The art of asking good questions, and listening carefully to the person’s response, is an important skill for forming and maintaining positive, close relationships.
Our social connections are the most important predictor of life-long happiness and health. Watch Susan Pinker’s TED Talk if you need convincing!
Arthur Aron, a prominent social psychologist, discovered that he could get complete strangers to feel a high level of connection after just 45 minutes of asking and answering a series of 36 questions that elicited more and more vulnerable sharing as the questions progressed. He talks about his work in this 3-minute video:
(On a side note, I was amazed to learn that Arthur Aron is married to Elaine Aron, whose work I have followed extensively. What an awesome team!)
When we ask questions and listen carefully at home, our kids gain a valuable, life-long skill that will help them build positive, intimate relationships. And when I use the word “intimate,” I’m not referring only to romantic relationships. Close friendships involve a high degree of vulnerability and sharing — and that is what intimacy is. Asking questions to get to know another person better is how you get closer.
I recently attended a weekend training at 1440 Multiversity. I was thrilled that, in addition to the workshop I was attending on Servant Leadership (with Jon Gordon and Ken Blanchard), there was also an adult friendship expert there – Shasta Nelson. I was able to attend her evening session, and I left with my mind blown (and a signed copy of her book Frientimacy)!
Nelson shared that vulnerability is not just about sharing the negative, shame-based stuff that we’ve been talking about a lot in the past few years. Being vulnerable with another person we are close to also includes sharing positive things – things we like about ourselves and are proud of.
We – and our kids – need to learn to be vulnerable about both our good and bad parts, our strengths and our weaknesses, our happiest stories and our worst moments.
That’s why I love having a family practice of daily sharing. Whether it’s the same question each evening, sharing our high and low of the day, or something different each time, asking and answering questions – and sharing about ourselves – is how we develop close relationships.
In my work teaching parents and others who work with young people (teachers, camp counselors, etc.) about how to coach kids to better friendships, one of my favorite topics is asking questions. I will continue to promote this important skill with kids.
Here are some ideas to get started building closer relationships:
Start a daily family sharing practice.
Download Aron’s 36 Questions and use them with your romantic partner or a close friend.
Use Questions for Connection with your kids.
I hope you get to experience closer connections through asking questions! Let me know how it goes!
Resources for Parents of Introverted or Sensitive Kids (Elaine Aron is Arthur Aron’s wife)
Shasta Nelson’s Frientimacy book
Creating Love in the Lab: The 36 Questions that Spark Intimacy