Sherri acts as Beyond Civility’s lead trainer in the communication workshops. She is a communication consultant and a mediator.
We have previously reviewed Status, Certainty, and Autonomy. Today’s “minute” is about Relatedness.
People have a core need for human connection. We also have a need for safety. In order to remain safe, we constantly assess whether people we meet are “friend or foe.” According to the work of Princeton University professor Alex Todorov, described by Daniel Kahneman in Thinking Fast and Slow:
“[W]e are endowed with an ability to evaluate, in a single glance at a stranger’s face, two potentially crucial facts about that person: how dominant (and therefore potentially threatening) he is, and how trustworthy he is, whether his intentions are more likely to be friendly or hostile…. The accuracy of face reading is far from perfect: round chins are not a reliable indicator of meekness, and smiles can (to some extent) be faked. Still, even an imperfect ability to assess strangers confers a survival advantage.”
The social groups we form and the relationships we build help us to build trust and form a barrier against the unknown. One study found that any marker of affiliation between two people, even something as subtle as tapping their hands together in synchrony, causes them to feel more compassion for each other when distressed. When someone is perceived as safe, our capacity to empathize and our ability to problem-solve increases.
When trying to solve a problem with someone, look to mitigate feelings of marginalization, exclusion or denigration—whether yours or those of the people you are trying to work with.