The most intriguing was a study by Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York, who wanted to see how long takes to feel a really deep romantic connection with someone. So he got in some guys and girls, and in the space of an hour tried to create intimacy levels that typically take months or years to form. It was called the ‘Sharing Game’ – a sheet of 36 questions was presented to the participants, and they had to ask and answer them with their assigned partner. Both had to answer the questions out loud, to each other, and in the manner of a conversation. Here are some of the questions:
- Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
- Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
- What would constitute the “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?
- Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
- If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
- If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
- Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
- What is your most treasured memory?
- If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are living now? Why?
- What roles do love and affection play in your life?
- Share an embarrassing moment from your life.
- When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
- What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
There is a momentum here – if you admit you rehearse telephone calls, a minor but revealing thing, you will be more willing to answer the deeper questions. Interestingly, and proof that conventional ‘where are you from’ questions lead nowhere with women, was the control mechanism: a small talk questionnaire for other participants that included questions like “Tell me the names of your brothers and sisters, and where they were born”, and “Where are you from? Name all the places you’ve lived”.
The participants in the deep rapport experiment “didn’t want to part company afterwards; many were seen exchanging cell numbers to keep in contact”.
The participants in the small talk experiment just wanted to get the hell out of there.
These questions should be incorporated into the “truth game” comfort routine, where you say ‘Let’s play the truth game. We ask each other questions, one at a time, and have to tell the truth.” Simple. Simple. Simple.