Can you remember back when you were a small child, even before you started school? Do you remember all of the questions you asked of the adults around you?
Why does the moon have a face? Why is the grass green? Does ice cream taste the same to you as it does to me?
You were a question-asking machine, full of curiosity and wonder about the people and world around you.
Humans, especially children, are quite unique in their insatiable quest for knowledge and understanding. No other animal spends as much time or energy seeking answers simply for the sake of knowledge.
But somewhere around the time we begin formal education, our questions tend to drop off. We learn that giving the right answers is more important than asking the right questions.
Over the last ten or so years, the internet has given us immediate access to answers, so many of the questions that once set our minds on fire with curiosity are answered at the click of a button. Finding answers has become mundane.
Perhaps our childhood curiosity has been tamed by institutional beliefs and societal expectations. Maybe it’s been tempered by the instantaneous access to information online. But there’s one vast area of human curiosity that can’t be satisfied through research or education alone — our curiosity about the people around us.
Yes you can find out information about people through social media or a quick Google search. You can read extensive biographies about famous people. But the only way to really get to know someone is by sitting down and talking with them — and not just talking, but asking questions to draw out the individuality and uniqueness of the person.
I have always been curious about people and have been a question-asker since I was a child. It wasn’t until I went back to school to become a personal coach that I learned how powerful the right questions can be.
Asking good questions to get to know someone not only allows you to learn more about the other person, but also it allows the other person to explore themselves and articulate a deeper level of self-awareness. The right questions built trust, intimacy, and understanding between two people.
If you’d like to reignite your curiosity about people, here are 30 getting to know you questions to ask:
1.What was your upbringing like?
You can learn so much about a person from hearing about their upbringing, their parents and siblings, and how they describe their feelings about childhood. Much of our personality and belief systems are shaped in childhood, and learning about it gives you a window into the person’s true self.
2. If you had to describe yourself in five words, what would they be?
This question is hard for some people either because they aren’t self-aware, or they express who they want to be rather than who they really are. Most people have heard enough feedback from friends and family to share an accurate reflection of their personality. But listen for deeper, more introspective answers that reveal a self-examined person.
3. What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
Asking this question is truly a gift for the other person because you’re giving them the opportunity to share something meaningful. Often the “why” part of the question gives you the most information about the inner motivations of the answerer.
4. If you weren’t working in the job you have now, what would you do?
So many people land in their jobs by accident or from outside pressure. Our jobs may not be an accurate reflection of what we are really meant to do. The answer to this question can reveal a lot about the interests and aptitudes of the person.
5. What’s on your bucket list?
This is an enlightening question that reveals the person’s hopes and dreams, longing for adventure and travel, and life priorities. Watch how engaged and excited the answerer gets when sharing their list.
6. What is one of your best memories from childhood?
Everyone has a favorite memory that reveals the simplicity, freedom, and joy of being a child. This question often exposes the tender, vulnerable side of a person.
7. If you could change something in the world, what would it be?
This question gives you window into the person’s personal values and sense of justice. You learn what makes them frustrated, offended, or impassioned.
8. What makes you wildly happy?
Often you’ll hear about memorable experiences, hobbies, and interactions with people when you ask this question. Most of us feel the most happy when we’re doing something we enjoy with the people we love
9. What would you most like to learn and why?
This question reveals the interests and curiosity of the answerer, as well as where they might see gaps in their own abilities or knowledge.
10. What are your top fears?
I love this question because it’s really a touchy one. We all have fears, and for some it’s hard to reveal them. But sharing our fears makes us realize we aren’t alone with them.
11. What are your top five favorite books of all time?
What we read says a lot about who we are. It also reveals areas of commonality between the question asker and answerer. When you ask this question, try to draw out from the person what made the books so compelling.
12. What music has most influenced you?
Music is the background theme in various stages of our lives and helps express who we are. For example, the music of our adolescence reflected our struggle for identity and voiced our pains and confusion. The type of music that influences a person reveals the story of their own inner
13. Which of your parents are you most like and why?
Most of us identify with some elements of both of our parents, but this question allows the answerer to express more about his or her parents and how they relate to them.
14. How would you describe unconditional love?
It’s fascinating to learn how different people view love, especially unconditional love. The answer will reveal the emotional needs of the answerer, as well as their views on how love should be expressed.
15. What are your top five personal values?
Personal values are the guiding principles for our lives. They reflect where and how we want to spend out time and energy. It’s fascinating to hear someone’s values and to see how they are (or aren’t) expressing them in their lives.
16. What goals do you have for the next five years?
Many people don’t have specific goals for themselves, and this question often invites them to consider what they want to achieve. For those who do have goals, their answers reveal more about their values and motivations.
17. When do you feel the most confident and why?
The answer to this question tells you where the person feels most self-assured about their abilities and talents. We usually feel the most confident about things we’re good at and that we enjoy.
18. What big life changes have you recently experienced?
It’s interesting to hear what someone considers a big life change. For one person, it could be the loss of a job or a divorce. For another, it might mean buying a new car or getting a dog. Change is inevitable, and some people respond to it better than others.
20. How did those changes impact you?
This is the bigger part of the change question. Hearing how change has changed the person gives you a glimpse into their state of mind. Some people learn and grow from change while others lose their footing.
21. What do you feel passionate about?
It’s one thing to be interested in something or simply enjoy it. It’s another to feel passionate about it. Having a passion means you are “called” to some endeavor — you must engage in it against all odds. Not everyone has found their passion, but for those who have, you’ll sense their inner fire when they discuss it.
22. If you were an animal, what would you be?
This seems like a silly question, but it’s really very revealing. What does it tell you about a person if they answer “a lamb?” What does it say if they answer, “a bull?” We personify animals and they represent certain personality traits — loyalty, pride, stubbornness, agility, etc.
23. What really gets under your skin and makes you mad?
Learning someone’s hot buttons tells you more about their personality type, their inner fears and pain, and their sense of right and wrong.
24. What are some of your limiting beliefs?
Everyone has negative beliefs about themselves or the world that hold them back. These beliefs reflect our fears and shed light on the impact of past experiences that wounded us.
25. What is one of your most memorable dreams?
Dreams are fascinating windows into the subconscious mind. Dreams we remember are usually very powerful messages from the subconscious that invite us to examine our fears and worries. Explore this question further by asking the person to interpret the meaning of their memorable dream.
26. If you could travel back in time, what timeframe would you visit and why?
This is a fun question that shows you a bit more about the person’s interests and personality.
27. What is the most valuable life lesson you’ve ever learned?
This is a very telling question as the answer shows where someone might be in their stage of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. It’s also interesting to see how the person has applied the lesson to their lives and how it has helped them.
28. How do you handle anger?
How someone deals with anger also reveals much about their emotional maturity and self-control. Some people repress anger, while others have inappropriate outbursts. Watch how the person answers the question and their body language to give you even more information.
29. What do you think happens when we die?
This questions reveals much about the religious or spiritual belief system of the answerer. It is interesting to follow up to find out why they believe what they do and how they came to those beliefs. (Be sure you ask this without judgment if you want an honest answer.)
30. What will be your legacy?
With this question, you’re asking the person how they want to be remembered after they die. What impact do they want to make on their family, community, or the world?
As you ask these questions, ask them in the spirit of real interest and regard for the other person. You don’t want them to feel like they are in an inquisition, or that you’re passing judgment on them or their answers.
Recognize that all people are different and have unique and varied perceptions of themselves and the world around them. That’s what makes people so fascinating. Enjoy the process of celebrating and acknowledging these differences as you learn more about the person you’re questioning.
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