Small Step No. 03

It’s inevitable. You run into your mother’s neighbors’ aunt at a dinner party and you know each other, but you don’t know know each other, so you fumble into stilted small talk until someone politely excuses themselves to hit the ladies’ room, or refill a drink.

It’s enough to make you want to avoid the next dinner party altogether (if not for the cheese).

And so, a small reminder for myself:

Ask “What did you do today?” instead of “How are you?”

I first learned this trick from a family friend and retired psychologist who says that when faced with a small talk scenario, “What did you do today?” sends the brain into a logical/info zone rather than theoretical/emotion zone. It’s far easier for people to conjure up a list of what they did rather than how they felt, so the conversation flows more comfortably (and is ever-enlightening).

Bonus points: Work will likely come up in a response, so you’re saved from asking the dreaded follow-up question: What is it you do for a living?

Go forth and mingle, friends. I’ll be the one by the cheese.

Tell me: what small steps are you exploring these days? I’d love to hear!



p.s. These are a series of small steps that will (hopefully) provide one giant leap to greater things. Not for mankind, but for me, and perhaps for you, which will always be good enough in my book. More here and here.



  • I dread those conversations. It’s as if I forget how to be a normal human and transform, instead, into a burning robot, talking to other boring robots, who I know are really intriguing humans if I could just get past the shell. I’m curious to try your question. Maybe it will help me stay out of my robot shell.

  • Works well with everyone but the teenagers currently residing in your home with you, lol!

  • What I dread the most is “What’s new??”. When I’m asked that my mind goes completely blank – nothing is ever really “new”, right? I’m going to use your little trick from now on. It’s so simple and so perfect!

  • Wow, this is so brilliant! Love it! And Erin, I’ve been really loving the podcasts with Tsh!!

  • One I plan to use soon is “What is lighting you up lately?” or “what is bringing the most joy into your life?” I’ll use your question too now. = )

  • Such a simple shift! I am excited to put this into my everyday small talk (which is something I’m not a big fan of!). I am a lover of diving into the good stuff in someone’s life, and this question feels like you’d get a ‘deeper’ response!

  • New commenter, but long-time reader (and share-er of your posts). I drank two glasses of water this morning before my coffee and thought of you.

    My small step has been to answer questions honestly, instead of giving the answer that is “easy” or what we think people want to hear. Not answering “how are you” with “fine” if I’m not fine. Saying “No, I have two in heaven,” when asked if my daughter is my first. Honesty and vulnerability go a long way in creating stronger connections. It might be a small step, but it has huge impact.

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