Knowing how to get to know someone is one of those things that seems simple on paper, but is often surprisingly difficult.
But why is that?
Well, getting to know someone is often easier said than done. Connecting on a surface level is a breeze – you do it with the person who serves your coffee or rings up your groceries all the time. Moving beyond the small talk, and into the get to know you questions and tactics, is what takes guts, effort, and a little know how.
Whether you’re pursuing a romance, a friendship, or a business relationship, the way that you approach the person makes all of the difference in the world.
Context is everything. There’s no universal one-size-fits-all approach to getting to know someone. These steps will dramatically help, but it’s up to you to know how to adapt your strategy and change gears on the fly.
Here are 13 steps to get to know someone:
1. Start with a Smile
I know, it seems too simple... but a smile goes a long way!
While it may take some time for someone to fully warm up to you, simply looking someone in the eye and smiling is the first step to forming a connection. And after all, getting to know a new person is fun.
The initial smile sets the tone for the coming conversation. A person is much more likely to be willing to open up if the mood is lighthearted and pressure-free. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being grilled.
2. Engage in Small Talk
Before you start getting too deep, just scratch the surface with some small talk. Your mutual surroundings should provide adequate inspiration. Talking about the weather is always an easy one. If you’re inside, you could remark on the décor.
This initial conversation is just to help the other person to feel more comfortable around you. It helps both of you to get to know each other’s mannerisms. Don’t over analyze it too much though – a few questions and answers back and forth is all it takes to open up the lines of communication.
Once you feel comfortable moving on to slightly more in-depth topics, you can use conversation starters to help the other person open up further.
3. Use Getting to Know You Conversation Starters
This is probably the most important step in knowing how to get to know someone:
The art of starting a conversation requires that you know your audience. Asking a potential employee about his pets would probably come off a bit weird. On the other hand, puppies and kittens make an easy, lighthearted conversation topic on a first date.
Good conversation starters are that middle ground between small talk and getting to know you questions that are a bit more personal. For example, you could ask what a person did over the weekend, or what kind of music they listen to.
These conversation starters help you to understand the person’s basic interests and hobbies. They’re not meant to be deep. At the same time, you wouldn’t typically use these conversation starters with a complete stranger, right? By asking them, you’re subtly moving the relationship forward.
Here are some of our favorite conversation starters:
- When you were a kid, what movie did you watch constantly?
- If you could go on a cross country road trip with a famous person, dead or alive, who would it be?
- If you could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of your life, which would it be?
- Morning person or night owl?
- Aside from TV/reading, what's your favorite indoor activity?
The goal of a conversation starter is to initiate a conversation. Do not just ask a question, listen to the answer, and then ask another question! These are conversation starters, not interview questions.
Allow the answers to lead into other topics naturally. Listen to the other person, but don’t forget to talk about yourself too. Find that balance.
4. Use Getting to Know You Questions
By now you should feel comfortable chatting with each other. Getting to know you questions help you to get a little more personal while still keeping things fun and casual.
The questions you ask are going to depend on who you’re talking to and what your goals are. Again, context is everything.
If you’re hanging out with a new friend, then you may want to use questions to ask to get to know a guy. If you’re on a date, questions to ask to get to know a girl may be more appropriate. When in doubt, it’s hard to go wrong with funny getting to know you questions.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- What's your all-time favorite movie?
- What do you think the absolute coolest hobby out there is?
- Past or present, who's your favorite athlete?
- What's your sport?
- What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?
- Cats or dogs?
- Where do you want to travel next?
- What activity/hobby makes you the happiest?
- What's on the top of your bucket list?
- What would her dream house be like?
- What is your most unusual talent?
- What's the funniest thing you've seen a kid do?
- What's the most useless product around today?
- If one animal was made the size of an elephant, which would be the scariest?
- If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
5. Talk about Yourself
You’ve been asking a lot of questions. That’s great – everyone loves a listener. At the same time, it’s important that the other person learns about you too.
Now, this may not be an issue if the other person is good at firing questions back at you. If not, you may need to talk about yourself a bit. Sharing information is a great way to connect with someone and open up the lines of communication further.
Try not to get too personal that you make the other person uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to push the limits a little bit. By opening up and offering personal details, you let them know that you’re willing to take the relationship beyond the surface level and into more meaningful territory.
6. Find Mutual Interests
By now, you should have some sort of a connection going. You’ve probably laughed, opened up a bit, and discovered new things about each other. Hopefully you’ve started to learn about the other person in a way that you can guess what they’re into.
