Best Questions to Ask a Stranger

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Congratulations on making it through your first two weeks of school! Being surrounded by new people you have never seen before, I’m sure you have met your life-long college friend by now, right? More likely than not, it isn’t obvious quite yet.

Meeting new people is both exciting and nerve-racking. In order to meet new people, you have to talk to them. What are you supposed to talk about with a total stranger? You could do the dreadful ice breaker questions like, “What is your favorite color?” or “What did you do over the summer?” However, those questions don’t offer much to keep a conversation flowing. Don’t ask dead-end questions that leave people smiling and nodding their heads into an awkward silence.

I came across an article last year from The New York Times titled, “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.” These questions come from a study by Arthur Aron who wanted to spark intimacy among strangers through a series of questions. What makes these questions work is how they are built; they gradually make you open up more and more about yourself. I have tried this questionnaire with multiple people and found us conversing for hours.

While I’m not trying to play cupid, I did want to share some of my favorite questions from this list that will help you get to know your fellow residents and students better. Grab a treat, find a comfy spot, and ask away!

9 out of the 36 Questions to Fall in Love (The Condensed Version):

“3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?”

I am thoroughly convinced that almost everyone does this before calling the doctor’s office, ordering take-out, speaking to a teacher, etc. Nothing is wrong with being prepared for what you have to say!

“10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?”

This one really exposes your childhood. Learning about how someone grew up gives great insight into how someone grew into the person they are today. Additionally, it’s another way to find commonalities between you and a friend. I happen to have a close relationship with someone whose childhood is very similar to mine.

“11. Take four minutes and tell your partner [or friend] your life story in as much detail as possible.”

Your “life story” could probably create a hefty series of books. To avoid babbling on for what may seem like eternity, shorten it to four short minutes. You never have to follow the list of questions exactly. If your questionnaire partner/group brings up something interesting during their four-minute spiel, feel free to ask them about it!

“15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?”

People are capable of amazing things, and people love talking about themselves. This is also your time for a subtle bragging moment. 

“17. What is your most treasured memory?”

This question can get pretty wholesome. Whether it’s about adopting their puppy, a family game night, or a walk in the park, we should share the tender moments in life. 

“18. What is your most terrible memory?”

This one is not as wholesome, but it encourages us to open up even more. It’s how we reach the deepest level of connection.

“27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.”

Maybe share a pet peeve or tell them your deepest, darkest secret. Open communication is essential for healthy relationships.

“30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?”

The last time I cried was when I came to campus because I was sad that I wouldn’t be sleeping in my bed at home for a while. This type of anecdote lets people know what you value, and it highlights your emotional side.

“36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.”

At this point, you might have built enough trust to actually take their advice. Solving problems together gives insight into what you’re currently struggling with and the impact it has on you. If you ask for advice, it is a tell-tale sign that you value the relationship. 

You can access the article and full list of questions on the link above or here. Good luck meeting new people! Our campus is full of wonderful students; you’re bound to find that life-long college friend soon!


Reann Flores
Outreach Housing Ambassador