While at the pool on Sunday, my companions and I were people watching. One group we eventually focused on was a teenage couple that was particularly touchy-feely. We tried to figure out how old they were, whose parents they were with, and whether any of us could have felt so unconcerned about the parents and strangers around the blissfully unaware couple.
One of the women in our group finally decided to go ask their age. (15 – nope would not feel comfortable with a set of parents around.) The part of the story that became more entertaining quickly was how she got around to asking their age.
She began by asking how the two teens knew each other. That brought stares from the two who didn’t know how to respond to the question. The girl tried again: You two look so cute together. How long have you known each other? The couple responded to the second approach (a year) and answer the other quick questions my friend asked.
I kept thinking about this on the drive home from the pool. I’m not sure what they thought of the first question, or whether it was the surprise of someone intruding into what they thought was solitude, but they simply didn’t answer. The second question – which began with a compliment – drew them in. The couple responded when my friend framed the question in a friendly way.
It isn’t that “how do you know her” isn’t friendly. It’s neutral. But “you look so cute” is friendly. It reminds me of the old positive-negative-positive lesson of feedback that I was taught in high school.
Framing your remarks – even in an offhand and incidental conversation – is the best way to get a response.