Proximity and Power
What if there was a way to be more likeable that didn’t take any special skills that was free and easy to implement?
What if you could be more likeable if you just show your face? There could be something useful in that.
Social psychologists have conducted studies on how proximity effects how we connect with others. Brothers, Ori and Rom Brafman detail some of these studies in their book, ‘Click; The Magic of Instant Connections – and how they can transform our work and relationships.’ The studies described below are resourced from this book, which is a fun and interesting read, and might help you understand what steps will help you build connections in life and work.
Propinquity; a powerful word for proximity
Here’s a quirky word to add to your vocabulary; propinquity. It’s the term social psychologists use when studying the effects of proximity on our relationships.
It is the area of research that describes why we are likely to have a connection with a neighbour (at work/in a dormitory, 40% likelihood) and that likelihood halves if they are two doors down.
Should you turn up to a meeting early?
One of the proposed reasons for this exponential growth in how proximity affects who we connect with, is spontaneous communication. These are the conversations about the weather, or everyday life that create cohesion in groups. Small talk is the ‘social glue’ that creates trust to communicate about bigger things.
Why would showing your face make better connections?
When we take the small talk out of the equation, even the people who we repeatedly see make an impact on how we perceive them. Psychologist call these ‘passive contacts’ and this is where we get the idea that just showing up and showing your face will make you more likeable.
Email, phone or face-to-face?
Of all the choices, email is the weakest for creating connections.
One manager expressed her exasperation at having to constantly direct staff to pick up the phone, or walk around to a colleague’s desk and talk to them. This manager got it. If we want to communicate better, and create better connections, we need to talk to people. In fact, if you want to dehumanize someone, you’re more likely to kill someone through the push of a button, than if you have to do it face-to-face (but that’s another study). If you only communicate through email about important issues, it might be time to rethink the short-term convenience over the long-term impact.
What choices can you make this week that will make you a better communicator?
This five minute video has ‘Click‘ author, Rom Brafman explaining our likelihood of making connections and working with others based on proximity. It comes from a longer talk that explains how much better teams perform when they are more connected.