Getting to the Meat

April 2, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

When is the last time you had a genuine conversation?

the meat of the conversation

I meet a lot of people and I like getting to the “meat.” This is the place beyond superficiality in conversations. This is where you find out the person did a thesis on the downfall of GM, ran with the bulls in Spain or they are scared of the dark.

What are your favorite questions when you meet someone new?

Bonus: Best question gets a free microphone donated by Midomi.

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50 responses to “Getting to the Meat

  1. wendyness Reply

    Wasn’t there a post/discussion similar to this before?

    I always like to ask people what their passion is because it makes them think and says a lot about them.

  2. Noah Kagan Reply

    Tony, my Granola cereal or oatmeal.


    I think I did ask this question before and it is time for a refresh…

    Question I use:

    What was the best part about your day? And worst…

  3. Duane Reply

    When I was in the 9th grade, on the first day of class, one particular teacher made us interview each other where we got paired up with random kids and had to ask each other three questions, and then present our partner to the class.

    9th grade. 14yrs old. My questions were “Do you believe in God?”, “What happens after you die?” and something else that I can’t remember. Every other kid in the class, every single one, asked stuff like “What’s your favorite color” and “Do you have any brothers or sisters.” Needless to say it was a very memorable moment in my growing up.

  4. Noah Kagan Reply

    I have noticed that when I am unbelievably honest and open right off the bat I get to know the person much better. It makes them feel more comfortable with me.


    I like those questions. I am hoping to find the ‘1’ question to rule them all.

  5. sri Reply

    I like to find out about the background of the person I am talking to:

    Such as:

    1) Where are you from? Where are u originally from?
    2) Have you visited your ancestral place of birth?
    3) What college did u graduate from/ What major?

    Then I try to throw in all the stuff I know about their country/culture/etc and see if they relate to it.

    Thats my meat. I can see the sparkle in their eyes even if I know the tiniest detail about them. They become more interested in the conversation.

    Sample Conversation:

    Sri: Hi, Where are u from?
    Pretty Mexican chick: Monterrey, Mexico
    Sri: Oh thats close to the border
    PMC (pretty…): Ah yes it is….(small sparkle)
    Sri: How is Vincent Fox?
    PMC: You mean Vicente Fox….yes….he is a nice president… (more sparkle in the eye)
    Sri: Tell me, is it true that your ancestors were raped by Spaniards?
    PMC: I gotta go! bye.

  6. J.T. Reply

    Top Five Favorite New-Person Questions:

    5. You touch my krum?
    4. Justify your existence in five seconds. Go!
    3. Who is your daddy, and what does he do?
    2. Do I look fat?
    1. What are your favorite questions when you meet someone new?

    No? You don’t like those questions? Fine.

  7. Jason H. Reply

    Hey J.T.

    I really like your No.1 question–What are your favorite questions when you meet someone new?– that’s a good one!

    btw, I want my Sexy Back πŸ™‚

  8. J.T. Reply

    Okay, maybe these would be better questions. I’m going to avoid answering with my “favorite” questions (since they’re invariably “where are you from?”, et cetera), and instead just go with some interesting ones, in no particular order.

    5. Were you a “lover” or a “hater” of the high-school experience? Why? (I think knowing how people reacted to or fit into their high school social network can tell a lot about who they are today.)
    4. Do you think traveling has affected your life goals or priorities at all? (Follow up with this after sharing a travel anecdote of your own.)
    3. What’s your take on tabloid culture? (i.e., is it harmless, or is it hurting us? Ask them to justify their response, and tell them you’re going to play Devil’s Advocate.)
    2. If you could be anywhere right now other than here, where would you be?
    1. Have you ever gone camping? What’s been your favorite camping experience? (I swear, it can say a lot about a person.)

  9. Boris Reply

    Trying to find the universal question that will open the door to a person’s inner child is like trying to find the universal theory of the universe: damn near impossible.

    There are definitely some questions that work better than others. You don’t want to ask a question that relays a prejudice; most people, whether keen observers or not, can sense when they are being threatened and become uncomfortable.

    Noah, you pointed out one of the most important things: when you open yourself up first, it makes it much easier for the other person to open up.

    Also asking the person to teach you something can open a person up to you. For instance, you’re discussing a topic in which you have a general base of knowledge, but the other person hints at knowing a lot more detail, you can express the fact that you don’t really know much about the topic and are curious to learn. Then that person may proceed to tell you more about it. Once someone has already opened themselves up like that by teaching you something, they are likely to tell you more about themselves.

    Then you can work backwards from the topic of discussion to get more into the realm of the person. For instance, transition with “what led you to knowing so much about this topic?” (compliments in the form of a question are also great btw, as they deliver the blessings without directly asking the person to respond to them, further loosening a person up).

    they may respond, “well i’ve always had a fascination with this topic.” so you zoom out even further, “when did you develop this fascination, what led you to be interested.” and so on.

    I think that if you try to go directly for the “meat” most people will be reluctant to share.

    However, if I were to have one question to pose I’d ask “what is the sound of one hand typing?” or perhaps, “if an okdork mumbles in a forest, does your rss agregator send you an e-mail?”

  10. J.T. Reply

    Boris wins. The “ask them to teach you something” is hands-down one of my favorite methods of getting people to open up; I’m ashamed I neglected to mention it. He probably did a better job of elaborating, in any case.

