TIME relationships

5 Types of Friends That Everyone Has

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Because life is a journey we walk together through

The Comic Relief

Recently a close pal and I were both coping with very ill parents. There’s nothing funny about disease and dying, but for a whole year we compared notes in a humorous way. We each used hyperbole to describe our plights and made dark jokes about whose family situation was more depressing. We made fun to relieve our sadness (albeit temporarily), and that ability to make each other laugh helped us both get through the tragedy. Another good thing about a friend with a great sense of humor? She usually has warmth and compassion to spare.

Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including The Pretty One ($26, amazon.com) and I’m So Happy for You ($14, amazon.com). A former friendship and advice columnist for Slate, she lives in New York City.

The Life Coach

Because of our busy lives, I hardly ever speak to one of my closest friends. But it doesn’t really matter. When we do connect, without fail, she reinvigorates me. Her pep talks make me feel more hopeful about myself and my future. What’s more, my energizer friend is strong and tough, with a vigor for life I can feed off of. Through her example, she makes me more eager to achieve my goals or just keep tackling my everyday. Talking with her recharges my emotional battery until the next time we have a minute to pick up the phone.

Courtney Macavinta is the author of Respect ($16, amazon.com) and a cofounder of the Respect Institute, a nonprofit that offers youths the tools to build self-respect. She lives in New York City.

The Risk Taker

We all need an adventurous friend who nudges us out of the status quo—someone who introduces us to new ideas, philosophies, and activities that we might have otherwise not been exposed to or feared to explore on our own. I’ve long been inspired by a world-traveler friend whose preschooler’s passport has more stamps than most adults.’ She has helped me become less intimidated and more excited about traveling. In fact, thanks to her, my husband and I drove an RV across Canada two summers ago with our three children, who were all four or under. Scary? Yes. But we had so much fun, we’re going again this year.

Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and the author of The Friendship Fix ($16,amazon.com). She lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Challenger

One characteristic we underrate in a friend is the ability to be brutally honest. That’s why I’ve always admired the friendship of the women’s rights leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. They led very different lives. Anthony was single; Stanton, a married mother of seven. And they continually and vociferously argued about temperance, abolition, sexual rights, and suffrage. But because they were able to challenge and educate each other, they accomplished much for females in the United States. It’s also why they remained close, trusted friends for more than half a century.

Mary Ann Dzuback, Ph.D., is the director of women, gender, and sexuality studies at Washington University, in St. Louis.

The Loyalist

Every woman needs a “hot mess” friend—by which I mean a friend you can be a complete wreck in front of. This pal can drop in unannounced when you’re looking your worst. You haven’t showered and the house is a total disaster, but she won’t judge you. More important, she’ll let you be emotional when you’re at a low point. Recently I was at dinner with a friend when I got the call that I hadn’t landed a big acting job. I tried to pretend that it was no big deal, but she didn’t buy it. She said, “I’d rather you talk about being bummed than wear a fake smile all night.” And so I vented my frustration at not getting the job, and she really listened. We all need a friend who hangs in there even when we’re not at our best.

Ariane Price is a member of The Groundlings, a famed improv troupe in Los Angeles. She blogs about her life at Tales of a Real Hollywood Mom.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME celebrities

See Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss on the Cover of Vogue

Mikael Jansson—Vogue Karlie Kloss and Taylor Swift on the March 2015 cover of Vogue

Plus a BFF photo-shoot

Not all best friends get to pose together on the cover of Vogue — but Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss aren’t like normal best friends.

Their Vogue photo shoot is full of painfully beautiful images of the most aspirational type of female friendship: cuddling in the sunlight, baking cookies and strumming on a guitar, taking selfies in a convertible, all wearing impossibly gorgeous couture.

“People had been telling us for years that we needed to meet,” Swift tells Vogue. “I remember makeup artists and hair people going, ‘God, she and Karlie would be best friends.”

Once they were introduced by model Lily Aldridge, the chemistry was instant. “We were just like, ‘You. My friend. Now,'” Swift says.

So what are they doing for Galentine’s Day?

TIME Friendship

5 Ways to Celebrate ‘Galentines Day’ Like Lelise Knope

No boys allowed

While Parks & Recreation’s Leslie Knope was certainly not the first to make a girl’s celebration out of Valentine’s Day, she did it best.

“Ladies celebrating ladies,” she says of her annual pre-Valentines day brunch. “It’s like Lillith Fair, minus the angst. Plus, frittatas.” And that mentality is totally consistent with Knope’s code: “hos before bros, uteruses before dude-erusus, ovaries before brovaries.”

So here are 5 great ways to celebrate Galentines day in the spirit of civic-minded, lady-loving Leslie Knope.

