“I recently met up with an acquaintance for a couple of drinks. By the end of our conversation, I was pretty sure I could write his biography: he told me the ins and outs of his job, his childhood and his love life. As for me? He asked just one question in 3 hours.”
“This is a common experience, says Karen Huang at Harvard Business School, particularly when we are first getting to know someone. “In first encounters, the default behaviour seems to be to want to talk about oneself, in order to impress the other person,” she says. It is rarely as charming as these people imagine.
“In laboratory experiments, Huang and her colleagues have found that the number of questions you ask of someone during a conversation can reliably predict how much they like you afterwards. During a speed-dating event, it also predicted how likely they were to agree to a second date (if speed-dating is really what you want to do).
The specific type of question matters. “Switch” questions, which alter the topic of conversation, are less charming than follow-ups that build on the person’s current topic. “Follow-ups signal a kind of emotional responsiveness and care for the other person,” says Huang. By increasing your understanding of the other person, follow-up questions should also ensure that your own gambits are better suited to their interests. ( New Scientist, 20 Dec 2019)
Is this a modern disease? I can’t count the number of times I have been talking to.someone, politely asking questions, taking an interest, and the person concerned ends up knowing nothing whatsoever about me, even my first name. (can’t be too hard on the first name; I am useless at names myself). An unscientific survey suggests that men are worse about this than women, who are, or were, brought up to defer to men for the sake of the latter’s egos. Anyway, right or wrong, it is downright rude to talk about yourself endlessly, treating the other person like a silent marble statue. Here is a hint to male Epicureans – read and inwardly digest the New Scientist extract above!