At camp, we spend a lot of time getting to know each other around the campfire, at meals, and while walking around camp. Many campers who were strangers to each other when they arrived at camp report feeling even closer to the cabin mates they’ve only known for a few weeks than they feel to school friends they’ve known for years. Why is that? One of the reasons is that they’ve had a lot of time to talk with each other. All those conversations help campers build strong friendships.
One friendship skill we practice at camp is learning to ask questions, to listen well using active listening skills, and to ask follow up questions rather than interjecting our stories and ideas right away. Questions help keep a conversation flowing and help us get to know others better. Here’s Sunshine talking about why this is an important social skill our kids need to practice:
You may think the answer is something very specific – like sports or a favorite video game or TV show. It’s likely that when I asked that question you thought about what you most like to talk about. It’s true that people really enjoy talking about things they’re interested in. And what they’re most interested in are hobbies and things they enjoy most. People like to talk about themselves, so the best questions to ask to get to know someone better are questions that give them the opportunity to share their interests and stories.
When you ask good questions, it not only helps you get to know your friend better, but it also makes them like you more and want to spend more time with you.
Kids (and adults) who master question-asking, listening, and follow-up are well-liked because they give people the opportunity to share about themselves.
Since asking good questions is the entry point for building friendships wherever you are and whatever your age, it’s an excellent friendship skill to practice and improve.
When you’re going into a new situation where you’ll be talking with people you’ve just met or if you’re wanting to build closer friendships with kids you already know, take a few minutes to brainstorm a few good questions you might ask that are appropriate to the setting.
If you’re at school and it’s recess or lunch, you might ask about their interests, favorite foods (perhaps spurred by something you see them snacking on), their family, or how they spend their time after school.
If you get nervous talking with people you don’t know, practice asking questions with your parent, older sibling, or another trusted adult before you go into the new setting. Get their feedback about which questions they enjoyed most.
Campers last summer brainstormed a lot of fun questions to ask friends. You can check out the list here if you want some question ideas!
Once you’ve figured out a few good questions to ask, here are a few important tips:
After you’ve asked the question, listen carefully to the answer without interrupting. If you’re excited or agree with the person, nodding your head and smiling let’s them know you’re “with them” and interested.
Sometimes, their answer gives you the opportunity to ask follow up questions.
For example, you might have first asked,
“Do you like to play any sports?”
And they answer, “No, but I really enjoy music.”
You could ask, “Do you play an instrument or sing?”
And so on.
By listening to their response to your original question, you’ll have a path for figuring out more questions to ask.
If you’re chatting again another day, you can circle back and ask how their piano practice is going or what song they’re learning to play.
Showing your friend that you care about what they care about is a great way to build your friendship, so asking good questions and listening well not only helps you get to know your friend better but will also help you know what to ask them more about later.
Is there someone you’d like to get to know better? Think about a good question you can ask to get to know them better and ask the question next time you’re with them!
Below are 50 questions that our 2019 campers brainstormed. Click here for a printable version!
Download Sunshine’s “Questions for Connection,” one of many helpful resources from her book HAPPY CAMPERS: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults.