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Protocol Toolkit Item: 3a

Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions

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This protocol uses Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions to support relationship building among people. Dr. Aron’s research showed that people who shared responses to the questions became closer and built stronger more trusting relationships.


Copies of the 36 questions for each participant


Variable (can be used over several meetings) Minutes


The 36 questions were developed by psychologist Arthur Aron, who studied how relationships develop. In his research, he found that people who shared their responses to these 36 questions became closer and built stronger, more trusting relationships. These questions ask people to share personal thoughts and feelings, so be sure your participants are comfortable and prepared to share. Consider starting with the Introductory Questions if needed.   Facilitators should prepare copies of “The 36 Questions” (see Resources section). The questions are divided into three sets that increase their depth level. It is important to proceed through the question sets in order!! Begin with Question Set 1, then move to Set 2. Use Question Set 3 only after participants have completed most or all of sets 1 and 2.    Facilitators should review all questions so they are familiar with each set.   Note: There are many ways to implement this protocol. Below are a few variations
  • If you have time limitations, assign only a few questions and make this activity recurring, where partners pick up where they left off at the previous meeting.
  • Spend 15 minutes on each set; even if partners don’t discuss all questions, move on to the next set.
  • Allow individuals to choose a select number of questions from each set to share.
  • If you are just beginning to build trust, start by having participants share Introductory Questions (see Resources) to ease the transition into deeper levels of sharing.
  • This protocol can be adapted and done with small groups.
  Virtual Implementation
  • Partners will need to meet in breakout rooms


Step 1:

Introduce Protocol (5 minutes) Share the following information with participants:
  • This protocol aims to help the group get to know each other better and develop positive relationships.
  • Share the background of Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions described above. Inform the participants that they will share things about themselves with a partner. As the questions progress, they become more probing and will ask participants to reveal more about themselves.
  • If at any time a participant feels anxious about a particular question, they can pass and respond to the next question on the list. While the activity asks participants to be vulnerable, it is not meant to cause undue stress or anxiety.  
  • Provide each participant with a list of the questions and inform them that they will be taking turns sharing their responses to these questions.
  • Inform the group that they will begin with Question Set 1 and move to Question Set 2, then they will respond to questions in Question Set 3. Provide any instructions regarding any of the variations of this protocol that will be used.
  • Divide the group into pairs. 
    • Participants can self-select a partner, choosing a person they don’t know particularly well.
    • Facilitators can pre-determine the pairings.
    • Pairs can be developed randomly (e.g., pairing people by favorite ice cream, birth month, first letter of first name, etc.)
  • Allow participants to ask questions and get clarification on the protocol.

Step 2:

Partner Question Time (20 minutes)
  • Partners will get together and find a place to stand or sit to begin to take turns sharing their responses to the questions.

Step 3:

Debrief Questions (10 minutes)
  • If desired, the following debrief questions can be discussed with the whole group.
    • How did it feel to share your responses with your partner?
    • Compare how well you felt you knew your partner before this protocol and how well you know them now. 
    • What might have been challenging for you in participating in this protocol?

Resources & Further Reading

Examples of Use

  • Working through the question sets can be a meeting’s Conocimiento over several meeting dates.
  • After developing group working agreements, use this protocol before addressing difficult topics.
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