Each student was asked to get a friend to participate in the study with them. Then each of the participants individually filled out an online survey. This included a list of “triggers”—descriptions of behaviors that someone might find annoying. One example was the word “skepticism” which was described as when someone is overly disbelieving of information that he/she receives, when he/she questions things that are generally accepted, or when he/she is very hard to convince of something. The list also included gullibility, social timidity, social boldness, perfectionism, obliviousness and several dozen other possible triggers. For each behavior, each respondent answered a question about how much this triggers them and how much it triggers their friend. Some people knew their friends’ triggers well; others had almost no idea what set their friends off. And that made a difference to the friendship. People who had more knowledge of their friend’s if-then profile of triggers had better relationships. They had less conflict with the friend and less frustration with the relationship. Other research has shown that it’s not that hard to come up with a list of traits that describe someone; casual acquaintances can do it. “But, if I’m close to someone, I can really start to learn the if-then profiles, and that’s what’s going to pay off in my relationship,” Friesen says.
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