Do you find yourself biting your tongue when you first meet someone — intentionally trying not to talk too much in order to be perceived as “polite” and to make a good first impression? Time to channel your inner Lorelai Gilmore. It turns out — according to a study recently published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin — that people who speak more when they meet someone new are actually perceived as more likable.
According to an article in The Conversation written by study co-author Quinn Hirschi, the study found that — while people tend to intuitively think they should only speak about 45 per cent of the time if they want to be perceived as likeable — speaking up more is actually a stronger tactic.
The study, which included 116 participants, randomly assigned people a percentage of time to speak during a conversation with someone new (30, 40, 50, 60 or 70 per cent of the time).
“We found that the more participants spoke, the more they were liked by their new conversation partners,” Hirschi wrote in The Conversation. “We call the mistaken belief that being quieter makes you more likable a ‘reticence bias.’”
Another key study finding was that people tend to form global impressions of others after a conversation with someone new — instead of more nuanced impressions.
As Hirschi put it, “people are unlikely to walk away from a chat with someone new thinking that their interaction partner was quite interesting but not very likable.”
“Rather, they are likely to form a global impression – for example, a generally positive impression, in which they view their partner as both interesting and likable.”
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So, let’s say you’re chatting with someone new: how can this research guide us?
Hirschi offers an idea, writing that “our new research suggests that, all else being equal, you should speak up more than you typically might in conversations with new people in order to make a good first impression.”
However, it’s also important to note that this approach may have some limitations. As Hirschi points out, the structured speaking times used for research do not perfectly reflect the natural flow of a real-life conversation. Additionally, Hirschi points out that the research assigned people to speak for, at most, 70 per cent of the time. More research is needed to see if likeability is maintained if someone completely dominates a conversation (for example, speaking 90 or 100 per cent of the time).