You may have had the experience of talking less when meeting someone for the first time, thinking, “If I don’t talk too much, I will be more likeable. However, a new study shows that people are more likely to like you if you talk a lot more than you think.
Speak Up! Mistaken Beliefs About How Much to Talk in Conversations – Quinn Hirschi, Timothy D. Wilson, Daniel T. Gilbert, 2022
People think they should talk less to be liked, but new research suggests you should speak up in conversations with strangers
Quinn Hirschi, principal investigator at the University of Chicago’s Center for Decision Research, and his research team conducted a study of the amount of talk people think is appropriate “when talking to new people” and the liking they have for the people they actually talk to.
First, the team asked people how much they should say to make a good impression when talking one-on-one with someone they have never met before. In other words, many people believe that it would be easier to make a favorable impression if one does not talk more than the other person.
The researchers then conducted an experiment in which they recreated a conversation between people meeting for the first time and randomly assigned 116 subjects to speak at “30%,” “40%,” “50%,” “60%,” and “70%” of the total conversation to find out how much more favorable the other person was depending on the percentage they spoke.
Hirschi called the false belief that the quieter we are, the more likeable we are a “reticence bias. We call it ‘reticence bias,’ the false belief that the quieter you are, the more likeable you are,” Hirschi said.
The results of the experiment are consistent with other related previous research: In a 2012 study, one pair was randomly assigned to be the “speaker” and the other the “listener,” and the listener listened to the speaker’s words for 12 minutes. The results showed that the listeners’ favorable impression of the speaker was greater than the speaker’s favorable impression of the listeners.
Hirschi said, “These results suggest one reason why people like people who talk a lot. The more you know about a new conversation partner, the more you feel you have in common with them,” Hirschi said.
Hirschi also noted that people are less likely to have negative nuanced impressions of new acquaintances, such as “this person is interesting but not likable,” and are more likely to have generally positive impressions. For these reasons, our results suggest that it is better to say more than usual in order to make a positive first impression in a conversation with a new acquaintance,” Hirschi said.
In this experiment, participants were asked to talk with their partner for a certain amount of time. In the real world, however, it is possible to cut off a conversation if you are fed up with it, or to talk longer than expected. Therefore, Hirschi pointed out that future research should examine whether the tendency to “talk a lot is more likely to be liked” can be generalized to more natural interactions. Also, since the participants in this experiment were instructed to talk a maximum of “70% of the conversation,” it may not be an optimal strategy to allow oneself to dominate more than that, he said.