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The Socratic Method

For your writing inspiration this week, explore the questions in your life, what they mean, and how they drive you.

A few months ago, there was a post published on the New York Times that went viral. Friend after friend was sharing this guide “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.

The questions, designed by psychologist Arthur Aron, are also accompanied by staring into your co-questioner’s eyes for four complete minutes. Could you do it?

In the article, the author shares her experience asking 36 questions developed by a psychologist, designed to make any two people to fall in love. The questions go from generic to increasingly intimate, building rapport and making it impossible to “rely on that narrative” we so often tell ourselves and others. As human beings, the desire to connect with other people is often considered a natural instinct. It’s not surprising such an article grew so widely popular.

Regardless of your thoughts on the efficacy of these 36 questions in particular, I can vividly recall a handful of conversations or moments in my life where someone asked me exactly the question that I needed to hear. Sometimes, it was “What are you afraid of?” and others, quite simply, began with “Are you okay?” Whether it’s a stranger, a friend, or a relative, some people are able to see right through our facade and make the most piercing inquiry into our lives.

As inspiration for your next blog post, take some time to call to mind those questions that have been game changers for you. To help get you started, consider these questions for your post about, well, questions:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

  • Have you ever had a conversation with an insightful stranger, or some shockingly perceptive self-talk, that changed the course of your life? What was it that hit home for you – where were you, and what were you going through? Walk us through the five W’s of your realization.
  • Conversely, sometimes the most telling conversations are the ones we haven’t had. If there’s a question you never got to ask someone who was, or is, in your life, imagine what that would have been like. What would have been the end result? What might the dialogue have been like getting there?
  • What is the question that drives you? If you’re a writer, developing characters might be about why people do the things they do. As a teacher, it may be wondering how people learn. Whatever your primary focus, what question are you trying to resolve?
  • I’ve often come back to the quote by writer Rainer Maria Rilke (to the left) about how to “live the questions.” What questions are you currently asking in your life? What questions have you answered?

As writers, and human beings, questions are the foundation of how we change. Asking questions directly, and responding with intention and honesty, makes all the difference. With this week’s inspiration, take the time to examine your questions and share them with the world. Who knows, you just might ask exactly the right thing your readers need to hear.

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  1. Great post, and a much appreciated prompt. In April I decided to stop writing, mainly because I felt like I kept writing about the same thing, much like writing 50 different poems about an orange (although I wasn’t writing about an orange). I decided to stop until I could feel that urge again towards something new. The past few weeks I have begun to feel that urge again. There is much unsolved in my heart, and these questions are really helpful! Thank you very much. Looking forward to delving deeper.

    Liked by 7 people

      1. Lupita, I hope you are well, just curious, how are you fairing now that you stopped writing for a while to build the urge again? Yes I have read before that sometimes you have to decelerate for you to accelerate but will love to hear your experience. Thank you

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  2. I started reading the 36 questions and immediately felt like I was in a job interview. Maybe because they seem so memorized and one just asks them regardless of context and the two people involved. I do believe as writers we need to always seeking what drives our questions about ourselves, others,and the world around us. So much is hidden deep within us,where language cannot go, we remain a mystery even to ourselves. So even if the person questions sincerely, it may be far from the truth. That is not intimacy on spiritual level.

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  3. There are seduction techniques and language patterns that will get someone to feel that they are in love with you…all contra to the 36 questions. Something like that is unnecessary

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  4. Questions really are a huge foundation. I am a first year teacher and will be alternating between Question of the Week and Quote of the week. They are seventh graders so some of them might take it in one ear and out the other, but I’m hoping to inspire some thought within some of the students. I think it’s a great age to start developing deeper and more insightful thoughts and conversation. Asking the right question can be a big game changer for someone. I appreciate this prompt!

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  5. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or what but before reading this post I posted an excerpt from my journal that tried to answer a question which has always been so difficult for me to answer. The question at hand is the dreaded “Who are you?”. The biggest challenge we face in answering these difficult questions is that we feel we have to explain ourselves to the people asking them. The best thing about writing it as a conversation that has not happened whether it be with yourself or someone else, is that you are brutally honest in your answer(s). Thank you for this post as it will help me in the future when I answer these difficult questions. I love posts which lead to epiphanies.

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  6. I was just thinking today, this is how life is. Funny you mentioned 36 Questions. I did blog about her. She’s from Vancouver, BC.

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  7. This is so helpful! I think you’re not really friends with someone until you have asked some of those questions. Excellent for deep conversations where we can grow together. Also excellent for writing inspo. Cheers!

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  8. Thouhgt provoking. I think people do ask/answer these questions (or variations) when wanting to feel closer–that is, if you care to find at least a good portion of the truth of someone and yourself.It’s all about b=uilding trust, it seems, and that takes risks, these being somewhat incremental. I do wonder a couple could easily sit that long and ask all questions in
    one sitting…I personally would rather be walking with someone part of that time!

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  9. I would encourage all writers to spend a little more time finding out what the Socratic method truly entails, as I believe it is different from, and in some ways more restrictive than, this exercise would suggest by the use of the term Socratic in the title.

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  10. As a trans man–born “female” but reclaiming my male identity–the question of what it means to be a man emotionally, mentally, spiritually, actually drives me. I restarted my blog to document the transition and ponder my thoughts about it all.

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  11. Thank you for this, it validates what I do. As a physician, it’s easy to think that I’m supposed to be the one with the answers. Actually I feel the most pride when I can come up with exactly the right question, that leads a patient to his/her own best answer to the health issue at hand. It frees me from having to come up with a customized treatment plan all by myself, and empowers the patient to take charge of his/her own health. We can then move forward as true collaborators and partners. It’s the best part of what I do. 🙂

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  12. As a writer, I often have my characters question each other. Sometimes I have them meet in a Starbucks and just chat before a story even begins. you never know what you’ll learn when you just let them go.

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  13. I just created my blog, and this is the essence of it! I simply want to pose deep, thoughtful, insightful questions about personal life or social issues and have fair, honest discussions with people. Collaboration
    brings great change..

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