1) Make pancakes with your girlfriends to the soundtrack of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 “Glass ceiling” concession speech, then discuss women in politics over brunch.

2) Play women’s-only charades, including only books or movies written by or about women. Consider team names like “Geraldine Ferraro” or “Ruth Bader Ginsberg.”

3) Enlist your friends in a high-stakes poker game, and then donate the winnings to the International Rescue Committee, to fund a year of a girl’s education (only $58 bucks.)

MORE 8 Fun, Not-Cheesy Ways to Celebrate Valentines Day

4) Binge watch Broad City (another Amy Poehler project) and take a shot every time Abbi or Ilana choose radical acceptance over judgement or competition. Take two shots when Bevers does anything revolting.

5) Dance party. Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift only. No exceptions.

And no chocolate diamonds, under any circumstances.

Read next: It’s Better to Be Single on Valentine’s Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME women

I Was the Maid of Honor for a Girl I Bullied Mercilessly

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I made her preteen life a living hell; years later I’d be walking with her family down the aisle

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“Fatty, fatty, bom, bom!” I screamed, and the other 12-year-old girls around me laughed hysterically.

We pointed, laughed some more, shouted out similar chants, as we ran around our school’s racing track. There were five of us, and our energy was focused on one girl, running alone, tears welling up and nobody to help her. She was our victim; she was no match for the collective energy of a group of self-appointed “cool girls.”

We let the girl overtake us on the track while we ripped her apart in private conversation.

“Her boobs look so weird, she can’t even run with them.”

“She got her period so young, there must be something wrong with her.”

As the girl continued running, boys from our grade walked by on their way to soccer practice. Perfect timing for us, as we watched them shame her body too, echoing our sentiment, validating that we had a right to our behavior. The girl, named Felicity, nickname Flick, continued running.

A lot of people assume that when kids are mean, they don’t really know what they’re doing; that they’re harmless, really. I knew exactly what I was doing, and I knew how it would affect Flick, because I’d been a victim of it for years.

From when I was seven to 13, I had no friends. None, absolutely none. And I wasn’t just left alone to quietly get on with life; kids made fun of me constantly. I had headgear (followed by all other kinds of lisp-inducing braces), horrendous granny-floral glasses and, best of all, warts. A ton of warts on my hands and arms.

Not only was I visually destined to be an elementary school outcast, but pretty soon my personality changed to fit the profile, too. I wouldn’t understand for many years later that people, particularly kids, absorb the identities they are given by others.

I subconsciously developed nervous tics, including counting everything I did in eights, right down to the pieces of toilet paper I used. I obsessively repeated whatever people said to me under my breath, over and over again until someone else spoke to me and I’d change the sentence.

One afternoon, aged 10 in the girl’s locker room (a place designed for bad things to happen) I became so frustrated with the other girls sharing inside jokes I wasn’t a part of, and so paranoid they were talking about me, I slammed the hairbrush I was holding onto the floor. It terrified the girls, only making them more inclined to shout “freak.”

It terrified me, because I felt like one.

So it was pretty great for me when Flick showed up in school. Finally, I wasn’t the biggest weirdo in town. I was pretty relieved everyone seemed to be bored of picking on me, and had moved on to something else.

In my school, tormenting others was the top social currency. I soon realized that not only did I need Flick to distract people from my own inadequacies, but if I joined in with everyone else, maybe I’d finally be accepted.

So there I was, chasing her around the running track, making her sob, breaking her down mentally, like there was no tomorrow. Like I didn’t know what that felt like.

The irony was, of course, I didn’t really like the cool kids. I had nothing in common with them, and they with me. The person I liked the most, if I was honest with myself, was this girl I made cry every day.

When we first met, at the school’s “Welcome Day” for new students, Flick seemed so comfortable in her own skin, so at peace with herself that she gave off a magnetic energy. She wore one of those Lizzie McGuire-esque rainbow tie dye tops, and pink jelly sandals (which I was obsessed with, and my parents never let me get). I’d never met anyone my age like that, and I so desperately hoped that she would overlook my shortcomings, and just like me.

I only stopped bullying Flick when a teacher forced me. The teacher was cool, young, and most of the preteen girls saw her as an older cousin. It made it all the more humiliating when we were made to apologize to Flick and reprimanded for our shameful behavior. Later, we discussed how we couldn’t believe Flick lied and said we were bullying her. She obviously wanted attention.

Too scared of punishment to go near Flick, the girls soon turned their cruelty onto me. I was so, very livid—hadn’t I proved myself to be just like them by now? What had all that effort been for?

