What makes gatherings feel extraordinary?

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What do you consider are some of the elements of a memorable gathering?

Great food?

Interesting thought starters?

A beautiful surrounding?

Mind-blowing conversations?

All of the above?

Yes, probably.

Yet how does one go beyond just having another evening filled with small talk? And how does one go from that to a mind boggling dinner you and everyone else who sat at the table will think about, and possibly reflect on, for days or maybe even weeks?

What does it take to create an evening that doesn’t just help you learn more about yourself, but also helps you discover things about your friends you’d usually not think to ask?

Travis, the founder of Norn, a Berlin and London-based salon for meaningful conversations, told me he found these sort of conversations needed to be “ritualized.” In a way, the moment of a meaningful conversation needed to be elevated to allow for the conversation to unfold. The gatherer or host, however you’d like to call this person, needs to create a space, a platform even, where people feel safe. Then they need to gently guide the conversation without over-facilitating it; it doesn’t matter whether it’s a party of two or a larger group. As a host, it’s one’s task, and even one’s responsibility, to take the lead and create such a space.

The real question is, how do you start asking meaningful questions? How do you create such a platform?

If the (first) question comes out of nowhere – if you just ask – you might overwhelm the person you’re with.

It might make you come across as too forward. Too intense even.

I’ve been experimenting with meaningful questions myself. Last year, I bought a deck of cards with questions that help people self-reflect. They’re wonderful conversation starters when you’re out with a friend and want the conversation to have more substance. The card deck is very useful for group gatherings too.

It might be that it’s the cards that are professionally printed that create such a space. And maybe it’s also the reason why Norn prints a beautiful Conversation Menu to elevate the moment of the meaningful conversation. I know when I tried with a handwritten note featuring interesting questions, it didn’t feel the same way unfortunately.

If you’d like to experiment with such conversations yourself and are looking for good questions, you could get the cards from soheresone (which are the ones I carry around in my bag at all times). Look up Norn’s Instagram or subscribe to their newsletter or wait for the one’s Holstee is currently working on releasing. I’ve found the ones from the School of Life aren’t as good for groups, as they might be for when you want to reflect for yourself. Something that might also be worth elevating as a ritual with a good meal and maybe a glass of wine is an evening of meaningful conversations with yourself. Worth a try, I’d say.

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