How to Survive a Boring Dinner Partner

04/23/2015 04:55 pm ET | Updated Aug 07, 2015

Imagine yourself at a dinner "stuck" next to someone who is rambling on about something you have no interest in. "How can this person be so boring?" you wonder as your eyes glaze over. "Why do I have to listen to this drivel?" you ask yourself as you hunker down for a painful hour and a half.

The good news is it doesn't have to be this way. Consider reframing the situation. Instead of dwelling on how dull your dinner partner is, ask yourself, "What can I learn from this person?" As Bill Nye once said:

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't.

Channeling a more open mindset can transform a boring encounter into an interesting one. It's up to you, not your dinner companion, to make the most of it.

Questions decide what we focus on and determine what we find. The questions we ask others and ourselves shape our experiences in powerful ways. In a scientific paper entitled, "With our Questions We Make the World," the authors illustrate this principle in action:

Depending on whether I listen to you through the question, "What is valuable about what she's saying?" or "Why is she wasting my time?" I will hear very different messages.

The authors continue:

Questions are also at the core of how we listen, behave, and relate... Because questions are fundamentally related to action and reflection, they spark and direct attention, energy, and effort. They are at the heart of the evolving forms our lives assume.

Answers to questions such as, "What's wrong?" or "Who's to blame?" lead to a world quite distinct from that which emerges from questions such as, "What's right?" and

"How can we build on these strengths?"

Every question we ask has the potential to narrow or expand our reality.

Like individuals, organizations are affected by the nature of inquiry too. Consider the following examples:

Lead consultant Diana Whitney helped British Airways address a major concern by shifting their question from "How can we have less lost baggage?" to "How can we create an exceptional arrival experience?" Lead consultant Marjorie Schiller served Avon Mexico in ameliorating a diversity issue by switching their question from "How can we correct the current situation of too few woman corporate officers?" to "What will it take to have men and women involved at every level of organizational decision-making?" She also helped the West Springfield Public Schools in Massachusetts alter their question from "How can we have fewer students failing state mandated tests?" to "How can we be the school where everyone smiles?

Think about the questions you ask yourself every single day. Every question has the potential to damage or enhance an interaction and relationship. Changing the questions we ask can be life-changing.

Instead of: "How could I lose?" ask, "What's useful about this?"

Instead of: "How could I get hurt?" ask, "What can I learn?"

Instead of: "Why bother?" ask, "What's possible?"

Albert Einstein famously said:

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Your assignment: Make a choice to ask questions that embrace the miracles.

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