Even Superficial Interactions Have Significance
You have probably heard the adage that "you can't have too many friends."
And unless we are talking about social media, you likely agree with this wisdom.
But are all friends created equal? And are certain friendships more emotionally beneficial than others?
Research has some surprising answers.
Consider Relationships and the Role of Rapport
Satisfying friendships involve relaxed, easy interaction. Yet we also enjoy superficial conversations that are smooth and flowing. Sometimes, both types of interactions produce the same psychological and emotional satisfaction. What we are responding to, is relational rapport.
Zachary G. Baker et al. (2020) explored the role of rapport in satisfying basic psychological needs, which is critical for daily functioning. They note that rapport is essential to high quality interactions, and one way relationships contribute to healthy functioning.
They describe rapport as including mutual attention, positive affect, and coordination within daily social interactions, fulfilling our basic needs for relatedness, autonomy, and competence.
Baker, et al. note that rapport will not always correspond with objective measures.
They give examples of talking with a romantic partner about "nothing," interacting with a fleeting connection such as a barista, or having a work meeting when emotional support will neither be given nor received.
Yet even in scenarios like these, they note that people can experience emotions that would lead them to characterize the interaction as high-quality — in other words, high in rapport.
Accordingly, Baker et al. (ibid.) note that the benefits of rapport do not seem to be confined to any specific type of relationship.
They are found within hierarchical relationships, such as between students and faculty, zero-acquaintance relationships, and predictably, within established relationships.
Perhaps most intriguing of all, Baker et al. (supra) note that rapport has even been demonstrated during interactions between humans and virtual agents.
Weighing Quantity Over Quality
Although close relationships often provide more benefits than relationships that are less close, people are often limited in the number of close relationships they have.
Baker et al. note that developing close relationships requires a significant time investment. They acknowledge that prior research has estimated that growing an association into what would be characterized as a "good or best" friendship requires an investment of an estimated 120 - 200 or more hours, spread over what they estimate to be between there to six weeks.
Baker et al. compare this level of effort as equivalent to a full-time job.
They also note that within that same time-frame, individuals could develop nine new casual friendships, although they do not suggest that we pursue casual relationships at the expense of close relationships, or vice-versa.
Apparently, however, you cannot have too many friends or too many acquaintances, because relationships that are less close can nonetheless provide unique benefits.
Yes, All Relationships Matter
As a global observation, Baker et al. note that the interpersonal relationships that significantly impact our lives range from the intimate to the superficial; from romantic encounters to financial transactions.
They describe the relationships we form with others who are close as important to our health, affect, and physiology.
Yet they also note that people who are less close can nonetheless provide benefits that complement or even surpass the benefits we reap from even our closest relationships.
So smile at your boss in the conference room, your co-workers in the lunchroom, and your spouse in the bedroom. Because rapport improves mood, and enhances all types of relationships.
This article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Her over 4,500 media appearances include major news outlets including CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN, FOX Business Network, and weekly appearances on Newsmax. She is author of Red Flags (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Reading People (Random House, revision). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin professionally with a rock band. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.
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