How Do People Click

I’m fascinated by what makes individuals click. Within minutes we often know whether we want to pursue a friendship with someone, or not.

I always thought it was strictly a matter of personality. For example, I’m keenly aware if I’m asking all the questions, or if I’m the only one offering information. That doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind about a person after we’ve spent more time together, but I’ve often found that the initial click I feel (or don’t feel) is spot-on. In other words, I should probably trust my instincts.

Nevertheless, I sometimes feel guilty about those snap judgements. What a relief when one of my blog readers suggested the book Click: The Forces Behind How We Engage with People, Work, and Everything We Do by Ori and Ram Brafman. (Side note: I find it endlessly cool that people I’ve never met recommend books for me.)

Now, I can’t say I loved the book, but it did help me think about why I might feel friendship chemistry with some people more than others.

The Brafman brothers use research to explain the five “click accelerators” that help foster friendships, business relationships, or any situation where “clicking” with someone is a good thing.

The 5 Click Accelerators are:

1. Similarity: According to the Brafmans’ research, quantity matters more than quality with this “click accelerator.” You might be disheartened to learn that surface commonalities like having the same name and liking the same band can be enough to create a real connection. (As an example, I immediately like anyone named Nina. Doesn’t mean we’ll ultimately be friends, but I do tend to light up when I discover the similarity.)

2. Vulnerability: They say that by demonstrating your vulnerability over your uber-confidence you invite the other person to display their vulnerability too, which creates trust. Of course this can go too far and have the opposite effect. Ever meet an over-sharer? I’ve been that over-sharer before (hello, I’m a blogger). I know in the moment it’s happening that I’ve blown it, but I can’t always control myself. I’m working on it.

3. Proximity: The Brafmans are not just referring to the same city in this click accelerator. They’re referring to a matter of feet—as in dorm rooms, cubicles, neighborhoods and so on.

4. Resonance: They describe resonance as the ability to stay present in the moment, be in tune with others, demonstrate empathy, elicit empathy from others, and generally be “in the flow.” (I think this is a case of you know it when you see it.)

5. Safe Place: Think of this as a matter of context. The Brafmans describe the first year of college as a good example. Everyone is in the mindset to make new friends (vulnerability and proximity factor in here too). Another example is connecting during times of “joint adversity,” which could be something intense like surviving an emergency plane landing together, or something infinitely more benign like surviving a Zumba class with your dignity intact.

My initial reaction was to insist that these elements cannot be forced. What’s more, sometimes all of those elements are present and we still don’t click. What gives? Even the Brafmans acknowledge that some of this plutonic “love at first sight” stuff happens with a bit of unexplainable, or at least immeasurable magic. Nevertheless, they claim that if you analyze the times you felt an instant connection it’s probable that one or more of the five accelerators were at play.

So tell me, do you think it’s possible to KNOW why you click with certain people and not others? Is it really a matter of “magic” or does this research have some merit?


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Nina Badzin is a freelance writer, an advice columnist at The HerStories Project, a book reviewer at greatnewbooks.org, and a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.