Bonding with someone can be difficult. Whether you’ve known them for years or a few hours, cracking someone’s shell is never easy.
And that is partly because we all have our own unique needs, says Rachel Moheban Wachtel, LCSW, who specializes in couples and marriage counseling. When it comes to getting someone to open up, picking up on their specific interests and needs is crucial.
People bond in different ways over different things—perhaps a connection is formed over similar music taste or an obvious commonality, such as a shared workplace or hometown. Even a moment of humiliation, like spilling red wine on the person next to you, can help two people strike a kinship.
When it comes to forming a connection, it pays off to stray from the traditional ice breakers and ask the unexpected. In other words, get deep to get close.
“The role of the deep conversation is to get beyond the superficial,” says Megan Fleming, PhD, clinical psychologist. Sharing from the place of vulnerability is how to truly get to know someone, she adds. The process of connecting is all about someone’s willingness to be truly seen, which comes from sharing our most embarrassing, challenging, and often difficult moments.
Even getting closer to someone you already feel attached to, like your best friend or long-term partner, can get tricky. As Wachtel describes it, people often talk in circles, having the same conversations over and over again. To break out of this cycle and further bond, you have to ask different questions.
To leave behind the surface levels of relationships, two people must show each other vulnerability. “Vulnerability creates more empathy for your partner and that then creates the intimacy and the sense of connection,” said Wachtel.
So, if you want to get deep, you need to change the conversation and pull out the honest and revealing answers that’ll reintroduce you to the person standing before you. Good news: These experts relayed the secret to bonding with someone. It all starts with asking these 60 hard, non-cliché questions.
These conversation starters are bound to bring you and your bestie or lover to a whole new level of bonded.
Revealing non-traditional ice breakers:
The big goal here is to just get the other person talking. From there, you can tell if this is a person with whom you actually want to be vulnerable.
Fleming recommends having someone talk about their former relationships and their family, paying close attention to their role and accountability: “You can hear in somebody’s narrative about how they talk about their family or previous partners whether or not they can own any of what was their contribution to what didn’t work in that relationship and if that’s something that they’ve thought about and worked on.”
These prompts are a great way to suss out personal growth.
Getting past the surface level:
To understand your partner or friend as an individual, it is essential to acknowledge the potential differences between you two. Don’t assume that the other is experiencing the world in the same way that you are. Learning about how each of you is unique will ultimately unite you. These are the questions that will help you to “grow closer and feel more connected to what our partner needs,”Wachtel explained.
When you’re feeling lovey-dovey:
Having sentimental conversations allow people to dissect what it is about the other that brings so much joy into their life.
These conversations are good reminders of the love between friends or partners despite the chaos of everyday life. Fleming says they help with “focusing on gratitude and the practice of appreciation.”
Talking these prompts out, no matter how much you think the other knows it, “reinforces the strength of the relationship,” she adds.
Initiating talk about sex:
You can’t have physical intimacy without having a sense of emotional intimacy.
According to Wachtel, some people feel bonded and connected through physicality, while others prefer conversation. Put simply, conversing can feel like foreplay. So, when it comes to strengthening the sexual part of your relationship, that can start with an honest convo.
If you’re going through a rough patch:
Having an honest conversation with someone while angry is really hard. But trying your best to have one can be a relationship saver.
These prompts might just be what you need to get to the bottom of the issue: “The more we chip away and unpack, understanding the defenses of the couple and the dynamics, and what’s really actually behind that is a whole other world,” says Wachtel. The sooner you tap into underlying emotions, the sooner the healing can begin.
For getting extra, extra deep:
Sometimes you don’t need a reason to have a deep conversation beyond wanting to strengthen your relationship, says Flemming. When digging into someone’s past, make sure the setting and the timing is right.
Tip: Just ask the other person if it’s a good time and place. This way, the other person feel respected and safe.
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