Here at Impact Hub Boulder, we love a good conversation. From empathizing to collaborating, having a genuine heart-to-heart with a client, teammate or stranger is at the very foundation of making an impact. But with the high-stress workloads, full schedules and hustle-bustle of daily life, there is often little time to devote to making new, meaningful connections. Luckily for us, social psychology research power-couple Dr. Arthur and Elain Aron have been studying interpersonal closeness for over 30 years. According to their research, they have developed a set of 36 questions that— regardless of prior relationship or agreement on measured “important attitudes”— nearly always produce closeness.
The study was an independent sample of 296 students, who were paired at random and took turns asking and answering questions in a 45 minute time frame. After 45 minutes of interaction, 30% of students rated this new relationship as closer than the closest relationship of their lives. Following the experiment, nearly 60% of students had at least one subsequent conversation, and over a third had done something together outside of class. You can read the full study here.
So if you find yourself with a spare moment at lunch, in between meetings, or just are feeling the need to take a break, meet someone new. Strike up a conversation. You never know, you might just make a friend.
Here is the full list of questions developed by Dr. Aron(s). For a quick look, I’ve bolded a couple of my favorites.
—Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
—Would you like to be famous? In what way?
—Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you’re going to say? Why?
—What would constitute a perfect day for you?
—When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
—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?
—Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
—Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
—For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
—If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
—Take four minutes and tell you partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
—If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
—If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
—Is there something that you’ve dreamt of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
—What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
—What do you value most in a friendship?
—What is your most treasured memory?
—What is your most terrible memory?
—If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about
the way you are now living? Why?
—What does friendship mean to you?
—What roles do love and affection play in your life?
— Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
—How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most
—How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
—Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “we are both in this room feeling…”
—Complete this sentence “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
—If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
—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.
—Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
—When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
—Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
—What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
—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?
—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?
—Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
—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.