Why a friendly conversation should be interrupted earlier than we are used to: the opinion of scientists on politeness

(ORDO NEWS) — In March of this year, researchers proved that most participants in any friendly conversation actually want the dialogue to end as soon as possible – it’s just politeness that does not allow them to confess or hint to the interlocutor.

Do you often find yourself in a situation where a polite dialogue with a relative or colleague takes too long? Believe me – in most cases, your interlocutor is just as not enthusiastic about a protracted dialogue. What’s stopping you both? Politeness!

While studying for a master’s degree at Oxford University, Adam Mastroianni faced a fear familiar to many: would he get stuck in a conversation without finding a way to politely interrupt the interlocutor?

Then Mastroianni thought: perhaps his future interlocutor was worried about the same thing. “What if we were all trapped in a conversation because we mistakenly think the other person wants to continue it?” he asks.

After 5 years and one scientific publication, Mastroianni found that both fears are well founded: most conversations do not end when people themselves want it to.

To get a clear idea of ​​how people were actually feeling during the conversation, Mastroianni, Ph.D. from Harvard University, and his colleagues invited 252 strangers into their lab.

They were paired up and given the opportunity to chat about anything for up to 45 minutes. Volunteers were told that any time they did not spend talking would be spent on other experimental tasks, so they were not motivated to end the discussion early.

Most couples just chatted about everyday nonsense: they asked where someone grew up and what they study. Mastroianni says that many conversations were so boring that “it was physically difficult to look at the interlocutors.”

The researchers then asked the participants how they rate their experience of recent conversations. Out of 126 conversations, only 2% ended at the request of both participants, as scientists reported in March 2021 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some soul extroverts wanted to chat longer, but 69% of the participants admitted that they wanted to end the conversation early. On average, people wanted their conversations to be 50% longer or shorter, depending on their sociability.

Why a friendly conversation should be interrupted earlier than we are used to the opinion of scientists on politeness 2

According to Mastroianni, the difference seems to be that people hide their true desires. Because the interlocutors fear that ending the conversation may be rude or offensive, they deliberately do not signal to others when they want to leave. According to him, because of this, it is difficult to guess what the interlocutor wants.

To see how well people intuitively understand their partners’ preferences, the researchers asked participants to guess what they thought their interlocutors wanted, and found that their estimates were far from reality: some underestimated and others overestimated how long their partners wanted. to talk.

At the same time, in about 60% of cases, both partners agreed that their conversation should have ended earlier or, conversely, later – but did not admit this to each other.

Mastroianni and his colleagues also polled 806 people on the Mechanical Turk online crowdsourcing platform, asking them to describe any recent face-to-face conversation — and how long they would actually like it to last.

As in the lab, 67% of people said they wanted to leave before the conversation ended in fact, and most of them also wished the conversation was 50% longer or shorter.

Notably, most of these dialogues were with friends and family. What is the conclusion from this? “The next time you’re talking to someone at a party, don’t try to guess if your partner wants to end or continue the conversation,” says Mastroianni.

“You really can’t figure out when the other person wants to leave. So just relax and enjoy the conversation, ”advises the scientist.


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