How We Access Each Other
Have you ever moved cities before? If you have, it’s time to stop scrolling and experience a 5-hour energy fueled rant about something you can relate to! When I was 18, I moved for the first time in my entire life. This move wasn’t accompanied by any family, instead I shipped out to college from the beautiful sunshine state of Colorado to the lush and wet evergreen Washington. For those of you who don’t have the geographic layout of the US burned into your memory from when you were in 5th grade, that’s about a twenty-four hour drive. Which means that I was very far away from home. And coming to this college of 14,000 people, I knew approximately 2. So I guess you could say that I felt a little isolated, and had approximately no idea about what I had gotten myself into. And as anyone who has moved before knows, things are easier when you know people: whether it be using them as a crutch because they know what’s going on or embracing the endless void of ignorance with somebody who moved there too and is just as lost as you are. This is the story of my experience studying these connections!
As I mentioned earlier, the school I was living in had 14,000 students. While not all of those students lived on campus, I did not have means nor desire to meet all 14,000 of them. But I did however want to meet enough so that I wouldn’t be alone. To do this, I began to study people. And not in a creepy, stalker way, but more as just general observations. As I continued this study, I began to notice trends and decided to look deeper. Who would have thought that I’d actually be learning things at school? Anyways, after about two months of watching and surveying people, along with research into social psychology, I had come up with a theory about some of the influences that go into creating a lasting connection with people that we meet. You see, building a connection with somebody causes change in both of your lives; that change being the inclusion of a new person. And it is pretty common for change to be rejected by people, in this case the connection not lasting. To build a lasting connection, people need to be as willing as possible to allow that change to occur. My theory then is called the control-confidence change theory. This theory is that when people feel like they have control of a situation, they have greater confidence in change that is occurring and thus will allow it to happen.
To test this theory out, I actually used my roommate as a subject. He was one of those tall awkward band kids that would rather watch Family Guy than interact with people (we all had one of those people in our lives at one point or another), so I figured he’d be the perfect candidate. Here on campus, my roommate was definitely most comfortable in our room. This was where he ate, slept, did homework, relaxed, worked out, took pictures, and ultimately lived. He knew this room like the back of his hand, and because he was comfortable there he felt like he had total control of what was going on. As soon as he left the room however, he was so lost he may as well have been in another country.
In order for my little experiment to work, I needed a control group, so I recruited a few of my friends that my roommate didn’t know yet to serve as the people he would be building a connection with. And we arranged to get together every day for two weeks, alternating between meeting outside for two days in a row and hanging out in my room for two days in a row. The first two days I invited him to come out and join us, his only answer was to turn up the volume of Seth MacFarlane’s newest episode. When I brought my friends over, he tolerated their presence but didn’t interact very much, mostly staying glued to his computer but occasionally laughing at one of our jokes. When it was time to go outside again, big shocker his answer was no. But I was surprised that he actually answered me, and that his tone sounded like he would’ve enjoyed being with us but he was still hesitant to join. And on the second round of my friends coming over, he shut his laptop and talked to us all for almost the entire time! He shared about some of his past and even cracked a joke or two of his own! I could see him gaining some confidence with the group, and thought he may be willing to allow some change to occur.
As I invited him for the third round outside, much to my surprise he actually agreed. However, once we joined everyone at a central location on campus, he proceeded to not interact with anybody. I believe this may have been because he no longer felt that he controlled the situation, and so he locked down to minimize potential change. But the fact that he was going outside and spending time there made me believe that he would acclimate to being outside, and might find himself comfortable and feeling in-control there. The next day, when it was getting to be time for everyone to come over, he actually texted them each individually and invited them, seizing control and exhibiting a lot of confidence in the change of connecting to these friends! I decided to push things a little farther, and once they arrived I left the room to see what would happen. After everybody left, I texted one of them to see how it went, and found out that they had an amazing time and actually made plans to go on hikes the next few days! Clearly he felt confident enough in his control and security with these people to begin forging the links of a connection with them. I felt satisfaction; not only had my theory proven correct in its first trial, I’d also created a friendship that is still around today!
Now I can’t guarantee that things will go as smoothly with everybody as they did with my roommate, but I look forward to further experiencing the world of possibilities as we all make new connections!