Meeting a person for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when the new acquaintance is someone you're hoping to get to know better. You want to find out more about them, but you don't want to ask anything that makes them uncomfortable. Having several questions in mind in advance can be a helpful preparation, but be careful not to ask them all at once, or your new friend could become overwhelmed.
Here's a list of basic questions to help start this new relationship off on the right foot:
- What's your name? This most basic question is also one of the most important. Be sure to ask for clarification if you need it, and try to remember his or her name so you don't have to ask again.
- How do you spend your days? This is an alternative to the more direct 'What do you do?,' and opens the question to someone who is a student , retired, or other.
- Have you always lived in X? This opens up a conversation about your acquaintance's current and past locales. If they don't live in X, they'll correct you, and either way they'll probably give you a quick history of the other places they've lived.
- What are some of your hobbies? Here's your acquaintance's opportunity to discuss what he or she feels passionate about outside of the daily grind.
- What's the best meal you've ever had? Nearly everyone loves to discuss food. This opener will lead you to a discussion that will disclose, not only taste preferences, but dietary restrictions and even family traditions.
- If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go? Where a person wants to vacation can tell you a lot about him/her. Is he or she dying to go to a tropical paradise? An urban shopping getaway? An organic farm in New Zealand? This answer speaks volumes.
- What's the best gift you've ever given? Find out how thoughtful/creative this person is, and what sorts of things he or she values.
- And what's the best gift you've ever received? Now see how he or she applies these ideas to his or her self.
- What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don't have already)? Here you can start to perceive something about your acquaintance's aspirations.
- What is/was your favorite subject in school? Was your acquaintance a band geek or math nerd? Often great stories come out of school-day reminiscences.
- What's the biggest problem facing the world right now? This opens the floor to all manner of social and political topics.
- If you alone could solve it, how would you do it?
- What's your dream job?
- If you had to choose only one: cat or dog? You have to know, is this acquaintance a cat person or a dog person?
- What's your favorite movie of all time? This is how you can find out if you'll ever be movie buds.
- Aside from food, water, and shelter, what one thing could you not go a day without? Is your acquaintance addicted to his or her smartphone? Maybe there's a sentimental keepsake?
- In everyday life, what is your number one pet peeve? Fitted sheets? Parking meters? What drives this person crazy on a daily basis?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Find out about your acquaintance's short-term plans.
- Where do you see yourself in 20 years? And now find out about the long-term.
- What do you want to know about me? When you're asking many questions of someone, be sure to give them the opportunity to ask about you in return. Remember, no question is worth asking if you don't actually need or care about the answer. And, unless you both agree to just fire away with the questions, try to work these into your conversation at natural points.
Finally, if the conversation takes on a life of its own, go with it! After all, the best ways of getting to know someone don't come from prescribed lists of questions, but from the spontaneous interaction of two people sharing a unique experience.