Tag Archives: #relationships

What to Say to Make the Most Memorable First Impression? (Psychology)

Many people remember the words of others long after they met, even if they only met once. Words evoke emotion, which creates memories—for better or for worse. Positive memories of people based on the impact of their words can be powerful building blocks upon which to build relationships, both personal and professional. Whether you are looking for a new paramour or a new employer, thoughtfully pairing your words with positive emotion is a valuable investment in your future.

The Way You Make Me Feel

We all have friends, neighbors, or coworkers that we love to run into, not only because we anticipate positive conversation, but because of the way their face lights up with a smile when they see us, expressing authentically consistent interest in our lives. We also have people we would rather avoid—often because their negativity is similarly expressed both verbally and visually.

The sentiment has been attributed to the famous American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou as well as others, that people will forget what you said, but will remember how you made them feel. Personal experience corroborates this observation, as does research.

Stephanie S.A. Blom et al. in a piece aptly entitled “Perceiving Emotions in Visual Stimuli” (2020) recognized how social display of emotional facial expressions interaction can reveal the inner emotional states of interaction partners.[i] Among other findings, they recognized increasing levels of supporting contextual information as a way to increase the amount of emotion detection for words, but not facial expressions. They summarize their results as suggesting that the addition of emotionally relevant voice elements provides a method of positively influencing the detection of emotion.

This finding is significant in assessing potential social advantages through the appropriate combination of words and emotion. Blom et al. recognize the positive impact emotions can have on the processing of spoken words, citing the example of how reading aloud to young children positively impacts social-emotional development. We can imagine how many conversations in our own lives can be enhanced through pairing encouraging and inspiring words with contextually appropriate positive emotion. Authentic expressions of interest, respect, and admiration are memorable during a first meeting, as well as within established relationships. And apparently, according to other research, every word matters.

Words as Emotional Speech

Marisa G. Filipe et al. (2015), examined the impact of single words on perceived emotion.[ii] Filipe et al. define emotional prosody as referring to “the variation in acoustic cues such as fundamental frequency (F0), amplitude (or intensity), timing, and voice quality during speech that is used to convey the emotional meaning of an utterance.” Conducting their research in the Portuguese language, they investigated the impact of perceptual and acoustic characterization on the expression of liking and disliking. Using 30 study participants to identify vocal patterns as well as the intensity of expressed affect in single pre-recorded words, they found that participants consistently linked vocal profiles with perceived liking and disliking, finding intonation of liking intonation easier to recognize.

Although the authors recognize that additional research may clarify whether affect recognition and vocal cues may have different impacts across different languages, studies like this arguably highlight the significance of the interplay between emotion and words—even single words.

Words and Emotion

In light of research and experience, both empirical and anecdotal, we expect that words of encouragement and inspiration will be more memorable when they are accompanied by positive emotion. When you take advantage of this emotionally charged opportunity to authentically empower and inspire others, your audience is likely to remember not only how your words made them feel, but remember you—fondly.

References: [i] Blom, Stephanie S. A. H., Henk Aarts, and Gün R. Semin. 2020. “Perceiving Emotions in Visual Stimuli: Social Verbal Context Facilitates Emotion Detection of Words but Not of Faces.” Experimental Brain Research, November. doi:10.1007/s00221-020-05975-9. [ii] Filipe, Marisa G., Paulo Branco, Sónia Frota, São Luís Castro, and Selene G. Vicente. 2015. “Affective Prosody in European Portuguese: Perceptual and Acoustic Characterization of One-Word Utterances.” Speech Communication 67 (March): 58–64. doi:10.1016/j.specom.2014.09.007.

Copyright of this article totally belongs to Wendy L. Patrick who, is a career trial attorney, behavioral analyst, author of Red Flags, and co-author of Reading People. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses

Couple Life: Dating Apps Don’t Destroy Love (Psychology)

Contrary to earlier concerns, a UNIGE study has shown that people who met their partners on dating applications have often stronger long-term relationship goals, and that these new ways of meeting people encourage socio-educational and geographical mixing.

Mobile apps have revolutionised the way people meet in Switzerland and elsewhere in recent years. Unlike traditional dating sites, these apps do not feature detailed user profiles but are largely based on rating photos using a swipe review system. As dating apps escalated in popularity, so has criticism about them encouraging casual dating only, threatening the existence of long-term commitment, and possibly damaging the quality of intimacy. There is no scientific evidence, however, to validate these claims. A study by the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, provides a wealth of information about couples who met through dating apps, drawing on data from a 2018 Swiss survey. The results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, indicate that app-formed couples have stronger cohabitation intentions than couples who meet in a non-digital environment. What is more, women who found their partner through a dating app have stronger desires and intentions to have children than those who found their partner offline. Despite fears concerning a deterioration in the quality of relationships, partners who met on dating apps express the same level of satisfaction about their relationship as others. Last but not least, the study shows that these apps play an important role in modifying the composition of couples by allowing for more educationally diverse and geographically distant couples.

