Ponder this: Violating expectancy

If you want to grow closer to someone, act differently than they expect you to. Don’t change who you are, but change how you interact. Expectancy Violation Theory argues people can grow closer when they violate communication expectations.

When individuals communicate, they predict how the other person will act. The predictions are shaped by the situation’s context, characteristics of the person and relationship characteristics. You would likely expect your excitable RA to say ‘human bowling Prime Time is the best thing ever,’ not your reserved professor.

An action that does not meet an expectancy is given a positive or negative value, called the violation valence or VV. The person performing the violation receives a positive or negative perception, called communicator reward valence or CRV. These two contextual factors impact whether a violation helps someone grow closer in a relationship. A witty teasing joke at your expense from a close friend may help you grow closer, but the same statement from an acquaintance may damage the relationship.

Expectancy Violation Theory states violating someone’s expectations is generally best among people who view each other positively (high or ambiguous CRV) and the violation is not likely to be viewed negatively (high or ambiguous CRV).

Positive violations can, “increase positive regard for the communicator and significantly enhance the quality of the relationship”, according to a study published in Human Communication Research. Negative violations can harm the relationship and how the communicator is viewed.

When communicating with someone, reflect on how the other person views you and would view your interaction. Try engaging with those you are close to in a new way to grow closer. Give unexpected verbal affection, whether through a card, compliment, or text. Keep in mind if someone views the interaction negatively, it could hurt the relationship. If your close friend hates being touched, then hugging them more could damage the relationship. Think about how your friends would respond and try violating their expectations with how you interact. Get out of the monotony of your interactions and you may get closer to your friends.

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