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.
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 relationship deepening 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.
Psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor researched “Reciprocal Self-Disclosure” and came up with something they call “Social Penetration Theory” – a theory which reports that when people intentionally reveal personal info (like personal desires, feelings, thoughts, private experiences) they can majorly speed up and deepen emotional connections.
Arthur Aaron has also famously reported on the closeness perks of “Reciprocal Self Disclosure.”
In particular, Aaron devised a specific list of 36 very personal questions.
He then did a study where he instructed people to ask each other these 36 personal questions..
The people reported highly speeded up intimacy with one another.
I’ve listed these 36 questions at the bottom of this article – but first – I’d like to share some thoughts and lessons to be learned from this research!
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.
You probably feel as if you want to keep your heart safe from future kicking.
But every time we try to protect our hearts from feeling pain, we are also stopping our hearts from receiving true intimacy.
If you want to enjoy deep and fulfilling relationships and friendships, you gotta open up and be vulnerable.
When you start to ask (and answer) deeper-level questions, then you start to assuredly take relationships and friendships to new higher levels of intimacy.
In particular 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 (and better) at surrounding myself with people who make me feel safe to be open about who I truly am – say what I honestly feel – and reveal the goofy mistakes I’ve foolishly made.
relationships and friendships, it’s never about what someone looks like or how fancy their clothes are or how big someone’s home is.I now mindfully recognize that when it comes to
So if you want to deepen your relationship and friendship bonds – then stop engaging in small talk and quick texts – and start enjoying deeper-level conversations.
Below is your jump-starter kit to 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?
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?
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.
Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
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