Everything came to a head the summer before eighth grade when I was invited to a sleepover party with just a few of the girls. I picked out my clothes and PJs meticulously. Maybe I’d fool them into thinking I’d gotten cool over the summer.

That night, the girls were unrelenting. It became very clear that I was simply there because they weren’t allowed to watch TV past 9 p.m.

They took chocolate cake and wiped it over my face, and I let them. We played one game, I can’t remember the rules for it, but I ended up naked and they laughed at how I had no breasts. I was confused—hadn’t we laughed at Flick for having breasts? I took my things into a corner and slept backward in my sleeping bag so the hood would cover my face and they wouldn’t be able to draw things on me while I slept. They put my hand in a bowl of hot water so I wet myself.

When my mother drove me home the next day, I cried hysterically and wouldn’t tell her what happened. When school started the next week, it was very clear to the class that I’d been demoted.

It didn’t take long for Flick to offer to be my friend. She’d gotten herself some of her own by that point — other girls who’d been bullied, they were sort of forming a club — and they took me in. There were no questions, no conditions; I wasn’t reverted to the bottom of a food chain because with them there wasn’t one.

It turned out that not only did Flick and I have a lot in common, we were pretty normal teenage girls; boy-obsessed, emotional, big on daydreaming. We shared secrets, we made each other scrapbooks.

Once we took the train from our suburb into London by ourselves, without permission, and way too young. As soon as we we frolicked out of the station, I remembered my mom would be picking me up in half an hour from her house, so we frolicked right back onto the train. I thought we were the coolest girls in the world.

Years later and eating dinner at Flick’s house, her kid sister burst out, “Didn’t you used to bully Flick?”

As I sat, frozen in shame, Flick replied, “Yeah… how embarrassing for her!” She winked at me, a familiar expression. That night, I gave her a long-overdue apology.

“When it happened to me, I wanted to die sometimes,” I said.

“Yeah,” she replied. “I know what you mean.”

Fast-forward to today, and my best friend is essentially winning at life. She graduated from the University of Cambridge (yes, that Cambridge) after a year of volunteering in Uganda. She survived a motorcycle crashing into her in Kampala and now calls it a “funny story.” She was elected into a full-time job as the President of Cambridge’s Student’s Union. She got her nose pierced. She still loves rainbow-colored anything. She now works with a teenage girl with Asperger’s Syndrome as her classroom aid.

And last summer, I walked down the aisle as her maid of honor, and watched her marry a loving man who is her equal in kindness and strength.

I had boyfriends in school but I call Flick my “first love” because she was the first person in my life who chose to love me. I wasn’t her family; I was a girl who had made her life hell for a long time. Our lasting friendship continues to teach me the power women gain when we forgive and lift each other up.

In one of the scrapbooks Flick and my other first friends made me, I wrote a note in the back page to myself:

“These are the best friends ever, you are too lucky to have them.

Never take them for granted

Always treat them with respect

Love them for what they are — themselves.”

Charlotte Lait wrote this article for xoJane.

Read next: Bullying Is Good For Your Health

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

Why Your Friend’s Weepy Wedding Toast Was Scientifically Accurate

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Manuel Orero Galan--Getty Images/Moment RF Marriage increases lifetime happiness, says new study

Marrying your best friend could help you live happily ever after

Finally Julia Roberts can get the scientific recognition she deserves. Turns out, she was totally right in My Best Friend’s Wedding: being married to your best friend actually does make you happy (sorry, Julia; congratulations, Cameron Diaz).

According to a study recently published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, married couples who said their spouse was their best friend reported significantly higher rates of life satisfaction than less friendly couples. About half of married or co-habitating couples said their partner was their best friend, and they get almost twice as much “additional life satisfaction” from the relationship than other couples. This finding was consistent even when the researchers controlled for age, gender, income, and health, and was still higher for married buddies than cohabitating couples who said they were best friends.

The benefit of having your spouse be your best friend was much higher for women than for men, but women were also less likely to say that their spouse was their BFF (perhaps because women tend to have lots of close female friendships, while men tend to have fewer).

Marriage rates have declined by almost 60% since 1970, and in 2013 the U.S. marriage rate was the lowest in 100 years (only 31.1 marriages per 1,000 married women). But according to researchers Shawn Grover and John F. Helliwell, who compiled the study on marriage and happiness for the NBER, marriage is strongly correlated with increased happiness, even in less fun periods of life like middle age (this is not to say that middle-aged married people are super happy, they’re just happier than unmarried middle-aged people). They found that even when controlling for the possibility that naturally happy people may be more likely to get married in the first place, marriage comes with a significant increase in life satisfaction. And that increase in life satisfaction endures past the newlywed phase and often result in increased happiness in the long term.

