Learn how to deepen the emotional intimacy in your relationships. Try asking these 36 intimacy building questions with the people you love. After all, the quality of your relationships greatly influences how much joy you feel in your life.
Last weekend my mom came to New York for a 3-day visit with our family.
(Hi, Mom! If you’re reading this – we all loved spending time with you!)
And…if you’re not my mom and you’re reading this (which has a 99.99999999% probability) – then yes – it’s still true! We all very much enjoyed a great time!
One of my favorite parts of the visit was playing a card game called “Pick Your Poison” – where you have to choose between 2 dreadful choices.
A Fun Question:
Would you rather…
- have no tastebuds?
- wear the exact same clothes every day for the rest of your life?
The game created some good laughs – and inspired the exchange of some surprising personal information.
It was a fun way for people age 7 (my adorable son Ari) to 86 (my gorgeous mom) to get to know who each other are – at our most innermost core.
As it turns out – we were engaging in a famous emotional intimacy building tool called “Reciprocal Self-Disclosure” – wherein you exchange vulnerable and personal info with someone.
“Reciprocal Self-Disclosure” has been scientifically researched to transform lukewarm relationships and friendships into deeper, more fulfilling ones.
Social Penetration Theory
Psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor researched “Reciprocal Self-Disclosure” and came up with something they call “Social Penetration Theory.”
- “Social Penetration Theory” is an Emotional Intimacy Theory which reports that when people intentionally reveal personal info (like personal desires, feelings, thoughts, private experiences) they speed up and deepen emotional connections.
Emotional Intimacy Building Questions
Arthur Aaron has also famously reported on the emotional intimacy perks of “Reciprocal Self Disclosure.”
In particular, Aaron devised a specific list of 36 very personal questions which worked to deepen emotional intimacy.
Aaron then did a study where he instructed people to ask each other these 36 emotional intimacy building questions.
- People reported highly speeded up emotional intimacy with one another
In fact, these 36 Intimacy Building Questions were so powerful at deepening emotional intimacy, that 2 of Aaron’s subjects got married.
I’ve listed these 36 Intimacy Building Questions at the bottom of this article. But first – I’d like to share some thoughts and lessons to be learned from this Emotional Intimacy Research!
Learning To Trust After Being Hurt
Firstly, I admit it can be tough to be vulnerable with others – especially if you’ve experienced a lot of rejection, judgement, or hurt.
Or…even a little.
I confess if your heart has been kicked anywhere from 1 time to 1,001 times – it’s tempting to keep conversations at a surface level.
Or text instead of call.
Basically, you want to keep your heart safe from future kicking.
But every time we try to protect our hearts from emotional pain, we also stop our hearts from receiving true emotional intimacy.
If you want to enjoy deeper and more fulfilling relationships and friendships, you gotta open up and be vulnerable.
When you start to ask (and answer) deeper-level Intimacy Building Questions, then you start to assuredly take relationships and friendships to new higher levels of emotional connection.
The bad thing about getting older is…
The good thing about getting older is …
In particular, as I get older, my relationships and friendships have improved.
I’ve happily witnessed how each year my emotional connections with people get better (and better).
Because each year I get better at surrounding myself with people who make me feel safe to…
- be open about who I truly am
- say what I honestly feel
- reveal the goofy mistakes I’ve foolishly made
- what someone looks like
- how fancy their clothes are
- what kind of job they have or house they live in
It’s always about…
- finding people who love you for who you truly are – flaws and all. Basically you gotta find people who see you as “flawesome”
So if you want to deepen your relationships and friendships…
- Stop engaging in small talk and quick texts.
- Start enjoying deeper-level conversations.
Below is your jump-starter kit to emotional intimacy.
Arthur Aaron’s Famous 36 Questions to Deepen Emotional Intimacy
These intimacy building boosters are separated into 3 sets of 12 questions – so you don’t do them all at once.
Try out a different set of intimacy building questions during a meal. By the time you get dessert, you should know your loved one far more deeply.
Set 1: Questions to Deepen Emotional Intimacy
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 2: Questions to Deepen Emotional Intimacy
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
Set 3: Questions to Deepen Emotional Intimacy
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. 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.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. 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?
34. 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?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. 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.
Enjoy deeper, happier friendships
Friends Forever Whatever Whenever will help to inspire your friends with words of encouragement – while making them laugh so hard they snort their Caramel Macchiato out their nose.
Think happier. Think calmer.
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