After a month of romantic movies on TV and shelves full of red and pink candy at the grocery stores, there’s a little less love in the air this week. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Although it may be a little less traditional, I’m planning to extend Valentine’s Day with a little love experiment over the next few weeks.
In January, the New York Times published an article titled “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This.” Although most of these things include vague, obvious suggestions like, “be honest,” or “take a risk,” this article offered a very precise recipe for increasing the intimacy between two people by guiding them through a series of questions proven to forge strong human connections. These 36 questions were developed by researcher Arthur Aron, whose 1997 study found that escalating, reciprocal acts of self-disclosure could increase interpersonal closeness and eventually lead to long-lasting productive relationships, even marriage.
Essentially, the questions start out safe and grow increasingly personal, starting with “Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?” and building toward, “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?” The two people are also instructed to share what they like about each other. In reading through the questions I was surprised that few of them are particularly “romantic.” They’re questions that could be used to increase the closeness between any two people — mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, even leaders and their teams or teachers and their students.
So, back to my little experiment. My hypothesis is that intentionally growing closer to people who matter to me – friends, family, coworkers – will make me happier, more connected, and more productive in all aspects of life. And my plan for intentionally growing closer to people is simple (and much less scientific than Dr. Aron’s study) — ask people these questions, listen to their responses, and respond in turn. Try it out and let us know how it goes!