Karen Huang, a Harvard PhD student, is studying the effects of asking questions in everyday conversation. Huang says some of her interest arose from personal observations: “I would meet someone for the first time, and I would…[ask] a lot of questions. And I noticed that the other person really enjoyed talking about themselves and responding to my questions, but I would also notice that they wouldn't really ask questions back,” she noted in an NPR interview.
Huang and colleagues wanted to test her hunch that people who don't ask questions appear less likable than those who ask many. So, they asked volunteers to get to know one another and then told them to either ask many questions or very few. The results showed that asking more questions increased how much the person was liked. In a separate study, the researchers looked at speed daters, analyzing the effect of posing questions to prospective partners. They found that the number of follow-up questions asked predicted a partner's willingness for a second date.
When we ask a question and someone responds, and then we listen and ask something related, we show attentiveness and engagement. It would seem natural that they find us likeable. But remember that while most people enjoy being asked questions, many do not ask questions themselves—and research shows most people are unaware that question asking makes then more likeable. Good news: Question-asking is a learnable skill! (Tweet it!)
Have you noticed that you tend to like people who ask you questions in conversation? Is asking questions something you tend to do? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion