The Fantastic Life

Have Better Conversations

I have been on a ‘deep and meaningful relationships’ focus for a very long time. Life is WAY too short to live it on the surface.  Some people don’t know how to even start to go deep with their relationships. It all hinges on the conversations you are having. With everyone. Here are some suggestions:

— Get present. (the biggest area I have been working on).  If I am spending time with you, I want it to be meaningful for both of us.  This has not been an easy change, but I am a better person because I am more present.

— Share first. I am ok sharing myself first….clearly :).  I have been sharing myself for over 9 years with LIFEies.  In person, it’s the same.  You get me and that me is always growing.

— Ask better questions. In going deep, you have to get there intentionally. When I am talking with someone, I want to know the person. I want to learn, to grow, and to feel like when we part, it was worth both our time.

— Go slow. I am laughing as I type this because this is not me.  I can try though, right??

Start today. I think you will be amazed at how good you feel, how alive you become, and how interesting life is when you are having deeper conversations.


The Fantastic Life Rule #3:
Build Your Relationships Every Year 

Many people are surprised that I have a resume for relationships. Having deep conversations helps me add to and build that resume every year in a meaningful way.



Have Better Conversations With Friends—or Anyone

Share personal details. Avoid questions with one-word answers. Here are the best ways to start a deeper conversation.

By:  Elizabeth Bernstein | Published on July 26, 2022


I was driving with my teenage nephew Noah recently when he blurted out: “Can we talk?”

We were on our way to meet friends, chit-chatting about the music on the radio and where to go for lunch.

Absolutely, I told him. What did he want to discuss?

“Oh, I don’t know,” Noah said. “Just something more interesting.”

It’s time to deepen our conversations.

We’ve talked to fewer people about fewer things in the past two years. Now, many of us are craving more meaningful conversations–ones that go beyond sharing recommendations for what to stream on Netflix. Trouble is, we’ve forgotten how to have them.

“Social skills are like muscles,” says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who studies how to find motivation and meaning. “If you don’t exercise them, they start to atrophy.”

People who have more substantive conversations are happier, research shows. Deep conversations make us feel more connected to others and help us understand one another.

And most of us would like to have more meaningful conversations, psychologists say. When we do have them–even with strangers–we tend to enjoy them more and find them less awkward than expected, according to research published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Deep conversations come easier for some of us. Personality plays a role. Introverts often prefer one-on-one, deeper conversations, for example. We also learn how much to share in conversation from our family and culture. And experience guides us: If we’ve had intimate conversations that went well before, we might be more likely to try them again.

With practice, most of us can get better at meaningful conversations, psychologists say. Here’s what they recommend.

Pick a partner.

It’s easiest to start with someone you trust. “If you’ve had good conversations with them in the past, you’re likely to do so again,” says Sean Horan, professor and chair of the communication department at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn.

But if you want to expand your world, branch out. Choose someone you’d like to get to know better, such as a new co-worker.

Don’t rule out having a deep conversation with someone you just met. You might make a friend or learn something new.

Share first.

“The most straightforward path to having meaningful conversations is to be willing to share something about yourself,” says Gillian Sandstrom, a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex in England, who studies social interactions.

Research shows that when one person shares personal details in a conversation, the other person typically responds in kind. Psychologists call this mutual self-disclosure, and studies show it helps people feel closer to one another.

You don’t have to share intimacies. Start by talking about something you’re excited about or a fear or concern. During a turbulent plane ride, I told the woman next to me that I was scared. We ended up having a conversation that was so helpful to both of us that I wrote about it in my column.

Ask better questions.

Where are you from? What do you do? Managing to stay cool in this heat?


Often, conversation-starters turn out to be dead ends. They can be answered in one word. And we’re not asking about anything the other person wants to talk about.

Try deeper questions, suggests Wharton’s Dr. Grant. Instead of asking people what they do, ask them what they love to do. It’s exciting to talk about something you’re passionate about, and that energy can fuel a conversation, Dr. Grant says.

His other suggestions: “What’s a goal you’re pursuing right now?” “What’s a challenge you’re facing?” “What’s the best change you’ve made during the pandemic?”

Try an open-ended statement.

“Tell me about your hometown.” “Say more about your day.” “Explain your work to me.”

Statements such as these typically make people want to elaborate, says Jessica Moore, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Austin, Texas, who studies interpersonal communication. They’re tough to answer with one word. And you can tailor them to the depth of your relationship. (“Tell me what you’re thinking right now, honey.”)

Because these statements are open-ended, they open the door to  more interesting conversations. There’s no pressure to talk just about positive things, Dr. Moore says.

And on the off chance you solicit a raised eyebrow, Dr. Moore has a response to suggest: “Tell me about that look.”

Become more intimate, slowly.

Years ago, social psychologist and research professor Arthur Aron created a research protocol called “Fast Friends” to help two strangers establish interpersonal closeness in a lab in 45 minutes. It consists of a list of 36 questions that start out slightly personal and gradually become more intimate. Each person answers a question before going on to the next, because any truly deep conversation is reciprocal.

Dr. Aron says that we can use the same concept, which he calls “progressive intimacy,” to deepen conversations. We can begin a discussion by talking about relatively mundane information, such as vacation plans. Once the conversation is going well, gradually move toward more intimate topics.

Show appreciation.

The most important part of a substantive conversation is not the topic, it’s your response, psychologists say. Show the other person that you understand and care for them. You can do this by saying some version of: “I’m so glad you shared this with me.”

When my nephew Noah asked to talk, I suggested high school as a topic. He’s starting his freshman year next month at a boarding school I also attended.

To get the conversation rolling, I asked Noah what classes he’s looking forward to and why. I also shared my favorites. We talked about sports–which ones he’ll play and how it can be intimidating when some of your teammates are bigger than you. And we discussed how it can sometimes get lonesome when you’re away at school and what to do about it.

When the conversation was over, I told Noah how happy I was that we’d gotten to have a real talk.

“Yeah, that was awesome,” he said.

Skip to content