Using questions to build closeness
The 36 questions activity, also known as Fast Friends,
involves pairing people together and having them take turns
answering questions that become increasingly more
personal and require more vulnerability. It has been shown
to reduce prejudice and anxiety when people from different
cultures are paired up, but it has never been used as a
classroom-wide activity in middle school.
45 minutes each time you do this practice.
How to Do It
- Identify someone with whom you’d like to become closer. It could be someone you know well or someone you’re just getting to know. Although this exercise has a reputation for making people fall in love, it is actually useful for anyone you want to feel close to, including family members, friends, and acquaintances. Before trying it, make sure both you and your partner are comfortable with sharing personal thoughts and feelings with each other.
- Find a time when you and your partner have at least 45 minutes free and
are able to meet in person.
- For 15 minutes, take turns asking one another the questions in Set I
below. Each person should answer each question, but in an alternating
order, so that a different person goes first each time.
- After 15 minutes, move on to Set II, even if you haven’t yet finished the
Set I questions. Then spend 15 minutes on Set II, following the same
- After 15 minutes on Set II, spend 15 minutes on Set III. (Note: Each set of
questions is designed to be more probing than the previous one. The 15-
minute periods ensure that you spend an equivalent amount of time at
each level of self-disclosure).
- Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner
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 them 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?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how they might
handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
You can try this practice with different people you want to develop a deeper connection with. Consider making up your own list of questions that become increasingly more personal.
BILLY’S COMMENTS : I am very interested in the suggested sequence for posing the
questions. It seems that we should smart lightly and increasingly become more
personal and complex.