The meteoric rise of romantic encounters on the internet is on its way of becoming the leading place where couples are formed in Switzerland, on a par with meeting via friends. “The Internet is profoundly transforming the dynamics of how people meet,” confirms Gina Potarca, a researcher at the Institute of Demography and Socioeconomics in UNIGE’s Faculty of Social Sciences, and holder of an Ambizione research grant awarded by the Swiss National Science Foundation to study the effects of digital ways of communicating on marriage formation and sorting. “It provides an unprecedented abundance of meeting opportunities, and involves minimal effort and no third-party intervention.” These new dating technologies include the smartphone apps like Tinder or Grindr, where users select partners by browsing and swiping on pictures. These apps, however, have raised fears: “Large parts of the media claim they have a negative impact on the quality of relationships since they render people incapable of investing in an exclusive or long-term relationship. Up to now, though, there has been no evidence to prove this is the case,” continues Dr Potarca.

Facilitated encounters

The Geneva-based researcher decided to investigate couples’ intentions to start a family, their relationship satisfaction and individual well-being, as well as to assess couple composition. Dr Potarca used a 2018 family survey by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. The analysis presented in this study looks at a sub-sample of 3,235 people over the age of 18 who were in a relationship and who had met their partner in the last decade.
Dr Potarca found that dating websites – the digital tools for meeting partners that preceded apps – mainly attracted people over the age of 40 and / or divorcees who are looking for romance. “By eliminating lengthy questionnaires, self-descriptions, and personality tests that users of dating websites typically need to fill in to create a profile, dating apps are much easier to use. This normalized the act of dating online, and opened up use among younger categories of the population.”

Searching for a lasting relationship

Dr Potarca sought to find out whether couples who met on dating apps had different intentions to form a family. The results show that couples that formed after meeting on an app were more motivated by the idea of cohabiting than others. “The study doesn’t say whether their final intention was to live together for the long- or short-term, but given that there’s no difference in the intention to marry, and that marriage is still a central institution in Switzerland, some of these couples likely see cohabitation as a trial period prior to marriage. It’s a pragmatic approach in a country where the divorce rate is consistently around 40%.” In addition, women in couples that formed through dating apps mentioned wanting and planning to have a child in the near future, more so than with any other way of meeting.

But what do couples who met in this way think about the quality of their relationship? The study shows that, regardless of meeting context, couples are equally satisfied with their lives and the quality of their relationship.

Couples with a diverse socio-educational profile

The study highlights a final aspect. Dating apps encourage a mixing of different levels of education, especially between high-educated women and lower educated men. Partners having more diversified socio-educational profiles “may have to do with selection methods that focus mainly on the visual,” says the researcher. Since users can easily connect with partners in their immediate region (but also in other spaces as they move around), the apps make it easier to meet people more than 30 minutes away – leading to an increase in long-distance relationships.
“Knowing that dating apps have likely become even more popular during this year’s periods of lockdown and social distancing, it is reassuring to dismiss alarming concerns about the long-term effects of using these tools,” concludes Dr Potarca.

Reference: Potarca G (2020) The demography of swiping right. An overview of couples who met through dating apps in Switzerland. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0243733. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0243733 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0243733

Provided by Universite de Geneve

How Narcissists Keep Their Mates From Leaving or Cheating (Psychology)

New research explores mate retention behaviors in narcissists’ relationships.

An article by Zeigler-Hill and coauthors, published in the November issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, examines how narcissists keep their romantic partners from breaking up with them or cheating on them.


Mate retention: Cost inflicting and benefit provisioning

Narcissistic people often have poor relationships, in part because they usually utilize relationships for self-serving purposes (e.g., to feel good about themselves, improve their social status).

Nevertheless, narcissists engage in some of the same behavioral strategies we all do to maintain romantic relationships and prevent breakup and cheating. These strategies are called mate retention behaviors.

Mate retention behaviors include benefit-provisioning and cost-inflicting tactics. Benefit provisioning behaviors refer to low-risk tactics that increase relationship satisfaction. Some examples are the giving of compliments or gifts.

