Restaurant.com partnered with New York Times best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi to conduct a research project on fostering relationships of all varieties through dining.

The result was five conversation guides for various dining occasions, including family, friends, significant others, colleagues, and clients. Each week, we will be sharing one of those dining guides on The Dish, along with a real-world example of what the guides can do to improve relationships.

This week’s guide is for friendships. If you try the guide with your own friends, let us know  how it went in the comments section below.

Dining Out to Deepen Friendships

Alice was worried about her friend Paula. She was so unhappy with her office job and didn’t have much else going on in her life that seemed to excite her. When Alice noticed a Facebook offer to participate in the new Ferrazzi Greenlight-Restaurant.com dining project, she decided to see if it might help her get into a productive career chat with her old buddy. Step one for Alice was flipping through the Greenlight Guide for Dining with Friends, a brief list of conversation starters and techniques aimed at building stronger friendships while eating out.

When the pair finally got seated in a private booth at a swank new restaurant they’d both been wanting to try, Alice started in with the first topic suggested by the Guide: She asked her friend to reveal something about herself that Alice might find surprising. And that it was: Paula was a painter! Alice had had no idea. Alice was frazzled and full of questions about Paula’s paintings and why she had never shared this part of herself—but she tried to keep in mind the Guide’s emphasis on listening. The story came out slowly, and giving Paula time to describe her passion ended up being rewarding for them both.

Next, following the Guide, Alice asked Paula what she wanted to accomplish in the coming year and how she, Alice, could support her in achieving it. Paula told her she’d been dreaming of having a gallery show—and agreed that Alice could be a big help by checking in with her from time to time to keep her on the ball with that. When Paula asked Alice the same question back, Alice told her that she too was feeling at a crossroads with her job (having just realized it while listening to Paula open up so) and what she really wanted was to take a vacation—with Paula.

It’s adding this touch of “intentionality” into relationships that seems to make the difference with Greenlight Dining Project participants who have chosen to use it to eat out with friends. The idea is to go beyond routine check-ins and daily complaints to actually reassess our lives with the support of people we love and trust.

The Greenlight Dining Guides—which cover clients, colleagues, family, friends, and spouses—are a collaboration between Restaurant.com and Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone and chairman of myGreenlight Academy. To make the guides as useful as possible for Restaurant.com’s users, Ferrazzi’s expertise in relationship-building meal-time conversation is bolstered by other specialists in the field of psychology, relationships, and communication, including Veronica Berenstein, PhD; John Gottman, PhD; Mark Goulston, MD; Dave Joseph, LICSW; Ramdas Menon, CHt; and Ziggy Yoediano, MD, MBA. For more advice and guidance on developing fulfilling interpersonal relationships, check out Keith Ferrazzi’s blog.