When you go on a first date, you might ask your dinner/coffee/hiking companion some variation of the usual and mundane inquiries: Where do you work? What do you like to do? Where are you from? Etcetera. Those questions are important, of course. It’s good to know what external forces have shaped your date’s life.
Finding out what really matters
But if you want to understand what really matters to the person you’re choosing to spend time with, consider the 2015 infamous New York Times’ story, “The 36 Questions that Lead to Love.” The article is based on a study done by psychologist Arthur Aron and others to explore if strangers can fall in love by asking specific, probing questions meant to increase vulnerability and stoke a deep connection. Questions featured in the study start out relatively superficial but quickly deepen. They include:
What would constitute a perfect day for you?
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?
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
“I would add something about how they feel about feelings,” says Stacy Hubbard, LMFT and Certified Gottman Therapist. “Something like ‘How do you view emotions and what role do emotions play in your life? How were emotions treated in your family of origin?’ Knowing where someone stands on emotions is key. Are they emotionally intelligent or emotionally dismissing/disapproving?
“I’d also ask a question about stance on conflict. It would be similar to the emotion question but more centered on if somebody is conflict avoidant, passionate/volatile, or somewhere between. If there is a big mismatch, that could be difficult and possibly lead to problems unless it is dealt with head-on. “
The app Gottman Card Decks includes a section called Open Ended Questions with ideas to ask a new date or to open conversation with a current partner. Examples are:
What do you want your life to be like in, say, three years from now?
What are your biggest worries about the future?
What is one way you would like to change?
What kind of year has this been for you? Tell me the story of your proudest moment?
If you could change one characteristic about yourself, what would it be and why?
So, can asking increasingly intimate questions the next time you’re out with someone lead to love?
Hubbard says, “Talk is one thing and actions are another. With the list of 36 questions, somebody could be putting on a show and talking a big game as they answer, but if they’re unable to actually follow through and be trustworthy, then there is not an establishment of, nor a foundation of trust that will successfully propel the relationship forward.”
Still, an early, meaningful Q&A session is much more telling than quizzing someone about their number of siblings or favorite ice cream flavor and can help you quickly learn if you want to pursue spending more time on your date…or not.
Posted: 11 July 2019