Cost-inflicting behaviors, in contrast, are high-risk tactics that make infidelity or breakup very difficult or costly for one’s romantic partner. Though these behaviors may target potential rivals (e.g., making threats), they are often directed at one’s own partner. Some examples are punishing one’s romantic partner directly (e.g., inflicting financial hardships, limiting the person’s access to friends and family) or indirectly (e.g., using forms of psychological manipulation such as gaslighting).

Cost-inflicting approaches are considered high-risk because the victimized partner might respond by retaliating or leaving the relationship. Therefore, cost-inflicting behaviors are rarely used alone (without benefit-provisioning).

The Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Concept

To examine the association between mate retention behaviors and narcissism, Zeigler-Hill and colleagues used a model called the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Concept.

According to this model, narcissists try to maintain a grandiose sense of self by using one of two strategies (see Figure 1):

  • Narcissistic admiration (self-promotion and self-enhancement): Narcissists attain social admiration by promoting themselves—for instance, trying to come across as self-assured and charming.
  • Narcissistic rivalry (antagonistic self-defense and self-protection): Narcissists defend themselves in a combative way, such as by aggressively devaluing potential rivals. This strategy is usually adopted when the first strategy cannot be used successfully.
Source: Back et al., 2013 (arash emamzadeh)

The current investigation: Samples and measures

To see how narcissistic admiration and rivalry are associated with mate retention behaviors, Zeigler-Hill et al. conducted three studies.

Study 1: 625 undergraduates (112 men); average age of 20 years; 82% White. The criteria for inclusion in this and following studies included involvement in a heterosexual relationship for the length of at least three months. In the sample in Study 1, the median length of the romantic relationship was 1.8 years. About 85% were dating, 7% cohabitating, 3% engaged, and 5% married.

Study 2: 349 participants (53 men); average age of 20 years; 85% White. The median length of the relationship: 1.9 years. Nearly 85% were dating, 3% engaged, 3% married, and 9% cohabitating.

Study 3: 373 individuals (58 men); average age of 20 years; 84% White. The median relationship length was close to 1.8 years. And 86% were dating, 8% cohabitating, 1% engaged, and 5% married.

Participants were asked to fill out various measures of narcissism, in addition to measures of mate retention behaviors, reactive jealousy (experienced in reaction to a romantic partner’s flirting behaviors or infidelity, for example), suspicious jealousy (experienced in reaction to suspicions regarding a partner’s interest in others), dominance orientation (inducing fear to attain status), and prestige orientation (earning status through competence).

Results: Effects of narcissism on mate retention behaviors

Positive associations were found between narcissistic admiration and benefit-provisioning actions, and between narcissistic rivalry and cost-inflicting actions. Let us look at each association in turn.

Narcissistic admiration:

The data showed the tactics of narcissistic admiration for maintaining romantic relationships are similar to techniques used to maintain grandiose self-views.

To explain what this means, let me use the example of resource display (e.g., giving extravagant gifts). Giving expensive gifts is benefit-provisioning and obviously benefits the narcissist’s partner, but it is also self-promoting and self-enhancing for the narcissist.  It is about the needs of the narcissist to maintain a grandiose sense of self—being the kind of person who can and does give extravagant and expensive gifts.

Of course, not all narcissistic attempts to self-enhance necessarily benefit a narcissist’s romantic partner. Cost-inflicting behaviors may also be used, especially when a narcissist experiences a high degree of suspicious jealousy.

Narcissistic rivalry:

Data showed narcissistic rivalry was associated with an inclination to perform cost-inflicting behaviors (e.g., intimidation, coercion, physical violence).

Given the link between narcissistic rivalry and these aversive techniques, it is no surprise that narcissistic rivalry is linked with poor relationship functioning. Even if the goal of this strategy is to maintain the relationship and prevent infidelity, using threats and force can encourage cheating or the dissolution of the relationship.


In summary:

1. Narcissists who use the strategy of narcissistic rivalry engage in cost-inflicting behaviors.

2. Narcissists using the strategy of narcissistic admiration perform benefit-provisioning behaviors but switch to cost-inflicting behaviors when experiencing high levels of suspicious jealousy.

In other words, to maintain their relationships, narcissists who often feel unable to self-promote and self-enhance may threaten and intimidate their romantic partner. Narcissists who are resourceful and can easily self-promote are likely to perform beneficial acts for their partner (e.g., buying expensive jewelry, going to fancy restaurants). However, if experiencing high levels of jealousy, these narcissists may also use threats or intimidation.

Copyright of this article totally belongs to its original writer Arash Emamzadeh. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses.

