We could make a friendship

How we make friends

Good friends help us through crises, make us happy and keep us healthy: People who have enriching relationships suffer less from depression and cardiovascular diseases and generally feel less stressed. For friendships to develop, however, it takes more than just similar interests. The following factors must come together.

1. Spatial proximity

We like to believe that we have found the one soul mate with our best friend. But studies come to the sobering result that it ultimately depends on chance whose shoulder we lean on one day. Often one can predict from very mundane circumstances whether two people will become friends. A team led by the psychologist Mitja Back from the University of Münster allocated seats to students at an introductory event. A year later, the researchers asked the subjects how much they liked their fellow students. The result: those who sat next to each other or even in a row when they first met were now more likely to be friends. Obviously we do not decide on the basis of conscious criteria alone who to include in our circle of friends.

2. Frequent contact

Whether more develops from the first encounter depends - as banal as it sounds - on how often you see each other afterwards. A famous study in a residential complex came to this conclusion as early as 1950. Psychologists Stanley Schachter, Leon Festinger, and Kurt Back randomly assigned students to apartments. The closer the apartments were to each other, the better the residents understood each other after a while. Even more: neighbors who lived next door to each other were friends in almost half of the cases.

People have a weakness for the familiar - a phenomenon that psychologists call the "mere-exposure effect". What we know well, our brain can process more easily. A song that we might not have found that stirring at first, the more we hear it on the radio the better it is. Similarly, our sympathy for others usually grows from meeting to meeting - unless we couldn't stand them from the start.

3. Similarity

However, regular meetings alone are not enough. The chemistry must be right. We are more on the same wavelength if we share central attitudes and interests, are in comparable life situations or are of the same age. Those who share values ​​and preferences have enough things to talk about and argue less often. Even external similarities make friendship more likely: similarly attractive people are more likely to find each other. The personalities of close friends, on the other hand, are not as similar as is commonly assumed - as part of the team, we often only perceive it that way. Sometimes opposites literally attract each other. For someone who is shy and reserved, an extrovert friend can be the perfect match.

4. Intimacy

Once the foundation for a friendship has been laid, it is important to give the relationship depth. In the first exchange, people usually reveal little personal information about themselves. Anyone who violates this norm quickly makes a strange impression. In the early stages of a friendship, however, it is crucial to take some risk and reveal intimate thoughts and feelings. If this trust is returned, the chances of a close connection increase. Studies show that self-disclosure increases affection in people who already know each other better. Also because the other person has the impression that they are liked.