Can you create closeness in 36 questions?
That’s what social psychologist Arthur Aron attempts to do.
In a study titled “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings,” published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Aron and his co-authors seek to discover whether they can “create closeness in a reasonably short amount of time.”
The questions are designed to simplify things and help people get to know each other quickly.
Aron, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and his co-authors designed these questions based on a lot of research into how friendships naturally develop.
“The questions gradually get more and more personal, so they begin with questions that are almost small talk and then they move to talk about some of the deepest, most intimate things in your life,” he said.
The questions include the following:
- Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
- If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
- When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
Aron said the the questions gradually get more and more personal.
“They begin with questions that are almost small talk and then they move to talk about some of the deepest, most intimate things in your life,” he said, adding: “There's reason to think that getting close would facilitate love and feeling romantic feelings."
Scroll down to see all 36 questions
He said he and his co-authors designed the questions for strangers, but added that research suggests sharing personal things – as long as it’s reciprocated and both parties are responsive – helps all kinds of relationships.
Samantha Daniels, a professional matchmaker, sees the benefits and drawbacks of the list.
“Well, falling in love really is about chemistry and chemistry is an intangible, but what I say is you need two types of chemistry. You need physical chemistry and then you need mental and emotional chemistry so questions like these help people find that second half, which is the mental and emotional chemistry, but at the same time you have to be careful because you don't want to cross the line too quickly. You don't want to ask too many personal questions or pry because that could send you in the wrong direction,” she said.
On a first date, it’s important to not make your date uncomfortable, she said.
“You know, in the 36 questions there's one asking how you think you're going to die. You know that's a little extreme to be asking on a first date,” she said. “I think that that's off-putting, number one, and it puts you in a really serious, heavy place on a date and you just don't want to be in that place on a first date because it doesn't really help.”
Stuart Kenworthy, 28, and Kyle Godfrey-Ryan, 31, are complete strangers who took the 36 questions.
They asked each other the questions, and completed the last part of the exercise by staring deeply into each other’s eyes for four minutes.
Asked how the exercise went, Godfrey-Ryan said there was “a lot more connection” than she expected.
“It was really disarming and I felt very vulnerable but happy and comfortable at the same time," she said.
Added Kenworthy: “I was nervous at first but definitely more comfortable as the questions progressed but I was worried about my answers. ‘Am I smiling too much, do I look nervous’ and as we progressed I became very comfortable with Kyle."
Godfrey-Ryan she would “definitely have coffee" with Kenworthy, and she believes the questions did what they were designed to do.
“They do work - I believe they work,” she said.
Here are all 36 questions:
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling ..."
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ..."
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.