Discomfort Is Good for You (Psychology)

Being uncomfortable with ourselves is one of our inbuilt early warning systems. Sometimes it’s as simple as feeling guilty because we have behaved badly or done something we know isn’t right and serves as a useful reminder. However, we can experience discomfort when we go against others’ expectations of ourselves or break a pattern of behaviour. If you have taken the role of the “nice” or “reliable” or “compliant” person in your family or in certain relationships, then if you step outside this role others will not like it and you will feel uncomfortable. Often you will feel uncomfortable to the point where you step back into the role. The more manipulative people around you will deliberately indicate in manner or speech that you have let them down in order that you do feel discomfort. What you have actually done is to choose your preferences over theirs and this sort of discomfort is good; a timely reminder not to discount yourself.


It is not always the best path to choose what you want over what others want. As parents, we often sacrifice our desires in the care of our children, and this is wise. If we are in certain jobs we may have to do things we don’t like and when you take on certain roles you know that is part of the job. Before you take a job you need to make sure it sits well with your values although, admittedly, we are sometimes not in a financial position to be choosy. What I say to my clients is “Does this make sense for you?” Sometimes it makes sense to take a certain job or behave in a certain way for the bigger picture—your financial security or the welfare of your children—but sometimes it does not.

Ignoring your own values and needs is bad for your health and can lead to serious illness. In The Body Says No, Gabor Maté explains how we become ill when we subsume our needs for those of others. He suggests that when faced with a choice of feeling guilt or resentment that we should always choose guilt. We can live with guilt, which is a socially constructed feeling, but resentment is corrosive and damaging. Sally Brampton says, “Resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Resentment is anger turned inward when we have gone against what we want, need, or what makes sense for us.

Your boundaries are the limits that you set, both within and without, for how you are to be treated and regarded. I often say treat yourself how you expect others to treat you. If you disregard your needs, others will too. If you constantly do things you don’t want to or regard as unfair, others will expect this of you. Boundaries get better the more you use them. Work out what your limits are. Your boundaries will be different with different people. Some people require obvious and rigid boundaries—think teenagers! Others less so—think trusted friend. You need to think about what is right and works for you, regardless of others’ opinions. Then test out your criteria and adjust as you find what works and what doesn’t. Practice saying “No, I can’t do that.” Without any qualifying statement … no “because,” or “at the moment”—just, “No, I can’t do that.” You are not required to justify yourself to others. You need to “walk the walk” and behave to others as you wish to be behaved to. If you don’t like being questioned when you’ve said no, don’t do it to others. If you don’t like your wishes being subsumed, don’t do it to others. Live your beliefs and boundaries and they become you.

Boundaries are uniquely individual. I cannot choose yours and you cannot choose mine. Our boundaries must be a projection of who we are and in this way carry no judgment value—you cannot step inside another person and judge what they choose. You need to stick by your boundaries (once you have decided what they are) and live with the discomfort caused by others’ expectations as they adjust to the “new” you. This sort of discomfort is good—enjoy the guilt and let go of the resentment! Stick to your beliefs and you will find that others respect and like you for it. What’s more to the point, you will be happier and healthier and you will like yourself.

References: (1) Mate, Gabor (2003) When the Body Says No. Alfred A Knopf, Canada. (2) Brampton, S (2009), Shoot the Damn Dog. Bloomsbury Publishing

This article is originally written by Atalanta Beaumont, who is a former psychotherapist trained in the methodology of Transactional Analysis and the author of Handy Hints for Humans. This article republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses.

The Tree Of Cortical Cell Types Describes the Diversity Of Neurons in the Brain (Neuroscience)

The tree of life describes the evolution of life and seeks to define the relationships between species. Likewise, the tree of cell types aims to organize cells in the brain into groups and describe their relationships to each other.

Neurons in the motor cortex come in a variety of shapes. Credit: The authors/Nature, 2020.

Scientists have long pondered just what the brain’s tree of cell types looks like. Now, an international collaboration led by Dr. Andreas Tolias from Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Philipp Berens from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Dr. Rickard Sandberg from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, has published an article in Nature that provides one of the most detailed and complete characterizations of the diversity of neural types in the brain so far.

Uncovering the shape of the tree of cortical cell types with Patch-seq

Neuroscientists mostly use three fundamental features to describe neurons: their anatomy, or how they look under a microscope; their physiology, or how they respond when stimulated; and, more recently, the genes they express, which are known as their transcriptome.

For this study, the research team used an experimentally challenging technique that they developed several years ago, called Patch-seq. This technique allowed them to collect a large multimodal database including genetic, anatomical and physiological information from single cells in the mouse motor cortex.

