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.)
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.)
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?
# 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.
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?
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: