Friend Making by Short Positive Contacts

Charles Emmrys PhD

Social groups stay connected and functional by using various ways of communication. The most important one, surprisingly, is something called “short positive contacts. It consists of:

  • Looking someone in the eye
  • Saying ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’
  • Watching for the response (positive or negative or indifferent)
  • Walking away

The whole thing usually takes about 2 to 5 seconds but it is essential to the functioning of any group. If you walk into a group and do not say 'Hi', everyone will wonder and start asking questions like “is he mad” or “is he stuck up” or “is he friendly or just antisocial”. So short positive contacts lets the group know you are a nice guy. Popular kids are distinguished primarily by how often they say 'Hi'. They tend to say 'Hi' a lot. Unpopular kids have a very low rate of saying 'Hi'.

Here is an exercise to increase your social network and to know who to invest your time in.

  1. To start, make a list of possible friends in your class or in your grade.
  2. Each day, say 'Hi' to one person on the list. When you get home, report on (a) did they say 'Hi' back (b) did they smile and (c) did they say anything else nice or not nice. Only say 'Hi' once in that day to that person.
  3. If you have other friends, you can play with them as always, but you only say 'Hi' to the person of the day once.
  4. Make a column of those that are nice, those that are a little bit nice and those that are not nice.
  5. When you have said 'Hi' to all those that are on the list, then start saying hi to those that are on the nice column on a regular basis. This will allow a friendship to possibly develop in time.
  6. When people on the nice column start to say 'Hi' to you first, you can say 'Hi' to them whenever you see them.
  7. The people that are nice to you are the ones you invest time in.
  8. The ones that are not nice are ones you only say hi to every couple of weeks or so. You say 'Hi' to check if they are still not interested in you or to see if they have changed.
  9. Never say 'Hi' to bullies.

When friends start wanting to play with you, only play with them for as long as they are nice. When they stop paying attention to you, say a polite “thank you for playing, I got to go now, bye”. Popular kids have a very good sense of how long to play with friends and when it is time to go. So don’t play too long.


Three Rules to Prevent Bullying

  1. Keep five feet away from them as much as possible.
  2. Do not make eye contact with them, i.e., do not look at them at all.
  3. Do not talk to them. EVER.

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