And while marriage is increasingly becoming a “luxury good,” more common among the rich and college-educated, Grover and Helliwell controlled for income in their research, which means that the well-being that comes from marriage isn’t the same as the well-being that comes from wealth.

 

TIME Research

What Your Online Persona Says About Who You Really Are

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Does who you are online match who you are in real life? A new study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows that avatars, the little icons you can customize in video games and Internet forums, are pretty good depictions of the people who created them.

Since more and more people meet and develop friendships and relationships online, researchers at York University in Toronto looked into whether the impressions people get from avatars, like the kind you use on Nintendo Wii and World of Warcraft, are true reflections of the real-life players they’re interacting with. To measure this, the researchers had about 1oo people create an avatar representation of themselves, and then asked nearly 200 others to rate the avatars on openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The results show that traits like being outgoing or anxious are pretty easy to assess, but other traits like conscientiousness and openness to new experiences are more difficult. People with agreeable traits were better able to get their personalities across through their avatars than narcissists.

Katrina FongExample of avatars used in the study

Specific physical traits of the online characters helped translate personalities more than others. Smiles, brown hair, sweaters and open eyes were more likely to come across as friendly and inviting, compared to avatars with neutral expressions or those that didn’t smile. Avatars with black hair, a hat, short hair or sunglasses were less likely to come across as friendly or desiring friendship.

Interestingly, the people in the study didn’t seem to apply usual gender stereotypes to the avatars, though avatars made by females were rated as more open and contentious over all. The researchers speculate that perhaps the digital realm has gender stereotypes that differ from the ones we more commonly experience offline.

“The findings from this study suggest that we can use virtual proxies such as avatars to accurately infer personality information about others,” the study authors conclude. “The impressions we make on others online may have an important impact on our real life, such as who becomes intrigued by the possibility of our friendship.”

TIME Parenting

From BFF to ‘Friend Divorce:’ The 5 Truths We Should Teach Our Girls About Friendship

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There's no such thing as a perfect friendship. It’s time to teach girls the truth about the complexities of BFFs.

Girls may love movies about fairytale princes, but their most captivating romance is with their friends. Every year, I stand on the stages of school auditoriums and ask thousands of girls this question: “How many of you have had a friend divorce?”

Instantly, a sea of hands shoot up in the air – this is not a term I need to define. The girls look around furtively, surprise spreading across their faces. They are astonished to discover they are not the only ones who have lost close friends.

That’s because girls receive unrealistic messages about how to have a friendship. Films and television see-saw between two extremes: mean girl-fests (think Real Housewives) and bestie love-fests (Sex and the City). Adults, meanwhile, aren’t always the perfect role models, either. The result is a steady diet of what I call “friendship myths”: find a best friend, and keep her forever. A good friendship is one where you never fight and are always happy. The more friends you have, the cooler you are.

These myths are all part of the pressure girls face to be “good girls”: liked by everyone, nice to all, and pleasing others before herself. It’s a subject I wrote an entire book on, and see often with my students.

Research has found that girls who are more authentic in their friendships – by being open and honest about their true feelings, and even having conflicts – have closer, happier connections with each other. Yet when a girls’ social life goes awry, they often blame themselves. Many interpret minor problems as catastrophes. Some may not even tell their parents out of embarrassment.

But there are things we can do to prepare girls for the gritty realities of real-life friendships. We can teach them that friendship challenges are a fact of life. That hiccups – a moody friend, fight over a love interest, or mean joke –- are simply par for the course. And when we do? They probably wouldn’t beat themselves up as much when conflicts happen. They’d be more willing to seek out support and move on when it did. Instead of expecting perfection all the time, they could adapt more easily to stress.

Here are five hard but important truths we can teach our girls about their relationships — perhaps sparing them that traumatizing “friend divorce” later on.

There is no such thing as a perfect friendship.

A healthy friendship is one where you share your true feelings without fearing the end of the relationship. It’s also one where you sometimes have to let things that bug you slide. The tough moments will make you wiser about yourself and each other. They will also make you stronger and closer as friends.

You will be left out or excluded.

It may happen because someone is being mean to you, or because someone forgot to include you. It will happen for a big reason or no clear reason at all; it will have everything or nothing to do with you. You will feel sad about it, and as your parent, I will be there to support you.

No matter how hard you try, your apology may not be accepted.

Some people just can’t move on from a conflict. You are only responsible for your own actions, not others’. You cannot make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. If you have done everything you can to make things right on your side, all you can do is wait. Yes, you may wait a long time, maybe even forever, but I will be there to support you.

Friend divorce happens.

