A lot of people get understandably confused when it comes to choosing the right questions to get to know someone. Knowing people (and I mean really know them) is not easy, and sometimes the stakes are really high. We want to be sure that we are choosing the right romantic partner to live the rest of our lives with, the right friend to confide in and the right people to hang around. The ability to know and judge people’s character varies from one person to another, but there is one thing that people who are good at it all have in common — asking the right questions in the right way.
You are in for a surprise, though. I know what you are expecting to read; you will have to excuse my blatant overconfidence because I have seen this all too often both on the internet and in real life. Ready-made, simple questions for you to use at your convenience.
Such questions are not only boring, but they do not provide you with the answers you are looking for. They tell you about someone, which is different from knowing someone. You cannot know who someone really is with ready made questions.
I am not going to provide you with a list of a hundred microwaved questions to interrogate whatever poor soul that may have to answer them. They are all over the internet and very easy to find.
Do not get me wrong, though. We are still going to talk about questions to get to know someone, but not in the way you think. We are going to see much more fun ways to get to know people, and the best part is that they are also more effective and promising in yielding the information you are looking for.
Questions to get to know someone: explicit vs implicit
Good for knowing about someone
Explicit questions are the ones that we talked about in the introduction. They are simple and direct. While such questions are not harmful in and of themselves, they are only useful in extracting factual information. Such information provide you with straighforward facts about someone. Examples include:
- Place of residence
- Hobbies and interests
- Favourite food
- Favourite colour
This list is by no means exhaustive, and knowing such facts is not completely useless. Most of them offer you a glimpse on what someone likes and dislikes as well as other basic information.
What explicit questions are especially useful for is finding whether you and the person you want to know have shared interests or not. Most people, at least the ones I know, are attracted to similarities. If you have similar interests, it is the more reason to befriend or get romantically involved with someone because you will have plenty of activities to do together, right?
No and no.
Bad for knowing someone
The first no is to similarity automatically meaning better. This is not true. To some people, opposites attract. You may not have similar interests, but this is the more reason to get to know someone because you will learn more from each other.
The second no is to similarity being more conducive to a better relationship. This is exactly the mistake that a lot of people make and the reason why explicit questions to get to know someone are pointless.
Explicit questions are only good as far as someone’s tastes and interests are concerned. We called this factual information. However, when we want to get to know someone, I bet that you want to know their character. That is, how they behave.
If you want to know someone’s character, you will have to ask a different type of questions; the questions that will determine whether you are a match or not: implicit questions.
Implicit questions to get to know someone
Implicit questions are exactly what they are – questions, but they lack the in-your-face aspect that characterises explicit questions. They also serve a different purpose: while explicit questions excel in generating factual information about someone, implict questions do at generating information about someone’s character.
Implicit questions will help you get to know someone better, and for real. Since they are implicit in nature, their purpose is harder to detect and so they are better at extracting information unfiltered by someone’s cherry picking answers. The way the person you want to know reacts to implicit questions can be verbal, non-verbal, or both. Pay attention to all of them for a complete picture.
Below is a list of of implicit questions to get to know someone’s character better. I also included the explicit version of each question to help you understand which character trait each of them targets.
- Voluntary work is quite interesting, is it not? (implicit)
Are you generous? Do you believe in helping others without expecting anything in return? (explicit)
- I sometimes like travelling solo to other countries. Do you? (implicit)
Are you able to let me be alone when I need it? Will you be able to trust me and not feel paranoid when I am away from you for a while? (explicit)
Openness to vulnerability
- I have been under so much stress lately that I have been considering therapy. Have you ever done any? (implicit)
Are you flexible and open-minded? Are you able to admit your mistakes? Do you believe in working on yourself when there is room for improvement? Are you open to being vulnerable and let someone help you when you obviously need help instead of denying it? (explicit)
- Do you think that love is stronger than friendship? What would you do if your lover asks you to stop seeing your friends because he or she does not like them? (implicit)
Are you reliable and loyal? Will you forget about the friends that have been there for you all along and ditch them for someone you have just met? (explicit)
- Do you like going out for fun? I sometimes go out with my girl friends to unwind after a long week. Other times, I go out with my boy friend instead for a change. (implicit)
Are you the jealous type? Would you get jealous if I go out with a male friend or co-worker of mine? (explicit)
- Whenever I am seeing someone, I think of ”Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”. Have you ever heard of it? (implicit)
Are you intellectually curious? Could we have interesting conversations over afternoon tea? Do you care about interesting ideas and opinions? (explicit)
- Do you think hugging is as important as some people make it out to be? (implicit)
Are you a warm person? Is showing affection and warmth important to you? (explicit)
- Do you think it makes sense that some people thank the bus driver after drop-off? (implicit)
Are you a polite person? Do you show gratitude even to to people you do not know? (explicit)
The most valuable traits
- What are the things that make your best friend special? (implicit)
What personality traits do you value the most? Are they the same as or close to my own? (explicit)
Sense of adventure
- When you travel abroad, do you stick only to the city centre, or do you like exploring the outskirts as well? (implicit)
Can you step out of your comfort zone or not? Are you an adventurous person who can sometimes find taking risks thrilling, or you just like being too comfortable in your shell? (explicit)
Optimism or pessimism
- Is the glass half full or half empty? (implicit)
Are you a positive or negative person? Do you remain hopeful even in negative situations, or do you make negative situations even more negative? (explicit)
Tolerance to diversity
- What do you think of the emo subculture? Do you think it makes sense? (implicit)
Are you tolerant and accepting of other people’s perspectives even when they are different from yours? (explicit)
Quality or quantity
- Would you like to live sixty years superbly healthy or a hundred with average health? (implicit)
Are you a quality or quantity person? Which one would you sacrifice for the other if you have to? (explicit)
- What life goal have you worked for the longest? (implicit)
How tenacious are you? Are you the kind of person who can pursue long term goals and commit yourself to them? (explicit)
Get to know someone without asking any questions
It is amazing how we can overlook some very handy ways of getting to know people, especially nowadays. We do not even have to ask people questions to know them better in the age of social media.
