I recently read a great study by psychologist Arthur Aron positing whether two strangers could fall in love simply by asking each other a series of 36 questions. The first 13 questions are about how we present ourselves. The next 13 are about what we dream of and what we value. The last 13 are about friendship, family, and partners.
And here’s the clincher. At the end of the 36 questions, the two strangers have to face each other and look into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes. Aron says 2 minutes doesn’t do it – that’s simply terrifying. It’s at 4 minutes that things start to happen.
And in his study, things did happen! At the end of the experiment, most participants said they felt like they knew their study partner better than they knew most of their friends. Some ended up in love. And some even got married.
The big take-away for me isn’t that you can ask a stranger 36 questions and fall in love, but that when you ask people questions and are open and sharing with your own answers, magic can happen.
- How many real conversations do you have every day?
- How many times do you ask questions that really matter?
- How interested are you in people’s stories, about what they struggle with, and about what makes them happy?
- And how open are you with your own stories?
Personally, I’m much more comfortable in the questioner role. Maybe that’s why I love traveling. I meet all kinds of strangers, ask lots of questions, and hear the best stories. And sometimes, I even share an old story or two. I love a conversation where I’m blushing, or laughing, or crying. Or doing all three. Where I feel like I’m being my goofy, geeky self. And where I find a connection to a perfect stranger. Or to a friend.
When I put it all out there, I feel grounded and lighter at the same time. How about you?
As we start into the new year, perhaps we can add this to our organizational plans for 2017:
- Start great conversations with friends and strangers
- Ask questions
- Listen to the answers
- Tell stories
- Be myself
And if we’re brave, perhaps we can even try the 4-minute staring challenge. 🙂
Here’s a link to the original article in the NY Times if you’d like to see all 36 questions.
Blustering greetings from the chilly wilds of Maine. We found this beauty on the rocky beach today.