Just like people date and break up, friends break up, too. “Best friends forever” rarely ever happens; it’s just that no one talks about it. Friend divorce is a sign that something was broken in your relationship, and it creates space in your life to let the next good friend in. You may be heartbroken by this experience, but your heart is strong, and you will find a new close friend again soon. I will be there to support you.

Friendships ebb and flow.

There are times in every friendship when you or your friend are too busy to call, or are more focused on other relationships. It will hurt, but it’s rarely personal. Making it personal usually makes things worse, and being too clingy or demanding can drive a friend even further away. Like people, friendships can get “overworked” and need to rest. In the meantime, let’s figure out other friends you can connect with.

I know plenty of grown-ups who still haven’t learned these truths – and they can be painful. But that’s all part of friendship: understanding just how hard – but at the same time, rewarding — it can be.

 

Rachel Simmons is the co-founder of Girls Leadership Institute and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls” and “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls With Courage and Confidence.” Follow her on Twitter @racheljsimmons.

TIME psychology

Here’s How to Know Who Your Real Friends Are

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Look at your phone texting and calling patterns. Scientists are realizing they give powerful insights about relationships.

Via Sciencemag.org:

Just by analyzing the calling patterns, the researchers could accurately label two people as friends or nonfriends more than 95% of the time. But the results, published online today in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the mobile phone data were better at predicting friendship than the subjects themselves. Thirty-two pairs of subjects switched from calling each other acquaintances to friends in the traditionally gathered survey data. These are most likely new relationships that formed during the course of the study, say the researchers, and they left a clear signal in the mobile phone data. Friends call each other far more often than acquaintances do when they are off-campus and during weekends. The pattern is so distinct that the researchers spotted budding friendships in the phone data months before the people themselves called themselves friends.

There’s another great article in the WSJ by Robert Lee Hotz about how scientists are using phone data to study our behavior — and learning more than they ever thought they could:

…at MIT, scientists who tracked student cellphones during the latest presidential election were able to deduce that two people were talking about politics, even though the researchers didn’t know the content of the conversation. By analyzing changes in movement and communication patterns, researchers could also detect flu symptoms before the students themselves realized they were getting sick.

“Phones can know,” said Dr. Pentland, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, who helped pioneer the research. “People can get this god’s-eye view of human behavior.”

Of course, companies are very interested in this data:

Cellphone providers are openly exploring other possibilities. By mining their calling records for social relationships among customers, several European telephone companies discovered that people were five times more likely to switch carriers if a friend had already switched, said Mr. Eagle, who works with the firms. The companies now selectively target people for special advertising based on friendships with people who dropped the service.

And some of the results are downright unnerving:

After analyzing more than 16 million records of call date, time and position, the researchers determined that, taken together, people’s movements appeared to follow a mathematical pattern. The scientists said that, with enough information about past movements, they could forecast someone’s future whereabouts with 93.6% accuracy.

The pattern held true whether people stayed close to home or traveled widely, and wasn’t affected by the phone user’s age or gender.

A few other interesting tidbits:

  1. Overall, our phones make us happier. (There’s even an app for that.)
  2. They may be making us more selfish, however. Our phones can fulfill our need for human contact, making us less inclined to go out of our way to help others.
  3. These devices can distract us so much we don’t notice the world around us — even if it contains unicycling clowns. (To be fair, people may actually like us better when we are distracted during a conversation.)
  4. We’ve become so addicted to our phones that two-thirds of users report hearing “phantom ringing.”
  5. We rely so much on these devices that a third of people under 30 can’t remember their home phone numbers — if they have one at all.
  6. 5% of relationships were ended by text message. People even get divorced via text. (iPhone users are more promiscuous, by the way.)
  7. By stripping away the emotional information in faces and intonation, text messaging might be simulating autism.
  8. That said, text message reminders have effectively encouraged saving, reduced smoking and increased voting.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

How to Get People to Like You: 7 Ways From an FBI Behavior Expert

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Meeting new people can be awkward. What should you say? How can you make a good impression? How do you keep a conversation going?

Research shows relationships are vital to happiness and networking is the key to getting jobs and building a fulfilling career.

But what’s the best way to build rapport and create trust? Plain and simple, who can explain how to get people to like you?

Robin Dreeke can.

Robin was head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and has studied interpersonal relations for over 27 years.

He is the author of the excellent book, It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone.

I gave Robin a call to get some answers. (Note that Robin is not speaking for the FBI here, these are his expert insights.)

You’re going to learn:

  1. The #1 secret to clicking with people.
  2. How to put strangers at ease.
  3. The thing you do that turns people off the most.
  4. How to use body language like a pro.
  5. Some great verbal jiu-jitsu to use on people who try to manipulate you.

And a lot more. Okay, let’s learn something.

