Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work, and Everything We Do
ISBN 10: 0385529066
ISBN 13: 978-0385529068
Publisher: Crown Business
ISBN 10: 0385529058
ISBN 13: 978-0385529051
You know the feeling. You meet someone new—at a party or at work—and you just hit it off. There is an instant sense of camaraderie.
In a word, you “click.”
From the bestselling authors of Sway, Click is a fascinating psychological investigation of the forces behind what makes us click with certain people, or become fully immersed in whatever activity or situation we’re involved in.
From two co-workers who fall head over heels for each other while out to dinner and are married a month later (and fifteen years later remain just as in love), to a team of scientists who changed the world with the magic of their invention, these kinds of peak experiences, when our senses are completely focused on the moment, are something that individuals—and companies—strive to achieve. After all, when you’re in the “zone,” you’re happier and more productive. Why is it that we click in certain situations and with certain people, but not with others? Can this kind of magical connection be consciously encouraged? Is there a way to create such peak experiences, whether on a date or in your job?
According to Ori and Rom Brafman, there is.
In a powerful, story-driven narrative that weaves together cutting-edge research in psychology and sociology, the Brafmans explore what it means to “click”: the common factors present when our brain and senses are fully engaged. They identify five “accelerators” that increase the likelihood of these kinds of magic connections in our work and relationships.
From actors vying for a role on a popular TV series to police officers negotiating with hostage takers, we learn how one can foster an environment where we can click with another person and shape our thinking, behavior, and emotions.
A fascinating journey into how we engage with the world around us, Click will transform our thinking about those moments when we are in the zone and everything seems to fall into place.
Acclaim for Sway:
“A provocative new book about the psychological forces that lead us to disregard facts or logic and behave in surprisingly irrational ways.” –New York Times
“A unique and compulsively readable look at unseen behavioral trends.” –Fortune
"A breathtaking book that will challenge your every thought, Sway hovers above the intersection of Blink and Freakonomics."--Tom Rath, coauthor of the New York Times #1 bestseller How Full Is Your Bucket?
“[An] engaging journey through the workings—and failings—of the mind…Their stories of senselessness…are as fascinating as the lessons we learn from them.” –Fast Company
"Count me swayed--but in this instance by the pull of entirely rational forces. Ori and Rom Brafman have done a terrific job of illuminating deep-seated tendencies that skew our behavior in ways that can range from silly to deadly. We'd be fools not to learn what they have to teach us."--Robert B. Cialdini, author of New York Times bestseller Influence
"If you think you know how you think, you'd better think again! Take this insightful, delightful trip to the sweet spot where economics, psychology, and sociology converge, and you'll discover how our all-too-human minds actually work."--Alan M. Webber, founding editor of Fast Company
"...serious research explained with interesting real life stories and presented in a short concise format. I think you'll click with it too."--Inc
About the Author
ORI BRAFMAN is an organizational business consultant. ROM BRAFMAN is a psychologist with a private practice in Palo Alto, California. They are the coauthors of the New York Times bestseller Sway.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Sitting by the pool at a Pasadena hotel, Paul was about to do something impulsive, even by his standards.
The Southern California evening breeze was starting to pick up. Anyone within earshot of Paul and the woman sitting across from him at the poolside table would have thought they’d known each other for years, although the pair had met only two days prior. They talked about everything from world travel to the 1970s antiwar movement to Socratic philosophy; their conversation had a casual, easy ﬂow to it. Watching the two of them— Nadia with her ﬁne Mediterranean features and striking jet- black hair and Paul with his rugged, all- American looks— one had a sense that they ﬁ t together. It was as if each was attuned to what the other was thinking. One moment they were laughing at embarrassing childhood stories and the next they were ﬁnishing each other’s sentences. If there’s such a thing as synergy between two people, it seemed almost palpable here.
One would never have suspected that the two were ostensibly meeting for work. At the time, Paul was in charge of the proposal for a $15 billion project to clean up a nuclear weapons facility in Colorado. To help put the proposal together, Paul had assembled experts from around the world. The team had taken over an office building in Pasadena; the work was so intense that the ofﬁce remained open 24/7. It was Paul’s role to make sure all the countless moving parts worked together. But he was used to this level of intensity. A former officer in the army’s special forces, Paul was trained to make split- second decisions, and he has the kind of personality people instinctively respond to— he is a natural leader. In conversation, he focuses intently on the other person’s every word, making it clear he’s fully present and is listening carefully.
