Jan Risher: How Identifying the Day’s Highlights Can Lead to Deep Conversations | Louisiana Inspiration

Last week our 20 year old daughter Piper brought a friend over for dinner. As we were all sitting at the table, Piper said, “Mom, I’ve warned her, I even told her the rules.”

Yes, we have an after-dinner conversation rule in our house. They’ve grown organically, but we’re serious about them. Let me explain:

The ceremony began when Piper was about 3 years old. After dinner, we circled the table and everyone shared the highlights of the day. The rules are simple.

First, the highlight has to happen before we get to the table (or before they get to the house if it’s a company). Second, the bright spot cannot be something that didn’t happen. For example, our daughter would never say “I didn’t have an exam today”.

The notebooks came a few years after this nocturnal ritual began. Instead of everyone simply stating the highlights of his or her day, we start writing them down. These books have become my most treasured possessions. Not only do they record the high points in our lives, but they also remind us of all the people around our dinner table.

Piper said she felt compelled to remind her friends of our after-meal routine, because the activity “can be a bit jarring, especially problematic,” for the unprepared.

She was referring to two other books we added to the highlights of the day. Both books have a question every day that we answer around the table. We also write the answers to the above questions in their respective books.

“Aside from the highlights of the day, you never know what the problem will be,” she said. “It brings a lot of diversity to the conversation. We go beyond, ‘Oh, how was your day?’ We talk more deeply about other things — things outside the news.”

Another cool thing that happened when we answered questions of the day was that we heard stories from each other that we had never heard before. Even though my husband and I have been married for almost 30 years, asking a question after a meal every now and then prompts him to tell a story that is new to me – it always makes me smile.

In our review of after-dinner questions and conversations, Piper reminded me of a podcast she and I listened to years ago that gave all kinds of rules to avoid boring conversations. She says these questions help us stay away from boring and exhausting conversations. We rarely talk about the same thing over and over again. Rules on how to avoid boredom include:

  • Never talk about the dream you had last night.
  • Never talk about how you sleep.
  • Never talk about your health.
  • Never talk about your diet.
  • The most important rule, never discuss “route” conversations (the details of your drive).

These questions allow us to talk about unrelated things—often things that have the potential to be fun, light and fun, she says.

“They’re great conversation starters, and we’re a family that loves a good conversation,” she said.

Some examples of questions from the day include:

  • Have you ever witnessed a miracle?
  • What gets better with age?
  • What are you missing?
  • What instrument do you wish you could play?
  • What good thing have you done for someone recently?
  • What new friends have you made recently?
  • Highway or back road?

We started with the highlights and issues of our daughter’s youth. As Piper discovered, they ensured a way to keep the conversation going.

I encourage you and your friends or family to try individually to identify a highlight of the day and then try to answer a random question. I’ve provided seven questions to help you through the week. Please let me know how it goes.

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