Getting to Know Someone

03.07.2024 |

Episode #9 of the course Mastering your relationships by John Robin


Welcome back to the course!

In the last three lessons, we touched on how to nurture less-familiar relationships, be they acquaintances, extended acquaintances, or strangers. With close friends and even casual friends, you likely already know a fair bit about each other and have developed enough comfort that socializing is not too difficult. With acquaintances, or less familiar relationships, you might have more trouble breaking the ice.

This lesson will give you some tips on how to make the most of those less-explored connections.


Getting to Know Someone: The Interviewer Technique

So, you’ve reconnected with an acquaintance from school, after being out of touch for years. It’s time to have coffee together and catch up. What do you say? How do you naturally nurture the new connection?

Or, what about that quiet writer you often sit across the table at in the coffee shop, who you finally got chatting with about a book she’s reading, one which you read a long time ago? How do you manage to keep things fresh without seeming too awkward—since, after all, this is essentially still a stranger to you?

Or, let’s say you have actually taken your friend’s mom up on her offer to join her at Zumba and now you’re having coffee with her and her friends after. How do you conduct yourself?

There are many nuanced techniques for handling each situation, but the one technique applicable to all of them is the interviewer technique.

When you use the interviewer technique, you are adopting the mentality that you are an interviewer. However, there are some essential guidelines to follow to avoid it turning into an annoying game of 20 Questions—after all, this is the interviewer technique, not the interrogator technique.

Think of a great interviewer in a documentary. A great interviewer comes up with a natural conversation that brings their subject to life. They don’t fire off question after question. Done with skill, the other person doesn’t feel like they are being interviewed at all. They are just sharing openly.

The great interviewer is keeping their interviewing persona as subtle as it can be. Their internal compass guides them to focus the conversation on the other person. So, you’ll notice a great interviewer doesn’t spend a lot of time going off on tangents about themselves, what they think, or relating their experiences. Everything personal they weave in is done with the intention of enhancing the things their interviewee says. Their questions are prompts, directing the conversation, and their replies serve the same purpose. When you are being interviewed by a skilled interviewer, you feel like they are listening to you, interested in you, and whatever you say feels valuable.

With this in mind, this is exactly what you want to invoke when you use the interviewer technique.

Let’s return to our three examples above.

When you’re finally having that coffee meet-up with the acquaintance from school you haven’t seen in several years, think about what they’ve been up to in their life. They must have lots to tell you! Also, think back to what you might have talked about with them before. Recall old conversations and shared interests. Being prepared with a few conversation ideas from your memories of them is a great way to prepare.

But remember, when the time comes, you don’t have to pretend this is Dateline! Let there be a natural flow to conversation back and forth, and use your preparation to help you balance the conversation skillfully.

Showing sincere interest in another person through great conversation is one of the best ways to turn an acquaintance relationship into the beginning of a friendship, as they are more likely to want to meet with you again.

In the example of your fellow coffee shop stranger, whenever you have a chance to talk some more, remember the interviewer technique. Ask questions about them and take interest in what they tell you, rather than making statements about yourself.

The same applies to the case of the coffee with the Zumba ladies, but the approach is slightly different. Because it won’t be a one-on-one interaction, it is easiest to fit in by, at first, listening to the conversation going on and when someone says something that twigs your interest, you ask them a question on the topic and follow the conversation naturally around that.

There’s a certain degree of restraint that comes with practicing the interviewer technique. We all have opinions and ideas we want to share, but to hold back most of them with the intention to mainly listen, helps you filter them down to only the ones that truly contribute to a balanced conversation.


Tip of the Day: The Rule of Three

The interviewer technique is a great way to master the art of getting to know even the least familiar people. But people don’t expect you never to talk about yourself, and you don’t want to go too far and make it seem you are only being nosy and invasive about them while not sharing anything about yourself.

Balance this out with the rule of three.

This is a simple rule where you make a point, after three instances of conversation focused on the other person, to work in something about yourself. Ideally it should be brief and simple. For example, if they’ve talked about what movie they saw, you might mention your last movie outing. Always try to share something personal, and be yourself.

Stay tuned for our final lesson, when we’ll talk about the last type of relationship: the kind that puts everything we’ve learned together.


Recommended book

How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes


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