Some friends and I have this WhatsApp chat group to keep in touch since we’re spread all over the country.
+ 1 for technology.
The contents of this ongoing conversation can range from weekend plans to political debates (sorry, Chuy) to time-sensitive flight deal glitches to jump on.
Sometimes we talk about dating, too.
One of our friends likes to screen shot ridiculous messages she gets from would-be “suitors” along with her cynical responses and share them with us.
It’s really entertaining.
One day, I trust (hope) that she’ll either start a Tumblr or at least submit a few good ones to “Tinder Nightmares”. ←- You’re welcome!
Usually these chats are pretty light, but I recall this one time it got a little more in-depth than usual.
As laid-back and fun as I like to think dating should be, that’s not always the case according to those actually playing the game. Myself being in the “pre-saturated-internet-dating-scene-married-college-girlfriend-at-26” demographic, my perspective is admittedly unique.
The conversation started with another generic, semi-oblivious message from “suitor” to “friend”:
“Hi, my name is [NAME], I’m from [PLACE]. Went to [INSERT SCHOOL]. Work at [INSERT JOB / PRESUMED INCOME LEVEL]. Looking for friends, maybe more”
We got into analyzing what about this approach was so poor and why everyone seems to be so bad at online dating.
My theory: it’s just not how our species works.
But someone made the point that as blase as his introduction was online, it’s not too different than what she might have gotten in person, per se. That’s usually how most introductory conversations go.
What’s the difference then? A lot.
Context. Tone. Delivery. Body Language. Photo v. In-Person attractiveness calibration.
All that stuff matters when it comes to how a message is received.
And most importantly, proximity.
Growing any sort of relationship depends first on trust. And we know how first impressions can influence that.
And trust has a lot of variables, too. This clever chap from London named David Maister even came up with an equation for it.
It’s pretty legit, too. Ever since I learned it, I use it to frame how to think about relationship building in a business context. Admittedly weird. But it’s especially useful if you work in sales, customer or client services.
I think proximity works like a multiplier in this equation, though.
Generally speaking, the closer we are (physically) the more likely I am to trust you.
Simon Sinek has a great example about the impact of trust and proximity in his book, Start with Why.
“We trust those in our community to care for our children so we can go out to dinner. Given the choice between two baby sitters, we’re more likely to trust a babysitter with a little experience from the neighborhood than one with lots of experience from far away. We wouldn’t trust someone from the outside because we don’t know anything about them, we say. The reality is, we don’t know anything about the local babysitter either, beyond the fact that she’s from the neighborhood”
It’s not like we don’t instinctively know this already. But I think it’s easy to forget about it since technology has made it so easy to stay “connected” without really being there.
There’s a hierarchy when it comes to value we place on communication. In a lot of ways, it’s tied to how much effort and time we appear to put in when trying to connect. Here’s what it looks like:
I’m sure you could probably find other means of communication to add here, but you get the point.
Relationships of all kinds — friendships, marriages, clients, etc — are more cherished and better nurtured with less space in between.
Next time you feel that your message isn’t getting through, or that some level of intimacy in your relationships is diminished, maybe try just getting a little closer.
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