Creating deeper connections between strangers through universally thought-provoking questions


Dan Ariely, social psychologist and behavior economics professor at Duke University, wrote an article about how we should “Ban Small Talk”. 

Naturally an introvert, I wanted to see if I could use this tactic to develop deeper connections between acquaintances. I opened up my home and turned this into an experiment. 

Held once a month, each night is dedicated to a different theme, e.g. Unique human connection, Pivotal Moments, Reflections on the Last Year

Invitations were sent to people who didn’t know each other very well, or at all. If I met someone new and wanted to deepen the friendship, I would extend an invite to the small gathering.

When they arrived, they’re invited to choose a question to hold onto, serving as their ice breaker into the crowd.

Questions were written with inclusivity in mind -- anyone should be able to respond with an answer that’s unique to them.

For example, “What’s the best meal you had?” was changed to “What’s the most memorable meal you can remember?” -- instead of responding with “Wow I can’t remember”, posing the question this way would allow the person to at least respond with their breakfast that day, or perhaps a meal where they don’t quite remember the food, but remember the memory that was associated with it.

Many attendees have left the gatherings exchanging information and developing deeper friendships that have lasted.

Sample questions:

Describe your 2018 in one word.
What’s something you’ve been wanting to do? Why haven’t you?
What’s the difference between being “Nice” and being “Good”? Why do people want to be famous? Do you? Have you ever had an intense experience that brought you closer to someone else?
Do we have free will?
What made you realize your problems weren’t so bad? What’s something terrible that’s kind of funny wheny ou look back on it? What do you wish you did much earlier in life?
What do you need right now?
Describe a fleeting moment you had with someone. What’s a TV episode that made you cry?
What does a relatively good day look like to you?
What do you do when you’ve been introduced to someone but you don’t remember their name?
What was your favorite song in high school? What was a life-changing song you listen to?
What’s a risk you took this year?