Follow up questioning increases sympathy significantly
Asking is a main attribute of leading – with this meanwhile traditional management principle a bridge between asking and leadership has been established for years. The connection between asking and liking was not analysed before, though, and a Harvard University study brought now unequivocal results:
Independent of sex and setting (written or verbal communication) people tend to develop positive emotions towards their interlocutors if interest for themselves is being shown apparently. Follow up questions transfer this interest exceptionally well – questions which help getting deeper into the subject that has been addressed from the other side right now. This is why they commence often with „How“ or „Why“ since you cannot raise a follow up question unless you have listened carefully and have understood what the person you are talking to has expressed so far. So using follow up questions in a conversation frequently leads directly to more liking, particularly in comparison to those who are focussed on talking about themselves and who do not reflect on the other person just has said.
Interestingly persons having participated in the study have not at all been aware of this correlation, namely how promising question asking in any dialogue can be as a strategy for raising sympathy. The US scientists interpret this fact as an opportunity for everybody to manage or even steer his/her personal social acceptance better and more proactively in future. Moreover, follow up questioning can be exercised pretty well.
„It doesn´t hurt to ask: Question-asking increases liking“, Huang/Yeomans/Brooks/Minson/Gino, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2017, Vol. 113, Nr. 3, 430-452.
True: one who asks does show interest and one who shows interest conveys respect. From this perspective raising questions is always a brillant idea when building up and establishing personal relationships is key. Let´s consider networking events for example where each of us is making efforts to get in touch with prospective clients. Professionals among us focus in these more or less 15 – 20 minute encounters onto their interlocutors and make in-depth talks actually possible.
But there is an aspect not mentioned in the Harvard study which is due to my experience crucial whether your interest demonstrated in these types of talks will come across with high or low credibility: your eye-contact. How unpleasant, let alone how disgusting if someone allegedly is interested in your thoughts and stories, but all the while tries to figure out who else – perhaps more interesting than you – might be also in the room, his or her eyes not looking into yours but wandering around behind your shoulders.
Follow up questioning and staying in touch while networking is easily to be trained. Videoanalyses prove beyond any doubt where you should not miss your point in this so called professional business small talks and where – even if you are concentrated on what you are going to emphasize next – you definitely should restrain from talking but better ask.