“Gathering all these three fundamental features from the same set of neurons was the key that enabled us to get a much deeper understanding of how neurons in the motor cortex are related to each other and a clearer view of how the tree of cell types looks like,” said co-first author Dr. Federico Scala, postdoctoral associate in Tolias lab at Baylor.

Dr. Dmitry Kobak, also co-first author and a research scientist in Berens lab, described that while the broad genetic families of neurons had distinct anatomical and physiological properties, within each family the neurons exhibited extensive anatomical and physiological diversity. Importantly, all the three basic neuronal characteristics (anatomy, physiology and transcriptome) were correlated, which enabled the team to find interesting links between them.

“Our data supports the view that the tree of cortical cell types may look more like a banana tree with few big leaves rather than an olive tree with many small ones. This view provides a simpler model to describe the diversity of neurons we find in the brain. We believe that this simpler view will lead to a more principled understanding of why we have so many cell types in the brain to begin with and what they are used for,” said Tolias, Brown Foundation Endowed Chair of Neuroscience and director of the Center for Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence at Baylor.

In this metaphor, neurons follow a hierarchy consisting of distinct, non-overlapping branches at the level of families, the large leaves of the banana tree. Within each family, neurons show continuous changes in their genetic, anatomical and physiological features, and all three features within a family are correlated. In parallel, in work published simultaneously in Cell, scientists from the Allen Institute of Brain Science in Seattle obtained very similar results from mouse visual cortex underscoring that this view of cell types may be a general building principle of brain circuits.

This study is part of the NIH-funded BRAIN initiative cell census network (BICCN), whose aim is to fully characterize the cellular taxonomy of neurons in the cortex of mice, monkeys and humans with the goal of ultimately providing cell type specific targets for treating neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.

Others who took part in the study include Matteo Bernabucci, Yves Bernaerts, Cathryn René Cadwell, Jesus Ramon Castro, Leonard Hartmanis, Xiaolong Jiang, Sophie Laturnus, Elanine Miranda, Shalaka Mulherkar, Zheng Huan Tan, Zizhen Yao and Hongkui Zeng.

References: Federico Scala et al, Phenotypic variation of transcriptomic cell types in mouse motor cortex, Nature (2020). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2907-3 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2907-3

Provided by Baylor College of Medicine 

Why People Become Defensive And How to Address It (Psychology)

Addressing why defensiveness manifests will help relationships, conflict management and decision making to reduce defensiveness.

Defensive behaviours are common responses when people feel personally attacked but can undermine our ability to identify problems and find solutions.

Addressing why defensiveness manifests will help relationships, conflict management and decision making to reduce defensiveness meet people’s psychological need for belonging, according to a study.

Research published in the British Journal of Social Psychology has shown that defensiveness in response to wrongdoing is exacerbated by making the wrong doer feel like they’re an outcast.

Psychological defensiveness includes the many ways that we let ourselves off the hook when we do wrong: misrepresenting or misremembering what occurred, not paying attention to information that is critical deflecting blame to others, minimising any harm caused, denying responsibility or disengaging entirely from the situation.

The research conducted at Flinders University by Professor Michael Wenzel, Associate Professor Lydia Woodyatt, and Dr Ben McLean, from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, is focused on understanding and reducing defensive responses.

“This research shows that defensiveness is strengthened by negative social responses, but is reduced when people feel secure in their group identity, respected and valued,” says Associate Professor Woodyatt.

“Based on our research over the past several years, our recommendations for reducing defensiveness when dealing with someone who may have done something wrong is to emphasise respect and value for the person, even if you disagree with their views or actions. Also provide opportunity for the person to express their values prior to talking about the specific problem.”

The researchers outline why defensive responses to transgressions undermine our ability to identify a problem correctly and act to solve it, negatively impacting on decision-making within government and organizations, in relationships, and even in relation to our own individual wellbeing.

“Of course these responses do not always feel natural or easy – especially when faced with someone who we think has done wrong to us. Our instinct is also self-protective. As a result when people are caught doing something wrong in our society we often stigmatise, reject or punish them, but this is likely only strengthening those defensive responses over time, not just of that person but of other people in similar situations.”

Psychological defensiveness is an evolved self-protective response, and in some mild forms may have some benefits such as helping us to bounce back after failures and helping us to maintain optimism and self-esteem- but defensiveness also has costs.

“Defensiveness creates blind spots in decision-making. When individual and groups respond defensively problems go unrecognised, victims go unacknowledged, and relationships deteriorate.”

The researchers examined defensiveness in response to interpersonal transgressions and perceived ethical violations. In these contexts, defensiveness (denying responsibility, deflecting blame, minimising harm, and moral justifications) increased when people felt stigmatised or rejected.

