Sure, small talk is easier, but is it really what your after in your relationships?
Many of us are thinking about what it means to be connected lately, as the twists and turns of the last few years have fundamentally changed the way we date, work, gather and connect. And most of us fear intimacy as much as we crave it, believing it takes great risk and vulnerability to achieve. How often do we leave the opportunity for deeper connection on the table as we skim the surface of our lives engaging in small talk?
Zoë Kors is the author of the new Radical Intimacy: Cultivate the Deeply Connected Relationships You Desire and Deserve. She offers sex and intimacy coaching through her own private practice, as well as the Center for Relational Healing in Los Angeles, and the sexual wellness app, Coral. She also hosts The Radical Intimacy Podcast
Zoë crafted this conversation “pathway” for us below, a series of six questions designed to build greater intimacy into the relationships that need it. Whether it’s your colleague at work, your travel buddy, or the person you’re dating right now, intimacy can be easier to achieve than you think.
6 Questions That Will Help You Instantly Connect with Anyone
The following 6 questions are engineered to create a vulnerability arc that artfully unfolds and then resolves in deep connection. Asked in order, and approached in earnest, this exploration not only connects you, not only to your partner, but to yourself as well. Take turns asking and answering the following questions one at a time. It’s best to progress through all 6 in one sitting. Take your time. Get curious with yourselves and each other. Listen intently without judgement. Adopt an attitude of care and compassion.
01. What’s your favorite flavor ice cream? This is an ice breaker. It’s designed to be a low stakes way of opening a dialog and revealing something relatively insignificant about yourselves. Everyone has at least a few flavors they love, try naming a couple and narrowing it down to one. If your partner says they don’t like ice cream, just change it to pie, or bread, or sandwich—whatever!
02. Think of a time when it felt like the universe had your back, all the stars were aligned, and everything was going your way. What was happening and what did it feel like? This is where it gets a little personal. The important part here is not the details of the story as much as the nuance of the feeling. This question is designed to get you both in an expansive, high vibe state. It’s a chance to see each other feeling powerful and positive. It’s also a clue to what inspires, motivates, and sustains your partner. Notice how their posture, facial expression, and tone of voice change. You might mirror back to them what you see, encouraging them to take themselves back there to that experience and embody those feelings.
03. If you could spend the day with one person (from any time in history, dead or alive) who would it be and what would you hope to learn? This question is designed to reveal your partner’s values and interests. Every once in a while, someone will name a historical figure for the purpose of holding them accountable for acts against humanity, but most often your partner’s choice is an indication of who they admire most. What they want to learn by their experience will tell you what skills, wisdom, and knowledge they aspire to. This question takes some thought. You can help each other arrive at an answer that feels resonant by getting curious and talking through the possibilities.
04. What was the single hardest thing you’ve ever experienced emotionally? (Bonus question: Describe in detail the sensations you feel in your body as you think about it now.) This is peak vulnerability. The last question was all about thoughts and idea. This one goes straight to the heart. What you are asking your partner to do here is relive and reveal the moment they felt most broken or under-resourced emotionally. Ironically, it’s not uncommon for this to be the least emotional answer. Depending on the rapport you’ve built to this point, your partner might only be able or willing to tell this part of their story as an intellectual summary devoid of emotion. That’s okay. You will be able to get a glimpse of the adversity they’ve survived. And you might just end up with an opportunity to exercise your empathetic prowess.
05. If someone gave you $100K specifically to spend on someone else, who would it be and how would you use the money? This is question is designed to give you an idea of your partner’s priorities, where they feel they can affect change, and how they like to be of service. Listen for your partner’s sensitivity to others’ needs and what it would mean to them to be able to relieve suffering of some sort. The amount of money in question is intentionally defined as enough to be effective but not so much that it feels infinite. Some thought is required to allocate funds judiciously. Notice your partner’s decision-making process and what they would need to say “no” and “yes” to in order to arrive at their final decision.
06. If heaven exists, what do you want to hear God say to you when you arrive at the pearly gates? Borrowing from the French journalist and host of Apostrophe, Bernard Pivot, this question will reveal the approval your partner seeks. We all have our own version of wanting to know we are enough. In arriving at and saying the words they long to hear, your partner is actually saying it to themselves. It’s also an opportunity for you to echo the affirmation back to them. The nature of this question—and the answer—gives you both a larger context for the soul-dive you’ve just taken and a lovely conclusion to a deeply connective experience.