can experiment with that can open up conversation between people and avoid the tired old "how was your day?" routine. She suggests the following:
? "Did you have any victories that you want to share?"
? "Were there any challenges that you want empathy about?"
? "Were there any surprisingly fun moments in your day?"
? "Did you have any nice connections with your colleagues?"
? "What was frustrating about your day?"
? "Now that you're home, is there anything you'd love to brag about?" (Because we can't always do this with colleagues but it is great when we can with partners.)
As you read this you may be thinking to yourself that the questions above seem a little forced. That's okay – experiment with them and word them in a way that makes them feel more like you. But don't dismiss them.
Questions like these show that a level of thought has gone into them and that you are genuinely interested in the other person.
They also require that the other person takes the time to think through their answer rather than slipping into the old cliché of "Everything is fine, how about you?"
Politeness is fine, but marriages need to be built on more than mere politeness in order for intimacy to flourish!
And intimacy requires cost. It will cost you to ask and answer questions like these because you are prepared to risk being vulnerable with another human being. But it is a risk worth taking! •