“Humans have a primary psychological need to be valued and included by others, to feel that they are good and appropriate group members or relationship partners,” says Associate Professor Woodyatt.

“When people do something wrong this primary psychological need is threatened, driving a defensive response. But addressing that psychological need to belong can reduce their defensiveness.”

Alternatively, people were less defensive when they were secure in their own group identity- achieved through reinforcing their own values prior to discussing the underlying event.

“While it is beyond this research, we suggest that Restorative practices and Acceptance Commitment Therapy are both readily available frameworks that can help an individual or group when working through wrongdoing and will likely reduce defensiveness because both approaches provide strategies in line with these recommendations.”

The new paper- The effects of moral/social identity threats and affirmations on psychological defensiveness following wrongdoing (2020) by Professor Michael Wenzel (Flinders University), Associate Professor Lydia Woodyatt (Flinders University), and Dr Ben McLean (Flinders University) has been published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

References: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12378

Provided by Flinders University

How to Spark Powerful Chemistry Through Simple Conversation (Psychology)

Have you ever met someone and instantly clicked? Most of us have. Thinking back, what created the spark? Most likely it was a combination of topic, tone, and tenor–but it no doubt happened within a verbal exchange. Conversation is one of the easiest ways to connect. Although not everyone likes to talk. Some people are shy, aloof, emotionally distant, or otherwise unapproachable. You may have tried (unsuccessfully) for years to soften up a standoffish employee at the office, only to hit it off instantly with a stranger at the airport. Apparently, familiarity is not the deciding factor. So what is? Research has some answers.

Let’s Talk: Topics and Tactics

Because chemistry is created through conversation, topics matter.  Whether you are seeking to cultivate a relationship personally or professionally, successful ice breakers are questions the other person actually wants to answer.  Thankfully, there are some tried and true safe harbors within the subject spectrum. 

Source: Image by icsilviu from Pixabay

Unless there are significant privacy concerns, asking about someone’s children is a relatively safe subject that prompts people to open up—usually with great enthusiasm.  And in terms of furthering a pleasurable exchange, listening to a gushing recitation of an eldest son’s football career, or a daughter’s promotion at work gives you an abundance of information to follow up on. 

But creating chemistry requires more than pleasurable topics.  Consider how much more than words are exchanged when two people are talking.  Pace, tone, body language, facial expression, and emotion.  We form interpersonal bonds and build rapport nonverbally in many different situations—with many different types of people.   Research corroborates these observations. 

Chemistry Goes Beyond Content

Namkje Koudenburg et al. (2017) studied the impact of conversational form, beyond its content, on the emergence and regulation of social structure.[i]  They recognize the importance of social interaction to the formation of social relationships and groups.  Acknowledging widespread knowledge about the importance of conversational content, they focused on how the act of conversing, regardless of the content, impacts a sense of solidarity. They note that conversation micro-characteristics such as smooth turn-taking and brief silences have the potential to significantly impact relationship regulation and a sense of solidarity. They opine this result is due to the fact that conversation form represents group social structure and provides a continuous assessment of group norms, hierarchy, and shared reality.   But there’s more.

On The Same Wavelength

Koudenburg et al. cite previous research in recognizing that we validate our viewpoints by exchanging information with other people.  Yet they note that a sense of shared reality does not emerge merely through information exchange or comparing opinions, it is created through a subjective experience of smooth conversation flow—because of the visceral sensation of being on the same wavelength. 

Accordingly, we should be more successful in connecting with others when discussing matters of mutual interest.  Think this through beforehand when you are seeking to make a good impression, you no doubt have some type of interest in common with everyone.  Breaking the ice with strategically selected (safe) subjects will spark both conversation and chemistry.  

The Role of Rapport

Other research adds an additional layer to the chemistry analysis, discussing the importance of building rapport.  Zachary G. Baker et al. (2020) explain that rapport plays an important role in satisfying basic psychological needs.[ii] They describe rapport as positively linked to liking, cooperation, self-disclosure, and affiliation.  In their research, Baker et al. found rapport independently predicted need satisfaction in the areas of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.  

Also, of interest, Baker et al. found that the relationships between interaction partners did not moderate the resulting associations. This last point is of particular interest when attempting to build relationships with acquaintances or even strangers; rapport is not only possible, but a powerful way to bond socially.  

The bottom line appears to be that as we trial attorneys know after years of questioning witnesses, it’s not just what you say but how you say it.  The same applies to sparking chemistry through conversation.  Topic, tone, and tenor have the potential to become relational building blocks,  allowing you to authentically connect with anyone.

