Is there anything more exciting than meeting someone for the first time and getting to ask them for their life story? Whether it's a first date, first hang—whatever—the door of possibilities is swung WIDE open and you get to spend the next few hours just learning about each other and what makes you tick. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility (aka anxiety over what to ask). Thankfully, we've assembled the experts to give you a handy dandy checklist of exactly what questions to ask when you want to get to know someone. Generally speaking, the more open-ended a question, the more info you'll learn about them, so try to word these as chill as possible. And if you're stuck with someone who answers "What's your most salient memory of childhood trauma?" with a one-word "Yes," maybe roll the dice and try again.
1. What are you excited about most in your life right now?
This question unpacks not only what the other person values, but also lets you glance into your potential compatibility, says Veronica Grant, a love and life coach. There's no right or wrong answer, but depending on your personality (like you're a go-getter and they're happy just coasting through life), this question will take you straight to any potential personality clashes. You can either weed them out, or start a fun convo about what the two of your visions together would look like, says Grant. "This question breaks the ice and helps paint a picture without anyone getting caught up in their own ego".
2. Which TV or movie character do you identify with, and why?
"I love this question because it breaks the ice and helps paint a picture without anyone getting caught up in their own ego. We are taught to identify ourselves by our jobs, hobbies, and our education (boring!), and this question totally lightens things up a lot," explains Nancy Ruth Deen, a relationship coach.
3. What is your relationship like with your family?
Not everyone is super close with their family, but depending on how they view their relationship with them, this can tell you a lot. "Sometimes, what's going on in the family can have a big effect on the relationship," says Margaret Paul, a relationship expert.
4. How do you deal with finances? Do you spend too much or too little?
Sure, combining finances is a step for WAY down the line, but still, it's worth asking as finances can be a huge issue in relationships, according to Paul. It can also be a good indicator of how they deal with life, in general. Are spontaneous weekend trips to Paris going to be a thing? Or are you guys gonna cook dinner at home more often than not?
5. What do you do need during periods of stress? Do you call someone to vent? Do you spend time alone to think it through?
How they answer will let you know what they expect from close ones during rough times, whether it be closeness and a shoulder to cry on, or space, explains Diane Strachowski, PhD, a licensed psychologist and expert on attachment theory. If you wind up dating and you find that they withdraw from you when they're lonely, remind yourself of this so you don't take it personally.
6. Who is your biggest influence and why?
This question can give you insight into a person's core values, according to Jonathan Bennett, a relationship expert. If they name their single mother for raising them, they value responsibility and family. If they rattle off someone like Woody Allen, you can run.
7. What was the scariest moment of your life, and how did you handle it?
This one is interesting because it can open the door to either emotional history or just life stories in general. Was it when they got laid off from their dream job, or was it when they got lost while hiking with friends? How they answer reveals their ability to overcome conflict and challenges, says Laurie Berzack, MSW, a relationship expert and dating coach..
8. Where is your happy place?
Another open-ended cutie that can segue into good follow-up questions, depending on how they answer. If it's a physical place like the gym, or that one great hiking spot on their favourite trail, you can talk about those interests. If it's a more abstract answer like "any time I finish a book that's so good I immediately flip to the first page and start again," that's a good convo starter, too. "This question allows you to learn what the other person truly enjoys in life," says Bennett. You can also use it to plan for future dates, gift ideas, etc.
9. When is the last time you got really angry, and why?
This can be an unobtrusive way to find out the extent to which your date is trying to control the world around him or her, says Berzack. Plus, it opens the door for some lighthearted hate-bonding, whether it be over little or big things. Was the last time they got fired up because someone cut them off in traffic? Or, when they saw a bunch of people during rush hour refuse to give up their seat to an elderly person?
10. Which song or artist are you too embarrassed to say you absolutely love right now?
Not only does this give you a chance to potentially geek out over which Taylor Swift album is best (the only correct answer is "Lover," obviously), but it also shows playfulness and vulnerability, especially if you've just met, says Deen.