Psychologist John Reisman was motivated to construct his test because he conceptualized friendliness slightly differently from the authors of other, similar tests. Reisman argued that existing definitions of this trait were virtually indistinguishable from other personality characteristics such as outgoingness or agreeable-
ness. He argued that friendliness included four qualities, those represented by the subscales on his test: Self-Concept, Accessibility, Rewardingness, and Alienation. Self-Concept is important because how we view ourselves has a potent effect on our interactions with others. If we believe we have a number of undesirable qualities, or if we suspect that we do not have much to offer others, the odds are good that we will avoid interactions with them. While Reisman argues that there are exceptions, friendly people generally think of themselves as friendly people. Accessibility refers to our willingness to consider the feelings, beliefs, and opinions of others, to allow others to be a part of our lives. Rewardingness refers to our willingness to make others feel good about their interactions with us. Alienation, as the term suggests, describes people who prefer to avoid interacting with others, often because they feel these social exchanges will only make them feel worse. Reisman used these terms to form the acronym SACRAL, which is the official name he gave to his test.
Perhaps the most interesting finding of Reisman's research was that people who received low scores on his test reported having just as many friends as those who received high scores, but they were less satisfied with their friendships. And despite their having friends, they described themselves as shy and tense in social situations, and often lonely.
In an attempt to understand what distinguishes friendly from unfriendly people, Reisman asked both high and low scorers to respond to a variety of social situations. These people were asked, for example, what they would say if a friend came to them and said, "I feel like running away. What do you think I should do?" When the contents of the responses were evaluated for their appropriateness, the advice given by people who scored low on the test was judged to be as good as the advice given by high scorers. Thus, it is not the case that unfriendly people do not know what to say when interacting with others. They are as competent in this respect as friendly people. But, and this is an important but, Reisman found that when the style of delivery was evaluated, friendly people were judged as being significantly more positive than unfriendly people.
Reisman's research offers important hints as to the root of the problematic quality of these relationships. While Reisman showed that those with low scores do know what to say to people in different situations, their problem is instead that they do not know how to say the right thing.
Reisman did not speculate on how people can change this aspect of their personality, but clinicians who help clients to improve their social skills point to a number of specific changes that can be made, many of which involve nonverbal communications or body language. Perhaps the most important element is eye contact. People with low scores on the SACRAL have a poor self-concept and feel alienated from others. This keeps them from feeling confident about the worth of what they have to say, despite the fact that Reisman's research shows that their statements are likely to be as worthy as what people with high scores have to say. Their lack of confidence may cause them to avoid eye contact and to stare at the floor while they deliver their message.
There are a number of subtle, nonverbal behaviors that convey our impatience or displeasure at having to interact with another person. These cues may be difficult to specify, but they are easily recognizable. We have all met people who, even though they agree to help us, manage to physically convey their impatience or reluctance throughout the interaction. If you feel dissatisfied with your friendships, it may be that you come across this way. Along with making eye contact, make a conscious effort to communicate your interest and concern in others. Lean forward when your friends are talking to you, smile often and easily, verbalize your concern and your caring, inquire about your friend's well-being. You want everything, not just the words you use, to express your friendship.
Reisman's work offers what is, I believe, a hopeful message for those who feel dissatisfied with their friendships and their ability to be friendly. If you are one of these people, it is important to keep in mind that you have the ability to say the right thing and you have the ability to form friendships—as evidenced by Reis-man's research, which shows that low scorers have just as many friends as high scorers on the SACRAL. The key to change is twofold: first, you have to change the way you view yourself, and second, you must change the expectations you have about what will happen if you extend yourself.
Reisman wrote that friendliness has its origins in early childhood. Some children attract friends easily while others, for whatever reason, are met with consistent rejection. These children later come to see themselves as not having much to offer others and as unlikable. It is not surprising that they have difficulty interacting with others in an enthusiastic way. Low scorers must work on the way they view themselves if they are to become friendlier. They have to develop confidence in their strengths, in their ability to be a good friend. If you fit in this category, you might find it useful to review the Self-Esteem chapter.
Second, you must modify your expectations of the consequences of your efforts to be friendly. You know that you can make friends, and you know the right thing to say. So as long as you express your message with the right attitude, there is no reason that others will not come to appreciate your friendship. As is always the case, as long as you make a consistent effort, you will become the sort of person who can be a valued friend.
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