There is a famous experiment, where people are asked to answer 36 questions, crafted to reveal progressively personal information about each other and then to look deeply in each other’s eyes for four minutes. One of the incredible outcomes was one pair fell in love.
I was thinking about that experiment recently when I was reflecting on an experience I had as an instructor of a course about leadership. The class had a chance to spend 3 full and sequential days together, focused on exploring themselves as leaders and sharing some of those tender insights with each other.
By the end of the 3 days, the “vibe” in the room was palpable. As people made their parting comments, many spoke about their surprise at the impact of the experience on them Some regretted that the course was ending and many talked about how close they felt to the others in the class.
What is that about?
I will add one more piece to the puzzle. It is a story shared by one person in that class. I asked her if I could share this story. She used to work for the United Nations and in her early days of working there, her boss told them about when he was held hostage in a basement in hostile territory. His captive would come day after day and beat him. No reason but relentless. After a period of daily beatings, the prisoner heard a child cry in the night. The next morning, he asked his beater if there was a child in the house who was suffering and offered advice about where to obtain medicine. They ended up talking about each of their children, cars, women.
The prisoner (my student’s boss) was held in captivity for another 7 months, before being rescued. And, in the whole time going forward, he was not beat once. His story has also been captured more recently in a TedTalk. It’s a hard talk but important.
The eye gazing experiment, what I saw happen in the classroom and the heart of this United Nation worker’s story, has reaffirmed my belief that, at our core, we are made up of love.
When we are primed for connection, our hearts open, and magic happens.
What if you adopted this belief –that we are all human and that sharing with each other strengthens connection? How would your approach to others change – to those you love, to those who are strangers and to those who are your enemies?