A study of speed dating: How to get the second date

By Guest Author Krista Morasch

Speed dating candiesAs a speed-dating skeptic myself, it is intriguing to discover that although a six minute date does not offer sufficient time to learn a lot about a partner, the determinant in desire for a second interaction does not then completely fall to physical attraction. With social media and other modern technologies hastening our judgments of people, the ultimate impacts of these impressions remains a fruitful area of research.

Houser, Horan, and Furler recently conducted a study of 157 speed daters. They covered three basic issues in their study:

  1. How the dater’s predicted value of a future relationship relates to his/her attraction, similarity, and nonverbal communication to develop liking (such as eye contact) to her/his date.
  2. How the dater’s predicted value of a future relationship relates to his/her desire for a future date.
  3. How the dater’s attraction, similarity, and non-verbal communication relates to his/her desire for a future date.

The results indicated that when a dater predicted the value of a future relationship to be high, their attraction and amount of positive nonverbal communication was high as well. Similarity however, did not relate to the predicted value of a future relationship. The results also revealed when the predicted values of future relationships to be high when so too was the desire for a future date. Obviously then, a high desire for a date positively corresponds to high levels of attraction and positive nonverbal communication. Using this principle, the researchers could predict with 77 percent accuracy whether a dater would desire another date.

With this knowledge of what makes people say yes or no to another date, people have the opportunity to become super speed-daters. They will know what to do to enhance their chances of getting another date and hopefully use the knowledge in their speed dating endeavors. This study has provided and proven prescript things one can do to achieve this end. For instance, a dater can practice grooming and hygiene in a way to make him or herself more attractive. Also, a dater can intentionally send nonverbal communication showing his or her interest such as leaning in, holding eye contact, and/or smiling. Finally, he or she can choose discussion topics that will make him or her seem pleasant and desirable to be around in the future. When attractiveness, nonverbal communication, and high perceived value of a future relationship are present the likelihood for a desired further date is high as well. As such, it appears that enhancing any or all of these criteria will also enhance one’s date probability.

Houser, M.L., Horan, S.M., & Furler, L.A. (2008). Dating in the fast lane: how communication predicts speed-dating success. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 25, 749-768.

The Pros and Cons of Listening to a Traumatic Experience

By Guest Author Tess Nelson

Two people talking, by alancleaver_2000It is common knowledge that people who have undergone a traumatic experience can heal emotionally by simply talking about it with someone else; everyone needs to vent.  However, while this process may be beneficial to the speaker, it can negatively impact the listener.

Lewis and Manusov looked at 82 reports of interactions between closely related persons (based on emotional ties and proximity, such as roommates, relatives, friends, and romantic partners). The end results indicated that the listener’s level of distress increased with the amount of responsibility felt and the time they spent listening.  However there are many varying factors that contribute to the listener’s level of distress that should also be considered, such as expectations by speakers, the level of distress the speaker is experiencing, the amount of support the listener can provide and what resources are available to the listener.  Another major influencing factor is the listener’s reluctance to listen; sometimes people just do not want to hear about it.  Nonetheless, the predominate deciding factor is the type of relationship between the listener and speaker. This relationship determines the level of responsibility the listener feels, what the speaker expects from the listener, and ultimately how each will feel when the conversation ends.

It is important that both persons leave the conversation with little or no distress. Ideally both would come out feeling better, but this is a difficult feat to achieve.  While generally the speaker may decrease their levels of distress, they may unknowingly distress the listener, especially if they have not undergone professional training.  If the listener can no longer offer support, they can only distance themselves emotionally.  The most common way to do so is to offer advice; however there is also a possibility that this too could have negative effects on the discloser, which in turn has a negative effect on the listener.  Thus it is at this point that the listener should encourage the speaker to talk to a counselor, support group, or other personal relationship.

Lewis, T., & Manusov, V. (2009). Listening to Another’s Distress in Everyday Relationships. Communication Quarterly, 57, 282-301.

