I have had many conversations and coaching sessions with people who are questioning the quality of their relationships.
The theme of quality over quantity is becoming more prevalent.
Covid has indeed been awful for human connection in general because it fulfils our basic psychological needs. The need to belong to something and the need to feel accepted lies deep within our subconscious minds. Without it, or with it reduced to such a degree, causes significant mental health problems.
As a coach, I am always looking for ways to increase the overall wellbeing of my clients and the community, and I remembered reading a study by Arthur Aron from the State University of New York. He and his colleagues created a series of questions, 36 to be precise, designed to increase closeness in a relationship.
I have included them here for you to try.
Find someone to who you would like to become closer.
Whether it is love you are after or a deeper connection with those around you, these questions are useful for anyone you want to feel close to, including family members, friends and acquaintances.
Before diving into this, make sure you and your partner are comfortable sharing personal thoughts and feelings.
You will need:
45 minutes of uninterrupted time together.
For the first 15 minutes, take turns asking the questions from SET 1. Each person should answer each question, but in alternating order, so that a different person goes first each time. After 15 minutes, move on to SET 2 even if you have not completed SET 1. Again after another 15 minutes, move to SET 3.
Each set of questions elicit deeper and more thoughtful answers than the previous.
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world (dead or alive), who would you want as a dinner guest?
2. What would you want to be famous for and why?
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 life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. From your perspective, 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 them 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 they might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect on how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
These questions, even as they stand alone, are bound to stimulate some great conversation. There is, of course, no harm in indulging in some of the questions after completing the sets. There are bound to be a few that will take a bit more time and attention.
If the quality of your questions can determine the quality of your life, then it would be safe to assume, once completing this exercise, you will gain relationships of quality.