Is it all in a question?
Updated: May 16, 2020
Having recently read an article which referred to the poet, Maya Angelou’s suggestion that there are 4 questions we are all unconsciously asking each other all the time, I was reminded of the importance of questions. Questions, whether unconscious or stated are a simple but effective way to know your partner’s world and to deepen your connection, creating a better platform to manage any future conflict and stressful events.
These are the 4 questions Maya Angelou suggests that we each ask: almost always silent and unconscious.
Do you see me?
Do you care that I am here?
Am I enough for you or do you need me to be better in some way?
Can I tell that I am special to you by the way you look at me?
Connections help us thrive. Anyone in our world, be it our partner, friend, family member or colleague will feel appreciated when you treat them in such a way that answers each of these questions consistently. This is because you are taking time to see them, for who they really are, to be truly present.
Connection with others are powerful and important moments, even if only fleeting. Connection isn’t about the amount of time or how often we see someone, it’s about being truly present, truly in the moment with that individual.
How do asking questions benefit relationships? The Social Psychologist, Arthur Aron’s research has often been referred to as 36 questions that can lead to emotional intimacy. The premise behind this is that closeness is generated by the mutual vulnerability experienced by both answering the questions. http://36questionsinlove.com/
Questions help us to know our partner. They are a simple but effective way to learn about one another, to be a teacher of self to your partner and in turn to be a good student and learn about your partner, thus teaching and learning to develop into better versions of selves.
John Gottman, the notable researcher, author and expert on relationships did extensive research on what makes a successful couple relationship. Amongst many things, he says questions, or as he calls them, request bids, help us to make stronger connections. He describes a request bid to be “any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection or any other positive connection.”
Asking open ended questions of each other on a regular basis can deepen a couple’s intimacy. So make time to check in regularly, listen, be positive. Open ended questions require us to be engaged in what we are saying which in turn can lead to deeper and more meaningful conversation.
Open ended questions usually begin with words such as How did you…
In what ways…
Tell me about…
What’s it like…
For example, try and make make time for a regular check in. Ask:
What’s been going well for you this week?
What’s gone well for us?
Do you feel there is anything that needs our focus?
Gottman notes that couples who have a strong friendship stay connected and know each other well. Making time to know your partner’s life and inner psychological world can create greater relationship stability. What Gottman means by this is having a mental map of the relationship, its history, knowing each other’s past and present preferences, experiences, concerns, hopes, dreams as well as goals. Gottman called these Love Maps (https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-sound-relationship-house-build-love-maps/) .
Make time to know what makes your partner tick, move away from functionality into exploration of their world. Start with a few questions.