Are Teens Hiding Behind The Screen?

By Guest Author Jonathan Nielsen

picture of doll sitting in empty stadium“R U 4 real?” The use of phrases like this demonstrate how technology has managed to merge itself with the social life of teenagers in the form of instant messaging, text messaging and social networking sites such as Facebook. A little observation will tell anyone that a large percentage of a teen’s time is spent texting on his or her phone or chatting online. With so much time devoted to these activities, researchers want to know if there are any side effects.

Pierce set out to examine the effects that teen usage of these technologies might have on their social life. She conducted a study that sought to determine if there was a relationship between recent social technologies and shyness among teenagers. In the study, 280 teenagers answered survey questions regarding how much time they spend on socially interactive technologies such as text messaging, instant messaging, and social networking sites. In addition to finding out how much time teenagers spent on these technologies, the survey also asked questions regarding each teen’s feelings toward face-to-face communication.

The results revealed a clear connection between social introversion and the socially interactive technologies. Those who disliked personal communication were more likely to use socially interactive technologies. This suggests that these new technologies are providing shy individuals with a comfortable means of communication, while replacing any opportunities that these individuals may have had to get over their timidity by practicing face-to-face communication. Lastly, the author concludes that since these technologies are relatively new, society has yet to discover all of the possible consequences.

With the results of this study in mind, it is crucial for teens to evaluate their personal use of these technologies. Do they substitute personal time with friends for time on Facebook? Do they text their friends more than they call them? Are they using these technologies as a way to avoid their social anxieties? As foreign as these problems may be to parents and teachers, the answers to these questions are important to a teen’s future success in life. Face-to-face communication is vital in the workplace, and many teenagers may not be properly developing the necessary interpersonal skills; therefore, these questions must not be avoided. All of this is to say that teenagers must come to realize that they are an experimental generation– No other generation has grown up using these social technologies, and the consequences of these technologies are poorly known.

Pierce, T. (2009). Social anxiety and technology: Face-to-face communication versus technological communication among teens. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1367-1372.

Reading Between the Lines: What Our E-mails Say About Our Near and Far Relationships

By Guest Author Elizabeth Worlein

As a busy woman, a girlfriend in a long-distance relationship, and friend that is hard to reach by phone, I have wondered how my use of technology impacts my relationships. What does my use of e-mail say about my relationships with my friends, my romantic partner, and my family?

Johnson, Haigh, Becker, Craig, and Wigley attempt to answer this question in a recent study. Two hundred and twenty-six college students submitted their personal e-mail messages that they received in one week. The researchers examined how the e-mails maintained the students’ relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. The researchers also examined how relationships were maintained between people that were geographically close, and those that were long-distance. Researchers observed five main behaviors people exhibited to maintain their relationships in the three types of relationships:

Family:

  • Openness (sharing your experience, feelings, etc.)
  • Social Networks (references to events, school, or other relationships)
  • Positivity (e.g. “Have a great day!”)
  • Assurances (e.g. “I love you.”)
  • Joint Activities (e.g. “See you Monday!”)

Friends:

  • Openness
  • Social Networks
  • Positivity
  • Joint Activities
  • Miscellaneous (Sign-offs, emoticons, etc.)

Romantic Partners:

  • Assurances
  • Openness
  • Positivity
  • Social Networks
  • Referring to cards, letters, or calls

This study illustrates that through the use of e-mail, we can continue to maintain our relationships when we are not face-to-face. What we communicate over e-mail, such as assurances or positivity, is similar to what we use to maintain our relationships when we are face-to-face with the person. The results indicate that our interactions over e-mail are not very different if we are near to or far away from the person.

