Turning Strangers Into Friends

You could tell if they were new acquaintances or old friends. You could tell whether a man and a woman were strangers or a couple.

You wouldn’t even need to hear friends call each other pal, buddy, or mate. You wouldn’t need to hear a man and a woman whisper dear, sweetheart, or turtle dove. It wouldn’t matter what they were discussing or even their tone of voice. You could even be blindfolded and tell a lot about their relationship because this technique has nothing to do with body language.

How? A fascinating progression of conversation unfolds as people become closer. Here’s how it develops:

Level One: Clichés

Two strangers talking together primarily toss clichés back and forth. For instance, when chatting about the universally-agreed-upon world’s-dullest subject, the weather, one stranger might say to the other, “Beautiful sunny weather we’ve been having.” Or, “Boy, some rain, huh?” That’s level one: clichés

Level Two: Facts

People who know each other, but are just acquaintances often discuss facts. “You know, Joe, we’ve had twice as many sunny days this year to date as last.” Or, “Yeah, well, we finally decided to put in a swimming pool to beat the heat.”

Level Three: Feelings and Personal Questions

When people become friends, they often express their feelings to each other, even on subjects as dull as the weather. “George, I just love these sunny days.” They also ask each other personal questions: How about you, Betty? Are you a sun person?

Level Four: We Statements

Now we progress to the highest level of intimacy. This level is richer than facts and creates more rapport than feelings. It’s we and us statements. Friends discussing the weather might say, if we keep having this good weather, it’ll be a great summer. Lovers might say, I hope this good weather keeps up for us so we can go swimming on our trip.

A technique to achieve the ultimate verbal intimacy grows out of this phenomenon. Simply use the word we prematurely. You can use it to make a client, a prospect, a stranger feel you are already friends. Use it to make a potential romantic partner feel the two of you are already an item. Leil Lowndes, calls it the “Premature We.” In casual conversation, simply cut through levels one and two. Jump straight to three and four.

-“How to Talk to Anyone,” by Leil Lowndes

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