Close this search box.

Making Friends, Fast

In 1997, five people at Stony Brook University published a paper suggesting people could become good friends in under an hour. The term “good” obviously covers a lot of ground, but bear with me.

The initial study paired two complete strangers. The intuition was that questions inviting personal disclosure would lead to more disclosure and from their feelings of closeness.

This turned out to be an inspired insight.

Over the course of about 45 minutes, these two strangers took turns asking each other increasingly intimate questions.

It should be no surprise that everyone’s favorite topic is “me.” Expressing our thoughts and feelings makes us happier. It stimulates activity in the brain associated with anticipating and receiving rewards. It turns out it doesn’t matter if someone is listening, though that’s more fun.

The inverse is also true. Talking about sad stuff makes us sad.

The effect on the listener is similarly dramatic, creating a positive dynamic of increased liking and a desire for closeness. The effect is amplified with the discloser because the experience of being listened to is so rare.

As a random fun fact, many of the first study recipients stayed in touch after the experiment. Some even married!

There is a second learning besides the obvious first point (encouraging people to talk about themselves is good).  Sharing some of your own feelings and experiences in support of the other accelerates the effect.

If you want to “win friends and influence people,” the best things to do are:

  • Ask questions about thoughts and feelings (not facts).
  • Be prepared to share in return.