Now you want to find some common ground. For example, if you both love a certain movie director, you can talk about your favorite films by him and why. This opens up the possibility for more in-depth discussion with film as the backdrop.
“Why did you feel that way about that character?”
“What would you have done in that character’s shoes?”
When you both have interests in common, it’s a window into other aspects of both of your lives. People feel more confident talking about things that they love and that they’re knowledgeable about.
Identifying and discussing mutual interests lets you get deeper without being too direct. After all, the person may be put off if you ask a personal question, but they may be willing to talk about personal things on their own, unprompted. Discover what makes the other person tick, and encourage them to talk about it.
7. Make Plans Based on Mutual Interests
By now, you should be able to tell if you want to continue pursuing a relationship. If so, make a plan based on your mutual interests. Even just suggesting that you two hang out in the future proves that you appreciate the other person’s company. This strengthens the existing bond.
Having plans on the horizon is the glue that keeps a relationship together. It’s the sunlight that keeps it growing. Even if you’re just meeting up for a quick drink after work, you’re on that person’s mind and part of their life.
8. Open Up More
By now you should feel comfortable around the person. You know about each other’s passions and beliefs. You may have had some great conversations, but you still haven’t really connected in that kind of way that solidifies a relationship.
It may be tempting to start asking deeper questions, but that can be a risky move. Instead, try talking about something personal.
Whether you’re talking about a past relationship, current family struggles, or a dream for the future you’ve never told anyone about, showing vulnerability makes the other person more willing to open up and meet you at that level.
9. Ask More Personal, Deep Questions
As a preface: when in doubt, don’t ask personal questions. When the time is right, you’ll know. Everyone is different, and some people may not be willing to put themselves out there until they trust you fully.
If you feel like you’ve earned that trust and reached that level, try a deep question to ask. If the person seems uncomfortable, don’t push the issue. Simply move on, and wait for a better opportunity down the road.
Here are some good starting points for deeper questions:
- What do you define as a family?
- How do you want to be remembered?
- What book has influenced you the most?
- In what ways are you a leader? In what ways are you a follower?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
However, you should always try to ask questions that are more specific to that person. For example: if you're talking with a woman, use these deep questions to ask a girl or these questions to ask a girl).
10. Connect on Social Media
If you haven’t yet, now is a good time to connect online. Following someone’s Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter lets you see a side of them that you may not get during face-to-face interactions.
The internet can also be a serious blessing for those who get nervous during face-to-face interactions. Sending someone a Facebook invite to an upcoming concert is a lot easier than directly asking them to join you!
11. Hang Out at Social Gatherings Together
Group hangouts make getting to know someone a lot easier. After all, people act differently based on who they’re with, so this gives you a chance to see the other sides of the person.
If you’re not at that one-on-one hangout level yet, invite the person to hang out with you and your friends. If there’s nothing going on, throw a party or invite the gang out for dinner.
The people you surround yourself with say a lot about you. Meeting your friends and/or family really helps to give the other person a full-spectrum impression of who you are, where you come from, and where you’re going.
12. Hang Out One-on-One
You suggested plans based on mutual interests back in step #7. Now it’s time to make good on those plans if you haven’t yet.
Whether you’re on a first man date with a new buddy, or getting more serious with that girl you met on Tinder, doing something with just the two of you really strengthens that existing bond.
By now, you should have a good idea of what kind of activities are going to go over well. If not, play it safe and invite them over for dinner and a movie at your place.
13. Be Dependable (Not Overbearing)
Now, it’s simply up to you to be a good friend. Lend an ear when they need to vent, or a shoulder when they need to cry. Do nice things for each other. Plan surprises. A solid relationship benefits both parties.
At the same time, one of the easiest ways to kill a relationship is to be too clingy. A healthy relationship requires personal space. Don’t be the guy calling or texting constantly. Eventually you’ll find that sweet spot, but when in doubt, play it cool.
Don’t look at this how to get to know someone guide like a manual that you have to follow to a T. Every single relationship is unique, and what works for one may not be ideal for another.
When it comes down to it, the best way to get to know someone is to be the type of person that other people want to get to know. You can’t force a relationship. You can do your best to cultivate it, but there are no guarantees. If it doesn’t work out – move on.
Above all, be empathetic. Treat people how you would want to be treated. Getting to know someone takes time, so don’t push too hard or fast. It all starts with a smile. From there, just be your charming, friendly, and charismatic self.