The Science of Turning Acquaintances Into Hires

by | Dec 1, 2020

In the quaint beach town of Stony Brook, New York, Dr. Art Aron and his wife Elaine (also a psychologist), head a laboratory that studies relationships.

Through a series of experiments involving strangers who volunteered for the research (think speed-dating with a little more structure), Dr. Aron discovered something interesting:

The type of questions you ask someone when you first meet makes a big difference in how the relationship forms.

More specifically, if your questions (and the questions of the other person) involve just factual information, the relationship will probably not progress past acquaintance level.

This is commonly called “small talk,” and it involves asking questions such as:

What do you do for a living?

How long have you worked in that line of business?

Are you planning on taking a vacation this summer?

By contrast, if the questions asked during the initial interaction are slightly more personal and involve a small amount of self-disclosure, the relationship progresses differently.

Here are some examples of questions involving more self-disclosure:

What would constitute a perfect day for you?

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?

It may take a little practice, but a good conversationalist can work these types of questions into a business exchange.

What’s the purpose of doing this?

According to Dr. Aron, this small change makes a big difference when it comes to moving relationships beyond the acquaintance stage.


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