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In Episode 178, my daughter Gretchen and I share a few tips for connecting more deeply with friends, co-workers, family, and people we just met.

Have a bold, specific purpose for every gathering

In Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering (which I recently listened to on a two-day binge), Parker talks about the importance of being really clear on why we’re gathering – whether it’s a work meeting, a birthday celebration, or a walk with a friend or two – and to have a specific, bold purpose for every gathering we host.

“Celebrating a birthday” or “Having a weekly check-in meeting” are not bold purposes, but are what Parker calls “categories.” She makes a compelling argument that as hosts we often spend so much time and energy on food, decor, and logistics but we neglect determining why we are gathering. And that purpose or why is what makes the event memorable.

Here are some examples I’ve come up with with for events with more specific purposes:Having dinner together to celebrate the past year and share our best tip for the next one.Sharing our projects for the next week and setting up accountability and encouragement partners.Telling stories about ourselves that others don’t know so that we can get to know each other better.Celebrating a birthday by bringing (and reading aloud) notes of what we appreciate about the person.

Parker notes that it’s important to tell guests the specific purpose before the gathering, so as not to put anyone on the spot. A simple inclusion on the invitation will suffice.

How are you really doing?

In this episode of Greg McKeown’s podcast, he talks about simple tweaks on the normal “How are you?” question that help get us beyond the usual, “fine,” or “great!” He suggests instead using either,

How are you really doing?

or a three-part series:How are you doing on the surface?How are you doing in the middle?How are you doing deep down?

Ask (or provide) Great Questions

One of the most important skills for making and keeping friends is asking questions. I’ve written and talked extensively on the topic (see links below).

In my book Happy Campers I provide a resource list of questions that are great to use with groups of kids (including in your own family). These are questions we provide to our camp counselors as we train them to connect with their campers and help campers connect with one another. You can read more in Connection Through Questions & access the free PDF here.

Even with people we are close to, there are still things we don’t know about them. Consider using good questions – and great listening – to grow deeper connections.

Audrey & Gretchen’s other chats

The Magic Relationship Ratio

Ep. 161: An Inside Look at Sunshine’s Parenting

Ep. 135: Advice & Ideas from Teachers During COVID-19


Loneliness in America

The Pandemic of Loneliness

The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker

The Greg McKeown Podcast Ep. 157: See Through People’s Masks

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown

Ep. 40: Frientimacy with Shasta Nelson

Camp Secret #1: Connection Comes First (Free audio chapter from Happy Campers)

Connection Through Questions (PDF resource from Happy Campers)

36 Questions to Get Closer to Someone You Love

Making Memories at Mealtime (Goodwin University)

Mealtime Conversation Cards (Goodwin University)

50 Family Dinner Conversation Starters (Six Sisters Stuff)

Shasta Nelson’s “Frientimacy Triangle”