  11. Jason H. Reply

    Right on, Boris.

    “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~Dale Carnegie

  12. Andrew Ferguson Reply

    Noah, I think “favorite” questions are weak. They don’t tell you much and aren’t very open ended. For example, “What’s your favorite ice cream?” Person answers and that the end of that.

    Recently, I’ve liked asking, “What do you for a hobby?”/”What do you do outside of work?”

  13. Andrew Warner Reply

    “What’d you do this past weekend?”

    It gets us talking about the other person’s interests and it doesn’t come off as something out of a self-help book. (Don’t you hate listening to people who hit you with seminar-speak?)

  14. sri Reply

    Noah mentioned genuine conversation….so far many of you have taken the “i wanna get in ur pants” approach. But then again, maybe they genuinely wanna get in her pants. I know I did.

  15. sri Reply

    Is it me or how come they are allowing the Quizno commercial with a huge sex theme during day time?

    Lady in Quizno’s ad:
    It is packed with meat, and thats what a real woman wants…*giggle*

  16. Bernadette B. Reply

    Tell me something significant Noah. Something significant about you. See i listen to jazz every night and love the sound of the saxophone because it makes me feel incredibly relaxed. But no one really knows this because for some reason, i just don’t look like someone that loves jazz. Every note of the piano and the keyboard just sounds so alluring. Don’t you think? What about you? What makes you happy. Oh tell me something significant….just like how jazz is so meaningful to me.

  17. sri Reply

    Bernadette B…..

    U sound so sexy….u should win. Imagine what u wrote in Barry White’s voice! It could be a freaking song.

  18. Damon Billian Reply

    “Your place or mine?”…just kidding…

    I generally would ask someone to simply tell me to tell me what they want to.

    “Tell me about yourself.”

    “What do you do?”

    I generally find that it takes a few questions for the person to feel comfortable enough to open up to meatier conversations.

  19. Jason H. Reply


    I’m definitely a Fanjaya πŸ™‚ Mad props to his killer Ponyhawk! Who cares if he can sing or not. He is definitely the most entertaining Idol since the beginning of AI. However, in terms of vocal and overall talent, Jordin Sparks is my girl.

  20. Noah Kagan Reply

    I am in shock more and more every time I see all your comments. Simply perfect!

    Boris, you had the greatest stuff. I look forward to a genuine chat with you in person and giving you the microphone.

  21. Will Kern Reply

    Sorry I am so late to the party…

    What has been your greatest accomplishment?
    Tell me about a defining moment in your life?

    Really out there….which hand do you pick your nose with? If they answer, then they are admitting they pick their nose!

  22. Xavier Reply

    This is a pretty interesting topic, however, i see only one flaw in almost all of these perfect questions. You really have to stumble upon a genuine person in order to receive a genuine answer, no matter what the question is. Just because you asked the perfect question, doesn’t mean you’re going to learn anything new about that person.
    Sure you can ask them all the questions, but many people will tell you what you want to hear or what they think you want to hear, as opposed to a sincere answer.
    Now, the reason i think this is a great topic, is because no matter what that ultimate question is, you can tell a lot about person just by the way they answer any question. Not just verbally, but by their presence, their eye contact, you can even figure out their thought process…. so on.
    As for my question… Why is bologna pronounced buhloney.

  23. J.T. Reply

    In certain circles, I would also ask one of my favorite questions: namely, if you could fill a “dream garage” with 5 cars, what cars would they be?

    Issues of price and rarity are no object, of course. And yes, obviously you can’t ask this question to just every crowd. Automatic n00b points to anyone who fills their stable completely with exotic supercars.

    What cars would you choose, Noah?

  24. Dave McClure Reply

    i probably don’t ask very interesting or poignant first questions, but if i thought about it & felt brave, i’d ask something like these:

    1) When was the last time you cried, and why?
    2) What (or who) makes you laugh?
    3) Tell me about your favorite Sesame Street character.

    if you can actually ask those questions without sounding cheesy, you’ll probably learn a lot about the other person.

    – dave

    ps – i liked the ‘teach me something you know’ idea… nice one.

  25. Joel Mueller Reply

    If you’re talking to a girl, open ended questions that use the word “feel” in them seem to keep them talking. So instead of “Did you like cookie monster on Seasame Street” (where the answer is “yes” or “no” and ends), or “Why did or didn’t you like cookie monster on Seasame Street” (which gets you only one step further, tweaking the question with a positive lead statement and asking about feeling — “I remember sitting with a twinkie in my hand and frosting on my nose, laughing as I watched cookie monster eat Elmo. How did those characters make you feel when you were young?”

    It helps lead the conversation into a positive by setting the pace yourself, and bypassing the quick answers that get the conversation stuck.

  26. Vera Devera Reply

    1) How do you know the host/organizer?
    2) Have you been (here) before?
    3) What do you do when you’re not working?

    These questions can tell a lot about the person who connected you to others. I recently went to a party thinking the person I was talking to knew the host because she was a neighbor and it turned out they had met on e-Harmony ; she was the founder of an eco-travel company that delivers experiences with traditional medicine programs taught by indigenous healers in their native setting. Another came because he plays volleyball with the guy and yet another was in a support group with the host. Discovering these connections is why I love networking! πŸ™‚