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Harvard researchers say this mindset matters most: follow the rule of 3 questions to be more likable

Jun 11, 2021

We all know people who we can tolerate and get along with, but don't necessarily like. Why is that? Most of the time, it's because they don't seem to care about what you have to say.

Building relationships is hard. Friends, work colleagues and romantic interests can all feel like they take a tremendous amount of time, energy and effort. But it may not be as hard as you think it is. 

According to researchers from Harvard University, one simple rule can make connecting with people much easier. 

This is what’s known as the three questions rule.

Jeff Haden does a fantastic job of illuminating the importance of the rule in his article from Inc. Magazine, which you can listen to on Curio.

Put simply, the three question rule is this: when you start a conversation with someone, ask a question, listen to the person’s response, and then follow up with two more questions in the same way. 

Easy right?  

We promise you it is.

So why do the researchers say this technique works? 

“We converse with others to learn what they know…”

Around 40% of our everyday conversations are about our subjective experiences. So, rather than talking in facts and statistics, we talk in thoughts and feelings. Talking about ourselves activates the same regions of the brain associated with reward and satisfaction. But, it’s important to remember that in the case of the three question rule, our aim is to encourage other people to talk about themselves. 

When we ask more questions, we are perceived as higher in responsiveness. As a result, asking followup questions that directly relate to a person’s responses allow you to demonstrate better engagement, as well as the fact that you care.  

Main Takeaways:

  • The three question rule is about a fundamental demonstration of respect 

  • Having conversations in this way will help you to build more meaningful connections with people

  • Try not to turn the conversation back on yourself (unless you’re responding to someone else’s questions, of course!) 

  • Being more likeable is really, really easy!

We hope you can use this rule to flourish social settings as the world begins to reopen.