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Last Updated on February 27, 2018

The Friendship Formula

The Friendship Formula

Meet Jesse. Jesse is a friendly person. She has just moved to a new apartment in New York City. She’s excited, but nervous because she doesn’t really know anyone in the area. As soon as she moves in, she strikes up a conversation with her neighbor. It didn’t go as smoothly as she planned, and the conversation ended awkwardly. Jesse is embarrassed about it, so she tries again with a different subject. Still, the neighbor seems disinterested in a conversation with Jesse.

Jesse is frustrated and hurt. But she can’t see that the neighbor was intimidated and irritated because of her aggressive attempts at conversation so soon.

So what can we do to avoid falling into this trap of being aggressive to others when all we want is just to be friendly?

Dr. Jack Schafer, a retired FBI agent, introduced the Friendship Formula in the book, The Like Switch. Schafer was assigned to the FBI’s National Security Behavioral Analysis Program, so he’s an expert on human behavior and interactions. Here’s the formula:

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Friendship = Proximity + Frequency + Duration + Intensity

    The elements in the formula help you to decide whether someone can be your friend. Our brains have something we’ll refer to as a territory scan. When we access this part of our brain, we’re assessing whether someone we’re talking to could be our friend. This scan sends messages to our brain while processing the information needed to assess, among other things, if any given individual in our range of observation should be ignored, approached, or avoided entirely.

      Let’s take a look at each element of the formula.

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      Proximity

      Proximity refers to the distance between you and another individual as it relates to your exposure to that individual. This can be anything from shared space to shared context. Proximity can be built by being close to someone as you stay silent and by their side. This quiet action can make the other person feel comfortable and non-threatening.

      Frequency and Duration

      The number of contacts you have with another individual over time is the frequency and duration in which you interact with them, as well as the length of time you spend with them.

      For example, the more time parents spend with their children, the more likely the parents will be able to influence them. Therefore, if parental duration is lacking, the children tend to spend more time with their friends, including, in extreme cases, gang members.

      Intensity

      How strongly you are able to satisfy another person’s psychological and/or physical needs through the use of verbal and nonverbal behaviors is intensity. It also includes the interaction during the time spent with someone. Some couples have an issue with intensity. Maybe they spend time together every weekend for a few hours, but they don’t interact much with each other and choose to focus their attention to their cell phones. This leads to lessened intensity and can slowly make the couple less intimate.

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      Essentially, the more time you spend with someone, the more they will like you. And the more intense (deep) those interactions are, the more they will like you.

      Take the relationship of a married couple. If they are too busy and don’t spend quality time together, they are failing at frequency and duration. To compensate, they’ll need a higher intensity/deeper connections/interactions.

        Use the Formula to Make Friends

        If there’s someone you want to know, or befriend, start by increasing your proximity with them. Be around that person, but not in an obvious or over-attentive way. The goal is to become familiar to them so that they are comfortable with you being around. Slowly increase the frequency of time you are around that person.

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        Once you’ve increased the amount of time you’re around, extend the duration of time spent. There can be some intensity (light, pleasant conversation), but after some time you can delve into some deeper topics. This is also a great way to make friends and break the ice when you have a new place to work or interact with someone at a party.

          Use this formula too if you’re trying to maintain a good friendship. You can learn more tips about how to stay friends with your best mates in my other article: Friends Don’t Have to Grow Apart as You Grow Older

          Take It Slowly

          The next time you meet someone new and feel like jumping into conversation, pump the breaks. While being overzealous in life can sometimes be a good thing; when it comes to friendships, it’s best to take it slow. While meeting new people can be exciting, if not a little nerve-racking, the Friendship Formula can help you master true connections.

          If you enjoy this article, make sure to check out The Like Switch to learn more. Find it here.

          More by this author

          Anna Chui

          Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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          Last Updated on September 20, 2018

          7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

          7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

          What do I want to do with my life? It’s a question all of us think about at one point or another.

          For some, the answer comes easily. For others, it takes a lifetime to figure out.

          It’s easy to just go through the motions and continue to do what’s comfortable and familiar. But for those of you who seek fulfillment, who want to do more, these questions will help you paint a clearer picture of what you want to do with your life.

          1. What are the things I’m most passionate about?

          The first step to living a more fulfilling life is to think about the things that you’re passionate about.

          What do you love? What fulfills you? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work? Maybe you enjoy writing, maybe you love working with animals or maybe you have a knack for photography.

          The point is, figure out what you love doing, then do more of it.

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          2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

          Think about your past experiences and the things in your life you’re most proud of.

          How did those accomplishments make you feel? Pretty darn good, right? So why not try and emulate those experiences and feelings?

          If you ran a marathon once and loved the feeling you had afterwards, start training for another one. If your child grew up to be a star athlete or musician because of your teachings, then be a coach or mentor for other kids.

          Continue to do the things that have been most fulfilling for you.

          3. If my life had absolutely no limits, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?

          Here’s a cool exercise: Think about what you would do if you had no limits.

          If you had all the money and time in the world, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

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          These answers can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t mean you need millions of dollars to be happy though.

          What it does mean is answering these questions will help you set goals to reach certain milestones and create a path toward happiness and fulfillment. Which leads to our next question …

          4. What are my goals in life?

          Goals are a necessary component to set you up for a happy future. So answer these questions:

          Once you figure out the answers to each of these, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should do with your life.

          5. Whom do I admire most in the world?

          Following the path of successful people can set you up for success.

          Think about the people you respect and admire most. What are their best qualities? Why do you respect them? What can you learn from them?

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          You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.[1] So don’t waste your time with people who hold you back from achieving your dreams.

          Spend more time with happy, successful, optimistic people and you’ll become one of them.

          6. What do I not like to do?

          An important part of figuring out what you want to do with your life is honestly assessing what you don’t want to do.

          What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job?

          Maybe you hate meetings even though you sit through 6 hours of them every day. If that’s the case, find a job where you can work more independently.

          The point is, if you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads to our final question …

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          7. How hard am I willing to work to get what I want?

          Great accomplishments never come easy. If you want to do great things with your life, you’re going to have to make a great effort. That will probably mean putting in more hours the average person, getting outside your comfort zone and learning as much as you can to achieve as much as you can.

          But here’s the cool part: it’s often the journey that is the most fulfilling part. It’s during these seemingly small, insignificant moments that you’ll often find that “aha” moments that helps you answer the question,

          “What do I want to do with my life?”

          So take the first step toward improving your life. You won’t regret it.

          Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

          Reference

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