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Relationship Initiation

Strategies That Influence Relationship Initiation

Davis's description of the steps people take to "pick up" a relational partner suggests that individuals actively engage in behaviors to initiate relationships. Relationships, in other words, do not just happen. People encourage relationships to develop by observing potential partners, approaching them, and starting conversations with them.

Robert Bell and John Daly (1984) further suggest that people intentionally engage in strategies to generate affinity. That is to say, individuals do things to make themselves attractive and likable to others. Traditionally, attraction had been seen as a passive variable: People were either attractive or unattractive; others either were drawn to them or they were not. By contrast, Bell and Daly argued that there are a number of strategies individuals employ to get others to like them. Using a four step conceptual model (antecedent factors, constraints, strategic activity, target response), these researchers identified strategies people typically use to actively initiate relationships. The many strategies clustered into seven: focusing on commonalities (e.g., highlighting similarities, demonstrating equality), showing self-involvement (e.g., finding ways of regularly "running into" the other), involving the other (e.g., participating in activities the other person enjoys, including the other in activities), demonstrating caring and concern (e.g., listening, being altruistic), displaying politeness (e.g., letting the other have control over plans, acting interested), encouraging mutual trust (e.g., being honest, being reliable), and demonstrating control and visibility (e.g., being dynamic, looking good). The formulation Bell and Daly offer provides a catalog of rules for the active initiation of relationships. For instance, people beginning a relationship should be polite, demonstrate interest in the other person, try to look attractive, and so on. Indeed, later work by Vangelisti and Daly (1997) on relationship standards suggests that people are dissatisfied when their partners fail to meet their expectations. Like Bell and Daly's affinity seeing strategies, expectations or standards provide information about rules for relationships.

The communication processes people go through in meeting and engaging the interest of another are a vital part of any relationship. If social interaction is rewarding and successful, a relationship may progress into permanency. If it is awkward and uncomfortable, what might have been a promising relationship may not happen.

Bibliography

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Vangelisti, A. L., and Daly, J. A. (1997). "Gender Differences in Standards for Romantic Relationships." Personal Relationships 4:203–219.

ANITA L. VANGELISTI
JOHN A. DALY

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsRelationship Initiation - Theories Of Relationship Initiation, Stages Of Relationship Development, Relationship Openers, Strategies That Influence Relationship Initiation