References: [i] Koudenburg, Namkje, Tom Postmes, and Ernestine H. Gordijn. 2017. “Beyond Content of Conversation: The Role of Conversational Form in the Emergence and Regulation of Social Structure.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 21 (1): 50–71. doi:10.1177/1088868315626022. [ii] Baker, Zachary G., Emily M. Watlington, and C. Raymond Knee. 2020. “The Role of Rapport in Satisfying One’s Basic Psychological Needs.” Motivation and Emotion, January. doi:10.1007/s11031-020-09819-5.

This article is originally written by Wendy L. Patrick, who is a career trial attorney, behavioral analyst, author of Red Flags, and co-author of Reading People. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses. To read original click here

How to Get Close to Someone Who Is Emotionally Distant? (Psychology)

Building rapport while respecting boundaries.

Most of us know “that person” who just won’t give us the time of day.  At the office, in the neighborhood, during family gatherings, they avoid interaction.  Every time you try to strike up a conversation, it seems to be a non-starter.  Is there any way to break the ice? 

Source: Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

As tempting as it would be to just throw in the towel, if it is important to build a relationship with an emotionally distant person, either personally or professionally, you can.  Research provides some guidance as to how. 

Rapport Builds Relationships

True to cliché, in most instances where your friendly overtures are met with indifference or dismissal, the problem is not you, it’s them.  Yet even the most independent, self-sufficient, autonomous individuals can be transformed from reticent to responsive when your interaction satisfies their psychological needs.  And because motives matter, authenticity makes you both attractive and approachable.  

Zachary G. Baker et al. (2020) explored the role of rapport in satisfying basic psychological needs.[i] In their research, they found that rapport was positively linked with several types of need satisfaction, and was likely to independently predict need satisfaction in the areas of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.  

Baker et al. explain that rapport has three primary components: 1) positive affect, 2) mutual attention, and 3) the level of coordination between interactional partners.  They describe all three as similar to positivity resonance—such as mutual care, shared positive emotion, and biobehavioral synchrony.  They further note that perceived positivity resonance has been found to be related to positive emotions and mental health, and linked to less illness, depressive symptoms, and loneliness.

Bonding With Acquaintances

Who can you bond with?  Thankfully, closeness is not a rapport prerequisite.   Baker et al. note that rapport can be formed with people with whom we are not close. This seems to indicate that you might be just as successful bonding with a distant co-worker as a family member.  

Baker et al. note that we routinely interact with people who are not close because casual relationships are less burdensome in terms of both creation and maintenance.  Nonetheless, their results suggest that the unique relationship between rapport and psychological needs takes place across time and relational perception,  between individuals, and internally.  The fact that these associations did not differ depending on relationship type or level of intimacy suggests all relationships are potentially important ways to satisfy psychological and emotional needs.  

So how do we build rapport with the approachable as well as the aloof?  Through both conversational context and content.  

On the Same Page 

Winning others over requires more than words.  Namkje Koudenburg et al. (2017) studied the impact of conversational form, beyond its content, on the emergence and regulation of social structure.[ii] Among other findings was the observation that a sense of “shared reality” is produced not just from exchanging information, but from subjectively perceiving the experience of a smooth, flowing conversation.   They describe conversation partners as being on the same “wavelength” experiencing shared reality due to the visceral sensation produced by conversational flow.

They give an example of a long-distance video call with time lags and other barriers to forming chemistry.  An overseas job applicant with an excellent resume, friendly personality, and acceptable answers to job-related questions can nonetheless present as not a good fit due to an inability to “click” with the interviewer.  They note this can be due to a perceived lack of enthusiasm, seeming distant or aloof, or failing to respond or laugh on cue at the interviewer’s jokes.  Whether we recognize it or not, this type of lack of conversation flow can unconsciously create an interpersonal barrier.

Apparently, approaching the unapproachable requires planning and preparation, as well as genuine respect. But if it is important to connect, there are ways to create chemistry through contact and conversation.  

References: [i] Baker, Zachary G., Emily M. Watlington, and C. Raymond Knee. 2020. “The Role of Rapport in Satisfying One’s Basic Psychological Needs.” Motivation and Emotion, January. doi:10.1007/s11031-020-09819-5 [ii] Koudenburg, Namkje, Tom Postmes, and Ernestine H. Gordijn. 2017. “Beyond Content of Conversation: The Role of Conversational Form in the Emergence and Regulation of Social Structure.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 21 (1): 50–71. doi:10.1177/1088868315626022.

This article is originally written by Wendy L. Patrick, who is a career trial attorney, behavioral analyst, author of Red Flags and is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses. To read original click here.