What does this study’s finding say about our relationships?  Perhaps what we are communicating illustrates what we value in that relationship. For example, we may maintain friendships and family relationships to talk about our everyday experiences. For our romantic partners, we seek to communicate the importance of our relationship through assurances and openness. From all of these relationships, we are seeking positivity and openness, among many other values. Nothing radical happening on e-mail compared to any other venue–just another venue upon which to share the human condition.

Johnson, A., Haigh, M., Becker, J., Craig, E., & Wigley, S. (2008). College Students’ Use of Relational Management Strategies in Email in Long-Distance and Geographically Close Relationships. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, 381-404.

Understanding the outcomes of supportive communication: A dual-process approach

[Editor's Note: Brant Burleson passed away last month, so I add this entry in honor of his work]

By Guest Author Garrett Gustafson

Comforting is a difficult art.  It is always difficult to find the right words to help those in need of solace.  As such it is imperative that we know what types of support will provide the results we intend.  A number of studies demonstrate how supportive communication works.  Burleson’s study offers evidence that effective support is related to the following factors:

  • Cognitive processing – the amount of thought a person applies to the supportive advice.
  • Processing ability and motivation – the capability of a person to fully understand the message, and the motivation for the person to do so.
  • Person-Centeredness – the degree to which the message acknowledges the person’s feelings.
  • Cues – things in the environment that change how the person reacts to the message.

 

Picture of two Russian SoldiersBurleson’s research suggests that these four factors lead to different levels of satisfactory support.  He finds that the amount of cognitive processing or thought a person applies to support messages is related to how useful that solace is evaluated as.  The research also suggests that one’s ability to process the message and motivation to do so vastly changes the perceived effectiveness.  People who are increasingly upset have more motivation to process support (and thus apply more cognitive processing).  Additionally, people who are better able to process support messages benefit more from them.  He found that in all of these situations supportive communication was taken more positively, and was reported to have a greater effect. There is a tipping point, in that people that who are extremely upset have a diminished ability to process supportive communication, and less likely to regard it as useful or positive.

The degree to which the message acknowledges the person’s feelings also impacts its effectiveness.  High person-centered messages are often regarded as the most beneficial, and positive.  Highly centered messages focus on the person’s feelings and address them instead of the cause of upset.  Finally, Burleson also suggests that things in the environment such as a good smells can increase the perceived positivity of the message. However, he also notes that these cues are often a much more temporal source of comfort.

In order to improve supportive communication skills one should provide high person-centered messages.  Messages that acknowledge the upset person’s feelings are more effective at solacing the person for the long term.  The helper or supporter should also remember that because extremely upset people cannot process support messages accurately, they should be first supported with lower to mid person-centered messages (i.e., messages that offer solutions or draw attention away from the problem instead of addressing it).  These messages serve to distract the person from their problems and diminish them enough until  the more meaningful high person-centered messages can be received.

Burleson, B. R. (2009). Understanding the outcomes of supportive communication: A dual-process approach. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26, 21-38.

Long-Distance Warps Our Perceptions of Romantic Partners

By Guest Author Lyndsey ChamberlainRabby blog cell phone

As a person in a long distance dating relationship (LDDR), I found it interesting that couples in a LDDR say they are happier then geographically close dating relationships (GCDR). I also was interested to learn that idealization of each other in a long distance dating relationship can adversely affect the relationship when a couple reunites.

In a survey of 122 heterosexual couples from a large Midwestern university, Stafford and Merolla looked at whether idealization may influence why LDDR are more stable and in some cases more satisfied with their relationship.

They also factored in days between face to face communication and other forms of communication, i.e., telephone. Stafford and Merolla found LDDR spend less time together than GCDR face to face and there is no great difference between how much LDDR and GCDR communicate by other means. They also found that idealization in LDDR increased when the time between face to face communications increased. LDDR also seemed to say they were happier with their relationships then the GCDR did. This is an example of how idealization can form false impressions of a partner.

In a separate survey of approximately 400 Midwestern college students, Stafford and Merolla conducted a second study, based off the first, saying idealization, type and frequency of communication, and other relational characteristics can predict long-term stability for LDDR who remain long distant or become geographically close.

