The world of relationships is a complicated one. It’s a world fraught with confusion and misunderstanding. Our first relationships, of course, begin at home. But soon we all branch out and are faced with the task of meeting new people.
Be it kindergarten or Wall Street, time and time again we all face the prospect of getting to know the people around us. Some of these people will become friends, most will remain strangers and hopefully, one will become intimately intertwined in our life as a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife.
Our relationships have the ability to reveal a lot about ourselves. My mother always told me, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you’ll become.” Of course, I got around this dilemma by not telling her about my friends. But my mom was on to something.
So how do you get to know someone? Are there any foolproof ways to peal back the layers? I asked around. Here’s what I learned.
1. Rent a film. The video store is a microcosm of society, replete with everything a person might think about, desire and imagine. Rather than going to the theater, where choice is limited, discussion impossible and prices crippling, renting offers the widest possible exposure to a person’s predilections and allows for spontaneous critiquing between the two of you. Plus, you can pause for bathroom breaks.
2. Meet the family. If you can survive the family, you can survive nearly anything.
3. Go to a party with friends. My mom was right. Friends are like mirrors. Check out your partner’s mirrors and see if you like what you see.
4. Go to coffee. Like watching a film, going out for coffee is a time-honored tradition in the getting-to-know-someone game. You will find out quickly whether or not you have much in common, and can vary the speed of your coffee consumption accordingly.
5. Google them. The mild-mannered search engine has become a fount of knowledge—and its own verb (“to Google”). If you want to learn about someone, run a little search. Seek and you shall find.
6. Take a class together. Take a photography class or yoga or whatever it is that you share an interest in.
7. Go shopping. Heading to the mall or a downtown shopping district can let you both feel each other out, so to speak. You can pick styles for each other and get a sense of one another’s likes and dislikes.
8. Look in their fridge. We are what we eat, right? If there’s nothing but moldy cheese and a bottle of mustard, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
9. Go grocery shopping. If all you indeed find is the moldy cheese, try taking your new mate to the supermarket, which is much like clothes shopping, although potentially more important. Sure, you may be a little dismayed at the flannel jacket he picks out, but at least his poor fashion taste poses no danger of food poisoning.
10. Email them. Email is a great way to get to know a new friend. It’s a condensed version of speech that lends itself to open discussion—no pesky red, embarrassed faces to worry about. Just exercise a little caution when professing your undying love. Remember these two little words: Forward To.
11. Go on a road trip. A night or weekend away with someone can really bring your relationship into focus, if you’re willing to work out all the potentially tricky logistics of sleeping arrangements. If you don’t start cutting your friend out of your trip photos the moment you get back, you’re well on your way to good times.
12. Get physical. Mountain bike, hike, walk, climb, swim, row, whatever. Just take it outside.
13. Play a game. From 20 Questions to Twister, playing a game may reveal a lot about someone. Maybe more than you wanted to know.
14. Ask to look in their wallet/purse. Age, height, weight—it’s all on their driver’s license.
15. Check their medicine cabinet. Sneaky? Perhaps. But don’t tell me you’ve never looked.
16. Peak in the trunk of their car. In the age of Tony Soprano, a quick sweep of the trunk may not be such a bad idea. Especially if you live in Jersey.
17. Browse their CD collection. Musical taste can give you an idea of how open someone is to new experience. Find out if they’re still obsessively listening to the same stuff since high school.
18. Take photos of each other. You don’t have to be photographers to enjoy this, and it’s a very liberating and unifying experience. You’re forced to deal with the person being in your personal space. Plus, you get to do it to them when they’re done.
19. Go to an art gallery. What’s your new friend’s artistic bent? Is it compatible with yours? People can be very passionate about art. That’s a good thing.
20. Help them move. This is a big one and not recommended for the fainthearted, but it may well be worth the sweat and tears.
21. Go to a rally. WTO, Save the Wales, take your pick. If the two of you are politically motivated, it will certainly help around the dinner table if you are on the same team.
22. Volunteer together. Do something for the community, a non-profit organization or people in need. Not only will you feel good about it, you’ll feel good about it together.
23. Baby-sit together. Take a friend or family member’s child out together. Not only are you offering a service to the parents, you’ll get to imagine yourselves as parents, too. Bonus: You get to return the kid at day’s end.
24. Play truth or dare. Hey, Madonna made this a movie, so it might work for you. Ask the questions or do the deed. Tip: Always take the dare.
25. Take a plunge. And finally, once all’s been said and done—you’ve shopped, you’ve emailed, you’ve drunk copious amounts of coffee—you may want to go jump in a lake. Literally.
READ MORE LIFE | POST COMMENTS BELOW