Connection is a basic human need, and in the wake of the pandemic, people are craving deeper, more authentic interactions more than ever—even with relative strangers.
Just ask behavioral science researchers Nicholas Epley, Michael Kardas, and Amit Kumar, who joined forces to conduct conversational experiments with 1,800 people and released the results in October 2021. Overall, they found that people were surprised by how much happier and more connected they felt after having more intimate, substantial conversations with new acquaintances (regardless of gender and whether they identified as extroverted or introverted).
The researchers’ takeaway? “Replacing casual conversations with something deeper could be the cure for late-pandemic malaise.“
Yet it’s no secret that many people find true connection with others to be challenging. The same studies also found that participants had previously favored small talk and shied away from more meaningful conversations in the past, simply because they anticipated such dialogue might be awkward or that the other person might just be indifferent.
Whether strangers or spouses, all relationships begin with an initial conversation, so learning how to forge meaningful connections from minute one is certainly a helpful skill to nurture. Over time, lasting connections will be further built upon sharing, collaboration, and mutual respect.
So how can you start the process of getting to know someone on a deeper level? Consider these ideas for doing just that.
How to get to know someone on a deeper level
Acknowledge that deepening a connection can take time. Learning about someone else is an ongoing process, one that can take about six months on average before knowing whether you consider someone marriage material. Ultimately, getting to know someone becomes more meaningful when we embrace this process and let it unfold organically—accepting that there may be initial awkwardness or even some hiccups along the way.
The process of getting to know someone involves reciprocity, asking meaningful questions, listening actively, and responding genuinely. Here is the process broken down step-by-step.
Give and take.
Getting to know someone is a reciprocal endeavor. To get something out of it, each person needs to give and not just take—the key being to strike a healthy balance. Ideally, time spent talking should feel like an exchange in which both people feel heard and neither person unnecessarily dominates the dialogue. (Some experts liken the concept of reciprocal conversation to a “game of catch.”)
For instance, ask questions, but not so many that the person feels they are being interviewed. Don’t rattle off one question after another. Instead, pause and reflect on the person’s answer and relate to it. The same goes for oversharing and repeatedly talking over someone—keep in mind that it takes two to have a meaningful conversation.
Figuring out how to get to know someone can be anxiety-provoking. Because of this, we sometimes tend to stick to easy, surface-level questions such as, “What’s your favorite color?” or “Do you have pets?”
Though these types of questions can sometimes feel somewhat tedious, small talk does actually play a helpful role in getting to know someone. It can often help people who are new to each other build rapport and match energy, figure out what’s “safe” to discuss, and study someone’s non-verbal cues to understand what they’re really saying.
And yet there’s room for more substantive interaction as well. The studies conducted by Epley, Kardas, and Kumar found that participants ultimately resonated more with questions like, “For what do you feel most grateful?” or “Can you describe a time you cried in front of another person?”
For all of these reasons, the best conversations often include a mix of surface-level and more probing questions. For example, “What do you do for a living?” might seem surface-level, but followed by something like, “Why is that fulfilling for you?” it becomes illuminating.
Here are some questions you can ask to get to know someone better.
- “What are your current aspirations??”
- “Who are the people in your life that inspire you?”
- “What pisses you off?”
- “What’s your favorite way to decompress?”
- “Tell me about the things you’re excited about right now.”
Listen thoughtfully and respond genuinely.
It’s difficult to establish a meaningful connection with someone unless you are practicing mindful listening. As our own Keepler credo states, mindful dating is all about learning to be present. When you’re with someone, really be with them. If your mind wanders away from the conversation, notice it and acknowledge it, then gently refocus on the task of getting to know the person in front of you.
Getting to know someone on a deeper level also involves authenticity—not just listening with your whole self, but answering in an authentic, genuine way by keeping your values top of mind. What do you care about most in this life? Some people value honesty, integrity, compassion; others value wealth, autonomy.
When you think about dating in a way that honors your own values, ask yourself, “What kind of person do I want to be when I’m dating/getting to know someone?” Respond in ways that honestly reflect what you value in life.
Be willing to adapt when you can’t get to know someone in person.
COVID-19 marked a huge shift in how humans relate to each other. Many people had very limited in-person social interactions, if at all.
One of the silver linings of this massive shift was the realization that it’s possible to get to know someone on a deeper level through different mediums. Our ability to connect with someone is no longer restricted to meeting them in person.
Take advantage of using multiple forms of communication. Many dating apps allow users to send messages before meeting in person. You can take this a step further by utilizing a phone or video call to get to know someone. Think of these calls as warm-ups or practices for when you’re ready to meet IRL.
While utilizing different communication mediums, keep the aforementioned principles in mind. Just because you aren’t sitting face-to-face doesn’t mean the interaction is less valuable. Be sure to continue to show genuine interest and show up as your authentic self. When you’re on video, keep good eye contact and lean in to show you are listening. Continue to ask meaningful questions to truly get to know your partner.
Establishing connection takes time, and everyone gets to know people at their own pace. You can get to know someone more quickly by asking more meaningful questions that give you insight into the other person and their values. Make sure you are giving as much as you are taking, and listen thoughtfully and respond genuinely as your authentic self. These strategies will increase your odds of finding a partner who is a suitable match for your needs.
Craving true connection? If you’re ready to date like a human again, sign up for early access to the forthcoming Keepler dating app here.