36 Questions to Build Community

Once a week we get together as a community to have a Community Workshop. While the regular daily workshops are available only to community members who are in the resident program, these workshops are open to the whole community. Guests, volunteers, and residents all come together. These workshops are usually quite special and form a bonding experience.

A clear example is the “36 questions” workshop. This workshop was given on the “community” weekly theme. Residents, volunteers, guest and even life coaches got together and were paired up randomly. Each pair was given a list of questions, which we were not to look at in advance, and time to ask each other and answer these questions. Pretty straightforward, right?

The questions weren’t just any questions, though. Based on a 1997 social psychology study done by Arthur Aron and popularly dubbed “36 questions to make you fall in love” by the media, the questions were designed to build intimacy and closeness in experimental conditions.

The questions start off “easy” (“Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?”) and gradually grow more personal and intense (“When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?”). Several questions were actually small “tasks” regarding your partner – “Tell your partner something that you like about them already”. Several people, myself included, had our first real conversation with our partner during this workshop. It was nice to see how many things we could find after only 15 minutes of getting to know each other.

The entire workshop is a challenge in vulnerability – letting yourself be truly open with someone else. The final task we tried really hammered this point home: looking into each other’s eyes for several minutes. Amazing how something so simple can feel so awkward and even intimidating, no? And yet its effects are huge. People felt more at ease and came out of the workshop happy, deep in conversation and hugging others along their path.

Several months after my first time doing this workshop, my conversation with my partner still impacts me greatly. I look forward to using the 36 questions with more people in my life.


You can find the study here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167297234003


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