Post 343: How I approach the Israeli Medical System, Can you fall in love with someone by asking these 36 questions? What is your opinion?

I will be without my phone for a few days as I left it at my daughter’s house. Don’t be shocked, I can live without my phone, live better without my phone. All my new photos of a trip I took this week are safely stored inside.

No photos this blog. The topic:

Can you fall in love with someone by asking these 36 questions? Is it possible to fall in love with someone by asking just 36 questions?

The “36 questions” appear in articles on relationships. I came across the list at, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,”

The author of the New York Times site relies on the research of psychologist Arthur Aron. In summary, brought together pairs of strangers who were told to ask each other a series of increasingly personal questions. He found that, afterwards, the pairs felt greater closeness than strangers who engaged in small talk. But before looking at the questions I did some of my own research to find out what was the intent of the Aaron partners and professors.

Living in Israel has made me aware of rings of connection; Sex, Age, Ethnic Group, Health Status, Religious affiliation, Education, Language, Economic status, all contribute to the degree to ones capacity to make spontaneous connection. One can easily lose sight of this. There is a glue, that fact that we are Israelis. During times of stress, which is practically all the time we  remind ourselves of this fact. One must simultaneously focus on the other to remind him to keep me in the conversation and on myself to be reminded to keep him in the conversation.

Just to give an example: The system of socialized medicine in Israel, assumes their public is educated, informed and flexible, and can follow directions with a minimum of instruction. The doctors work very hard as do all the employees. Really.

However, the system is so large that it is only by the grace of Hashem, that one gets all the pieces in place.

Go by the following:
“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

The only way the system responds to the patient is if he appears and acts, educated, informed, flexible, able to carry on and follow directions with a minimum of instruction, and to be satisfied with small victories in the process as long as your final goal is in sight. And additionally act convincingly that you are efficiently using the system’s costly benefits as little as possible.  Dr’s also have enormous caseloads, which apparently they manage to balance, also with the help of Hashem.

I have heard from many people that Israelis are much too forward on asking personal questions, where do you live, what’s your job? Cab drivers do this. It’s a way of forging a connection. Often the conversation then leads to questions and comments of a religious nature. The point is, there is not much difference between the conversation in the cab and the one in the reception area of the HMO.

When I identify myself to the receptionist by giving her my ID number, it’s up to me to supply her with my goal in the briefest most casual way. Although I had no appointment, my goal today was to bring up those strengths described above in a meeting with my doctor, who has never turned me away. He was due to arrive 7 hours later; the schedule that we had was incorrect. Important to leave with a feeling of accomplishment. I left a prescription in his folder. Another important step: Always verify with the service provider how to receive the service. I spent five minutes with the nurse who laid out the necessary steps that I need to take. She remembered me from a conversation that I had with her several months ago. Her clarification will provide fuel to move another cog in the system.  Her attitude and that of her colleagues in that office has always been how can I help you?  No-one, as far as I can see, looks over their shoulders, counting how many people are serviced everyday. It’s a constant stream of humanity, minute by minute. I am very grateful to be part of that.

There is a connection between the above in the sense that a relationship develops by the kinds of informed questions asked. In a way, the 36 questions didn’t appeal to me because they seemed very lab-like, which of-course they are. I am developing my own set. Before the questions the author’s intentions are explained. I read that an artist must  falls in love with his subject, whatever it may be. I agree with this 100%. I also happily learned the “Those paired with a cross-ethnicity partner became much less prejudiced. So having friends from another ethnic group, however you come by them, does cause less prejudice.” One of the reasons that I use my Arabic as much as possible.


36 Questions for Intimacy, Back Story

Updated Mar 18, 2015

2015-01-14-couple.pngThe book and this blog on the Highly Sensitive Person, is about what it means to have this important basic trait. Part of that is how it affects relationships, which I discuss in The Highly Sensitive Person in Love, a book that was motivated by my long time interest in understanding love. This post is the real story behind research I was involved in that has led to a “method of falling in love” that has gone viral in the last few days, after The New York Times published an engaging article about it by Mandy Len Catron in their Style section on Sunday, January 11, as well as Dan Jones’ supplement with the questions themselves. These are still two of their very top emailed articles.

“My husband (Arthur Aron, Stony Brook University research professor) and I have been studying love since the two of us fell in love, quite a few years ago. He wrote his dissertation on it, and has spent most of his life researching it. While I now spend more time studying “the highly sensitive person,” this is still his first passion.”

The first point we want to make is that the 36 questions were designed for another, equally interesting, purpose besides your falling in love! Do read more about their background, below. But if you stop reading soon, please know that those 36 are only suggestions. If you are going to use this approach with more than one person, or more than once with a particular partner, you may need to make up new questions so your answers don’t become rote. Whatever questions you use, they should gradually escalate in personalness. If you don’t want to rewrite them, you could use every third or fourth from the list of 36, one or a few from each of the three sections, but always include the ones that build the particular relationship, such as the three things you both have in common.

