What if I told you of a magic spell that could make any two people fall in love? What if there was a series of questions that you and any person could ask each other, and then you would  fall in love with each other? What if it was just that simple? What if falling in love boils down to one simple ingredient? (It’s probably not what you think.)

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It’s no love potion. It is just a simple list of 36 questions that you ask each other. And then to seal the deal you must stare into each other’s eyes for two-four minutes. (I’ll be doing a post about the power of eye contact here next week.)

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It sounds like something from a fantasy novel, or a romance novel spiced up with a bit of witchcraft, no? But this fanciful scenario is real! A psychologist, Arthur Aron, recently developed a list of questions designed to make people fall in love, you can read about it here in this popular NYT article.

I will include the list of 36 questions at the end of this post. They are pretty simple questions like:

#2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

or

# 16. What do you value most in a friendship?

Nothing too fancy in other words, just the sort of questions we ask when having a long deep conversation with someone. According to the NYT article the reporter tried this with a guy and fell in love. (Her article is a little misleading, the original psychologist’s experiment was not to make people fall in love, but to feel “closeness” to each other.) According to the results of this experiment many of the pairs after trying this experiment reported that they felt as close to each other as people reported feeling closeness to their significant others. Which is amazing when you consider that this entire experiment can be conducted in about an hour or so!

Can you really be made to fall in love with anyone!

So why and how does this work? Understanding this experiment gives us insight into how human relationships work.

The questions are designed to become more intimate. They come in three sets. The first questions are just conversational but the questions gradually become more intimate. Questions like “how do you feel about your mother?”, “when was the last time you cried?” it is all about the conversation! Going through these questions with somebody basically takes you through the sort of conversation you have if you meet someone and click so well you just can’t stop talking.

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In other words are the questions that people ask when they want to know someone really well. When they are very curious about each other, and go past just small talk into deeper conversation. In this way the series of questions simulates the sort of deep interpersonal knowing that happens in a relationship usually over a much longer period of time.

That is the one secret ingredient I mentioned earlier: curiosity! Genuine, real curiosity about another human being = love potion. (And it seems to work that way for both people, the person who is asking the questions, and the person being asked about.)

Psychology has told us that if you want to feel happy it can be as simple as smiling. Now it tells us that if you want to fall in love, it can be as simple as asking the questions that lovers ask each other. Likewise, when someone is very curious about ourselves, and really wants to try to understand us we feel love.

Some might feel cynical about this experiment, that it is breaking down human emotion into a system of rules, and that is kind of creepy. Isn’t it kind of soulless to try make a script for falling in love? I am on the fence about that. Maybe it is like dancing, throughout history most dances (salsa, swing, the waltz etc.) have been choreographed, but there is still plenty of room for freedom of interpretation.

And after all, how many ways are there to fall in love? Isn’t it all variations on the same story?

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But I think there is something deeper at play here to keep in mind. After all what is the real essence of these sorts of questions: but real curiosity. I think that is the thing to keep in mind, whether you are looking to fall in love, or to fan the flames of desire with a partner that you already have: genuine curiosity about the other person is the key to closeness. Asking questions of others, and even just knowing them intimately makes us care more for them. This can be seen in more than just human relationships. The person who is an expert in birds or wine, or movies etc. develops a deep passion for that subject. but what comes first the knowledge or the passion, maybe they come hand in hand. In this way we see that curiosity and love are actually two sides of the same coin!

If you want to genuinely connect with people, to be closer to people, and perhaps even to fall in love, you simply must be curious, ask questions, genuinely try to get to know people. In other words: talk. How simple and beautiful is that?

Here are the 36-questions:

Set I

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
  4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  6. 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?
  7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
  8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
  9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
  10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
  12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set II

  1. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
  2. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  3. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  4. What do you value most in a friendship?
  5. What is your most treasured memory?
  6. What is your most terrible memory?
  7. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  8. What does friendship mean to you?
  9. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
  10. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
  11. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
  12. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

Set III

  1. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
  1. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
  2. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
  3. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
  4. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
  5. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
  6. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
  7. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
  8. 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?
  9. 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?
  10. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
  11. 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.
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