People tend to have blockers when it comes to speaking about three areas of life - death, sex and money. So much so that there’s a whole podcast dedicated to the topic. Literally, it’s called Death, Sex & Money. Other sensitive questions include politics and religion, because we fear the consequences of stereotyping our friends, of our perspectives of them changing. And we fear that their perspective of us will change.
Now, it’s certainly wise to be cautious. To pay attention to the signs your friend/conversation partner is giving off. We don’t want to tread into the territory of making other people uncomfortable. We want to leave a good impression on others. Most of all, we want other people to like us.
But asking the questions about the hard stuff, the deep stuff, is how we connect. It’s how we develop deeper intimacy - a feeling that we truly know someone, and equally that they know us.
So if we avoid asking the hard questions, we may simply be avoiding deeper intimacy.
Or, if the question is about how much your colleagues earn, we could be avoiding learning about information that could be beneficial to us. If we find out that our equally senior and competent colleague earns more than us, that information could help us negotiate equal compensation.
What’s hard is that we consistently overestimate how uncomfortable other people will feel when we ask them sensitive questions, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania. We also tend to overestimate other people’s judgments of us. Now, this study of university students is not representative of everyone, most university students are still developing their prefrontal cortex, and their development may be slowed by consumption of certain substances. But it’s an interesting reference point to consider.
Asking sensitive questions, in many ways, violates social norms, and we don’t want to be perceived as someone who does not abide by social norms.
That’s one of the benefits of the Intimacy Cue cards - Dinner Parties and Love Deeply. It’s not you who is doing the asking. It’s the cards. The other person doesn’t have to know how deeply intrigued you are by their answer - unless of course, you want to tell them. It takes away a lot of the social pressures that come from asking sensitive questions.
Ask the questions. Dig deeper.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
- Lao Tzu