Every morning at exactly 8:15 a.m., Paul assembled the top executives from the team to brief them about the strategy for the day. The meeting several days ago, though, had been different. From the beginning, Paul was keenly aware of the new team member, Nadia. “I immediately thought, Who is that?” He found himself instantly attracted to her. Nadia’s initial reaction to Paul seemed to be very different, however. It was her ﬁrst day on the job. Her vacation in Paris had been abruptly cut short so that she could ﬂ y to Pasadena and take over as the project’s chief operating ofﬁcer. If that hadn’t soured her mood enough, Paul made a comment during the meeting— seemingly out of left ﬁeld— that soured it further.
“I uttered something about there being nothing new in human relations since the time of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates,” he recalled. “I don’t even remember why.”
A few minutes later, as Paul stood before the group, he noticed out of the corner of his eye a folded note being passed from person to person. As he continued speaking, the note eventually made its way to him. He unfolded it and read the ﬁrst line: “I completely disagree with you.” The hand- scrawled note went on for an entire page. But it was unsigned. He looked up, searching for a nod from the note’s author. But all he got were blank stares. Only after the meeting had ended and the rest of his staff had ﬁ led out of the room did Nadia walk up to Paul.
Remembers Nadia, “Here we haven’t met yet, and I just wrote him a note that said, ‘I don’t agree with you; what about the change in master- slave relations and relationships between men and women? There have been so many advances in society since then. How can you make such a comment? I’d like to discuss this with you.’ ”
Paul, instead of becoming defensive, was intrigued. “I’d like to continue the conversation with you,” he told her.
“Anytime,” she ﬁred back.
Twelve hours later they were sitting by the pool.
They had told themselves that they intended to use the time not just to resolve the argument but also to delve into some important work issues. Work, however, never came up during their conversation together. Toward the end of the evening, the intensity of their interaction was difficult to ignore.
“Are we going to end up getting in trouble?” Paul asked Nadia, realizing that they were letting work get away from them.
“Yes,” she said simply. It was clear to her from the beginning that there was something special between them. “The moment he made that comment about Plato and Aristotle,” she told us, “I knew. What we valued in life was very much the same, as were the things we thought were trivial. Who’s outrageous enough to even bring up Plato and Aristotle in the middle of a strategy session? I mean, what does anybody who’s in there know about Plato and the Greeks, or care about them? He had that courage to be different.”
Having accomplished little of the work they had been planning to do, the pair decided to meet again the following night by the pool. And it was then that it happened. Paul looked at Nadia and asked, “What would you say if I told you that I loved you and wanted to marry you?”
Nadia retorted, “Is that a hypothetical or is that an offer?”
Paul said, “Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Let’s hit the pause button here. First, it’s worth noting that Paul and Nadia weren’t teenagers driven by hyperactive hormones. They were seasoned business executives. Like most of us, when they met a new person, they usually spent their ﬁrst moments sizing each other up, searching for something to talk about: Where are you from? What kind of work do you do?
Occasionally, though, an introduction to someone new is more intense and intimate from the get- go. Maybe we share the same sense of humor or we admire the other individual’s personality or passion. Or we immediately sense that we can just be ourselves around that person. Things feel right; we hit it off. There is an immediate sense of familiarity and comfort. Conversation ﬂows easily, without embarrassing pauses or self- consciousness. In essence, we click.
This book is about those mysterious moments— when we click in life. Those moments when we are fully engaged and feel a certain natural chemistry or connection with a person, place, or activity.
In its simplest terms, clicking can be deﬁned as an immediate, deep, and meaningful connection with another person or with the world around us. Typically, it takes weeks or months before most of us feel truly comfortable with a new person. We have to gain the other person’s trust, and he or she needs to gain ours. We need to ﬁnd a common language, understand each other’s quirks, and establish an emotional bond. But sometimes this process is greatly accelerated, and the connection seems to form almost magically and instantaneously.
