A Simple Conversation Trick To Make Friends Easily
Communication is important. And it plays a big role in helping us develop relationships and make social connections.
And just because we talk all the time, it doesn’t mean that social situations can’t be uncomfortable. There’s awkward pauses, bad jokes, and boring conversations. Heck, sometimes we just don’t know what to say.
But if you’re looking to make friends easily, or make meaningful connections, there’s a simple trick you can use.
Just ask them questions.
The Power of Questions
Relationships are one of the keys to lasting happiness. Not just strengthening bonds with people we already know, but also forging connections with new acquaintances.
But how do you take that first step in establishing trust and rapport?
Harvard researchers published a study that found that asking questions can help you establish connections and make friends. Especially certain types of questions:
“People who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are better liked by their conversation partners.”
Don’t just pepper people with random questions. It’s follow-up questions that count. You want them to go into detail about whatever is they’re talking about.
Asking Questions Seems Like Obvious Advice
Research shows that people love to talk about themselves. It ramps up the brain’s reward center. And we’ve all heard the advice about talking less and listening more.
So using questions as a way to get people to open up seems like obvious advice. Yet, the researchers find that most people still don’t do this:
Although most adults have decades of experience conversing with others, our data suggest that people often fail to engage in behaviors that will help them make the most positive impression.
If you’re nervous around others, it can be easy to make the mistake of focusing on yourself. We’ve all felt pressure to keep a conversation going. So even though the advice might seem like a no-brainer, the researchers say:
…it seems that people are largely unaware that asking questions has social benefits.
Here’s another common mistake. When we want people to like us, we usually go about it by trying to impress them. We talk about our accomplishments or experiences. But the researchers warn us that it could have the opposite effect:
…redirecting the topic of conversation to oneself, bragging, boasting, or dominating the conversation, tend to decrease liking.
Dating and First Impressions
What about using this in a romantic setting? The researchers used speed dating as another perfect scenario to study people who wanted to make a strong first impression.
So they analyzed face to face interactions between strangers looking for romance. Guess who got more second dates?:
…speed daters who ask more follow-up questions during their dates are more likely to elicit agreement for second dates from their partners, a behavioral indicator of liking.
Why Asking Questions Builds Connections
Okay, so asking follow-up questions during conversation is a great way to build rapport and get someone to like you. Even for romance.
But why is it so powerful?
After conducting 3 studies, the researchers believe it comes down to one thing:
These results provide converging evidence that people like question-askers because they perceive question-askers as more responsive.
What does it mean to be a responsive? It means you’re engaged, that the other person is important, and that you want to hear what they’re saying. The authors write that responsiveness is:
…an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care.
Here’s a closer look at what we signal to someone by asking questions:
- Understanding – the accurate perception of their actions, feelings, or thoughts.
- Validation – respecting the other person’s opinion or perspective
- Care – showing affection and concern
Make Them Open Up
Questions are a great way to keep conversations going. They show a person you’re interested. And it’s a huge part of active listening. It’s all about them, not you.
Just remember not to overdo it. Contribute your own thoughts to the conversation, you don’t want them to feel like they’re being grilled. And getting too personal may creep them out.
But most people enjoy talking about themselves and sharing their perspective. So give them the opportunity to open up. They’ll end up liking you more and help you make friends easily. And making new friends is never a bad thing.