While you often don't realize it, the way you relate to the people in your life is constantly changing.

• One week you're best friends, the next she stabs you in the back and you hate her (or you're dead, depending on how literally she stabbed you).

• One day you're strangers and not the least bit interested in each other, the next you have a conversation that makes you bond so much you can't wait to meet again.

No matter how subtle, every time you interact with somebody, the way you relate to each other changes a little.

And unless you're living together, when it comes to most people, you spend more time without than with them, right?  So in that case, where does the bigger part of your relationships exist?

That's right, it only exists in your head.

While the core "seeds" of your relationships are planted when you hang out with someone, your mind fills in the blanks when they are away.

Before technology existed I imagine we would fill in these gaps wondering what they were doing, missing them, etc. Maybe even fantasizing about how it would be the next time we'd be together. We still do that to some extent now.

The advent of cellphones and social media in recent times however, has completely changed this.  Because now people are never really away from you.  They might be physically away, but you always have some external cues (text messages, social media profiles, buzz about them, etc.) to base your perception of that person on, consequently changing the way you relate to them in between 2 real life interactions.

This is great because now you have the possibility to stay in touch with everyone you ever met, but there's also a downside to it:

As much as 93% of our communication happens nonverbally.  If so much of what we say (or rather what we mean) is communicated through our body language, eye contact and vocal tonality/pacing, that leaves only 7% to be accounted for by words.

Think about what that means for a minute because it's huge!!

Every time you get a text message, you interpret it, causing you to feel a certain emotion towards that person which in turn slightly changes the way you relate with them.  But you are only basing that emotion on 7% of what they are actually communicating, being the words.  Regardless of the exact percentage, we're not talking about some subtleties getting lost in transmission here. In fact, it's practically the whole message.

Because of this, it's safe to say that your opinion about a lot of people could be slightly inaccurate because of this and your feelings even more.

Just say for example someone texts you something while you're in a bad mood, you interpret it negatively and your emotions change.

The next time they text you something you're already looking at them from a slightly more negative perspective, so if there is any room for interpretation (and there is 93% room, that's a lot), chances are you'll be inclined to fill it in negatively.

The next time your perspective has changed even more, causing a snowball effect in that particular direction. In fact, the whole thing is a bit like basing your opinion of someone on false rumours if you think about it.

Because of this, most of our relationships at the moment are largely based on all kinds of unreliable pieces of information and thoughts piled upon thoughts that totally cloud the way we originally felt about that person the last time we were with them, which actually should be the part of the relationship that really counts:  The part where you really connect and experience what it's like to be with that person and whether you like them, can't stand them, or just feel totally neutral for the moment.

To compare, I have two friends in I consider very important but haven't seen in 5 years.
The first has Facebook. We sometimes hear from each other and can see what the other person's up to. This is great and I still hold a very positive opinion about him.  It is not rooted in reality though.  My feelings are based on my personal interpretations of everything I see and read, so chances are that when we meet again it turns out to be totally different from what I expected, for better or worse.

The second one has no Facebook.  In fact it's pretty hard to keep in touch. The only feelings I have towards him are entirely based on the last day we spent together.  After 5 years I'm pretty sure that he'll be a totally different person. But I simply have no idea what he'll be like , so I'll only be able to relate to him based on what it feels like the moment we meet again.  Which not only is much more exciting, it will be a 100% more real, also for better or worse.

So every time you catch yourself feeling noticeably different about someone than before, make sure you check where those feelings come from:

Are they a reaction to something you heard, saw or read about them? Are they based on a conversation they had online with you or even someone else?

If so, take a moment and ask yourself this:

What did it feel like the last time you spent some time with that person in real life?

That should be the only thing that really counts, unless they were recently caught red-handed with murder of course 😉

 

Receive Pepijn's new articles by email.

While there's enough articles here to fill a couple of books and sell them, keeping them on this site where you can read them all for free would be much more awesome!   And it's amazing people like you who make that possible.  If you feel like these posts have helped improve your life, please consider making a donation.