Starting a new relationship is tough. You have to meet someone, talk to him or her, and then you have to like this new person and get this new person to also like you. It's hard work. But, once that fondness for one another is developed, a relationship can begin. What can you do to generate feelings of fondness and liking? Well, researchers have identified a few key communication strategies that have been shown to effectively elicit liking from others. Below are nine of these strategies. Before we begin though, it's important to note that these strategies are useful when trying to generate liking from a potential romantic partner and from potential friends.
1. Talk About Similarities
The first strategy is to talk about things that the two of you have in common. Maybe you both like sports or maybe you both like to dance. Bell and Daly (1984) discovered that highlighting similarities, like shared interests, hobbies, and attitudes, can elicit liking from potential partners. For more information about similarity, check these other Love Lesson posts.
2. Include Him/Her
Baxter and Philpott (1982) found that one of the most popular ways to make friends was including the other person in activities that bring the two of you together. Here, you could invite your potential new friend or partner to hang out with just you or with others. Either way, you're including that person in your life, which has been shown to elicit liking (Bell & Daly, 1984). So, ask this person to come to a party you're throwing or to go to the movies or out to dinner, all of which will make this person feel like you want to be around him or her. Once you've established a sense of liking for one another and a relationship had begun to develop, don't forget to keep things interesting by going on unique dates and spicing things up.
3. Ask Questions
Asking questions to gain information about another person shows that you're interested in getting to know them and that can cause people to like you (Baxter & Philpott, 1982; Bell & Daly, 1984). Getting others to self-disclose information about themselves by inquiring is a great way to learn about your future romantic partner or friend and discover things that the two of you have in common. But remember, you don't want to get too personal too soon. Start with superficial questions like, "where did you go to school?" or "do you like Italian food?" And then after some time, you can move to more intimate questioning like, "what's your political affiliation?" or "what are your feelings about children?"
4. Do a Favor
Doing favors for other people has been shown to be a great strategy to make friends (Baxter & Philpott, 1982). Offering assistance, helping others, and volunteering to do something for someone else can generate feelings of liking. But be careful that you don't go overboard. Doing everything for someone can cause that person to walk all over you or cause you to resent that person in the future. There's a fine line between doing favors and doing everything.
Collins and Miller (1994) examined a large group of self-disclosure studies and found that self-disclosure definitely has the ability to cause people to like you. But, just like everything else, use some caution when disclosing and don't disclose too much too soon. Start with more superficial information like where you're from or what your favorite sports team is and then move to more intimate information like your stance on religion or a difficult experience you encountered in your life. Overall, self-disclosing and being open about yourself are excellent ways to elicit liking from your future romantic partner or friend.
6. Engage in Small Talk
It may not seem important, but effective small talk about trivial things like the latest Britney Spears scandal or the quest for the Superbowl Championship can springboard the conversation into more personal discussions about your hometown, profession, hobbies, and the like. In particular, small talk has been shown to be a very popular communication strategy to ask someone out on a date (Berger & Bell, 1988).
7. Give Gifts
No surprise here, but research (Baxter & Philpott, 1982; Bell & Daly, 1984) has shown that giving people gifts can cause them to like you. Surprising a potential mate or friend with little presents lets them know that you're thinking about them and that you like them, which can additionally cause them to like you. You could buy someone his/her favorite candy bar or even make him/her a little something special, but whatever you do, be sure to put some thought into your gifts for the best results.
8. Present a Positive Image
Being positive is a marvelous way to start, maintain, and intensify any relationship. So, it makes sense that presenting a positive self-image towards others is also a good way to generate liking from others (Berger & Bell, 1988). Being enthusiastic, optimistic, and energetic about life can easily make people like you. As I've written about before, optimistic people are viewed as much more attractive and approachable than pessimists. Once you get into a serious relationship, positivity continues to be very important for maintaining that relationship. But, careful that you're not positive ALL of the time. Being positive to avoid serious marital problems is not a good idea.
"Compliments and other cues which demonstrate that one thinks highly of the other" (Dindia & Timmerman, 2004, p. 696) has been shown to be an excellent way to make friends (Baxter and Philpott, 1982), flirt effectively, or start conversations with others. So, compliment your potential soulmate or future BFF, it can generate liking and maybe even start a relationship.
Unfortunately, liking isn't the only thing that keeps a relationship going strong, but it can definitely give your relationship a good foundation to build on.
- Baxter, L. A., & Philpott, J. (1982). Attribution-based strategies for initiating and terminating relationships. Communication Quarterly, 30, 217-224.
- Bell, R. A., & Daly, J. A. (1984). The affinity-seeking function in communication. Communication Monographs, 51, 91-115.
- Berger, C. R., & Bell, R. A. (1988). Plans and the initiation of social relationships. Human Communication Research, 15, 217-235.
- Collins, M. L. & Miller, L. C. (1994). The disclosure-liking link: From meta-analysis to a dynamic reconceptualization. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 457-475.
- Dindia, K., & Timmerman, L. (2004). Accomplishing romantic relationships. In J. Greene & B. R. Burleson (Eds.) Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah: NJ.
*This group of communication strategies was adapted from Dindia and Timmerman's book chapter entitled, "Accomplishing romantic relationships" in Greene and Burleson's 2004 Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills.