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Did certain moments feel awkward? Did you find the other person interesting? Did the other person find you interesting? Were you glad you had the conversation? Research from a group of social psychologists would suggest the answer to all of those questions would be yes. The researchers led a workshop for individuals in the community to learn how to get better at talking to strangers, and asked participants about those conversations — both before and after they happened.
The showed that both prior to and after having the conversation, people thought they would find their partners interesting, explains study author Gillian Sandstrom, PhD , senior lecturer in the department of psychology at University of Essex. The were published in the journal "Psychological Science " in the fall and presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Convention in February. The individuals who attended, elected to attend the event, so the sample was a somewhat unique group in that they were motivated to get better at conversations from the get-go, Sandstrom notes.
Compared with talking to your partner, your best friend, or your mom, the unknowns make it challenging and potentially intimidating, Sandstrom says. The other person might talk too much. We might talk too much. They might shut down. We might get bored. They might get bored. There might be an uncomfortable silence. They might be trying to hit on me. There are unwritten social norms in every context, which we tend to want to follow, but we may not always be sure of.
Will revealing a certain fact about ourselves make us appear more credible or likable? Will being too bold impress or turn someone off? Studies show that even minimal social interactions say, chatting with that stranger on the train boosts mood, for example. In one study, researchers recruited individuals at random as they entered a crowded coffee shop downtown Vancouver, directing some to try to have a conversation with the barista and others to be as efficient as possible in their coffee fetching.
The former group reported leaving the coffee shop in a better mood and having a better sense of belonging in their community compared with the efficient group. The study was published in in the journal "Social Psychological and Personality Science". Georgie Nightingall, conversation coach and founder of Trigger Conversations. In another study from Dunn and Sandstrom , a group of students were asked to carry around counters and keep count all social interactions over the course of their day.
Having more social interactions led the students to report greater levels of happiness and wellbeing. Sandstrom adds that people who are more introverted tend to be more worried about how conversations will go ahead of time compared with extroverts. But those differences go away when people report the benefits they get out of a conversation according to what she and colleagues found in the aforementioned "Psychological Science" paper published last year.
That research also looked at other personality differences besides introversion. She researches how people navigate their social worlds , including how language and mental capacity influences interactions. Ask questions. Research actually suggests that people who ask more questions are better liked by their conversation partners than people who ask fewer questions. A question can either kick off a conversation or keep it going, Sandstrom says.
Skip the stock questions what do you do, where do you live, etc. It shifts the focus to the other person and should make them feel good, Sandstrom explains. Focusing the attention on the other person in those moments can help us get past those awkward spots, she says. You get better at asking better questions, and answering with more interesting responses. Research shows the opposite, however, that people nearly always are willing to engage in a conversation when prompted by someone else.
Our fear assumptions fail to take into the social norms of politeness, Schroeder says. Want more tips like these? IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser. Share this —. Follow better. How small talk makes you smarter and happier March 1, Social Studies Can you make yourself more likable?
Absolutely, experts say. People want to get the real you so they can express the real them. When fear is holding you back, here's how to press forward April 12,What makes good conversation
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