1) The Most Important Thing To Do With Anyone You Meet

Robin’s #1 piece of advice: “Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.”

Ask questions. Listen. But don’t judge. Nobody — including you — likes to feel judged.

Here’s Robin:

The number one strategy I constantly keep in the forefront of my mind with everyone I talk to is non-judgmental validation. Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them. People do not want to be judged in any thought or opinion that they have or in any action that they take.

It doesn’t mean you agree with someone. Validation is taking the time to understand what their needs, wants, dreams and aspirations are.

So what should you do when people start spouting crazy talk? Here’s Robin:

What I prefer to try to do is, as soon as I hear something that I don’t necessarily agree with or understand, instead of judging it my first reaction is, “Oh, that’s really fascinating. I never heard it in quite that way. Help me understand. How did you come up with that?”

You’re not judging, you’re showing interest. And that lets people calmly continue talking about their favorite subject: themselves.

Studies show people get more pleasure from talking about themselves than they do from food or money:

Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money…

(To learn how FBI hostage negotiators build rapport and trust, click here.)

So you’ve stopped being Judgy Judgerson and you’re happily validating. Oh, if it were only that easy… What’s the problem here? Your ego.

2) Suspend Your Ego To Make People Love You

Most of us are just dying to point out how other people are wrong. (Comment sections on the internet are fueled by this, aren’t they?)

And it kills rapport. Want to correct someone? Want to one-up them with your clever little story? Don’t do it.

Here’s Robin:

Ego suspension is putting your own needs, wants and opinions aside. Consciously ignore your desire to be correct and to correct someone else. It’s not allowing yourself to get emotionally hijacked by a situation where you might not agree with someone’s thoughts, opinions or actions.

Contradicting people doesn’t build relationships. Dale Carnegie said it many years ago — and modern neuroscience agrees.

When people hear things that contradict their beliefs, the logical part of their mind shuts down and their brain prepares to fight.

Via Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential:

So what happened in people’s brains when they saw information that contradicted their worldview in a charged political environment? As soon as they recognized the video clips as being in conflict with their worldview, the parts of the brain that handle reason and logic went dormant. And the parts of the brain that handle hostile attacks — the fight-or-flight response — lit up.

(For more on keeping a conversation fun, click here.)

So you’ve stopped trying to be clever. But how do you get a reputation as a great listener?

3) How To Be A Good Listener

We’ve all heard that listening skills are vital but nobody explains the right way to do it. What’s the secret?

Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next and focus on what they’re saying right now.

Be curious and ask to hear more about what interests you.

Here’s Robin:

Listening isn’t shutting up. Listening is having nothing to say. There’s a difference there. If you just shut up, it means you’re still thinking about what you wanted to say. You’re just not saying it. The second that I think about my response, I’m half listening to what you’re saying because I’m really waiting for the opportunity to tell you my story.

What you do is this: as soon as you have that story or thought that you want to share, toss it. Consciously tell yourself, “I am not going to say it.”

All you should be doing is asking yourself, “What idea or thought that they mentioned do I find fascinating and want to explore?”

Research shows just asking people to tell you more makes you more likable and gets them to want to help you.

The basics of active listening are pretty straightforward:

  1. Listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt, disagree or “evaluate.”
  2. Nod your head, and make brief acknowledging comments like “yes” and “uh-huh.”
  3. Without being awkward, repeat back the gist of what they just said, from their frame of reference.
  4. Inquire. Ask questions that show you’ve been paying attention and that move the discussion forward.

(To learn the listening techniques of FBI hostage negotiators, click here.)

I know, I know — some people are just boring. You’re not that interested in what they’re saying. So what questions do you ask then, smart guy?

4) The Best Question To Ask People

Life can be tough for everyone: rich or poor, old or young. Everyone.

We all face challenges and we like to talk about them. So that’s what to ask about.

Here’s Robin:

A great question I love is challenges. “What kind of challenges did you have at work this week? What kind of challenges do you have living in this part of the country? What kinds of challenges do you have raising teenagers?” Everyone has got challenges. It gets people to share what their priorities in life are at that point in time.

Questions are incredibly powerful. What’s one of the most potent ways to influence someone? Merely asking for advice.

Via Adam Grant’s excellent Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

Studies demonstrate that across the manufacturing, financial services, insurance, and pharmaceuticals industries, seeking advice is among the most effective ways to influence peers, superiors, and subordinates. Advice seeking tends to be significantly more persuasive than the taker’s preferred tactics of pressuring subordinates and ingratiating superiors. Advice seeking is also consistently more influential than the matcher’s default approach of trading favors.