Participants completed a survey on quality of marital index adapted for dating partners, global commitment scale, idealistic distortion scale and a whether or not each partner want to live in the same location as their partner. They looked at research points from the time they contacted the couples and then again after 6 months had passed to inquire about the couples relational status. Of the sample, half stayed distant and the other half moved closer.  82% of couples that moved close ended the relationship and only 40% that stayed distant ended the relationship. Stafford and Merolla found there is more stability in LDDR that stay distant then ones that become close. They determined idealistic distortion kept the LDDR intact. They also found couples who became geographically close and had more face to face communication during the separation had more stable relationships than others in the study.

If interested in lowering the idealization for a partner, it is important to increase face to face communication and be honest with each other and the changes in one another’s lives. To reduce idealization, be realistic when thinking of a long distant partner’s true qualities.

A problem that LDDR couples encounter with their partners when they become geographically close is having overly optimistic views of one another. They may feel like they know each other completely but then feel like they reunite with a stranger. More realistic people may experience less relational trouble when they reunite because they can be better prepared for the changes. LDDR should also increase the frequency they talk about important beliefs rather than avoid them to avoid disagreement during one of the few face to face interactions. This will help a couple because they will not have a false impression of future plans.

Stafford, L., & Merolla, A. (2007). Idealization, reunions, and stability in long-distance dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 37-54

Most Think a Workplace Romance is a Bad Idea

By Guest Author Lizaura Riveraworkplace romance-- two stuffed animals hugging via lorraineemmans

Have you ever engaged in a workplace romance? The truth is most people have at some point, though interestingly most agree that a workplace romance carries negative implications.

In a survey of 140 employees, Horan and Chory explored interpersonal perceptions of peers who have been involved in a workplace romance and how that affected their other work relationship. They focused on four sets of variables:

  • Trust-in the survey the word trust was used to demonstrate the feelings towards a person.
  • Solidarity-used as a way to explain how people would feel towards someone in a given situation.
  • Honesty-used to measure how a co-worker would relate and speak to someone who was in a work place romance.
  • Deception-similar to honesty and solidarity deception was used as a way for people to describe their feelings towards a co-worker in certain situations, such as would they lie?

The data was used to describe how people would react, communicate, and feel towards a work place romance. Throughout these four issues in work place relationships is the idea that most workers respected and had a better rapport with people who were in a relationship with someone who was not a superior. Trust is a major issue for workers and according to Horan and Chory it dissipates towards people who are in a work place romance. People perceive workplace romances negatively–they divide people and often make the workplace uncomfortable. When one member of the team is not happy things quickly and surely fall apart.

Of course these things are not difficult to deduce even if one has never had to deal with a workplace romance. Most people that I know agree that this type of relationship is rarely good, as it creates unhealthy and un-productive levels of anonymity between people. But yet, workplace romances still happen…

Horan, S. M., & Chorry, R. M. (2009). When work and love mix: Perceptions of peers in  workplace romances. Western Journal of Communication, 73, 349-369.

How and Why Students Use Instant Messaging

By Guest Author Carolyn Borsch

Ding: You have 12 billion messages. Well, maybe not, but that’s how many instant messages (IMs) get sent each day, worldwide, among 510 million users.

Quan-Haase examined a wide-range of studies involving North American college and middle/high school students regarding their instant messaging habits, with whom they use IM to communicate, and the effects of IM on their social and academic life. Quan-Haase made the following baseline observations:

  • High use abounds across the board.
  • Speed, availability of information, and support for multiple conversations and multitasking attract students to this form of communication.
  • IM is used to form and maintain communities and social ties, minimizes the gap felt between long distance communicators (like friends back home), and increase closeness- sense of psychological connection between two people.
  • IM is informal, and convenient to send messages not phone call worthy.
  • Certain features help maintain and promote students’ identity.
  • IM is used to stay in touch with classmates, friends, family members, and to meet new people. However, it is used more frequently to talk with friends on campus than friends back home.
  • In-person meetings are still important, even though they take place less often.
  • There is an increase in the use of IM by faculty and staff at universities. Professors hold virtual office hours and use IM to connect students with libraries for reference help.

