Shasta’s Sharing Questions for Group Get-Togethers

This month, in GirlFriendCircles we’re teaching “How to Plan a Meaningful Gathering” because we all know that there is a BIG difference between entertaining vs. engaging.

Why We Need Sharing Questions

What we don’t want are more stressful or small-talk filled nights with people.  What we do want are more gatherings where we feel "When planning a gathering, always start by asking "how do I want it to feel?" and then plan to that desired outcome.seen, loved, and connected.  But, unfortunately, those are too far and few between these days for the vast majority of us.  So this month we’re all committing to plan one meaningful night with friends we want to know better! (You can join us— a class, supportive community, free advice, etc.)

A really important part of helping women connect is giving them the time and space to do it in a meaningful and structured way. For that reason we love Sharing Questions—they allow everyone to share, provide a focus of what to talk about (otherwise we end up talking about politics, TV shows, or the weather, instead of about us!), and help ensure that women start to feel like they know each other (as well as allowing each woman to be heard and feel seen).

Answering these questions is fun! They not only ensure that each of us has the opportunity to share, but they also focus our conversations on us rather than about celebrity gossip, news, movies, or our jobs and families.

How to Facilitate Group Sharing

Our sharing is shaped by so many things: how well we already know each other, the size of our group, the purpose of our gathering, and how much time is available, but here are a few fun ways to add Sharing Questions into your gatherings:

  1. Pick one question and go around the circle for everyone to answer.
  2. If your group is small and there’s plenty of time to share, have each person pick one question that everyone answers (so you’re answering as many questions as there are attendees, with everyone picking one question and answering all of them).
  3. Print and cut apart the questions and put them in a hat that is passed around the circle with each person drawing out a different question to answer.
  4. If the group is large, invite women to get into groups of 3 and give them 20 minutes to answer as many of the questions together as possible.

(Here are other tips for facilitating a group discussion.)

Sample Sharing Questions

If you’re with people who know each other fairly well, here are some of my favorites:

• What is the one thing you want less of in your life right now? And one thing you want more of?

• What title would you give to the current chapter of your life? Why?

• What is one thing you love about your current job/role and one thing you would change if you could?

• In what way(s) are you similar to and/or different from one of your parents (or other family member)?

• What were you like in high school? And if you could go back and tell yourself one thing– what would it be?

• What is one thing coming up in your life that matters?

• And, of course, my all time favorite question: What is a highlight and low light in the last week/month?

If you’re with people who don’t know each, here are some of my favorites (best ones are loosely connected to why the group is getting together):

• Share with us your name and how you know _______  (i.e. me–the host, the birthday girl, the bride-to-be) –where we met/how we’ve become friends.

• Share with us your name and one thing you did this last summer (or over the holidays/fall/spring) that stood out.

• Share with us your name, and tell us what you do for work, but more importantly, tell us what part of your work/job energizes you the most these days.

• Share with us your name, and because we’re here celebrating x holiday, share with us one memory you have of a previous one. (St. Patrick’s Day, Valentines, etc.)

•Share with us your name, and because we’re gathering to meet new friends, share with us how one of your closest friends would introduce you– how would they describe you?

• Share with us your name , and because we are all ____ (i.e. on this sports team, on PTA, part of this association) tell us what inspired you to join this group and why it feels important to you.

The real value of a Sharing Question is less about the exact question and more about letting everyone share and be seen– it helps us feel closer to each other even if we don’t end up having a 1:1 conversation with each person.  Plus, it gives us the beginning of a conversation thread that we can pick up and continue when we run into that person later.

If you’re not practiced at leading Sharing Questions it might feel uncomfortable at first. But remember: feeling awkward doesn’t mean it’s “bad” to do it– it just means we’re not very practiced yet.  So let’s practice!  🙂

What have been your experiences in groups that initiate group sharing vs. just mingling or letting only a few share? And please share other questions you’ve used and loved– let’s compile a list!

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9 Responses to Shasta’s Sharing Questions for Group Get-Togethers

  1. Carmelita Troy says:

    This has come at just the right time! I’m working on a get-to-know-you meeting for a church group and these ideas are so helpful!