Twisting your mustache thinking you can use this for nefarious purposes? Wrong, Snidely Whiplash. It only works when you’re sincere.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

In her research on advice seeking, Liljenquist finds that success “depends on the target perceiving it as a sincere and authentic gesture.” When she directly encouraged people to seek advice as an influence strategy, it fell flat.

(For a list of the questions that can create a strong bond in minutes, click here.)

But what if you have to approach someone cold? How do you get people who might not want to talk to you to willingly give you their attention?

5) How To Make Strangers Feel At Ease

First thing: tell them you only have a minute because you’re headed out the door.

Here’s Robin:

When people think you’re leaving soon, they relax. If you sit down next to someone at a bar and say, “Hey, can I buy you a drink?” their shields go way up. It’s “Who are you, what do you want, and when are you leaving?” That “when are you leaving” is what you’ve got to answer in the first couple of seconds.

Research shows just asking people if now is a good time makes them more likely to comply with requests:

The results showed that compliance rates were higher when the requester inquired about respondents’ availability and waited for a response than when he pursued his set speech without waiting and inquiring about respondents’ availability.

Nobody wants to feel trapped talking to some weirdo. People are more likely to help you than you think, but they need to feel safe and in control.

(For more on how to make friends easily, click here.)

Even if you get all of the above right you can still come off like a shady used car salesman. And that fear stops you from meeting new awesome people.

Robin says one of the key reasons people come off as untrustworthy is because their words and their body language are misaligned. Let’s fix that.

6) The Best Body Language For Building Rapport

You words should be positive, free of ego and judgment — and your body language (“non-verbals”) needs to match.

Here are the things Robin recommends:

  1. “The number one thing is you’ve gotta smile. You absolutely have to smile. A smile is a great way to engender trust.”
  2. “Keep that chin angle down so it doesn’t appear like you’re looking down your nose at anyone. And if you can show a little bit of a head tilt, that’s always wonderful.”
  3. “You don’t want to give a full frontal, full body display. That could be very offensive to someone. Give a little bit of an angle.”
  4. “Keep your palms up as you’re talking, as opposed to palms down. That says, “I’m hearing what you’re saying. I’m open to what your ideas are.”
  5. “So I always want to make sure that I’m showing good, open, comfortable non-verbals. I just try to use high eyebrow elevations. Basically, anything going up and elevating is very open and comforting. Anything that is compressing: lip compression, eyebrow compression, where you’re squishing down, that’s conveying stress.”

Research backs him up. From Dale Carnegie to peer-reviewed studies, everyone says smiles matter. (In fact, to increase their power, smile slower.)

It makes us happier too. Neuroscience research shows smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate — or $25,000.

Via Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act:

Depending on whose smile you see, the researchers found that one smile can be as pleasurable and stimulating as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate! …it took up to 16,000 pounds sterling in cash to generate the same level of brain stimulation as one smile! This is equivalent to about $25,000 per smile…

(To learn how to decode body language and read people like a book, click here.)

So now you come off as the pleasant person you are, not as a scheming taker. But what do you do when the other person is a scheming taker?

7) How To Deal With Someone You Don’t Trust

The name of this blog is not “Helpful Tools For Sociopaths.” I’m not trying to teach you to manipulate others.

But what should do you do when you feel someone is using these methods to try and manipulate you?

Don’t be hostile but be direct: ask them what they want. What are their goals in this interaction?

Here’s Robin:

The first thing I try to do is clarify goals. I’ll stop and say, “You’re throwing a lot of good words at me. Obviously you’re very skilled at what you’re doing. But what I’m really curious about… What’s your goal? What are you trying to achieve? I’m here with my goals, but obviously you have to achieve your goals. So if you can just tell me what your objectives are, we can start from there and see if we can mutually take care of them. If not, that’s fine too.”

I watch for validation. If someone is trying to validate me and my thoughts and opinions, I am alert to it. I love doing that as well. So now I’m looking for intent. Are you there for me or are you there for you? If you are there strictly for your own gain and you’re not talking in terms of my priorities ever, that’s when I’m seeing someone is there to manipulate me.

Want to build a connection with someone? Focus on trust, not tricks. That’s how you earn respect. Trust is fragile. And mistrust is self-fulfilling.

When you ask people what the most important character trait is, what do they say? Trustworthiness.

Participants in 3 studies considered various characteristics for ideal members of interdependent groups (e.g., work teams, athletic teams) and relationships (e.g., family members, employees). Across different measures of trait importance and different groups and relationships, trustworthiness was considered extremely important for all interdependent others…

(To learn how to detect lies, click here.)

That’s a lot more to digest than “Just be yourself” but far more effective. Let’s round it up and make it something you can start using today.