On the plus side, IM provides a new environment for collaboration with peers, professors, librarians, technicians, and other experts. It also correlates with greater numbers of social ties (something that more recent studies continue to indicate). However, possible negative effects include 1) the diminished quality of a student’s writing- very few professors actually think that writing quality has declined since the introduction of the internet, 2)  multitasking leading to less attention on homework and studying, interfering with a student’s focus, and 3) students find it difficult to ignore an IM.

Capturing and measuring IM use can be difficult, as many different levels of engagement exist.  Quan-Haase suggests measuring IM use by initially measuring overall time logged in, measuring time spent screening IM users, time spent reading/writing IM messages, time spent checking the IM buddy list, and time spent on administrative tasks like updating profile information.

Quan-Haase, A. (2008). Instant Messaging on campus: Use and integration in university students’ everyday communication. The Information Society, 24, 105-115.

An alternative to starting relationship repair with communication?

By Guest Author Ashley Tiongson

After ending a two year relationship, I thought of being a marriage therapist. As a hopeless romantic, I read countless self-help books on relationships and marriages in hopes of sustaining a lifelong commitment someday. Within the books, chapters were often dedicated to teaching communication techniques that should be executed before seeking professional help. In a recent article,  Sheras and Koch-Sheras offer an interesting alternative to this notion.

According to Sheras and Koch-Sheras, many therapists teach communication techniques to couples when beginning treatment. Using this approach, some couples have shown that prematurely learning those communication skills can lead to more harm than good. The communication they are taught prematurely may increase the anger and the conflict that the couples came to therapy for in the first place.

Instead, the authors argue, couples should envision themselves and act as if they are a “we”, versus entering therapy with individual agendas for the relationship. Once they establish a mutual committed entity, couples should follow the Couple Power model of treatment (CPT)- Commitment, Cooperation, Communication and Community, in that order, while postponing the teaching of communication skills until later in therapy. Upon successful completion, couples can then learn effective communication skills that will benefit them maximally.

The Four C’s of CPT:

  • Commitment: Couples must create a commitment by shifting the focus from their individual needs and problems to what works for the couple as a whole. Within this phase, couples must envision what the relationship they have committed to working together would look like if they could have what they wanted. Once that vision is reached together, they are to establish a commitment to the vision of the couple entity while keeping in mind they must maintain this commitment throughout the process.
  • Cooperation: The very essence of cooperation asks that the individual commits to their partnership to produce a joint effort to work as a team to realize and manifest their shared vision. The couples draft an “emotional contract” that focuses on creating something together that is fulfilling and beautiful to both.
  • Communication: With the successful completion of the first two C’s, couples start realizing that clear communication is crucial for their success. Good communication such as dedicated listening, fair fight training, and careful observation lead to couples being understood completely. When the partners feel acknowledged, there is less resistance in therapy, thus accelerating them to the last step.
  • Community: By this time, a “new” couple emerges that is full of potential. Community refers to creating a supportive environment that can consist of other peers in healthy relationships, family, parents, and even children. By having this support system, couples may benefit from advice and wisdom from these model couples. Most importantly, it gives couples consistent support to keep up and nurture their lasting commitment.

[Editor's note: I should point out that Steps 1 and 2 can not be accomplished without a bit of communication training, so there is a small if inherent contradiction to this path. Of course, I will admit readily and freely my personal bias to starting with communication!]

Sheras, P., Sheras P. (2008). Commitment first, communication later: Dealing with barriers to effective couples therapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 38(3), 109-117.