The #1 Quality in Friendship
There’s so many qualities that could take this spot. You may choose a different one than I would! Maybe for you, you most value shared interests, laughter, or an ability to have fun doing just about anything – even if its nothing at all. Or maybe it’s loyalty, matching up on the Enneagram, or a love for the outdoors. For both Drew and I, the most important thing we look for in a good friend is this: Someone who asks questions.
Drew and I have thought a lot about this since we moved to Oshkosh 2 years ago. We’ve spent a lot of time seeking to build relationships here and have learned a lot from the people who’ve asked us questions – showing us they want to get to know us, not just have someone to talk to about themselves. We’ve come to find that there are four different types of people:
1. Those who DO share openly about their life, and ALSO ask questions about yours.
2. Those who DON’T share openly about their life, but DO ask questions about yours.
3. Those who DO share openly about their life, but DON’T ask questions about yours.
4. Those who DON’T share openly about their life, and DON’T ask questions about yours.
I cannot tell you how many coffee dates, lunch dates, church dates, or dinner dates I’ve been on where the person I’m with doesn’t ask me a single question about my life. I always try to model it first, asking about their life, especially the things I can tell they care a lot about. Don’t get me wrong, there have been far too many times I’ve ended a date with someone and realized I barely asked them anything. (It’s the worst feeling. Super humbling. But also, it happens!) If you’re reading this and realizing the person you were with yesterday may have only heard about you, you’re not alone! Don’t beat yourself up. But, I do think it’s an important thing to realize and be intentional about.
When we ask people questions about their life, it shows them we want to get to know them better! And even if we’ve known them for a while, it communicates a heart that is always wanting to further invest in the relationship. They don’t even have to be deep questions! One of the best kinds of questions are follow-ups. “Tell me more about that!” Or “Gosh, that sounds really challenging. What’s been the hardest part?” Or, “I’ve always wondered how you ____. What got you interested in the first place?”
Asking questions communicates that you’re really listening. It shows the other person that you remember things about their life. Light questions like, “Last time we were together, you mentioned that your garage door was broken. Did that ever get fixed?” Or just a smidge of deeper ones like, “I remember you saying that you haven’t been sleeping well. Have you found anything helpful for getting more sleep lately?”
Being a friend that asks questions also means you’re secure enough to take the attention off of yourself and put it on the other person once and awhile. It means you understand the value of both listening and sharing, not just one or the other. My favorite, most life-giving relationships are those where the other person shares openly about their life, and also asks questions about mine. These friendships enable me to further know them, as they also further get to know me!
Now before you go diagnosing your friends, lets take an inward look. On a day when you’re not intentional, where are you most apt to fall? For me, it’s for SURE being the one who shares openly, but doesn’t ask questions about the other person (#3 on our little chart at the top).
What about you? Where do you most naturally find yourself?
** Shout out to the people who modeled this best to Drew & I in college as mentors – Ella, Everett, & Joanna!