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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 July 16, 2019

          7 Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy and Become Positive

          7 Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy and Become Positive

          Negativity affects ourselves and everyone around us. It limits our potential to become something great and live a fulfilling, purposeful life. Negativity has a tangible effect on our health, too. Research has shown that people who cultivate negative energy experience more stress, more sickness, and less opportunity over the course of their lives than those who choose to live positively.

          When we make a decision to become positive, and follow that decision up with action, we will begin to encounter situations and people that are also positive. The negative energy gets edged out by all positive experiences. It’s a snowball effect.

          Although negative and positive thoughts will always exist, the key to becoming positive is to limit the amount of negativity that we experience by filling ourselves up with more positivity.

          Here are some ways to get rid of negativity and become more positive.

          1. Become Grateful for Everything

          When life is all about us, it’s easy to believe that we deserve what we have. An attitude of entitlement puts us at the center of the universe and sets up the unrealistic expectation that others should cater to us, our needs, and our wants. This vain state of existence is a surefire way to set yourself up for an unfulfilled life of negativity.

          People living in this sort of entitlement are “energy suckers”–they are always searching for what they can get out of a situation. People that don’t appreciate the nuances of their lives live in a constant state of lacking. And it’s really difficult to live a positive life this way.

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          When we begin to be grateful and appreciate everything in our lives–from the small struggles that make us better, to the car that gets us from A to B every day–we shift our attitude from one of selfishness, to one of appreciation. This appreciation gets noticed by others, and a positive harmony begins to form in our relationships.

          We begin to receive more of that which we are grateful for, because we’ve opened ourselves up to the idea of receiving, instead of taking. This will make your life more fulfilling, and more positive.

          2. Laugh More, Especially at Yourself

          Life gets busy, our schedules fill up, we get into relationships, and work can feel task oriented and routine-driven at times. Being human can feel more like being a robot. But having this work-driven, serious attitude often results in negative and performance oriented thinking.

          Becoming positive means taking life less seriously and letting yourself off the hook. This is the only life that you get to live, why not lighten up your mood?

          Laughter helps us become positive by lightening our mood and reminding us not to take life so seriously. Are you sensitive to light sarcasm? Do you have trouble laughing at jokes? Usually, people who are stressed out and overly serious get most offended by sarcasm because their life is all work and no play.

          If we can learn to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes, life will become more of an experiment in finding out what makes us happy. And finding happiness means finding positivity.

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          3. Help Others

          Negativity goes hand in hand with selfishness. People that live only for themselves have no higher purpose in their lives. If the whole point of this world is only to take care of yourself and no one else, the road to a long-term fulfillment and purpose is going to be a long one.

          Positivity accompanies purpose. The most basic way to create purpose and positivity in your life is to begin doing things for others. Start small; open the door for the person in front of you at Starbucks or ask someone how their day was before telling them about yours.

          Helping others will give you an intangible sense of value that will translate into positivity. And people might just appreciate you in the process.

          4. Change Your Thinking

          We can either be our best coach or our best enemy. Change starts from within. If you want to become more positive, change the wording of your thoughts. We are the hardest on ourselves, and a stream of negative self talk is corrosive to a positive life.

          The next time you have a negative thought, write it down and rephrase it with a positive spin. For example, change a thought like, “I can’t believe I did so horribly on the test–I suck.” to “I didn’t do as well as I hoped to on this test. But I know I’m capable and I’ll do better next time.”

          Changing our self-talk is powerful.

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          5. Surround Yourself with Positive People

          We become most like the people that we surround ourselves with. If our friend group is full of negative energy-suckers and drama queens, we will emulate that behavior and become like them. It is very difficult to become more positive when the people around us don’t support or demonstrate positive behavior.

          As you become more positive, you’ll find that your existing friends will either appreciate the new you or they will become resistant to your positive changes. This is a natural response.

          Change is scary; but cutting out the negative people in your life is a huge step to becoming more positive. Positive people reflect and bounce their perspectives onto one another. Positivity is a step-by-step process when you do it solo, but a positive group of friends can be an escalator.

          6. Get into Action

          Negative thoughts can be overwhelming and challenging to navigate. Negativity is usually accompanied by a “freak-out” response, especially when tied to relationships, people and to worrying about the future. This is debilitating to becoming positive and usually snowballs into more worry, more stress and more freak-outs.

          Turn the negative stress into positive action. The next time you’re in one of these situations, walk away and take a break. With your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths. Once you’re calm, approach the situation or problem with a pen and pad of paper. Write out four or five actions or solutions to begin solving the problem.

          Taking yourself out of the emotionally charged negative by moving into the action-oriented positive will help you solve more problems rationally and live in positivity

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          7. Take Full Responsibility, Stop Being the Victim

          You are responsible for your thoughts.

          People that consistently believe that things happen to them handicap themselves to a victim mentality. This is a subtle and deceptive negative thought pattern. Phrases like “I have to work” or “I can’t believe he did that to me” are indicators of a victim mentality. Blaming circumstances and blaming others only handicaps our decision to change something negative into something positive.

          Taking full responsibility for your life, your thoughts and your actions is one of the biggest steps in creating a more positive life. We have unlimited potential within to create our own reality, change our life, and change our thoughts. When we begin to really internalize this, we discover that no one can make us feel or do anything. We choose our emotional and behavioral response to people and circumstances.

          Make positive choices in favor of yourself.

          “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny” ― Lao Tzu

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          Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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