Friendships at First Sight

Friendships are really important to me. Old friends, and those relationships, are my favorite.

The psychology of friendships has always fascinated me. A couple of questions always seem to arise, starting with:

Why am I friends with the people I am friends with? 

It is interesting, especially now, after leaving all the comfort and friendships I had known in Arizona to come to college in an unknown place, St. Louis.

Who did I associate with myself immediately? Why did I, from essentially the get go, surround myself with a certain group of people. I did not really know anyone. But, within a few months, “friend groups” were formed and people closed their circles off.

Well, it turns out their is a psychological aspect to this.

The first reason is probably because we are similar or share at least one common interest. Those are comfortable relationships and easy to get into.

The second is probably a more unexplainable, but psychological gut feeling we all have when we meet people for the first time.

“Just like love, we can feel friendships at first sight.” 

It really all boils down to first impressions. The truth is that most of us are really unaware of how we make impressions on people.

“People generally think that they’re pretty good at forming first impressions and that their gut feeling is right somehow,” says Michael Sunnafrank, a communications professor at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, who studies relationships.

But “I don’t think they’re accurate in predicting, ‘This is going to be a good relationship for me.’ They make it a good relationship.”

It is tough to be self-aware enough to understand how you can interact with another person. What they think of you, etc.

Which, at least in my mind, begs the question: does it really matter what people think of me?

Some people would say ~ no! Who cares what others think.

I’d say, while you do not need to go ahead and try to impress the world, others’ opinions of you actually do matter.

“First encounters, impressions formed during those encounters, and the relational decisions therein have a strong and lasting influence on relationships,” they wrote.

The key word there: decisions. That instinctual sizing-up, in other words, leads to something much more conscious: “What’s really happening here is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Sunnafrank says. “If you expect [the relationship] not to develop, you’re going to make it not develop. If you expect that it’s going to be positive, you’re more likely to act positively and make it turn in that direction.”

“People form relationships based on their expectation of rewarding futures, and void relationships they think will be less rewarding,” he says. It’s kind of a cold, clinical way to assess something as warm ‘n’ fuzzy as friendship, but it’s true: Your emotional energy is a finite resource, and you’re more likely to invest it in someone who will give you something in return. And if you’re very lucky, that works both ways.