But this type of immediate, deep connection isn’t limited to romantic love. Clicking can be equally deep and meaningful between future friends and can strike in the most unlikely of places.
For Jim West and Gerhard Sessler, a pair of physicists who ﬁrst met at Bell Laboratories, the instant connection between them would permanently alter the course of their careers. But if you were to go back to 1959 and see the two when they ﬁrst met, you’d be struck by their apparent differences.
Jim, a tall, slender African American who grew up in Virginia during the Great Depression, learned from an early age to make do with whatever resources were available to him. “As a black man,” he reﬂected, “I attended segregated schools. But I was lucky in that I had great teachers.”
These teachers— along with his family, friends, and neighbors— saw something special in the boy. As his brother tells it, Jim was the kind of kid who always had a screwdriver or tool of some sort in his hand. When he wasn’t taking apart his grandfather’s watch, he was rebuilding an old vacuum- tube radio. As a teenager, Jim decided to channel his love of tinkering into a career in physics. Concerned, his father introduced him to three black men who held Ph.D.’s in physics or chemistry. Recalls Jim, “The best jobs they could ﬁnd were at the post ofﬁce. [The point my father was making was that] I was taking the long road toward working at the post ofﬁce.”
Jim persevered nonetheless, eventually landing a job at Bell Laboratories. It was the equivalent, for an engineer, of working at Disneyland. “It was the premier research institute in the country,” Jim explains. “People from all over the world wanted to work there.”
His ﬁrst day at Bell Labs, Jim was assigned an ofﬁce next door to another new recruit, Gerhard Sessler. Sporting short- cropped hair and a fastidious wardrobe, Gerhard had a natural, genteel warmth about him. While Jim had been raised in the American South, Gerhard had grown up in pre–World War II Germany. “I was only eight years old when the war started,” recalls Gerhard. “The air raids, the atmosphere— it was a very difﬁcult time.”
It was very unusual in 1959 for an African American man from the South to be working side by side with a German immigrant. But the two immediately hit it off. Even though Gerhard’s thick German accent was difﬁcult for Jim’s American ears to understand, from the beginning the pair launched into long discussions about physics and life. As Gerhard tells it, “From the start, I noticed Jim was intellectually curious and sharp— always exploring new things. I was immediately drawn to that.”
“We were both new,” recalls Jim, “and being a member of an underrepresented minority, it was unusually lonely. But with Gerhard, I knew I could always be myself. I think it’s fair to say that we clicked right off the bat.”
The two spent hours discussing science and theories of the natural world, and the more they talked, the more intense the interaction became. In the course of one of these impassioned conversations, the two came up with an ingenious idea, one that would lead to one of the greatest achievements in acoustics history: the invention of the modern microphone.
Comparing Jim and Gerhard’s story with Paul and Nadia’s, we see two very different types of relationships emerging. But if we take a close look at the two budding relationships, we see that they follow a similar trajectory. Both began with what we call quick- set intimacy. In other contexts, the words quick and instant don’t necessarily sound like positive descriptions (think instant coffee or quick TV dinners). But when it comes to human relationships, the bonds formed by quick- set intimacy can be surprisingly strong and create a tenor in the relationship that may be lifelong. In our exploration of clicking, we’ll investigate the different factors that go into forming quick- set intimacy. What happens in that moment when we ﬁrst sense our interest in another person? Why do we click with some people and not with others? Why do those moments make us feel more fully connected not just to that individual but to everything around us? Is there a way to foster or proactively create that kind of instant intimacy?
When we click in a relationship— whether the relationship is a romantic one or involves meeting a new friend at a party or forging a special connection with a teammate or colleague— we are affected in several signiﬁcant ways. First, clicking brings about a unique, almost euphoric state, one that we describe as “magical.” Second, it permanently alters the fundamental nature of the relationship. And last, it can serve to elevate our own personal abilities.
Let’s look at what actually happens when quick- set intimacy takes place. Paul remembers that the moment he met Nadia, he felt an overwhelming attraction to her. Nadia puts it slightly differently. She felt an instant sense of comfort and a surprising intensity of feeling: “The attraction was just magical.” And neither Paul nor Nadia uses words such as magical loosely— Paul was a former military ofﬁcer, you’ll recall, and Nadia was a senior manager with a degree in nuclear engineering.