  2. Pamela Loyd says:

    I love your sharing questions, Shasta, and tried to do something similar in a woman’s group about 5 years ago with disastrous results for me. We met one Saturday morning every month. There were about 8 women, most extroverts. Maybe 3 of us were introverts. The extroverts dominated and it was all chit chat, no real depth. Two of them dominated in particular: one woman who seemed to have a new boyfriend every month who regaled us with all the details of her sex life and foibles of the men (she’d go on for 2 hours sometimes), and another woman who always talked negatively about politics or social issues and the corruptness of the system. After several years it became not only boring for me, but I felt invisible there, so I started missing a lot of meetings. Then one January, one of the women sent an e-mail to all of us asking if we wanted to assess how the group was working for us and did we want to keep things the same or make any changes. One woman replied that she would like the group to make more space for the introverts to talk. I then replied that I agreed with that and also suggested that it might be more meaningful if we had specific topics or questions that guided us into more personal sharing, and I gave a few example questions (similar to yours). What happened next is that the negative woman blasted me about my comments as criticism of the group, and when we met the next time she blasted me again about how I didn’t have the right to “criticize” the group because I was almost never there any more. She went on for a long time, even stating that I was an incompetent counselor (that’s my career) since I didn’t know how to deal with people. The rest of the women sat there in silence the whole time. While none agreed with her, no one spoke in my defense either. No one said, “I don’t see Pam that way,” or “I don’t think we should be attacking each other in this group.” The personal attack on me was so vicious, and the feeling of betrayal by the other women’s silence, that I broke down and cried right there. After that I did not go back to the group, and not one of those women ever called me to see if I was O.K. or to be friends with me outside of the group. I was devastated. And while it has been 5 years and we have since moved to a new city, I still carry scars from that hurt. Do you have any insight into why some women might be so negative about more personal in-depth sharing? As I see it I was in a no-win situation. I either could say nothing and let the group continue with empty chitchat, joking, sex stories, and negative political talk while I served exclusively as an audience–or I could speak up and have the group interpret that as criticism (even though we were asked to say if we wanted changes). I shouldn’t have trusted that, should I? Perhaps you or others have some insight to share about what happened?

    • Charroll says:

      Hi Pamela,
      It sounds like there are a few women in your group that don’t appreciate your sharing time and therefore need a more structured environment because “what are words for when no one listens anymore”. In order to have a more personal in-depth sharing time, clear goals need to be set and understood. For example, I would let the ladies know that certain topics that don’t really allow us to forge deeper relationships will not discussed as a group. Although one-on-one would be fine after or before your meeting. I would use some of the questions that Shasta has subjected above. If someone veers off-topic then maybe the group could agree to have a mediator that monitors this and quickly says “this information is off-task to the group”. In order to allow everyone enough time to share, you could have a timer that is set for a particular amount of time. I know that this is very structured, but I have met a lot of people that don’t even know how much time they are talking and end up monopolizing everyones time . So maybe set the timer for 4 minutes (depends on the question) for everyone, but you don’t have to use all of your minutes. Then the timer goes off then that is it, you don’t get anymore time.

      Of course, with these suggestion, everyone would have to agree upon them and agree if the discussion needs to be more or less rigid.
      I wish you luck on your endeavour to incorporate more friends into your world.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Oh Pamela!!! I am SOOOO sorry! My heart aches for that memory. 🙁

      If I had to guess what happened… besides the fact that she’s negative and critical (which means she is critical of herself, too, and therefore quite beat up all the time and living with hurt), she was wanting to be “seen” and accepted and took the suggestions personally, hearing the feedback as “We are tired of hearing about you.” I believe that we ALL have those needs and that the problem isn’t wanting to be valued by others, as much as it’s how we go about getting those needs met. And she’s obviously not practiced at how to do that well. 🙁 In an ideal setting, I would have tried to start off with lots of affirmation– “I love how freely you share yourself, and thank you for bringing so much energy and consistency to the group… and I realize many times that I get home and wish I had spoken up, more like you do. But, I realize that what would help me show up more would be if we went around the group, and one-by-one each shared a bit, so that we all had a turn.” But really, Pamela, the example you gave tells us way more about her. This isn’t about you. It’s her hurt. Hurting people hurt people. I try to see her with compassion as trying to get a need met… AND she wasn’t able to hear the needs of others without taking it as an insult.

      If I could encourage you in any way it would be to not do what she did– which is take it personally. Easier to say than to do, I know. But the truth is that your gut had already told you that your time with this group was done… and I applaud you for speaking up and practicing naming your needs (as opposed to just slinking off without doing so!), and then your intuition was validated that that group wasn’t going to be the ones to keep meeting your needs. So if you can reframe it and be proud of yourself for meeting with them as long as it did serve your needs and for speaking up– then let go of taking anything else on…. forgive them for they were doing the best they could with who they were at that time, and forgive yourself for holding this against yourself all this time…

      And as you bond in the future… remember to practice taking your space and building friendships where you feel seen. xoxo

      p.s. I don’t know if this is helpful, but it’s an excerpt from my book about my own growth in speaking up: http://www.shastanelson.com/blog/index.php/2014/05/the-problem-my-friend-doesnt-ask-me-about-my-life

    • Kate says:

      Hi Pamela,
      I just wanted to know that I too have been hurt over the years in ways similar to yours. And in my case, they were church ladies! Tested my faith for sure. I appreciate Shasta’s words below and look forward to building authentic relationships. You have my empathy and best wishes going forward.

  3. Thank you Shasta for these wonderful tips! As a current job seeker with extensive sales and marketing experience, I always appreciate fresh insights into relationship-building!