Research has found that the rule of three questions will make you more likeable. Here’s what it is and why it works.
If you want people to like you, like, say for example a job interviewer, ask them questions.
Don’t try to impress them, relate to them, or engage them by talking about yourself. Ask questions.
According to a 2017 Harvard study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (which I found today through this INC. article), asking a question and then asking at least two follow-up questions will dramatically increase how likable you are.
The study authors wrote, “Conversation is a fundamental human experience that is necessary to pursue intrapersonal and interpersonal goals across myriad contexts, relationships, and modes of communication.”
Across three studies of live conversations between two people, they found a robust and consistent relationship between question-asking and liking. Specifically, their conversation partners better liked people who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions.
People who asked more questions were perceived as higher in responsiveness, which the researchers identified as “an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care.”
They studied “get-to-know-you conversations” online, as well as face-to-face speed-dating conversations. Speed daters who asked more follow-up questions during their dates were more likely to elicit agreement for second dates from their partners, a behavioural indicator of liking.
Interestingly, they also found that “people do not anticipate that question-asking increases interpersonal liking.” In other words, people don’t know that the way to get people to like you is to show an interest in them and their responses to your questions.
This is really just common sense. If you appear to be interested in what someone has to say, they will think you’re smart for being interested in them and in the world around you. If you don’t appear interested in what people have to say, you’ll come across as self-absorbed and distracted.
A 2012 UC Santa Barbara study reportedly found that approximately 40% of our everyday speech is spent telling other people about our subjective experiences, meaning what we think and feel. The study also found that talking about ourselves increases activity in brain regions associated with feelings of reward and satisfaction.
So, when you encourage other people to talk about themselves they get feelings of reward and satisfaction out of the conversation and will associate that with you.
So, ask three questions, at least. When you follow their response to one question with a related question, they notice that you’re actively listening to them. It’s not enough to ask someone how they’re doing or what they’re up to. If you just ask and then jump into another topic (yourself, for example), it will be clear that you didn’t really care about the answer and were just asking because you know it’s expected of you. If you’re looking for ideas on what to ask, check out the best questions hiring managers have been asked by candidates in interviews.
Then – and this is important – resist the urge to start running away with your own experience or thoughts on the topic. If, for example, someone says they have a huge project to complete on deadline. Sympathize, but don’t start going on about your own projects and deadlines, how you hate deadlines, your team never pulls their weight, and your boss doesn’t appreciate you, or whatever. Maintain focus on the other person.
Obviously, you can’t do this for the whole job interview. You have to talk about yourself and answer questions. But do at least make an effort to get a few questions in that focus on the other person.
If you ask how long they’ve been with the company, you can follow up by asking how they like it, where they worked previously, or if they enjoy the company culture. If you have a chance to say something complimentary, like “that sounds like a hard job,” (suggested by Jeff Haden, because “everyone’s job is hard — and when you recognize and validate that fact, people naturally open up and talk about themselves. And because no one receives too much recognition for what they do”) do that.
Show genuine interest in others and they’ll find you interesting and be more likely to hire you.