As socially aware beings, we have many kinds of relationships, each of which contributes to different aspects of our lives. One of the most important of these aspects is friendship. My happiness-resolution kind of friendship includes ‘show up’, ‘remember happy occasions’, ‘no gossip’, and ‘say hello’.
Below are some ways which psychologists have identified to help build and strengthen friendships.
- Situation evocation
How we act around others would get an equal response. For example, if I am impatient and edgy all the time, those around me would start treating me grudgingly and with less patience. But if I am calm and happy, the people around me would more likely be happy too. Simply put, it just means you make your own weather.
Attraction is reciprocal. We like people more when we think they like us. If I am friendly and pleased to see someone, that person will likely feel friendlier towards me. This means that rather than playing it cool, we should show warmth instead.
Smiling gives the perception that we are friendly. It also helps to have an expressive face, to nod as a sign of acknowledgement or understanding, and to have a warm tone of voice. Of course, you shouldn’t be smiling to yourself all the time – that would be so weird.
- Subliminal touching
Though the Malaysian society may frown at this statement, studies have shown that subliminal touching, or touching a person so unobtrusively that it is not noticed, increases one’s sense of well-being and feelings of positivity. Subliminal touching may include touching a person’s arm for emphasis when speaking to that person, a light pat on the arm, or even the seat, as you walk by your friend’s desk.
- Fundamental attribution error
What this means is that we often tell ourselves that someone’s behaviour is because of their personality and not because of outside forces. For instance, when a man jumps the queue at the doctor’s clinic, we automatically think he’s being an inconsiderate jerk, when he’s actually just rushing to get home with the medication for his sick child. This means we blame the person’s personality for the behaviour, instead of trying to see what causes this behaviour.
- Mere exposure effect
This describes the effect repeated exposure to a person does to another. Because of the ‘exposure principle’, the more often you see another person, the more ‘likeable’ that person becomes. So put yourself in situations where you see others more often – not only for yourself, but for them too, because it works both ways.
- Emotional contagion
The word ‘contagion’ says it all – that strong psychological effect that ‘catches’ on. When someone goes into hysteria, another person becomes hysterical too. It’s the same when someone is in a happy, energetic mood as it helps boost the moods of others, thus creating a pleasant atmosphere. Unfortunately, negative moods are more contagious than positive ones, so remember it is your duty to be happy.
We often assume that friendship should flow easily and naturally and that trying to ‘work’ on it is forced and inauthentic. But everyday busyness makes it all so easy for us to forget to take time for relationship priorities.
During this International Friendship Day, and as we try to keep up with daily living, why not include a friendship-relationship resolution? Surely it is worth the effort. Want to know more? Read here.
This article was written in conjunction with the International Day of Friendship, which falls on 30 July. The UN General Assembly proclaimed this day in 2011, with the idea that friendship between peoples, cultures, countries, and individuals can build bridges between communities and inspire peace efforts.