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Society 3,727 views Sep 12, 2017
What makes people click with each other?

I just finished reading Click: The Magic of Instant Connections (thx, Matthew Swann, for telling me about the book). It’s a book that tries to answer the question of why do two people click with each other. And I found it extremely edifying. Indeed, I would also say that I “clicked” with the book. (Not only was it interesting but it was light on the fluff and it was well organized: after each principle was explained, a visual map was shown, explaining how the principle integrated into the bigger picture.)

The authors of Click found five “accelerators” that foster clicking: vulnerability in communication, proximity, resonance, similarity, and environment. I’ll take you on a tour of each of the factors.

Vulnerability is pretty straightforward. If your’e vulnerable in your communication with someone, then through the principle of reciprocity, you two will be more likely to click. But what does being vulnerable mean? For our purposes we can say there are two types of speech: transactional and connective. Transactional speech conveys information whereas connective speech conveys emotion. Transactional speech can be divided into three levels: phatic speech, which are not emotionally revealing and consists mostly of social niceties such as “How are you?” and “It’s nice to see you”; factual speech, such as “I live in New York”; and evaluative statements, which reveal our views about people or situations: “That movie was really funny”, “I like your new haircut.” These statements encompass a certain limited amount of risk, because our statements are potentially in discord with others’ views.


Connective speech consists of gut-level and then peak statements. Gut-level statements are things like “I’m sad you’re not here” and “I’m so glad you’re in my life.” Clearly there is more risk incurred when making such a statement. And then peak statements might include thoughts like “When you said you felt I wasn’t good with children, I was dumbfounded–and hurt. Do you really think I’m that insensitive? That I wouldn’t make a good father? I guess at heart I’m terrified that I’m going to lose you.” Clearly peak statements harbor a tremendous amount of risk for rejection; you’re cutting through all the superficial bullshit and exposing your true motives and feelings. The upshot of making such statements is that by using peak level language, the chance of a magical “click” connection occurring is significantly greater.


The next accelerator of a click-connection is proximity. Simply by being near someone, you’re more likely to form a connection. This is because you’re going to have a lot of chance conversations that, over time, can amount to a serious relationship. One of the hazards of the modern digital workplace environment is that without being near each other, we miss out on a lot of random unnecessary social exchange, and that hurts our relationship building. Similarly, companies like Pixar have successfully employed this principle by placing the bathrooms and cafeteria and the certain of their office complexes. This forces people to be physically near each other, and improves relational chemistry. Physical proximity is another accelerant: just touching someone on the shoulder or arm can increase the level of trust.


Do you remember when I talked about Cziksentmihalyi’s Flow? It is that wonderful state that occurs when our mastery of a skill is met with an appropriate level of challenge. I’m going to introduce a new topic, and then I’m going to connect it to Flow. Are you familiar with the term “presence?” It’s really popular in the New Age community. “Be present.” For the longest time, I thought, what the fuck does that mean? Fortunately, the book Click actually presented a really good definition! It’s useful to view presence on a continuum. There’s simple presence, when we are simply present in a specific location or environment. And then there’s Transformative Presence: a meaningful interaction that touches the lives of those involved in a profound manner. Transformative Presence comprises four components: intentionality, mutuality, individuality, and attentiveness. Intentionality is entering an interaction with a sense of purpose and conscious awareness, and giving the interaction our undivided attention. Mutuality involves being open and available to meet the other person where they are. Mutuality requires focusing on the aspects of trust and honesty involved in the relationship, rather than giving advice or trying to solve a problem. Individuality means being authentic and aware of our own emotional reactions. I don’t know what “being authentic” even means since it sounds like such a loaded term, so I’m going to skip that, but awareness of our own emotional reactions is something that can be developed. A few of the tools I’ve used is knowing my behavioral triggers and monitoring my body language (though maybe I’m doing it wrong). Finally, attentiveness is demonstrating care through active involvement. Actively listening, asking to elaborate, sharing our own reactions, and generally demonstrating to the other person that we’re an active participant in the interaction.