The basis of the 36 questions is that back-and-forth self-disclosure, that increases gradually (not too fast), is consistently linked with coming to like the other person you do this with. We just made it a systematic method that could be used in the lab. In more recent research by Harry Reis and colleagues, another factor is also proving very important — being responsive to the other’s self-disclosure! These factors are important for both starting a relationship, and even more important, for its continued quality.

The 36 questions came out of a 1997 study, which was part of the then emerging, now quite substantial scientific study of close relationships. Researchers needed a way to study closeness without it being mixed up with factors such as who chose to be with whom, or the history of the relationship. What was needed was a method to create closeness in the laboratory with strangers, so people could be randomly assigned to various conditions and other variables could be controlled. As such, the method has been used in hundreds of studies and the field has been able to learn a great deal.

For example, surveys have consistently found that people who have friends in another ethnic group are less prejudiced against that group. But does being less prejudiced make you have these friends, or does having those friends make you less prejudiced? An experiment can help answer that, using the 36-question method. In several studies, individuals have been randomly assigned to same-sex stranger pairs that are either same ethnicity or cross-ethnicity, and then do the 36 questions. Prejudice was then measured in ways the individuals did not notice, often later and in another context. The results: Those paired with a cross-ethnicity partner became much less prejudiced. So having friends from another ethnic group, however you come by them, does cause less prejudice. This approach has now been applied outside the lab, such as pairing cross-ethnic pairs of entire entering college classes during freshman orientation. It also works with pairs of police and community members in tense cities.

It’s known that couples are happier who have close friendships with other couples. But again, what causes what? In a clever extension of the basic approach, Richard B. Slatcher has had pairs of married couples who don’t know each other do the 36 questions as a four-person task. Not only do the two couples get closer to each other, but closeness within each couple increases, and in one recent study, passionate love increased too. So having couple friends can “cause” happiness for couples.

We had not created the 36 questions to help you fall in love. To do a good job of that we would have needed to do a study with people who, above all, came into it really wanting to fall in love, and we were not in that business! More important, we would need to follow up over time to know if the relationships lasted, an expensive process, and funding research on love is not easy.

Still, all the recent interest in the 36 questions is prompting us to consider doing some systematic studies of how they affect falling in love and including the role of responsiveness as well. It’s hard for us forget that in the very first pilot study, using an earlier version of the questions, one couple did later marry. We already know another route to romantic attraction, doing something physiologically arousing together, like standing on a scary bridge. We could include that too in these studies, to see how it works when there is also self-disclosure and responsiveness.

So good luck, and do not forget that you can also use the questions to form friendships. Finally, just in case in all the hoopla this was missed, the rather high-minded goal behind all of this is for all of us to go deeper into love’s underlying mechanisms, in order to advance basic knowledge about human closeness.

Try the experiment yourself with the complete list of questions below.

Study: The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness

Instructions (Please both read carefully before continuing)

This is a study of interpersonal closeness, and your task, which we think will be quite enjoyable, is simply to get close to your partner. We believe that the best way for you to get close to your partner is for you to share with them and for them to share with you. Of course, when we advise you about getting close to your partner, we are giving advice regarding your behavior in this demonstration only, we are not advising you about your behavior outside of this demonstration.

In order to help you get close we’ve arranged for the two of you to engage in a kind of sharing game. You’re sharing time will be for about one hour, after which time we ask you to fill out a questionnaire concerning your experience of getting close to your partner.

You have been given three sets of slips. Each slip has a question or a task written on it. As soon as you both finish reading these instructions, you should begin with the Set I slips. One of you should read aloud the first slip and then BOTH do what it asks, starting with the person who read the slip aloud. When you are both done, go on to the second slip–one of you reading it aloud and both doing what it asks. And so forth.

As you go through the slips, one at a time, please don’t skip any slips-do each in order. If it asks you a question, share your answer with your partner. Then let him or her share their answer to the same question with you. If it is a task, do it first, then let your partner do it. Alternate who reads aloud (and thus goes first) with each new slip.

You will be informed when to move on to the next set of slips. It is not important to finish all the slips in each set within the time allotted. Take plenty of time with each slip, doing what it asks thoroughly and thoughtfully.

You may begin!

Task Slips for Closeness-Generating Procedure

Set I

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 II

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.

Got any of your own questions?

Published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (SAGE)

Authors: Arthur Aron (SUNY Stony Brook), Edward Melinat (California Graduate School of Family Psychology), Elaine N. Aron (SUNY Stony Brook), Robert Darrin Vallone (University of California, Santa Cruz), Renee J. Bator (Arizona State University)




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