I am an extrovert and have no problem talking to complete strangers. Lately, it has been my self-challenge to randomly ask strangers thought provoking questions. When I am passing by and passing bills or exchanging glances and exchanging currency throughout my day I might ask such questions as: “What is your passion?” and “What brings you joy?” Usually it comes with the typical response of either: “Family, Friends, or Pets.” So I have to dig deep into the pockets of their thinking and prompt them even more. When I do that, it’s transactional- this conversation that I have with them.
Conversations seem like an easy exchange among family and friends, but how much emotional currency are we willing to give up to total strangers and at what cost?
I find when I talk to strangers, they hand over more to me than I expect. I come to them, this stranger, as if saying, “This is a personal stick-up! Give me a bit of yourself. Let me pry open the strongbox in you.” I do it in a nonthreatening way of course, but I am rummaging in their personal heartspace for a brief moment of time.
Alas, there is no thievery going on here, rather, I am putting an item up for auction: a conversation. Sometimes this conversation turns out to be worth a great deal, sometimes it falls flat, but other times the treasure comes later that I do not see- That’s when the stranger walks away with it, shines it up a bit, and shares it with someone else.
Maybe these strangers will tell others, “Today, this stranger asked me ‘What brings you joy?’ And I said (such and such).” Then they will ask someone else in turn, “So, what brings you joy?” It reminds me of the dollar bill I used to sign my name on in middle school. I thought it would be magical, knowing my name could travel anywhere. It could go across the country, or even in a pocket across the world.
A question or a conversation will take you even further. You never know what the value of a conversation will have on a person.
These strangers that I converse with are free to put in their bid if they so choose. Surprisingly, some of them never ask me questions in return. Nonetheless, I offer them a little bit of information about me. If I want to learn a bit of information from them, I need to throw in a few soundbites about me as well. Because it’s transactional- this conversation.
When I keep the bids going up in our conversation by asking prompting questions, I get to the heart-answers. These are the responses that make people’s eyes sparkle. THIS is the exchange in our conversation. Up until this point, our conversation has low currency and little value. I love to see their eyes light up when I know I have hit on the right responses. This is when I hear the answers that come directly from inside their hearts, not just from the top of their heads.
I gain SO much from the conversations that I have randomly started with total strangers simply by asking a question. Not how-are-you type of questions. Not what-do-you-think-of-this-weather type of questions, but powerful, life-giving and heart-breathing questions; questions that I hope will carry them through the rest of their day or at least for a time. The type of question like “What brings you joy?” becomes valuable currency.
So what brings me joy?
I receive joy in knowing and seeing that I brought joy to peoples’ lives, if just for a moment, in their mundane day; something unexpected, a surprise, a gift for the day, wrapped up in a small little moment of time- my time, that I have taken out of my day to ask a total stranger, “What brings you joy?”
My hope is that I’m giving people something that has intrinsic value; something more valuable than money or material items, more than a passing glance or a smile, or a kind exchange. More than that- I hope I am giving them something greater that will bring about a thought in their mind to ponder, an idea to marinate in, or a burst of happiness that fills their heart; something that sustains them for the rest of their day, or leads to them having conversations with their family and friends.
To me, all that makes a few minutes of my time worth more than any amount of money. It’s the kind of light that shines brighter than any block of gold.
Would it be worth it to you to ask one question to a total stranger, in a moment of your day? Make an investment in a conversation with a stranger, and I bet it will grow exponentially.
Because it’s transactional- this conversation…
Every Moment Of Every Day.
-Em O. Ed