"How are you?" These are the three most useless words in the world of communication. The person asking doesn't really want to know, and the person responding doesn't tell the truth. What follows is a lost opportunity and meaningless exchange with zero connection.
But the key to making the most out of small talk, according to Harvard researchers, is to simply ask the other person follow-up questions. In a series of experiments, researchers analyzed more than 300 online conversations and found that those who were asked more meaningful follow-up questions (a.k.a. questions that aren't "how are you?" or "what do you do?"), found the other person much more likable.
"When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation and care," the researchers wrote.
So how do you move from tongue-tied to being a charismatic and interesting person? It depends on the question you start with, and then you can focus on the stream of follow-up questions.
Here are seven tactics to having a meaningful conversation: