Lately I’ve been watching a television show that portrayed a social experiment that was so intriguing. The show is called Married at First Sight and chronicles the experience of three couples who meet at the altar. The couples are put together by a group of relationship experts who match them based on comparability tests and personal interviews. While I admit the idea is out of the ordinary, I think there’s a lot of merit to it. The couples most likely would have never met if it had not been for these experts. As I was watching the show I asked myself if I could marry a perfect stranger in that type of situation and I would. It’s one thing to be set up by friends and family and another one to be set up by people who have studied human behavior and have years of experience and degrees in their respective fields. As someone who is familiar with many of the personality theories that guide studies on romantic interactions and the longevity of relationships, I would feel fairly comfortable marrying a perfect stranger in these circumstances. As I watched the show it was eye opening to observe how people requested certain traits and characteristics in their future mate but weren’t willing to compromise in order to complement those requested traits. An example of this was one of the women who talked and discussed with the experts at length on how much she wanted traditional gender roles and wanted a man who would do all the manly chores and be strong. Yet, she was appalled when she got what she wanted and found out that her dream man also expected her to cook for him. I’m a huge fan of social experiments and while matchmaking is a significant industry, it’s different when there’s a team working together to match compatible people.
I rarely browse articles but the title of this one caught my eye. After reading it I immediately realized that it was the best non-scholarly article I’ve read this year to date. I’m a psychology junkie and I love reading articles and books related to relationships, human interactions, and patterns of behavior. Very interesting stuff. Now, outside of the fact that the author is a good writer, she also took the liberty of attaching the original research article that she was referencing. This was great because it gave me a little more background on the original study that had been done. Which, by the way, would have been an excellent dissertation topic. The whole idea behind the article is that we choose who we fall in love with and that we can fall in love with someone based on interpersonal interactions we’ve had with them that were meaningful and required both individuals to be vulnerable to each other at the same time. The study the author referenced was conducted with college psychology students that were paired together. They were tasked with asking each other a set of questions and their emotional closeness was measured afterwards. There was also a component that author of the article noted that included looking into the eyes of the person for four minutes straight. Yes, four minutes. The idea behind that is that it is a way for both individuals to feel equally vulnerable at the same time. This builds emotional closeness. The author in the article tried this with a guy using the same questions from the original study and got positive results. It’s interesting how relationship dynamics can change when there are opportunities to talk about personal topics. You can sometimes see a different side of someone when they are by themselves versus when they are in a group because their defenses are down and a one-on-one interaction can foster an environment of intimacy and emotional closeness that is much harder to achieve in a group setting. So hypothetically, you could “gently persuade” someone to fall in love with you by looking into their eyes for four minutes and the facilitation of these discussion questions the author mentions and includes a link for in the article. Interesting.
As I’ve mentioned before in some previous posts, I don’t watch a huge amount of television. As a result, I’ve grown to have an appreciation for the commercial free atmosphere of Netflix. In addition, it’s nice to watch seasons of shows instead of waiting for a week before the next episode. One show that has really grabbed my interest is Dexter. I just finished season 4. I only watch the show in short bursts because it can be fairly intense, but I’m drawn to the complexity of Dexter’s childhood and how it has affected his behaviors as an adult. By no means do I think that the show is child friendly but it is SO intriguing from a human behavior/psychology perspective. The show is about a blood splatter analyst (Dexter) who has a secret of his own. He wrestles with being a traditional family man and keeping his big secret from others. Dexter has had a traumatic experience in his early childhood that has set him apart from other people. He had a father who taught him how to function in a way that would prevent him from spending the rest of his life in prison. The unique thing about the show is that the storyline is in first person. Dexter struggles in every episode with what he is expected to be and who he really perceives himself to be. While Dexter’s challenges with his secret are more marked than many other people, in every season he becomes more of a person. Watching Dexter navigate his personal and work relationships is a reminder to me of how often we can stereotype or assume things about others. On the surface, no one would ever guess that Dexter has this huge secret because he struggles with being genuine and honest with himself and others. As a result, Dexter has few close relationships.
Most of us have heard at one point or another is the fact that you can’t change people. Millions of hearts have been unnecessarily broken because their owners did not believe this fact. While I absolutely believe that this is true, I think that there may be some exceptions. The fact of the matter is that people can change each other. The point is that you can’t change someone by trying to do that. It makes absolutely no sense being in a relationship with someone because you think one day they’ll see the light and change for the better. The truth of the matter is that sometimes it’s easy to underestimate the impact that people have on each other. Social psychology teaches that a person is shaped and developed by his or her social interactions with others. We have an impact of people–whether we like it or not. The chain effect of human interaction and friendship is often underestimated. Try to change someone and you’ll fail. Present someone with the opportunity to change in a way that makes them feel as if they aren’t changing–merely evolving, and drop some very subtle motivational hints. Insert some positive reinforcement and you have a much better change of getting them to change. While this example may be a little much (and manipulative), my point is that that there is a way to influence people to change in a way that makes them feel good about it. Winston Churchill said that tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell and have him look forward to the trip. But I digress. My point is that people need motivation to change and many times their relationships and interactions with others can serve as this motivation. People can change, they just need a reason.
One thing that I’m working on this year is becoming more organized. I function in a state of organized chaos. I say chaos because looking in from the outside, one would never guess that the mess is organized. As someone who enjoys being busy, I am often involved in numerous small projects at once. Being in school adds another additional level of responsibilities as my classes are getting harder and it takes more time to actually complete assignments. While I’m perfectly content “B”-ing my way through the program, I want to start to apply myself more. BUT lately I’ve been doing better at managing time. It’s always nice to know that I’m being somewhat productive and working my way towards some goals that I have. There’s a lot that needs to happen this year according to my five year plan. One of the things that I like when I’m working with clients is when they have a plan as to what they want to do. I also like hanging out with people who know what they want out of life. Someone once said that we are the average of the top five people we spend the most time with. One of the things that I’m studying is how we are influenced by other people. All that being said, it’s good to hang out with organized and ambitious people because characteristics like that tend to rub off. Definitely the plan for this year. Carpe diem!