Last week, my cousin asked me for advice about starting a business. Admittedly, I was ignorant about it. So I directed him to a friend of mine, who is a successful entrepreneur. I asked her, and she was happy to help my cousin. They arranged a meeting. I was sure they would hit it off as I knew both of them had many common interests.

But to my bewilderment, my cousin reported to me later that my friend was not of much help. He complained that she was too bossy,  which I knew she was not. When I talked to her, she said my cousin has an attitude problem, which again, I knew he did not.

The experience left me thinking: What made two people, whom I have known for decades, see non-existent defects in each other and back out from a relationship that would have benefitted them both?

Academic Approach

We see such problems everywhere. During interviews, dates, and even in marriages, well-meaning people find it hard to get along with each other. Though paradoxical, it is ubiquitous.

In fact, this problem was studied by experts from many fields. Psychologists, Philosophers, and Anthropologists have made their observations and arrived at different conclusions. Thus there are many interesting theories on the phenomenon.

One such intriguing theory is known as the Interaction effect.

Interaction Effect

By definition, Interaction Effect is: “the differing effect of one independent variable on the dependent variable, depending on the particular level of another independent variable” (Cozby, 1997; p. 314). It is not palatable. Here, let me explain.

For instance, take a study conducted to find out the effect of a sleep drug and consumption of alcohol on overall sleep time. So there are two independent variables here: Sleep drug and alcohol consumption. And a dependent variable: Sleep time. We know that both factors affect sleep time. But what about their combined effect?

The interaction theory dictates that the effect of one (sleep drug) on sleep time varies with the interaction of the other (alcohol). Thus the combined effect is difficult to predict.

Practical Use

So what does the experiment have to do with human relations? Social psychologists believe that the interaction effect has implications in their field of study. Hence they use it to explain some social situations.

In my example, my cousin is a nice person, so is my friend. But somehow their interaction produced a negative outcome, which was unexpected.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

Maybe the problem is our expectation. Paul Bloom, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University, calls it Self fulfilling prophecies. He argues that the outcome of a situation is dependent on the outlook. Things happen the way they do, not because it is meant to be like that, but because we expect it to happen thus.

Professor Bloom points out that we live not in the external world, but the internal. Our thoughts and aspirations shape our reality. We live our thoughts, and our thoughts shape our life.

The same is true for human interactions. We expect people to behave in a particular way to us. Somehow it influences the outcome through interaction effect, and we fulfill our prophecies.

What needs to be changed

So the core of the problem lies within us. We tend to choose the easy way out by blaming the circumstances. But the truth is that we are as responsible or even more responsible for everything in our lives as fate.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Mathew 7:1

If we approach others believing that they will be hostile to us, they will be. If we expect kindness from others, they will be kind. Hatred begets hatred. Love begets love.

Clear your Eyes

We need to nurture a positive attitude towards life. Developing trust in humanity will dissipate many problems. We have to understand that no one can undermine us until we let them.

I could not tell my cousin or my friend that it was not the other person that made the meeting sour, but themselves. My cousin would have expected a successful entrepreneur to be bossy whereas my friend would have thought the person listening to her advice might not take it the right way. This resulted in a biased view of each other.

If we can clear our eyes, we may start seeing the positive side in others. It will indeed enrich our relationships and make our life happier.

Thank you for reading. Please post your valuable comments if you have enjoyed reading.

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