When you achieve a state of transformative presence, and combine it with a state of flow, you reach what the authors of Click term “Resonance“. Resonance = flow + transformative presence. When we’re in a state of resonance, others are more likely to enter that state as well and we are more likely to form a meaningful connection with someone. (Mirror neurons may be involved. This may also be due to emotional mirroring, which I don’t feel the authors spent enough time discussing. I know that when I feel emotionally mirrored with someone, I feel a great sense of “rapport” and “clicking”. This may be due to similar circumstances provoking parallel emotions due to shared values, which could well be classified as “similarity”, discussed next.)


Next on our accelerator list is similarity. The authors found that similarity has a long-lasting effect on the harmony of an interpersonal relationship, and moreover, it is quantity of similarities rather than quality of similarities that makes a difference. That is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re both Christian, or you both enjoy bass fishing. Each commonality could be tallied as a “point”; once you hit enough points, something occurs. It may be related to the in-group vs. out-group phenomenons. if you’re similar enough with someone, then they could view you as part of their in-group. This could well be incorporated into my future hypothetical Evil Textbook of Awesome Manipulation Techniques. An incredible pair of studies mentioned in the book demonstrate that sharing a birthday with someone dramatically increases compliance, and sharing a name dramatically increases dollars donated when solicited for a donation.


And what the authors dub “a safe place” is the last of our listed trigger for click. When people experience joint adversity, they are more likely to form lasting bonds; authors cite the example of war heroes who experienced “action” becoming disproportionately more likely to bond. I have a bone to pick with this because I believe that warring may trigger bonding via aptic structures; for example, certain apes exhibit bonding after raiding behavior, too. But I also remember my social psychology textbook from college talking about how fraternities exploit this phenomenon via hazing, creating a shared experience of adversity amongst the pledges. Safe places invoke a cultural frame, creating an us-vs-them, in-group/out-group dichotomy, and people are more likely to bond with members of an in-group (due to similarity).


I feel like there are two major accelerators that the authors neglected. One is when people speak to our ideal self. That is, they offer compliments tailored to the way we perceive ourselves, rather than the way others perceive us. I think I discussed this in more detail in a previous blog post, but if the truest and highest vision of myself is of a great writer, and then someone comes along and says “Zack, I think you are truly an exceptional writer”, then we’re probably going to click. (Sorry, stalkers, I don’t see myself as a great writer . I guess if I revealed more about myself then you would be more likely to “click” with this post. It’s risky, though – what if you make fun of me or invalidate my dream? Anyway, I would like to be seen as a great creative and a great intellectual.


Another one I think the authors failed to mention is if the person with whom you are relating possesses great cultural (tribal) capital under the culture with which you identify. For example, I really like basketball, so I think I’m going to be more likely to click with basketball players. For example, when I was living in Chicago and I saw Joakim Noah out at Crescendo, we clicked. (It was in the way we shook hands. You know how sometimes you go to do a high-five / handshake with someone and it feels completely rhythmic, like you transition from one step of the handshake to the next without any friction or awkardness? It was like that.) It’s also the reason why people claim to have connections with attractive members of the opposite sex; they possess cultural capital. Your body wants you to bond with them, to ensure your tribal protection.


Some people are naturally better than others at clicking. These people have lots of emotional intelligence, and the authors call them “high self monitors.” They have fluid personalities; they modulate their emotional expression so they can quickly pick up on social cues, they quickly incorporate local norms. They manage others’ perceptions: in an exchange, they act deliberately to create what the other person experiences. They are the center of social networks; in an office, information will tend to pass through them. High self monitor M.B.A.s become promoted more quickly than others.


And when you assemble teams of people who click, you get greater results. When people bicker, it is about the issues rather than personal attacks. They are tribally aligned and can focus on the attainment of goals; they don’t need to argue out of insecurity. The exact reasons for this are still fuzzy to me, and I’m yet to lay down an entire cognitive model, but it’s something that intuitively, I strongly believe. It’s one reason that Paul Graham places such an emphasis on startup founders that get along with each other. By clicking, you eliminate a layer of friction that is present in most relationships.


For me, the book also prompts reflections on the value of organized religion, which I’m no longer as eager to dismiss as I was when I was younger.

When at the end of this year I compile my list of my favorite books I read this year, Click is definitely going to be on it. You can get it from Amazon for only $11.20 (I actually got it for $9.99, because I read it on my Kindle 3).


About author

Alex Wise is CEO of free dating site and relationship coach. If youre interested in the online dating scene, leave a comment below, sign up at, or find us on twitter @Loveawake.

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