Nov 8, 2022 - Health

Axios Finish Line: Why you should ask more questions

Animated illustration of question marks floating in space.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

This article originally appeared in Axios Finish Line, our nightly newsletter on life, leadership and wellness. Sign up here.

One of the most effective ways to make others happy around the Thanksgiving table, at a company meeting or on a first date is simple and quite easy: Ask questions.

The big picture: Many of us feel most comfortable when talking about ourselves, which is why we don't ask others too many questions and why we love it when others ask us things.

In a pair of studies, researchers at Harvard Business School tested the effect of question-asking on likability in both casual conversations and speed dates.

  • They found that people who asked more questions were better liked by their conversation partners — and more likely to get second dates.
  • The most powerful questions were follow-ups. That's because these questions demonstrated that the asker was listening closely, digesting what they'd been told and then asking for more. Follow-ups left a greater impact than just one-off queries.

🧠 Between the lines: We don't realize just how powerful questions can be. When researchers asked study participants whether they thought asking lots of questions would make them more likable, most didn't think it would, NPR notes.

Questions are also a key tool in fighting loneliness — a growing mental health issue in America.

  • When others take the time to listen and ask what's going on, we feel like they truly care — and we feel less lonely.

Try it! Next time you're engaged in conversation with an old friend or a new acquaintance, listen and be curious. And take note of how many questions you get asked yourself.

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