friendship

Struggling to make new friends? A study has the answer to winning people over.

Image: Sandy and co. were onto something. (Paramount Pictures)

Isn’t it funny how in films, total strangers become instant best friends after an “impromptu” sing and dance? Not to mention the fact that they just all happen to know the exact same dance routine and perform in perfect harmony. (I’m looking at you, High School Musical.)

While the thought of doing this in real life seems ridiculous, it turns out those cheesy sing-a-longs might have actually been on to something.

A new study by Oxford University has found singing with new people is the best way to develop bonds and become friends. So if you’re struggling to meet mates, it’s time to warm up those vocal chords.

For the study, published in the October edition of the Royal Society of Open Science, researchers followed newly-formed singing and non-singing (such as crafts or creative writing) adult education classes for a period of seven months. (Post continues after gallery.)

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The 100 participants were required to rate how close they felt to the rest of the group, on a scale of one to seven, before and after each class at one month, three months and seven months.

While singers and non-singers felt equally connected by the end of the experiment, the results showed singers experienced much faster bonding — they reported feeling almost two points closer at the one month mark compared to the non-singing group.

So forget embarassing name games or ‘fun facts’ — singing could be the secret ice breaker needed to make friends quickly.

“Singing seems to break the ice so you have this big upfront kick start to the process of social bonding,” lead researcher and evolutionary neuroscientist Eiluned Pearce told Science Magazine.

While this is news that will make good singers, well, sing, it has also some important benefits for those of us who are less vocal. It’s been shown creating and maintaining positive social relationships is essential for our physical and mental health and well-being. (Post continues after video.)

Social networks provide practical and emotional support, as well as providing a means of gaining new information and disseminating the cultural knowledge crucial for human survival, [but] creating and maintaining personal relationships requires sufficient time investment,” wrote the researchers.

“Finite time budgets place a limit on the number of personal relationships that an individual can maintain through one-on-one interactions.”

Singing manages to bond an entire group without these personal interactions, by presenting a shared group goal — and it’s a practice that was very important to our ancestors.

“If you think about our evolutionary ancestors, you could imagine some kind of singing ritual to bond groups together very quickly so they could then take part in some sort of collective activity like hunting,” says Pearce.

Fast forward to modern times and, while more evidence is needed, these results could influence the way we connect and help shape programs that combat loneliness and encourage bonding within communities.

“This might suggest that what we should be doing at the beginning of the school year or before a business meeting is getting groups to sing together to grease the way for better social relationships,” says Pearce.

Time to start practising, then. Karaoke, anyone?

Do you find singing brings you closer?

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