Did You Really ‘Click’ With Someone? A New Study Offers a Research-Backed Way to Tell

Sometimes when you’re meeting someone new, whether it’s a potential co-founder or your latest Tinder match, you just feel like you “click” with them. Conversation is easy, you understand each other naturally, and the whole process of getting to know each other feels fun and effortless.

It’s an experience we’ve all had, but what causes it, and is there even a certainty that both sides of the encounter felt as good as you think? Helpful new science offers answers.

Science explains why you “click” with someone.

Before we go into details of the new research recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it is worth pointing out why this quirky subject is worth studying. As we all know, the world lives on relationships. Whether you’re looking for entrepreneurial collaborators, new friends, or a romantic partner, it helps if you have a good sense of whether you’ve “clicked” with someone. Get it wrong and you could either be rejected outright or face painful revelations that don’t set you up as well as you thought down the line.

To explore the science of “clicking,” Dartmouth researchers recorded 322 conversations between strangers. Then they asked participants to rate their level of connection and determine the gaps between responses during the conversation. A very clear pattern emerged. The quicker the response times during the conversation, the more often the two parties said they felt it “clicked”.

And it was not only the interlocutors themselves who felt that the speakers were more connected the shorter the pauses in speaking. In a follow-up experiment, the researchers showed the same clips to outside observers. When they artificially shortened response times by manipulating the videos, observers rated the interlocutors as more closely related.

“On average, during a conversation, there is a gap of about a quarter of a second between turns,” explained researcher Thalia Wheatley. “When people feel like they can almost finish each other’s sentences, they close that 250-millisecond gap, and then two people click.”

In short, “clicking” with someone basically seems to get the conversation flowing without long pauses or awkward pauses. This is consistent with previous studies showing that charisma is closely correlated with reaction times. The faster you find an answer, the more charming you are likely to be perceived.

use insights.

That probably doesn’t come as much of a shock to someone who’s been eyeing the ending while desperately trying to figure out what to say next to a less-than-fit interlocutor. We’ve all experienced the awkwardness of a bumpy, slow-moving conversation. But the researchers behind the study insist they have scientific confirmation that feelings of social connectedness are closely linked to the rhythm of conversation and have practical value.

First, this is scientific confirmation of our instinct to judge conversations by their pauses. The shorter and rarer they are, the more likely you’ve clicked with someone. So if, after a short, fluent conversation, you conclude that you clicked with that job candidate or new colleague, you’re probably right.

“We should be prepared for this for our mental and physical health,” said another researcher, Emma Templeton Discover Magazine, discussion of response times. “We want to find people who understand us. It’s a beautiful thing that we have this signal.”

But Templeton also suggested the study could also have a more sci-fi application — to help engineers build AIs that “click” better with humans. “People crave social connection,” she says in the same article, “ideally, they can get it from another human being. But there is probably also a space to connect with robots.”

If you’re not developing chatbots, archive these insights into your “interesting trivia” think file. But the realization that “clicking” is a real, measurable phenomenon and that the fast back and forth rhythm of a conversation is decisive is suitable for everyday use. Not only can this result reassure you that you’re not going nuts about feeling like you’ve “clicked” with someone, it can also help steer future conversations toward greater feelings of connection by simply slowing down the pace of the conversation raise.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own and not those of Inc.com.