As children, we’re constantly presented with opportunities to make new friends. From playdates set by our parents to new classmates each year, forging new friendships takes little effort. As adults, many of our relationships have been more or less cemented, and the time we commit to socializing is spent catching up with our current friends or meeting romantic partners. Sparking up new platonic companionship post-college proves a bit trickier, but as highlighted in Psychology Today, Harvard scientists suggest a certain conversational technique could better your odds of making new friends.
When we converse with strangers, even when we make a conscious effort to keep the dialogue balanced, we typically end up talking about ourselves more than asking the other person questions. Our reasoning is actually quite polite—we fear coming off as intrusive or offending our conversation partner with the wrong question, and it’s much easier and safer to talk about ourselves. But study author Karen Huang and her colleagues find that by asking questions and continuing with follow-up questions, we’re validating the other’s point of view and demonstrating that we care. The research shows that when paired up with other study participants, individuals who asked lots of questions were rated as more likable. “Ironically, those who were asked lots of questions knew less about their partners, but still liked them more,” writes David Ludden, Ph.D., author of The Psychology of Language: An Integrated Approach.
So the next time you’re interacting with new acquaintances you hope might someday be friends—or even if you just want to make a good first impression—take a cue from this study and make sure you’re engaging your conversation partner with plenty of questions (and follow-up questions). How does that sound to you?