Assuming you exchanged Facebook or Instagram with the person you want to know, you are going to do some research on them through these channels.
Yes, I am talking about going through this person’s social media like the police.
After all, you do not mean any harm. You just want to make sure that you get a good idea of the person. Do not forget that they added you on their Facebook or Instagram with their own consent, so feel free to roam around their posts in whichever way you like.
Facebook is especially handy when it comes to getting to know someone because it is more writing oriented than Instagram. Reading someone’s posts and comments will reveal a lot about them. Here are a few things you can learn about someone through Facebook:
Political orientation and values
Comments supporting a certain political party or candidate tells you a lot about someone. Let us be honest, those who support left wing parties do not share the same values as those who do right wing ones. If you happen to not know anything about the political party or candidate, do more research.
Kindness and warmth
Does the person you want to know leave encouraging comments on his or her friends’ posts and is not stingy with praise and compliments?
If you do see such comments, it is a great sign because it proves that this person is not afraid of showing appreciation, affection and encouragement if you ever need it – and who does not? Even psychologists stress how important the role of compliments is in successful relationships.
Feelings and mental states
What is the dominant theme in the emotional posts of the person you want to know? What kind of feelings do they share? Do you get the feeling that they blame others for their mishaps in too many posts? Do they exhibit more despair than hope in turmoil? What kind of thoughts do they express when they are sad? Do they exhibit such negative energy all the time, or just sometimes?
Explore the palette of emotions the person you are talking to is expressing. It will offer you a window into their soul. You will also be able to predict whether this person will bring more positivity or negativity in your life.
Propensity to bullying and violence
Facebook can sometimes be a nasty place. Cyberbullying is the new fashion for bullies and you definitely do not want to be seeing someone who writes passive-aggressive, intimidating or threatening comments.
Finally, does the person you want to know better a member of any controversial group or page? Watch out for pages with extreme views. I am not going to mention any specific pages, but I think most people around the world can agree on what ”extreme” means.
Of course, we do not like expecting the worst of people, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Instagram is especially useful in offering you a clear image on someone’s lifestyle. This platform is more about pictures than words, and so It also helps you pinpoint what the person you are seeing likes showing to the world.
Does the person you are interested in take way too many selfies? This screams narcissism. We are all narcissists to some extent, which is relatively healthy, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing. In this case, it is definitely not a good sign because narcissists have less empathy than the average person, which translates to less empathy for you, too.
Do you see a lot of pictures of cars, expensive watches, five star hotels, luxurious pools and cocktails? This person’s primary focus in life is wealth. You cannot know whether such pictures reflect a person’s real wealth or not as some people like pretending to be more well off than they are.
If the person you are getting to know turns out to have less wealth than what they show on their Instagram, there is a high chance that they are fakes, people pleasers and will go to great lengths to give a good image about themselves to the world.
On the other hand, If this person’s wealth is in fact as abundant as it looks on Instagram, he or she likes bragging, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does not scream modesty, either.
If someone posts a lot of pictures of seminars, books, interesting quotes and fun facts, they value intellect and education more than anything else and is likely to hold middle class values of hard work, diligence and ambition.
The family person
What if someone’s Instagram is full of pictures with family and friends? It means they are family oriented. They are also likely to put family and friends first — even if it comes at the expense of their desires.
Getting to know someone via social media platforms like Instagram may sound obvious, but a lot of people miss out on this benefit because they use them mainly as means of entertainment, not of purposeful and systematic information gathering.
Final important advice on getting to know someone
Bear in mind that even if you ask the right questions to get to know someone and you get the right answers, it does not guarantee you will be able to predict their behaviour.
People change. Humans are not math formulas you can work out. They are complex and unpredictable.
Trauma, breakup and meeting someone new; change of job, place of residence and lifestlye can all bring noticeable changes to the people you know. In other cases, they do not change because of different circumstances, but because they were like that all along. You just did not pay attention to the signs or took them for granted when you did.
Change, though, can be for better or worse. Therefore, most people do deserve a second chance in case they change for the worse because they can always change for the better again. If they do not, it is their loss.
Life can sadly be like this sometimes. However, as we keep on living, the possibilities of meeting new amazing people are endless. As long as we exercise discernment, finding our matches will be as inevitable as losing some of them to the cruelty of time.