It’s hard to say exactly why you like someone, but…
Maybe it’s their goofy smile; maybe it’s their razor-sharp wit; or maybe it’s simply that they’re easy to be around. You just like them.
But scientists generally aren’t satisfied with answers like that, and they’ve spent years trying to pinpoint the exact factors that draw one person to another.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of their most intriguing findings. Read on for insights that will cast your current friendships in a new light — and will help you form better relationships, faster.
1. Copy the person you’re with
This strategy is called mirroring, and involves subtly mimicking another person’s behavior. When talking to someone, try copying their body language, gestures, and facial expressions.
In 1999, New York University researchers documented the “chameleon effect,” which occurs when people unconsciously mimic each other’s behavior. That mimicry facilitates liking.
Researchers had 72 men and women work on a task with a partner. The partners (who worked for the researchers) either mimicked the other participant’s behavior or didn’t, while researchers videotaped the interactions. At the end of the interaction, the researchers had participants indicate how much they liked their partners.
Sure enough, participants were more likely to say that they liked their partner when their partner had been mimicking their behavior.
2. Spend more time around the people you’re hoping to befriend
According to the mere-exposure effect, people tend to like other people who are familiar to them.
In one example of this phenomenon, psychologists at the University of Pittsburgh had four women pose as students in a university psychology class. Each woman showed up in class a different number of times. When experimenters showed male students pictures of the four women, the men demonstrated a greater affinity for those women they’d seen more often in class — even though they hadn’t interacted with any of them.
3. Compliment other people
People will associate the adjectives you use to describe other people with your personality. This phenomenon is called spontaneous trait transference.
One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that this effect occurred even when people knew certain traits didn’t describe the people who had talked about them.
According to Gretchen Rubin, author of the book “The Happiness Project,” “whatever you say about other people influences how people see you.”
If you describe someone else as genuine and kind, people will also associate you with those qualities. The reverse is also true: If you are constantly trashing people behind their backs, your friends will start to associate the negative qualities with you as well.
4. Try to display positive emotions
Emotional contagion describes what happens when people are strongly influenced by the moods of other people. According to a research paper from the Ohio University and the University of Hawaii, people can unconsciously feel the emotions of those around them.
The authors of the paper say that’s possibly because we naturally mimic others’ movements and facial expressions, which in turn makes us feel something similar to what they’re feeling.
If you want to make others feel happy when they’re around you, do your best to communicate positive emotions.
5. Be warm and competent
Princeton University psychologists and their colleagues proposed the stereotype content model, which is a theory that people judge others based on their warmth and competence.
According to the model, if you can portray yourself as warm — i.e., noncompetitive and friendly — people will feel like they can trust you. If you seem competent — for example, if you have high economic or educational status — they’re more inclined to respect you.
Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy says it’s important to demonstrate warmth first and then competence, especially in business settings.
“From an evolutionary perspective,” Cuddy writes in her book “Presence,” “it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.”
6. Reveal your flaws from time to time
According to the pratfall effect, people will like you more after you make a mistake — but only if they believe you are a competent person. Revealing that you aren’t perfect makes you more relatable and vulnerable toward the people around you.
Researcher Elliot Aronson at the University of Texas, Austin first discovered this phenomenon when he studied how simple mistakes can affect perceived attraction. He asked male students from the University of Minnesota to listen to tape recordings of people taking a quiz.
When people did well on the quiz but spilled coffee at the end of the interview, the students rated them higher on likability than when they did well on the quiz and didn’t spill coffee or didn’t do well on the quiz and spilled coffee.
7. Emphasize shared values
According to a classic study by Theodore Newcomb, people are more attracted to those who are similar to them. This is known as the similarity-attraction effect. In his experiment, Newcomb measured his subjects’ attitudes on controversial topics, such as sex and politics, and then put them in a University of Michigan-owned house to live together.
By the end of their stay, the subjects liked their housemates more when they had similar attitudes about the topics measured.
Interestingly, a more recent study from researchers at the University of Virginia and Washington University in St. Louis found that Air Force recruits liked each other more when they had similar negative personality traits than when they shared positive ones.
8. Casually touch them
Subliminal touching occurs when you touch a person so subtly that they barely notice. Common examples include tapping someone’s back or touching their arm, which can make them feel more warmly toward you.
In a French study, young men stood on street corners and talked to women who walked by. The men had double the success rate in striking up a conversation when they lightly touched the woman’s arms as they talked to them instead of doing nothing at all.
A University of Mississippi and Rhodes College experiment studied the effects of interpersonal touch on restaurant tipping, and had some waitresses briefly touch customers on the hand or shoulder as they were returning their change. As it turns out, those waitresses earned significantly larger tips than the ones who didn’t touch their customers.
Tune in at 2pm for the rest of the list!
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