A Simple Trick for Encouraging Deeper Conversation at Your Next Dinner Party

What's your rose, bud, thorn?
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A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner party where the only person I knew was the host. She was moving out of L.A. and wanted to make introductions between friends before she left. By the time we sat down to dinner, a potluck everyone had thoughtfully contributed to, we'd already covered the basics: where we worked, how we knew the host, and what we'd contributed to the dinner. We happily went through the motions of dinner party small talk, but didn't dip below surface level.

When the host sat down, she suggested we go around the table and share a "Rose, Bud, and Thorn." A rose, she explained, is a positive that's been going really well for you. A bud is something that has the potential to grow into something good. A thorn is something that you've been struggling with, or a negative in your life. We all laughed a bit, masking our discomfort at sharing something so personal with strangers. Personally, I had flashbacks to camp ice breakers. ("My name is Leslie! Rhymes with Elvis Presley!")

But unlike camp, where everyone spends the panicked minutes before their turn thinking about a cool-enough "fun fact," we all actively listened as women that I hadn't even known for a full hour shared intimate details about their lives. The struggles connected us and wins encouraged us to lift each other up. 

One woman shared that she was finally launching a bikini brand she'd been dreaming of for years. Another told us it had been so many years since she'd experienced a "Rose," she couldn't even remember what it felt like. Someone else started crying at her turn. She'd just landed a major film role and had every reason in the world to be happy, but was going through a rough patch she feared my lead to a break in her marriage. By the time we made our way around the table, a process that took two hours, I felt bonded to the women on a level I doubt would have taken place without the prompt.

Of course, it takes a certain amount of confidence to just announce at your next dinner party "Let's share a Rose, Bud, and Thorn!" but it inspired me to occasionally ask the question of my own friends, in lieu of "How was your week?" As a kick-off, here's my own from this past week (what's yours?):

Rose: This weekend, I'm flying home to Reno, Nevada with my brother and Jonah for the 100th anniversary of the Reno Rodeo. I've been going to the Rodeo my entire life and it's one of my favorite annual traditions! I can't wait. 
Bud: The land I bought with Jonah in Portland is probably the biggest "bud" in my life right now, since we don't have plans to build a house for another ten years, or so. But we just made travel plans in August to clear invasive ivy off of it, so I get to see it for the first time since we purchased it. I'm sure it will make our monthly land payments feel that much more tangible!
Thorn: This is a mixed thorn because it results from a rose, but I've been making so many plans with friends lately, my workout routine has been a bit erratic. I have a lot of trouble sleeping when I don't workout regularly, so I haven't quite felt like myself the past few days. 

What are yours? Feel free to share in the comments below, or in the thread in our Facebook Group