Asking Questions to Build Community?

Lately I’ve varied the kinds of things I put on social media. Sometimes I share a thoughtful meme, sometimes I talk about how I’m feeling, sometimes I share a blog post, and other times I do a check-in, where I ask people a question.

Hey, now the hair on my avatar is exactly the right color.

By far the most engaging posts are ones that ask questions. Today, I was feeling a little bummed, so I asked people to share what the highlight of their day had been so far. I was delighted to see that by 6 pm it had close to 80 comments! I heard from so many people, some of whom I hadn’t heard from in a while.

Plus, conversations got started in the comments. I love it when I see my friends “talking to each other” thanks to a conversation starter from me. That may be my favorite aspect of the Facebook, conversations. I learn so much, and I am so often uplifted and encouraged when I read what my friends have to say.

I went to get a picture of random friends, and I was amused to see my most liberal friend right next to my most conservative friend (I’m not saying who’s who, because this selection has multiples of just about every kind of person). And they are both great people. I love that my friends are a mix of ages, locations, points of view, and dispositions.

In marketing, they always tell you to put a call to action on things you post (like, click, comment, please!). I am not all that great at that, though I do add a question to my blog posts when I sincerely want to know something. Marketing is SO not my thing, which is probably why I still only have a thousand followers and don’t get 40 WordPress likes every time I sneeze (I am guessing not being young, cute, and an “influencer” may also have something to do with it). I should be grateful that at least someone reads what a grumpy old Boomer with blue hair types! (I admit that I type mostly for me, anyway…it’s been said that I’m self centered…maybe a narcissist…I do stare in the mirror a lot.)<– humor.

But, seriously, the reason I’m here is to give YOU this little hint. If you want to hear from your friends and family ASK something! It works like crazy, and if you happen to have something you want to promote along with it, feel free (some of us do prefer subtle promotion that is not constant, though, just saying). People like to answer questions, it makes them feel like someone is actually interested in them (and in my case, I am!). This builds community, and it’s free PLUS you can do it from the comfort of wherever you happen to be!

So, what would you like to know?
What shall I ask next?

Your friend, Suna

What if you’d rather answer questions than ask them? There are two people I follow on Facebook, who ask great questions nearly every day: Joanna Fontaine Crawford and Jonathan K. Horstmann. One’s a UU minister and one’s a filmmaker/musician (both are parents of attractive children, ranging from babies to young adults). I’ll try to share others as I’m reminded of them. You can “meet” interesting folks by reading other people’s answers, too, and in these times, I’ll take any kind of uplifting human content I can get!

Reaching deep to find something uplifting here. Image by @trac1 via Twenty20.

Let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to ask, either here on the blog, or on Facebook (I don’t ask questions on Instagram). Not connected? Tell me you’re a blog reader, and I’ll be your friend unless you start spamming or attacking others!

Testing My Resolve about Good Intentions

I keep telling you one of my rules for life is to assume good intentions. I want to make the assumption that everyone I interact with is doing the best they can with the information they currently have. I want to assume the vast majority of people don’t set out to be mean, rude, arrogant, or unkind on purpose. I like to think that nearly everyone is capable of caring for the health and well being of others.

I can dream, can’t I? This whole pandemic thing seems like a big test of humanity, and one that is supporting the “man’s inhumanity to man” viewpoint (I’m quoting, so forgive me for the sexism).

Yes, what this donkey is telling us.

Like many of my friends, my convictions have been tested strongly by people who come across as unconcerned about making friends and family members sick from a potentially deadly disease. No matter how hard you try to isolate, wipe things down, go nowhere, and see no one, it just takes one person who isn’t as careful to get you all infected.

I keep thinking of people I know who are essential workers, and have to be out in public. You know, the grocery store workers, the health care professionals, the police, the delivery drivers. They never know when a person who just doesn’t care will walk in and cough all over them. That then puts their own families at risk.

This doesn’t protect you from people who don’t care.

No longer is this just theory. Every single day I hear of a person who “doesn’t believe in” germs, or something, who gets infected and goes on their merry way. Not somewhere else. No, in the places where my loved ones live. They infect people I care about, and I can’t go help them or be with them. That makes assuming good intentions quite difficult.

Of course I’m not alone in this. Most people I know feel this way. Even people who are philosophically opposed to taking certain precautions don’t seem to want to make other people sick.

Where was I going with this? I guess the thing is that even if nearly everyone is coming from a place of good intentions and trying to do the right thing (even if their different backgrounds might cause them to choose differently from me), all it takes is a couple of people who honestly don’t give a flip about the rest of the world to ruin lives.

Let’s just get out of here, like Sara and Apache are here.

Is there nothing we can do about this? Should we just throw out the idea that people are doing the best they can? Maybe, just maybe, we can learn something and build a better future. I guess that depends on who’s left after all these viruses and other contagions (racism, fascism, random divisiveness, etc.) run their course.

What Have You Made Better?

One thing you can always count on me and my spouse, Lee, for is that we are looking to do better in the world, do better for each other, and do better for ourselves. Lately, Lee has been listening to dozens and dozens of podcasts, and is especially fond of the Daily Stoic. It applies ancient philosophy to today’s world, and has been really useful for Lee. There are books and such, too, which you can find on their website.

Simulated coffee drinking.

Most mornings while we are drinking coffee, Lee asks me some question he found in one of his podcasts, which helps me be more conversational (I’m not a morning person and neither is he, really). One of his questions is where I got the recent topic of saying “I get to” rather than “I’ve got to.”

Today he asked me what I’d done to make something better. He said it could be big or small, for myself or someone else. His answer was that he’d improved a QuickBooks process (which makes things much better for Mr. QuickBooks).

I fumbled around a bit, but then realized I’d posted a status on my public Facebook page last night that asked people what made them smile that day.

I think 65 comments is pretty good engagement!

The answers cheered me up, cheered other readers up, and no doubt helped people who maybe didn’t smile much that day remember something good that had happened. It was a simple thing, just asking a question, but it encouraged conversation and made people’s day better.

I got the idea from Joanna Fontaine Crawford, the minister at Live Oak UU Church, who very often asks questions like this and gets a lot of conversation going. I like it, because the questions come across as genuine, and not like it’s some meme that you are supposed to be guilted into copying and pasted. Asking a REAL question gets real answers!

Let’s see how this one goes over…

So, think about it, what have you made better so far today (or yesterday)? Ask yourself this every day, and your mindset can’t help but shift to a more positive direction. I plan to keep up both the practice of asking good questions and checking on what I did to make something better each day.

We’re a team!

Thanks, Lee!