What Makes a Happy Couple, a Happy Family? (Psychology)

Analysis shows those who are psychologically flexible have better romantic and family relationships.

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Leo Tolstoy wrote famously in 1878 in the opening lines of Anna Karenina. Turns out the Russian author was onto something.

Rochester psychologists Ronald Rogge and Jennifer Daks analyzed 174 studies and found that psychological flexibility may play a key role in shaping how individuals interact with the people closest to them. (Getty Images photo)

Cohesive families, indeed, seem to share a few critical traits–psychologists agree. Being emotionally flexible may be one of the most important factors when it comes to longevity and overall health of your romantic and familial relationships.

That’s the finding of a new University of Rochester meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, which statistically combined the results of 174 separate studies that had looked at acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness, and emotion regulation.

The researchers’ aim was to clarify how mindful flexibility–on one hand–and inattentive, mindless, and rigid inflexibility on the other–were linked to the dynamics within families and romantic relationships.

“Put simply,” says coauthor Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, “this meta-analysis underscores that being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.”

Psychological flexibility versus inflexibility

Psychological flexibility is defined as a set of skills that people use when they’re presented with difficult or challenging thoughts, feelings, emotions, or experiences. Such skills encompass:

  • Being open to experiences–both good and bad–and accepting them no matter how challenging or difficult they might be
  • Having a mindful attentive awareness of the present moment throughout day-to-day life
  • Experiencing thoughts and feelings without obsessively clinging to them
  • Maintaining a broader perspective even in the midst of difficult thoughts and feelings
  • Learning to actively maintain contact with our deeper values, no matter how stressful or chaotic each day is
  • Continuing to take steps toward a goal, even in the face of difficult experiences and setbacks

The opposite–psychological inflexibility–describes six specific behaviors, including:

  • Actively avoiding difficult thoughts, feelings, and experiences
  • Going through daily life in a distracted and inattentive manner
  • Getting stuck in difficult thoughts and feelings
  • Seeing difficult thoughts and feelings as a personal reflection and feeling judged or shameful for having them
  • Losing track of deeper priorities within the stress and chaos of day-to-day life
  • Getting derailed easily by setbacks or difficult experiences, resulting in being unable to take steps toward deeper goals.

Psychologists consider the rigid and inflexible responses to difficult or challenging experiences dysfunctional, ultimately contributing to and exacerbating a person’s psychopathology.

How flexibility shapes interactions

Through their analysis, coauthor Jennifer Daks, a PhD candidate in the Rochester Department of Psychology, and Rogge discovered that within families, higher levels of various forms of parental psychological flexibility were linked to:

  • Greater use of adaptive parenting strategies
  • Fewer incidents of lax, harsh, and negative parenting strategies
  • Lower perceived parenting stress or burden
  • Greater family cohesion <
  • Lower child distress

Within romantic relationships, higher levels of various forms of psychological inflexibility were linked to:

  • Lower relationship satisfaction for themselves and their partners
  • Lower sexual satisfaction
  • Lower emotional supportiveness
  • Greater negative conflict, physical aggression, attachment anxiety, and attachment avoidance

The results suggest that psychological flexibility and inflexibility may play key roles in both couples and families in shaping how individuals interact with the people closest to them, the researchers write.

The meta-analysis, also commonly referred to as a “study of studies,” cements and adds to the findings of Rogge’s earlier work in which he and a team tested the effects of couples’ watching movies together and talking about the films afterward. In that work, Rogge and his colleagues demonstrated that couples could bring mindful awareness, compassion, and flexibility back into their relationships by using movies to spark meaningful relationship discussions, leading to both immediate and long-term benefits.

That study, conducted in 2013, found that an inexpensive, fun, and relatively simple watch-and-talk approach can be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods–more than halving the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 percent after the first three years of marriage.

“The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships,” Rogge said about the earlier study. “You might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving. And for five movies to give us a benefit over three years–that is awesome.”

Watching and discussing movies with your partner that feature onscreen couples can have a positive effect on your relationship, Rogge recently told People magazine. It’s an easy exercise that “could be a lifesaver during quarantine,” he says.

Which movies work? As Good as It Gets, Funny Girl, Gone with the Wind, Love Story, Indecent Proposal, The Devil Wears Prada, and Father of the Bride are a few of the films Rogge and his fellow researchers used in their 2013 study of couples.

Looking for some LGBTQ recommendations? Rogge suggests The Kids Are Alright, The Wedding Banquet, The Birdcage, and episodes of Grace and Frankie.

Provided by University of Rochester