How do we make a favorable first impression in a conversation? Sometimes, we think getting noticed at a networking event means getting the last word or talking up our accomplishments.
But new research has found that to be remembered as likable in a conversation, you need to make the conversation engaging.
And that means not making it all about you. In fact, not at all.
A recent Harvard study found that people who asked questions were seen as more likable than people who spent time hogging the conversation and holding forth in a monologue.
“Whereas prior data demonstrate that people tend to talk about themselves, our results suggest this may not be an optimal strategy,” researchers in the study wrote. “We identify follow-up questions as an important behavioral indicator of responsiveness, and we find that asking a higher rate of follow-up questions reliably predicts partner liking.”
We like people who ask questions
Our self-defeating instincts tell us to keep talking about our opinions, but the research found that the people who stopped to listen and follow-up were the real winners of the conversation.
In one of the studies, the Harvard researchers got 430 participants to talk to each other one-on-one in instant messaging conversations. In each of the pairs, one of the participants was instructed to ask “at least nine questions” or “at most four questions” under the guise of getting to know one another. At the end of the 15-minute conversation, the question-responders rated the people who asked more questions as more responsive, and therefore, more likable than the conversation partners who asker fewer questions.
Asking more questions works because it forces us to pay attention to our conversation partners and remain present. It shows that we’re curious, empathetic, and interested in the lives of others. “Follow-up questions are particularly likely to increase liking because they require responsiveness from the question-asker, and signal…