Relationship researchers have developed a fast friends protocol, which helps establish a feeling of closeness between strangers in about 45 minutes:
Researchers give people working in pairs three sets of 12 questions written on index cards. The questions must be answered in order, with partners taking turns answering each question.
Questions in the first set are only slightly personal (“Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?” “When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?”). In the second set, they are a little more personal (“What is your most terrible memory?” “Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?”). The last set is personal (“When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?” “Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find the most disturbing?”). Each set of questions also includes a relationship-building exercise (“Tell your partner what you like about them”).
The point is to build connection gradually, even if it’s happening in a 45-minute window.
“You want to be slow and reciprocal,” says Arthur Aron, professor of psychology at Stony Brook University, in New York, who developed the protocol. “If you disclose too much too fast, you put someone off.”
- Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
- Would you like to be famous? In what way?
- Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
- What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
- When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
- 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?
- If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
- Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
- For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
- If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
- Take 4 minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
- Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
Here’s the second:
- Do your close friends tend to be older or younger than you?
- Does living as if you control your own destiny lead to a more powerful life?
- If you could choose the sex and physical appearance of your soon-to-be-born child, would you do it?
- What would your ideal or perfect life be like?
- How many times a day do you look at yourself in the mirror?
- Would you be willing to have horrible nightmares for a year if you would be rewarded with extraordinary wealth?
- What sorts of things would you do if you could be as outgoing and uninhibited as you wished?
- What important decision in your professional life have you based largely upon your intuitive feelings? What about in your personal life?
- While on a trip to another city, your spouse (or lover) meets and spends a night w/ an exciting stranger. Given they will never meet again, and you will not otherwise learn of the incident, would you want your partner to tell you about it?
- Do you judge others by higher or lower standards than you judge yourself? Why?
- How do you feel when people like you because they think you are someone you are not?
- How many children do you hope to have? Do you know what you will name them? If yes, what?