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Revealed: The key to becoming fast friends

Is it possible to be BFFs in a matter of minutes? Researchers say yes—here's how.

By Kristin Wong Feb 25, 2013 5:18PM

When you've known someone for ages and shared years' worth of experiences with them, it's only natural to become close friends. But every now and then, you meet someone who has immediate best friend potential — in only a few short moments, that person becomes comparable to a pal you've known for years.

Photo: Making friends / Ocean/CorbisResearchers from Stony Brook University have developed a protocol for becoming fast friends. They studied the dynamics of friendship to see if they could create a procedure for developing "interpersonal closeness" among strangers in a short amount of time.

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In short, they wanted to see if they could make two complete strangers besties in 45 minutes. 

The researchers gave subjects in pairs three sets of 12 questions. The questions were to be addressed in order, with partners taking turns answering. The first set of questions included only slightly personal inquires. "When did you last sing to yourself?" for example. Nothing too intimate.

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With the second set of questions, researchers forced subjects pry a little: "What's your most terrible memory?" "Is there something you've dreamed of doing for a long time?"

And finally, in the last set of questions, the subjects really got to know each other. That batch included personal inquiries like, "Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find the most disturbing?" and, "When did you last cry in front of another person?"

With each set of questions, subjects were also instructed to tell the other person what they liked about them.  The protocol worked — researchers were able to forge friendships among strangers in a matter of minutes. Their method has been aptly dubbed the "Fast Friends Technique."

Arthur Aron is the professor of psychology at the University who developed the protocol. He told the Wall Street Journal:

"You want to be slow and reciprocal. If you disclose too much too fast, you put some off."

Basically, don't overshare, he advises. TMI tends to turn people off.

Aron suggests using his method to improve relationships with business associates, neighbors and romantic partners.

Even though the technique is called "Fast Friends," the key is pacing. Information should be disclosed gradually.

We definitely don't recommend asking a complete stranger about the last time they cried.

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Photo: Making friends / Ocean/Corbis

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