We have a family tradition of visiting Cannon Beach the first weekend around New Year’s Day. With kids scattered around, we might break the tradition this year.
Instead, with most in town this weekend to get our Christmas tree, we made a quick visit to Cannon Beach today, walking to the rock and greeting all the doggies on the way. With light winds and temperatures in the 50’s, it was beautiful!
Most conversations start with a question. Maybe it’s, “How are you?” or “What did you think of the sportsball game?” or, here in the Northwest, “Another wet one, huh?” If you want to learn more about someone, you might ask, “So, what do you do?”
Depending on whom you ask, you might get a conversation in response, but the odds aren’t good. Likely, you’ll have missed an opportunity to learn something cool about the other person.
Having a great question can help.1 Here are 155 to get you started:
I like the first “hot” question in the Forbes list. Which one’s your favorite?
Please be aware that results are not guaranteed to go the way you expect. I tried out my favorite question on my nephew at Thanksgiving, “So, what do you give a damn about?” His response: “The weather.” Haha! Time to follow up. “Why do you care so much about the weather?” ↩
Both offline and online, I will treat people as if they’re my daughter, son, sister, brother, parent, or friend. Because everybody is somebody’s daughter, son, sister, brother, parent, or friend.
To the best of my ability, I will try to add to the amount of love in the world — not subtract from it. This means communicating in a reasonable, respectful manner. This means treating human beings like they’re human beings, not canned dog food. This means asking, “What would Michelle Obama say in this situation? What would Gandhi say? What would Martin Luther King Jr. say? What would Mister Rogers say?” and then proceeding accordingly.
I will not post snarky, cruel blog comments. If I disagree with something that’s been written, I can write my own blog post to voice my perspective.
I will not post snarky, cruel messages criticizing people for their weight, body type, age, or anything related to their appearance — including the clothes they choose to wear. Every human being has the right to express themselves however they want, whether that means wearing a bikini, a pantsuit, or a cocktail dress.
I will not post snarky, cruel reviews on Yelp, Amazon, or anywhere else. If I’m not happy with a product that I’ve purchased, I can reach out to the manager or business owner to express my concerns. I can give that person an opportunity to make things right — which they will probably be more than happy to do.
I will not treat online forms (including Customer Support forms) as if they’re a free punching bag where I can unleash all of my pent-up frustration. Eventually, whatever words I type into this form will reach an actual, living, breathing human being. Not a robot. A person. My words will impact this person’s day. So I will try to communicate in a reasonable, respectful manner.
I will not send numerous emails, one after another, saying, “Hey, did you get my last email?” (Or emails marked “URGENT” when really, they’re not.) I understand that many people are inundated with hundreds of emails every week. Many people are dealing with intense difficulties at home — upheaval, divorce, illness, caring for aging parents, and a thousand other responsibilities. Sometimes, responding quickly just isn’t doable. I will be patient, just as I’d hope that others would be patient with me.
I will support the artists that I love. If there’s a blog, podcast, public radio program, video series, book, or any other creative project that has deeply touched my life, I will support that artist to whatever extent I can. A fan letter. An appreciative review. A donation. A purchase. Whatever I can do to say, “You’ve made a difference for me. Thank you.”
I will not be careless with my words. Words matter. Words can break hearts, start wars, or spark a bonfire of shame. Words can also help and heal. I will try to be a helper, not a hurter.
I HEREBY PLEDGE…
I will do my part to create a safer, kinder, more compassionate Internet — and offline world, too. It begins with the next email I write, the next comment I post, the next choice I make. I will never be a perfect human being, but every day, I will try to be better.
Alexandra is the author of You’re Going to Survive. She describes her book as “a collection of true stories about criticism, rejection, public humiliation, online bullying, all kinds of difficult situations, and how to get through them. I hope you love reading it, and I hope it boosts you up whenever you’re having a tough moment.” ↩