30 Apr The Power Of Proximity and Propinquity
How to Use The Behavioural Psychology Concepts Of Proximity and Propinquity to Boost Your Business or Career
The Proximity Principle is something that seems like common sense. It’s also valuable, whether we are growing a business, furthering our career or even looking for a relationship.
It basically asserts that you are more likely to form relationships with people who are close to you. We can see this in action over and over again when it comes to relationships and friendships that are founded at work. It’s that time working side by side – that proximity – that pulls us together. This proximity leads to propinquity. This is an attraction that is created by both “nearness” and having something in common.
The concept was discovered in a study at MIT in the US. It was found that students living on the same floor were more likely to have closer friendships with each other than students on different floors. Additionally, students living next to a staircase or postbox were more likely to have friends on different floors.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? The more you encounter someone, the more likely you are to form a bond. You have at least two things in common. Both the physical proximity to each other, and the event or situation that has drawn you together. This could be a shared job, the fact you both live in the same building, or a networking or professional group.
Mind you, this only works if you both start off from a neutral position. If you don’t like each other, apparently that proximity may make things worse!
So, how can you use these two principles to help you in your business or career? First, there is some ongoing research happening to see how the internet and virtual working is changing this. Nevertheless, physical proximity and propinquity still remain powerful. Here are some ideas on how to use it.
Dropping into meeting every now and again can work against you as much as not going at all. You may be perceived as being too busy to take on new work. To really harness propinquity you need to to take advantage of meeting up as often as possible and build up strong relationships. You can do this through one to ones around the event especially. But you can also use follow up emails, social media contact and becoming more visible during meetings. If there are people that you would really like to work with, ask to be sat next to them. Or make a point of striking up a conversation with them each time you meet rather than wait for it to happen naturally.
If your goal is to get promoted, take advantage of any opportunities that allow you to interact with those above you, or that have input into the decision making process. It doesn’t matter whether this is work related or not. You could argue that it’s even better if it’s social.
Proximity and propinquity are especially helpful at times of career change. If you’re aiming to move from a career in banking to one that’s more creative, for instance, seeking out people in creative careers through professional groups, Meetups, shadowing and connections via friends or a site like Viewvo will help you think more creatively. It is also more likely to put you in the way of good contacts, work experience or even a job offer.
Analyse Your Own Proximity
Who are you mixing with on a day to day basis? If you work in an office, can you instigate some lunchtime activities that help you build stronger bonds with your colleagues? If you work from home, committing to working from a co-working space one or two days a week or arranging a bi-weekly working coffee morning for local businesses will help make connections. The key is consistency and authenticity.
This is interesting from a psychological viewpoint too. You see many a self-development article talk about objectively looking at the people you spend time with, and they are right. I once had someone in my life who was extremely critical and lacking in positivity. I could see that this stemmed from his own childhood and upbringing. Nevertheless, it was starting to impinge on me and the way I felt about things. I had to make a concerted effort to seek out positive and upbeat people that would counter this.
A little exercise
Take a look at how and where you spend your time and assess how that fits in with your current goals. If it doesn’t, what activities or places can you add or take away? This could be as simple as joining that business membership club, one of my regular business mastermind groups or offering to help out on a project in a different work department that you wouldn’t mind moving into.
The principles work both ways. We are likely to lose those connections (and attraction) with people we are not in proximity with. This explains why taking a break from producing a newsletter breaks that bond you’ve created with your readers. Additionally, why people drift out of your life as they move away or you change workplaces. You have been warned!