When you need to know exactly what relationship two people share, with good listening skills, you’ll find the answer in the way they speak.
Have you ever sat quietly and observed two strangers talking and wondered how they knew each other, whether they were together, whether they were friends, and how close or how distant they were to one another? You’ve tried reading their body language, and you’ve looked for clues like a wedding ring or matching tattoos. But you still can’t be certain exactly what their relationship is.
It can be hard to determine exactly what relationship two people share. But with these listening skills you’ll be unravelling the mystery in no time.
Social Communication Clues that Reveal the Relationship
Strangers Use Cliches: Strangers, by necessity, use a lot of clichés as they are getting to know one another. They say things like, “Enjoying the weather?” “Do you come here often?” and the all important question “How you doing? . . . [with no follow up].” If two people are chatting through clichés, it’s a safe bet they don’t know each other particularly well. If, for instance, a guy and a girl are chatting in this way, you’ve no need to worry about approaching either.
Facts Without Emotion or Opinion: Another way in which two strangers or loose acquaintances talk is through facts with no opinions. “So, Murray lost the tennis,” “Did you know this summer has been the coldest in fifty years?” These sorts of questions are feeler questions, where a person puts a subject out there and sees what catches nibbles. They’re trying to determine what the other person does and does not like, what subjects to bring up and which to avoid. When two people speak in this way, they may know each other a little, but generally are not very close.
Personal Opinions about Unimportant Subjects: Casual friends are likely to give their opinions on unimportant subjects. “That Rooney, what a prick,” “Bloody Cameron’s cocked it up again” and so on. Equally, they may bring up important subjects while witholding their opinion. Questions like”How are the kids?” are popular among this type of relationship. If it’s between a guy and a girl, there may be some romantic interest on either side, but if there is a romantic relationship it’s likely in its early days.
Moderate opinions on Moderately Important Matter: It should come as little surprise after the previous two points to find that people who know each other quite well (for instance, who went to school together but weren’t best friends, or who are friendly at the office but not too close outside of it etc.) will speak in moderation. They won’t mind giving extreme opinions on somewhat important subjects, and they won’t mind speaking about important or personal subjects but will keep their opinions polite and agreeable. This type of conversation is also used by people in a new romantic relationship (less than 6 months), where they are learning to share important matters but are not yet so comfortable as to speak with complete freedom.
All in: The height of intimacy is revealed when people show no concern for giving extreme opinions on important subjects, often directed or about one another. If a person in this relationship is angry, it wouldn’t be too big a deal for them to say something along the lines of, “You’re a right prick sometimes.” They’ve grown close enough to be able to express their objections and anger if they need to. This should be the case in strong romantic relationships and in families (except where there is a clear authority figure, such as between father and son). It’s healthy to share honest feelings whether good or bad; it helps to resolve issues early on before they become genuine problems. Other all in comments might include, “This damn country is overrun with [insert race / class / some other discrimination].” You wouldn’t feel comfortable saying this to a stranger, nor to a friend you’re not particulraly close to, because you’re not 100% certain whether they’ll be offended, and if they are offended, you’re not 100% certain how they’ll react. But you wouldn’t mind saying these things to close friends or family, nor to a girlfriend or boyfriend you’ve been with for a long time.
Wherever you are and whoever you’re trying to read, you can determine a great deal about their relationship by listening to the exact way in which they’re speaking to one another.
Look for these clues, social detective, and you’ll unravel the riddle of the relationship in no time.