Finding out that you share the same views as another person may lead to an instant connection. In fact, many people hold the belief that sharing our positive beliefs with another promotes a sense of closeness (Bosson, Niederhoffer, & Swann, 2006). This makes intuitive sense, because if two people find out that they have something in common, they now have a topic to talk about and have a deeper level of understanding of one another. Sharing something positive may also make us see that person in a positive light.
But what about sharing what we dislike? Does this help us connect to another person? We are often told to keep our conversations light and positive during first dates with new people. However, research shows that sharing our dislikes may help us bond to a new person faster.
United In Hate
Bosson and colleagues (2006) conducted a study based on the belief that two people who share a dislike of a target person will more readily form a closer connection than when they share a positive view of an object or target. The researchers based their idea off of previous research which has shown that people tend to remember negative information more clearly than positive information. For example, it has been shown that negative information and events receive more attention than positive events and information (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer & Vohs, 2001).
Bosson and colleagues’ (2006) research consisted of three specific studies. In the first study, 120 college students identified their closest friend and were then instructed to list as many of the likes and dislikes they could remember that they shared with this person when they first met him/her. It was shown that people shared more negative attitudes about other people, compared to positive attitudes, when first becoming friends. The largest percentage of shared attitudes, however, was positive and had to do with nonperson objects such as movies, activities and beliefs. What was also interesting was that people still (incorrectly) believed that sharing positive attitudes about others is what led to forming close friendships.
The second study focused on current shared attitudes in friendships, rather than on the past, and showed the same results. People reported sharing a larger percentage of negative attitudes about other people with their closest friends at the time the study was conducted.
The third and final study was experimental in nature and required the participants to provide a positive and negative belief about a made-up person. They were then told that they either shared positive or negative attitudes about that made up person with another individual. Similar to the other studies, participants who believed they shared negative attitudes about the made-up person assumed that they would get closer to those who they shared these negative attitudes with (Bosson et al., 2006). Perhaps this has to do with the fact that sharing something negative may be more intimate, as it requires us to expose our private beliefs to a greater extent than positive attitudes do.
So what does this mean? Basically, we think that speaking highly of others makes us bond, when it is the exact opposite. People connect over negative attitudes about other people. The positive attitudes and beliefs come into play when we discuss anything other than people.
Sharing Dislikes With Your Date
The research has shown that sharing negative attitudes promotes closeness faster than sharing positive attitudes, but only when it comes to people, not objects or beliefs. Taking this information into account, to quickly get close to another person we should discuss who we don’t like (based on the science).
However, it’s important to use caution when it comes to sharing negative beliefs. Sharing negative thoughts and attitudes may be a slippery slope which can lead to a very negative date. We must be aware of the precedent that this may set for only focusing on the negative. If you do want to do this, perhaps it is better to focus the divulging of negative attitudes on people such as public figures who are far removed from your/your date’s personal lives (e.g., politicians, actors, etc.). This may prevent you from making a negative first impression.
You should also be sure to share positive beliefs about objects and events that you like. We are attracted to others who are similar to us, so it is helpful to know what we have in common.
You may also be interested in 8 Myths About Dating That Should Be Busted For Good
Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology, 5, 323–370.
Bosson, J., Johnson, A. Niederhoffer, K., & Swann, W. (2006). Interpersonal chemistry through negativity: Bonding by sharing negative attitudes about others. Personal Relationships, 13, 135-150.