You bump into each other from time to time, in the elevator, or when you’re lining up for coffee. You would love to get to know the other person better, but how do you get from nodding acquaintances to bosom buddies?
While some people have the knack of sitting down with someone new and becoming fast friends, others sit in awkward silence, hoping the other person is able to find an interesting way to break the ice. Getting the ball rolling might not be easy, but relationship experts note that asking a few well-placed questions will get you from a place where you barely know one another to putting yourselves on a fast path to friendship.
Learn to ask deeper questions to get to know someone better
While the first step to getting to know someone might entail asking impersonal questions like where they are from or where they work, it’s the meatier questions that matter. Author Terri Orbuch says (via Women’s Health), “Topics that get at the other person’s inner world — their thoughts, goals and dreams — will strengthen and increase bonding between two people. Just like in a romantic relationship, sharing personal information strengthens the relationship — deeper questions focus on that personal self-disclosure.”
You can also ask someone about what they like and dislike. “Asking someone about their preferences helps you to understand who they are as a person,” says therapist Rebecca Hendrix. Having the person share their preferences also gives you the opportunity to ask deeper follow-up questions. “If you find out they like dogs, take it a bit deeper by asking them what they like most about their dog,” Hendrix says. “In answering, they are revealing a little more about themselves.”
Other questions Hendrix suggests that can really open up a conversation include:
“What was the last show you binge-watched?”
“Where’s the next place on your travel bucket list and why?”
“How would your 10-year-old self react to what you do?”
“Who in your family are you the closest to and why?”
“What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done, and why did you do it?”
“A genie gives you three wishes — what are they?”
Regardless of what you ask, it’s important to remember to touch on subjects you genuinely care about, or you may not care enough to ask follow up questions (via Healthline).
Questions are only half of the conversation
You may have found the right way to ask, but have you found the right way to listen? Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling, keep your mind on the conversation, because that’s the only way you’ll know how to ask the right questions. Don’t wander off and think about the iron you might have left plugged in, work you need to do the next day, or chores that need to be done by the weekend.
Instead, be an active listener and, as author Judith Glaser says,”Look for signs of acceptance, doubt, misunderstanding and rejection. What you’re listening to is just as important as how you’re listening to it.” If you disengage, your new friend, work colleague, or potential significant other may not think you care; this potentially puts the speaker in a state of stress and may trigger the brain into producing a hormone known as cortisol. When that happens, feelings of distrust may arise and connectivity levels can diminish, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish (via Inc.com).
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