It’s not just for falling in love! Speed dating is an indispensable protocol for eliciting quick stories, cultivating empathy and holding space.
Tell me more: Students of architecture know that the critique is an invaluable – but sometimes also devastating – space for receiving feedback from mentors and peers. And, introverts know that unstructured social situations can be paralyzing. So we’re huge fans of speed dating, because it’s a protocol that’s structured and semi-serious without being too intimidating. Its rules are flexible, but it typically involves brief, timed conversations with a single partner about a single question. The “event” can run as short or long as needed, and is inexhaustible: Its applications are infinite.
Classroom applications: We’ve used speed dating in our classrooms as a protocol for eliciting rapid feedback for student work. We’ve also used it to build classroom culture by deepening relationships and building trust early in the school year. It’s useful for practicing interviewing skills in a journalism class, or in any other context where listening and responding is a critical skill. We’ve used it to develop questions before making short documentary films that require storytelling, and have done it in advisory and professional development when we need to break the ice.
It’s useful to demonstrate the protocol before beginning: Sometimes the “dating” part is scary (or hilarious) to middle school students who are nervous about their conversations. Sometimes one partner will dominate the conversation, and it’s helpful to model what it means to hold space, suspend judgment, and embrace vulnerability.
- Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York blog is full of examples of beautiful stories that are elicited from only a few questions: http://www.humansofnewyork.com/
- The New York Times published a piece called “36 Questions on the Way to Love” that has inspired many of our own favorite speed dating prompts: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/no-37-big-wedding-or-small.html
- The storytelling project StoryCorps shares a trove of questions: https://storycorps.org/great-questions/
- Here’s a PDF of prompts we’ve used with young people: http://unprofessionaldevelopment.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Speed_dating_questions.pdf
Top and bottom photo credit: Karen Blumberg