6 Questions to Ask That Are Better Than ‘How Was Work?’

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Heather K Adams732
Content + Copy Writer
We're all guilty of getting stuck in a rut every now and then. So chances are, if your relationships are starting to feel stale, it isn't just you who's caught up in that "same old, same old" situation. Your partner, friends and family can all fall into the habit of having identical conversations, asking the same questions and giving the exact same boring responses. 
Breaking out of these ruts is important for maintaining and growing the connections you have with your loved ones. Finding a better way to ask someone "How was work?" is an excellent place to start.  You know from experience that you may not always want to talk about work, particularly after a grueling and difficult day. Putting yourself in another person's shoes in this regard will help you have better conversations at work, or re-direct well-meaning questions about work that others ask of you.

Why good conversation matters.

Good conversation is revealing, entertaining and informative. Having meaningful talks regularly is foundational to all healthy relationships. It's a way for each of you to feel close to one other. After all, you want to connect with your loved ones. Asking the right questions will unlock their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a manner that might surprise you.
So, treat this opening question like the start to a good chat, and make a conscious effort to move beyond routine scripts, to break free of those conversational ruts. Ask questions that require more than a yes/no or other single-word answer. And receive the question in the same way. Responding in a "yes, and" fashion shows you're willing to have an actual talk, not just a quick exchange.
Falling back on the staid "How was your day?" kind of question doesn't show a great degree of interest, does it? You may actually want to know how someone's day went, how work was, what they did and who they saw. But this question falls into the category of default greetings, ones that don't demand much thought when responding. Being able to show that you really care and want to hear about their days is important when it comes to checking in with and spending time with your loved ones. It's important for all of us to do a little better.

6 great alternatives to "How was work?"

"What happened at work today?"

Asking this question lets the person you're talking to evaluate what happened today and unpack it for you by first getting them to think about the state and quality of their day. How busy someone was is a matter of personal interpretation, as well as something that fluctuates from industry to industry. Busy at a dentist's office on a Tuesday is quite different from busy at a popular restaurant on a Saturday. So, if they answer that their day was busy, you can then ask them in what way — what busy means to them.

"Where did you go for lunch?"

Where did you go, what did you eat... asking about meals is a nice little way to find out about someone's day. It doesn't have very many standard responses build in. You want to start a conversation, after all, so give them something to talk about. If you know your partner is in the habit of ducking out to a restaurant, café or bistro for a quick bite with coworkers, then you can guess this is probably one of the highlights of her day. Asking about it lets them remember that positive experience and share it with you.

"How did your day feel?"

Asking someone's opinion of their day will no doubt give them pause and make them think. And that's the point of these questions: to draw more out of your friends and loved ones and really see how they live inside their days. You might be surprised by the metrics they use when measuring good or successful. Maybe they had a brief but cool interaction when they stopped for their morning coffee, which then put a shine on their entire day. They might not think to even mention this unless you find just the right question to ask them.

"How are your stress levels?"

Discussing our stress and anxiety levels has been shown to help us actually process events and emotions a little easier. We all know how nice it is to be able to vent a bit to someone, especially after a long day at work. Asking your person this question in this way lets them know you're ready and willing to listen, should they need to do just that.

"Whom did you work with today?"

If the person you're talking to works somewhere with a wide and rotating cast of characters, asking whom they worked with that day is a good way to open up a better, fuller conversation. Some of those coworkers will indeed be characters, a few will be favorites and one might even turn out to be a work nemesis. You never know what stories you'll hear and what you'll learn until you ask.

"How would you rate your productivity today?"

The answers you get to this question will also be revealing. Will the person you asked start talking about what they knocked off their to-do list at work or outside of work? Will they mention going to the gym or finding time to sit and work on that craft they love (one you maybe never knew about)? How a person evaluates their day says a lot about them and how they feel about themselves and their life. And that gives you clues as to what questions to ask to dig even deeper.

How to answer "How was work?"

Asking better, deeper questions leads to better, deeper conversations, not just a rote exchange mumbled over dinner or a casual, shallow chat over coffee. So, when you're on the receiving end of this question, keep that goal in mind. Remember to give the other person something to respond to themselves. Try:
  • "It was really interesting! I got to go/do..."
  • "Oh man, today was rough. We were so busy that I..."
  • "Work wasn't bad. I've actually been a little stressed lately, though."
  • "I'm actually thinking of finding a different job. I want to do something more..."
  • "Not bad. I'm excited about next week, though, because..."
  • "It was good! I had a productive meeting with my team about a big project we're gearing up for."
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Heather Adams has designed (and re-designed) many business cards. She also writes, makes pictures & creates little notes. As a content creator, she believes that the art of business is storytelling. From brand work to writing the copy that converts, the power of good storytelling is what builds success. Follow her work here.

What advice do you have for talking about work outside of work? Share in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!