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Common to Contrary Belief, People Like Talkative Strangers

— September 22, 2022

People would prefer for those to talk more in conversations, studies show.

Do you know that people often think they should speak less than half the time during their conversation with strangers to be likable and more than half the time to be interesting? This is shown in a new study conducted by Dan Gilbert, Tim Wilson, and research co-author Quinn Hirschi. Their recently published paper in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin sheds light on these phenomena.

First, the researchers found people tend to think that to be likable to a stranger, they should speak about 45 percent of the time in a one-to-one conversation. Yet, they also discovered, speaking up a bit more might be a more effective strategy to increase the chances of being liked.

The team randomly assigned people to speak to strangers 30, 40, 50, 60, and 70 percent of the time, and the results showed that the more the participant of the study spoke, the more they were liked by their partner. So, they termed the mistaken belief that one would be likable if quieter a “reticence bias.”

Common to Contrary Belief, People Like Talkative Strangers
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

The study’s results align with the prior findings. For instance, a previous study randomly chose a participant to take on the role of a speaker in a pair of strangers and the other, the role of a listener.

After engaging in 12 minutes interactions, the study showed that listeners liked the chattiness of the speakers. This result suggests that people prefer those who speak up because learning more about another person helps the listener determine if they share commonalities.

The research also discovered that people are more likely to form a generally positive impression when they feel their new partner is both interesting and likable rather than only interesting and not very likable.

With these results, the trio concluded that (counter to common belief) speaking up makes a better first impression. Why does this matter? People often want to know how to make a good first impression, especially in situations such as first dates or job interviews. These events require an individual to leave a lasting positive impression if they are to be called back. The study dispels the misbelief that they shouldn’t be speaking as much as they may want to.

A limitation fo the study is that it involved only 116 participants. Larger studies would need to be administered to back up the science. Also, the conversations between individuals were more calculated than they would have been in the “real world.” Despite trying to control the conversations, the percentage of time speaking included estimates and not hard-and-fast data.

For example, an individual assigned to speak 70 percent of the time may actually have been speaking as much as 90 percent of the time. It’s hard to tell how accurate the intervals truly are.

In any case, the general premise of the research as that people shouldn’t worry too much about talking their partner’s ear off. It is much preferred that they speak their mind than remain silent.


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