Improving Relationships with Vertical Questions
Fostering deeper relationships and achieving greater intimacy is important for our mental and emotional well-being. This can be a challenge as “small-talk” and focusing on logistics and surface level topics have become the norm. The glue, or what holds people together, is processing messy emotions, exploring difficult feelings, and working through conflict and disagreements. While small-talk questions are important for gathering information and will always have a purpose or role in daily conversations, they are not enough for maintaining depth in a relationship. In order to access emotions and raw feelings, vertical questions become essential; these questions focus on the inside rather than outside and also require time for reflection.
Examples of Vertical Questions:
- What is the perfect day for you?
- How do you feel about this decision/choice?
- I’m noticing your body language and facial expressions do not match your actual words. What is going on for you in this moment?
- I’m sensing ________ (e.g., sadness, angery, anxiety). What are you feeling?
- It seems like you keep coming home later and later. Is anything wrong or bothering you?
- What is your most treasured memory?
- Slow down. You are walking away as you tell me that everything is OK. Could there be something else going on that you want to talk about?
- What does friendship/partnership mean to you?
- How would you complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
- When did you last cry by yourself? What were you upset about?
Achieving intimacy will require intention, strength, vulnerability, and self-disclosure. The questions
most difficult to ask are often ones that help individuals access true feelings, create opportunities for better understanding another person’s pain, and carve out a path for emotional connection between two minds.