Sum Up

Here are Robin’s tips:

  1. The single most important thing is non-judgmental validation. Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.
  2. Suspend your ego. Focus on them.
  3. Really listen, don’t just wait to talk. Ask them questions; don’t try to come up with stories to impress.
  4. Ask people about what’s been challenging them.
  5. Establishing a time constraint early in the conversation can put strangers at ease.
  6. Smile, chin down, blade your body, palms up, open and upward non-verbals.
  7. If you think someone is trying to manipulate you, clarify goals. Don’t be hostile or aggressive, but ask them to be straight about what they want.

(For more insights from Robin’s book, click here.)

Robin’s a fascinating guy and we ended up speaking for over an hour, so the above is just part of what he had to say.

I’ll be sending out an extended interview in my next weekly email update.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

To learn more from Robin (including the one type of body language that causes you to screw everything up), join over 130,000 readers and get my free weekly update here.

Related posts:

6 Hostage Negotiation Techniques That Will Get You What You Want

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

Read next: This Body Language Makes You Look Like a Leader

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7 Signs You’re in a Toxic Friendship

Young woman in thought
Miroslaw Oslizlo—Getty Images

Breaking up isn’t just for romantic partners—here’s how to know if it’s time to cut ties

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Filling your life with supportive friends is seriously good for your health. In fact, one 10-year long Australian study showed that participants with solid friend groups were 22% more likely to live longer, and researchers at Harvard concluded that happiness was almost “infectious” amongst friends who lived within a mile of each other.

Every now and then, however, a friend grates at your patience, sanity, and overall happiness. While small infractions often pass, or can be resolved by talking it out, sometimes it comes time for a friend “breakup.” It’s something many women dread or delay—but why do we hang onto friends that are clearly no good?

“There’s a social stigma over ending friendships,” says Dr. Irene S. Levine, psychologist and author of Best Friends Forever. “There are no scripts or rules, so people are at a loss for how to go about it.” If you’re in denial, here are a few warning signs to watch for. Recognize a friend in one of these scenarios? It might be time to have “the talk.”

1. She needs you for absolutely everything.

While a friend who depends on you doesn’t seem like cause for concern, too much neediness can exhaust you and use up one of your most important resources: time.

“Women tend to rely on their friends more heavily for emotional sustenance,” says Levine. “But if someone is constantly depending on you, that’s when it’s toxic.” That neediness can range from acting as her consultant on decisions both big and small, to, in more extreme cases, becoming her main source for financial assistance. We all lean on our friends for support, but if you’re persistently serving as her crutch, beware.

(MORE: 5 Inspirational Friendships)

2. You dread seeing her, and you’re relieved when she leaves.

Keep in mind: “Friendships are voluntary relationships,” says psychologist and self-help author Dr. Laura Sapadin. “Nobody makes you be a friend.” So if you’re purposefully ignoring her calls or trying to come up with excuses to get out of your lunch date, it might time to break up.

3. You’re both in constant conflict (and not just the obvious kind).

It’s not just about arguing all the time—although if you two have started to make the Real Housewivesseem tame, that’s definitely cause for concern. Conflict can manifest in other places—like your schedules. If your friend doesn’t make time for you the way you carve out time for her, then she might not value your friendship.

(MORE: 5 Ways to Win People Over)

4. You suffer from “friendship whiplash.”

Some toxic friendships jump back and forth between great and awful—that inconsistency can be a red flag.

“The unpredictability takes a toll on you,” says Levine. “It can make you anxious, nervous, or depressed when you don’t know what to expect from a friend whom you’re supposed to rely on.”

5. You’re experiencing “symptoms.”

Friendships can boost your mental and physical health, but bad friendships can do the opposite. According to Levine, if you begin to suffer headaches or stomach cramps after getting together or in anticipation of seeing your friend, the relationship is doing more harm than good.

(MORE: How to Make Positive Changes in Your Life)

6. She can’t see her own flaws.

Sapadin calls this “enaction”: You finally confront your friend for being accusatory and demeaning, and she fires back with, “You’re too sensitive!” A good friend should seem open-minded and willing to acknowledge problems.

“If the response shows they don’t get it, then you know this relationship is not one you want to continue,” Sapadin says.

(MORE: How to Look Good in Pictures)

7. She betrays your trust.

“Women get very invested in their friends because they share so much of their lives with them,” says Levine. So, when your friend betrays that bond, don’t ignore a gut feeling that tells you it’s a big deal. Trust isn’t trivial—and any betrayal is a sign to reevaluate the relationship.

Sapadin agrees: “This can abruptly end a friendship, and it only has to happen once.”

(MORE: 6 Office Wardrobe Malfunctions to Avoid)

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