Skip to main content


“So, what have you been up to?” Simple enough question, right? Not likely, apparently.

The thing is, most people spend the majority of time in conversations sharing their own views and stories rather than asking about the other person. It’s a common mistake in our increasingly me-oriented society. Even though, as a matter of fact, no one could possibly be as interested in you (and your dog, your trip, “The Bachelor,” your life …) as you are.

About the question: I’ve got good news and more good news. For those who understand the art of conversation as a dialog. For those one-sided monologue enthusiasts, some advice: Take a breath, let the room refill with fresh oxygen. And try to pay attention. You’ll thank me one day.

The good news is researchers at Harvard found that in social settings “people who ask questions are better liked by their conservation partners.”

This is especially good news for introverts who are naturally more comfortable asking questions than receiving them, particularly in social settings when obliged to participate in small talk. Like kicking a rock downhill, all it takes is one question to start the blather rolling. (Of course afterwards you’re left wondering what any of that had to do with anything. But that’s another story, unfortunately.)

The research further showed that people who ask follow-up questions are even better liked. “[t]hey are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care.”

If this isn’t enough to entice blatherers to occasionally be listeners, the research also showed that speed daters who asked more follow-up questions during their dates were more likely to get second dates from their partners.

The best thing about being curious and asking questions, you just might learn something. Plus you can relax and not worry so much about trying to impress your conversation partner.

Illustration reprinted from the New York Times, 1-14-16, with the article “The End of Small Talk.”


Leave a Reply