Ever heard of the 36 questions that make people fall in love?
These questions took the internet by storm in 2015, but most people don’t know much about them.
Do they really work?
If so, how?
Here’s the surprising science behind the questions…
And how you can steal the concept to feel closer to him.
From Strangers to Friends
Arthur Aron has been studying love since he fell in love with his wife Elaine back in 1967.
But that’s not what spurred his most famous research.
All he wanted to do was take two complete strangers, put them in a lab, and turn them into friends in an hour or less.
In the real world, strangers become friends by spending time together, talking about their lives, and building trust.
Aron wondered if he could accelerate that process by asking strangers to share deeply intimate details of their lives.
So he and his wife developed a series of 36 questions ranging from the merely informative (what constitutes a perfect day for you?) to the highly personal (how do you feel about your relationship with your mother?).
The questions worked.
The more vulnerable the study participants got with each other, the closer they felt.
(One couple in the first pilot study even got married!)
Vulnerability is crucial to emotional connection.
And you don’t need a list of questions to achieve it.
The Power of Telling a Secret
Perhaps you’ve experienced the strange phenomenon whereby you meet a complete stranger on a train or on vacation or in an internet forum…
And you find yourself sharing things that not even your closest friends know.
You know you’re never going to see this person again—or meet them in real life, if you’re online.
That anonymity helps you open up and share things you might otherwise worry you’d be judged for.
We experience a sense of relief and freedom when we say out loud what we’ve been holding inside.
Self-disclosure is therapeutic—as long as it’s safe.
Perhaps you’ve also had the experience of telling someone something private and immediately realizing it was a mistake.
You didn’t get a good reaction. You could tell that the other person was judging you or pulling away. Maybe you even discovered they’d shared your secret with others without your permission.
You wish you’d never told them, but you can’t take your words back.
Sharing something private and personal can build connection, but it can also backfire.
That’s why you need to know how to use the power of vulnerability safely.
Safe Vulnerability Meets These 2 Conditions
Many people assume that the 36 questions work because they’re so personal. You wouldn’t normally ask a stranger when was the last time they cried!
But co-researcher Elaine Aron explains that the questions are not effective because they’re personal. They’re effective because they create “back-and-forth self-disclosure that increases gradually (not too fast).”
In other words, the kind of vulnerability that creates a sense of closeness and liking is reciprocal.
You aren’t the only one doing the sharing. You’re sharing a little something of yourself as a way of inviting your partner to share something about himself.
If he doesn’t want to reciprocate, don’t keep sharing more. Stop there and try again another time.
What a lot of people don’t know is that asking personal questions will backfire if your partner is a love avoidant.
Men who are avoidantly attached find too much intimacy off-putting or overwhelming. They can only handle a small bit at a time.
Next, vulnerability creates a sense of closeness and liking when it’s a gradual process that unfolds over time.
(This is why you don’t fall in love with that stranger on a train. You got vulnerable together, but it was just once.)
Imagine you’ve got a dial from 0 to 10, where 0 means that you’re not vulnerable at all and 10 means you’re 100% vulnerable.
You want to move that dial slowly, just one click at a time.
If your relationship is a 2 on the vulnerability scale, you don’t want to suddenly dump your personal dilemmas on your partner.
Get a little closer, then a little closer, then a little closer.
You can derail a relationship if you go too fast all at once.
For example, think of a man and a woman who go out for drinks. The drinks embolden them to stay up all night confessing their deepest, darkest secrets to one another.
How do they feel the next morning? A lot closer?
Or incredibly uncomfortable?
The Role of Trust
It’s so important to take this process slowly because trust precedes vulnerability.
You need to trust someone enough to feel confident sharing your most personal thoughts and feelings with them.
In real life, if a guy began asking intensely personal questions on a first date, you might find it creepy.
You barely know him. He hasn’t earned the right to be allowed into your mind and heart.
So should you download those 36 questions off the internet and start quizzing your guy?
If you’re already in a relationship, playing a question game can bring you closer as long as your guy enjoys it. (If he’s a love avoidant, it will be too much.)
But if you’ve just met, take it slow and easy.
Share a little bit, then let him share a little bit.
Slow and steady builds a stronger foundation.