The two physicists at Bell Labs expressed a similar intensity. “Somehow, from the very, very start,” reﬂects Gerhard, “there was always sympathy for the other person. There was always an understanding. We had such an appreciation for each other.”
Most of us have had that feeling of magic at some time in our lives. But it can be difﬁcult to articulate. The next time you encounter someone whom you instantly, magically hit it off with, pay attention to what you are experiencing in that moment. There’s a certain quality of infatuation; it is exciting, even thrilling. We often feel more alive, more engaged, more there. We’re more in touch with the other person, or with our surroundings, and with ourselves.
Neuroscientists decided to try to take a peek into the biology behind clicking in a romantic context. The researchers scoured the community for individuals who identiﬁed themselves as being “madly in love.” When they placed these people in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine to scan their brains, they observed that the parts of their brains responsible for dopamine absorption were extraordinarily active— so much so that the individuals almost looked like they were under the inﬂuence of narcotics. Dopamine is the chemical that fuels the brain’s pleasure center, producing the kind of euphoria we associate with feeling fully alive. This is a noticeable and signiﬁcant high— and from a strictly biological perspective, it has an allure not unlike that of such drugs as cocaine, nicotine, and amphetamines.
Every time we feel that sense of being fully engaged and alive, whether as a result of a connection with another person, an activity such as sports— being “in the zone”—or simply feeling at one with the world around us, we experience a surge of dopamine through our brain. The magnitude of the chemical reward we get when we make these intimate connections stands in stark contrast to our complete lack of such a reward when we are feeling socially disconnected. To study this effect, a team of neuroscientists from UCLA and Australia placed participants in fMRI machines and asked them to play a virtual ball- tossing game. In the game, participants were under the impression that they were playing electronic catch with other participants in the room. But in reality they were just playing with a computer. After a few rounds, the computer deliberately ignored the participants by no longer tossing the ball to them. If being madly in love ﬂoods the brain with dopamine, feeling cut off and alone— even in the course of a simple game of virtual catch— lit up the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain associated with physical pain.
Why does the brain go to such extremes to reward us for connecting or fully engaging with the world around us and to punish us for feeling cut off and alone? To solve this mystery, we must turn to behavioral psychology. But we immediately encounter an unexpected hurdle. Traditionally, research psychologists have spent very little time trying to understand positive human emotions, let alone the magic of clicking. There’s plenty of research explaining why people get divorced or why they feel depressed— a wealth of data about the difﬁcult moments in our lives. But there’s surprisingly little about our best moments. Those isolated studies having to do with positive emotions (such as happiness and optimism) tend to deal with them in the context of getting by in difﬁcult situations, or preventing one from falling into a depressed state, or recovering from a traumatic experience.
In a very real way, psychologists’ emphasis on pathology limits us to seeing only one side of the human equation. As a psychologist himself, Rom believes that previously unexplored aspects of positive emotions would illuminate just as much about human nature as do their negative counterparts: Why is it that we form close, meaningful connections? What happens to us emotionally and psychologically when we do? And why does such an experience often feel so intense and pleasurable?
To answer these questions, Rom examined the formation of such magical moments. He knew he was venturing outside the traditional realm of academic inquiry, but he was convinced that this was a signiﬁcant and powerful part of the human experience about which we understood very little.
Rom asked a diverse set of participants— psychology majors, football players, fraternity brothers, and so on— to recount a special or exciting experience in their lives that they felt had a magical quality: “a unique moment or event that was for you ﬁlled with magic.” Surprisingly, every single participant was able to conjure a magical experience from his or her life. The stories were as varied and diverse as the individuals in the room. An overwhelming majority of the recollections involved a sense of connection, of clicking.
One participant described the immediate sense of intimacy she’d felt when she met her future boyfriend: “From the moment we both looked into each other’s eyes we knew there was something special there. The whole night felt like a dream.” Another subject, a young man, recalled rekindling the special bond with his mother: “It was the ﬁrst time I said ