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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 January 18, 2019

          7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

          7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

          Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

          But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

          If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

          1. Limit the time you spend with them.

          First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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          In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

          Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

          2. Speak up for yourself.

          Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

          3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

          This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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          But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

          4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

          Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

          This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

          Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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          5. Change the subject.

          When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

          Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

          6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

          Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

          I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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          You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

          Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

          7. Leave them behind.

          Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

          If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

          That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

          You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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