When we first fall for someone, we become enamored with everything about that person. We gush. We create things to commemorate their specialness. We feel so connected, we fill in the blanks about what we don’t know. We assume we will like the rest of that person just as much. That’s just human.
If we then fall in love, then that early, rosy view of the adored one’s perfection may last just six months. That’s why Democrats who, (like MIT’s Henry Jenkins and behavioral-economist Dan Ariely) believe there’s a fan-like fervor felt by many Obama supporters, have reason to worry the longer this “bitter” Clinton vs. Obama battle rages on. Then there’s the “familiarity” problem. What sways you?
Here’s five quick lessons we can glean from this Fandom Effect for making wiser choices in our work and our social and personal lives. When you are drawn to someone you’ve just met, remind yourself of these phenomena:
1. People Like People Who Seem Like Them
• Define Yourself Before Others Do.
Years ago, I recall a radio commentator saying, “Presidential candidate George W. Bush will be active in making pronouncements in the coming weeks. He wants to define himself before his opponents do it for him.” (Don’t we all.)
You can bring out the best side in others as you attract them to you, starting with how you define yourself for them. Here’s how. Demonstrate the part of you that is most like the person you are around. Then you will feel positively familiar to that person and he will project onto you the qualities he likes in himself and thus be more likely to like you.
• You’ll Prove Yourself Right…at First
Conversely, the more you like someone you’ve just seen or met, the more you’ll magnify in your mind the qualities you like. Plus you’ll blind to those qualities that are discordant with yours. Men, tend “to trust people who’re part of a group with them” while women are “more likely to trust strangers who share some personal connection, such as a friend of a friend.”
2. Recognize the “Confirmation Bias”: Ah, He Acts Right – Like Me
To confirm your initial perception, you will seek and find in what that person says and does, the reinforcing evidence that the person feels and thinks like you.
3. Deepen Which the Ruts in the Roads of Your Brain Maps?
The more actions you take on behalf of that initial positive view, the more deeply you will believe and defend that view. Whatever you most remember, repeat and practice become your strongest beliefs and habits. Because of the brain’s extreme plasticity, we now know we’re capable of remarkable changes in belief, health and behavior – at any age.
Recognize, by the way, that the opposite effect – reaction against someone – is a stronger, felt emotion. That is, if you instinctively dislike someone you just saw or met you will react sooner and more intensely against that person than if the first feeling was positive. Plus you’ll also look for confirming evidence. It is more difficult to change from a negative to a positive feeling than vice versa.
4. Don’t’ Be Stopped by the Feet of Clay Effect
The more actions you have taken in support of that wonderful person, the more upset or even betrayed you feel when that inevitable point comes – when that special person doesn’t act “right” like you. He exhibits either a conflicting opinion or way of behaving. Your hero has feet of clay, as do you.
5. Find the Sweet Spot From Which to Build a Mutually-Beneficial Relationship
That is the relationship’s first turning point. Now that you can see more of the whole person, you tend to flip, focusing more on what you don’t like than what you do. It is the brain’s naturally protective mechanism.
You usually have two choices.
• You can continue to focus on what you don’t like in the person, finding confirming evidence, and spiral down into more reaction and conflict until your views harden and the relationship dissolves.
• Or you can look at the size of the sweet spot of mutual interests – where kindred feelings and values coincide.
Is that sweet spot sizable enough to cultivate, and continue? Then speak candidly to that area of mutual benefit, in your conversations with that formerly special person. Does that other person see that sweet spot as you do?
Then there’s hope. Your shared time together is not for naught. You both recognize that you’ve built the foundation for growing the relationship. Your differences in temperament and talents can serve you both. Bonus benefit? Just ten minutes of positive interaction with another person can improve your memory and mental acuity.
Both of you can experience the upside of being unlikely friends rather than the downside of mismatched, former friends, lovers or partners. Next step? Pledge to keep a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions (or better) with each other. If this ratio is an accurate predictor of happy marriages then it’s probably a reliable indicator for other kinds of healthy relationships. Bonus? You’ll become more resilient.
• Life Favors the Optimistic So Learn to Be More So
Since it appears we are each born with an emotional set point, along the range between being deeply pessimistic to invariably optimistic, it pays to know where you are on that continuum. If you tend to be negative, for example, you are probably hard on yourself and chided by others about being downbeat.
For you, the relationship-building, life-affirming, success-attracting approach odescribed above is especially arduous. But you can make it easier, research shows. Here are three tools that have helped me:
1. Discover your set point and then practice ways to be more resilient and upbeat by reading Marty Seligman’s Learned Optimism and taking the test. (Hint: pessimistic people see a present problem as pervasive, personal and permanent).
2. Then gain clarity about your strongest talents and most attractive temperament so you can recognize the kind of work activities at which you excel and the people with complementary talents and temperament – so you and the people close to you can become happier and higher-performing. To discover your strengths, read Marcus Buckingham’s Now Discover Your Strengths and take the related test.
3. To put the insights from the above two books to work in forging positive, productive relationships with others, learn the approach taught in my ebook, LikeAbility. Contact me if you’d like a copy of this $15 ebook.