Photo Collage about intimate conversationShare on Pinterest
Design by Mekhi Baldwin

You’ve seen the 36 questions to fall in love, perhaps you’ve even tried them. But did you also feel too much tension in regard to “falling in love”? That feeling of getting to know someone, whether with someone new or familiar, can be scary. Especially when it comes to love — platonic or romantic.

So I spoke to dozens of people to create a brand new set of questions that focuses on experiences and values, as well as varying identities (sorry, the original set of 36 just wasn’t queer enough for me!).

Think of these as social scripts and templates given to help us figure out how to create platonic intimacy with friends, friends who may have a chosen family instead of a biological one or who may have gone through slow phases of multiple identities. Because understanding is a love language, one of the most important ones we can have in order to create closeness.

In talking to people about what kinds of questions and conversations they use to get to know someone, I found that most of them revolve around values, upbringing, and who people hope to or are striving to become. Perhaps you’ll recognize some of them, perhaps some are questions you haven’t thought to ask in this way.

Either way, this is an exercise you can practice with someone else when you want to ask them about what they care about, and show that you care about them, too. It’s a fun way to get to know someone, whether they’ve been in your life for a while or you’ve just met.

To get the most out of this, we ask you first make sure that the other person is also interested in having this conversation with you, and then agree to set aside at least 45 minutes for it.

Of course, you’re always free to swap in different questions or go off tangent! The main point is to have a beautiful experience where two people are holding space for each other and see each other. Take this feeling (or questionnaire) and share it with others. This connection ultimately leads to tighter-knit communities that know how to prioritize one another’s needs and work together.

People seemed to really like simple questions to begin with, the more basic things like favorite animals or toys growing up, the things that set the basis for what we care about and who we are.

But for many LGBTQ folks and people of color, simple questions like, for example, knowing someone’s politics and alignments can help set expectations on how to hold space. It also lets you feel more at ease when you get to the deeper stuff later because foundational values are out in the open.

1. Who was your favorite teacher in school and why?
2. What’s the meaning of your name? Do you feel like the meaning resonates with who you are, your personality and how you see yourself?
3. Are you an animal person? What kinds of animals do you like and why?
4. What was your favorite toy when you were young?
5. Did you grow up with any specific culture or traditions?
6. Do you care about politics and how did you start getting into politics?
7. If you could invite five people, dead or alive, to a dinner party, who would you invite? AND what food would you serve?
8. Did you go through any phases in high school (emo, punk, goth, etc.) and if so, which ones?
9. What is your favorite album?
10. If you could be in any movie remake, what would it be and why?
11. What’s your all-time favorite book?

We can never experience any life but our own. Each person has a unique sense of smell, taste, and perceives the world in a specific way because of their own experiences. That’s why asking questions that allow us to truly see another person better helps us empathize with them as well.

These questions focus on how we understand each other and what we value.

12. What is your favorite sound, smell, and feeling?
13. How do you usually respond to stress?
14. What’s something about yourself that is still the same as when you were a child?
15. Do you have tattoos? What do they mean? If not, do you want tattoos, what do you want, and why?
16. When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
17. If you could invent an ice cream flavor, what would it be?
18. If you could live anywhere in the world and not have to work for money, where would you live, what would you do and why?
19. Do you believe in the paranormal and mystical creatures like faeries, elves, witches, etc.?
20. What do you think about God and religion?
21. What would your younger self from childhood think of you today?
22. Are you closer to your biological family or chosen family?
23. Do you believe in free will?
24. What’s your favorite place in the world and what about it makes it special to you?
25. Do you rehearse conversations before you have them with people or need help from prompts and templates to talk to people?

By now, you’ve gotten to the meatier questions where you can go more in depth about things that might make both of you feel really vulnerable. These questions are about learning how to support someone and being comfortable with also having space to identify and talk about your own needs.

This is important because it allows all people to feel on equal footing, and like both people’s experiences, feelings, needs, and desires can be heard in a relationship, instead of it being one-sided.

26. Do you feel like there are some things too serious to joke about? Like what?
27. How often do you cry? Do you cry more than you laugh?
28. What are three things you want to have in common with your friends?
29. Who is one person who’s hurt you a lot in life and how did they hurt you? Who is one person who has seriously helped you and how?
30. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you and why was it embarrassing?
31. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
32. What are your love languages? How do you communicate your love for someone and how do you like for other people to communicate that to you?
33. How can I help create a space for you to vent or even celebrate?
34. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life and what are the things you’re most still hoping to accomplish?
35. 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?

By the end of this, we hope you both feel seen. If you both want to get to know each other and learn intimate details of each other’s life, you’ll know how it felt once before.

It’s a good idea to go back to questions over the months or years as people change. Think of it as a check-in, a way to feel grounded in your knowledge and understanding of friends, family, or people you might be interested in dating.

At best, it can help us understand what’s important to one another, but especially during a pandemic, it can help us to share stories that the questions bring up for us, help us create new memories and communities with people who care about us, and make us feel less isolated from people.

Elly is a New York-based writer, journalist, and poet who also loves to host parties for her friends. Primarily, she’s Brooklyn’s resident pun enthusiast. Read more of her writing here or follow her on Twitter.