Curiosity and questions. Get curious. It might take a relationship to the next level. Sure, being kind is important, but maybe curiosity holds an even greater power? Curiosity may even develop into empathy for others.

It’s about asking questions – the right questions.

Curiosity and Questions Spark Relationships

In 1997 five researchers published a paper. It described an experiment they set up where strangers took turns asking each other 36 specific questions in exact order.

At the end of the experiment, it was proven by feedback that these questions created a sense of closeness.  In less than an hour, some of the former strangers even exchanged contact information to continue their budding relationship.

Research in this area had already shown that a key pattern in developing a close relationship includes:

  • sustained,
  • escalating,
  • reciprocal,
  • personal self-disclosure.

The researchers developed their 36 questions to make this happen.

Questions?

The study, “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings”  is here. You can read about how they designed the experiment and all the details in how they administered it. I found it really interesting to read.

I imagine it would be fun to do this with your long-term friends and your spouse. Curiosity and questions will create a spark in those relationships also – and sometimes our long-term relationships might even need a spark!

The “Sharing Game” – 36 Questions

Curiosity and questions – if you just want the questions themselves, you can find them below. Within the experiment, the questions were given in three sets. See the appendix of the paper to read the exact instructions on how the game was set up.

Set I

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 phone call, do you ever rehearse what you’re 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 choose?

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 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?

Set II

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamt 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?

Set III

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 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.


These questions were developed by ArthurAron – State University of New York at Stony Brook, Edward Melinat – California Graduate School of Family Psychology, Elaine N. Aron – State University of New York at Stony Brook, Robert Darrin Vallone – University of California, Santa Cruz, Renee J. Bator – Arizona State University — for the paper “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings” 

Would you be curious enough to try this experiment?

Does this experiment spark your curiosity? Would you try these questions with someone you don’t know well? What about your spouse? Or relatives? Would you want to feel more close to anyone in particular? Curiosity and questions spark relationships – a winning combination!

 

 

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