Kansas University professor studies how to make friends
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — On Sunday afternoon, Molly Hatesohl and Hannah Hooper met at a local coffee shop to chat and catch up.
The two Topeka High School graduates were back in Topeka to celebrate Easter with their families. Hatesohl, 19, lives in Lawrence, while Hooper, 20, lives in Shawnee.
Hatesohl said they make a point to hang out despite living in different cities and made time Sunday to get together.
A new study by University of Kansas professor Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor in communication studies, found that friends like Hatesohl and Hopper have to invest more than 200 hours to develop a close friendship.
Hall has been researching friendship for nearly a decade.
“Friendship is just something I’m fascinated with and there’s certainly a lot of reason to expect that friendship is an important part of people’s lives,” Hall told The Topeka Capital-Journal .
Hall determined that it takes about 50 hours to evolve from an acquaintance to a casual friend, 90 hours to transition to a friend and more than 200 hours to become a close friend.
“The specific question that I wanted to answer was more around the idea that if we want to have friends, we actually have to dedicate time and energy to those relationships,” Hall said. “They’re not something that we can get just by snapping our fingers or just by wishing them into being. So the question of how many hours does it take was based on the idea of how much investment do we have to put into somebody in terms of time before we can actually have the emotional and relational benefits of a friendship.”
Hall first looked at responses from working adults who had recently moved. The respondents answered questions about the amount of time they spent with someone they had met since locating, how close they felt and how they defined the relationship.
In a second study, Hall surveyed freshman at KU within the first few weeks of school and then followed up twice with them. The students were asked similar questions about their new friendships.
The estimates in both studies were similar, Hall said, in terms of the number of hours needed to move through the friendship stages.
So how do people make that transition?
“What seems to be the case is that doing something which I call a ‘context shift’ matters, which means that you want to spend time with somebody outside the place in which that you met them,” Hall said.
An invitation can be an important step. It implies to the other person that the relationship is changing and that there is potential to form a friendship, Hall said.
Hatesohl and Hooper met in a math class when they were juniors. They sat next to each other and “clicked,” Hatesohl said.
They were then emcees at Topeka High’s talent show. That provided an excuse to have new conversations, Hatesohl said, about the show’s production and topics beyond school. Preparing for the show meant they were spending several days each week together.
They also hung out outside of school. Hooper recalled their friendship solidifying as they went to concerts together.
When Hooper graduated from high school early and moved to Kansas City, they began to drift apart. But then out of the blue, Hooper realized she missed Hatesohl and “needed her positive energy around me.”
They began spending time together again and now make time for their friendship. Hooper said she shares details about her life with Hatesohl.
“Certain friendships shine light on your soul and bring out different parts of you,” Hooper said. “Molly shines a great light on me.”
Hatesohl said she loves Hooper’s uniqueness and that their conversations flow.
Hall’s study didn’t look at positions in life, but he said research indicates there is a high level of attrition of friends after leaving college that continues until retirement. Working adults don’t have a lot of extra time to devote to friends. However in retirement, there is a new opportunity to develop friendships.
Hall and a colleague also developed an online tool to estimate the closeness of a friendship.
“We hope it’s just a lot of fun that people enjoy and see how right we are,” Hall said.
Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com