Fine. My weekend was fine.

I wish I had a better response, but that question is so mind-numbingly boring I can't think of anything interesting to say. 

I also can't think of a better question to ask in return besides, "How about yours?"

Cool, your weekend was fine, too. We have so much in common.

That took all of 30 seconds. We're out of things to talk about. Now let's be silent and stare at our laptops while we awkwardly wait for other people to join the meeting.

Boring, routine questions = boring, routine answers

Ack! Routine questions are boring and usually beget boring answers, but it can be hard to break out of this cycle. You want to ask a more interesting question, but don't know this person well enough to ask something more personal.

Fresh Air host and interviewer extraordinaire Terry Gross recommends one question to spark interesting conversations with absolutely anyone. But it only really works for someone you've never met -- not someone you see in the recurring Monday morning team sync.

Psychologist and writer Juli Fraga is here to save the day with a few fresh new questions to put an end to asking about weekends. She wrote about it for the New York Times. Here are three standbys she recommends to mix things up next time.

  • What are you looking forward to today?

  • What's one song that describes your mood today?

  • Is there anything I can help you with this week?

Genuine curiosity leads to more interesting conversations

Though these questions are less open-ended than Terry Gross' go-to "Tell me about yourself," they share one commonality. All genuine conversation-sparking questions come from being a place of being curious.

If you're asking about someone's weekend, do you really care? You're probably not all that curious to discover the answer. It's an expected question. Thus, people give expected answers.

Going the more spontaneous route immediately changes the tone. It takes everyone out of auto-pilot. Your coworker might share something unexpected or surprising. You get to know them a little bit more as a person.

What's more, it gives you a potential follow-up question to ask next week. No longer will you be stuck in the endless loop of asking about each other's weekends.

Published on: Apr 9, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.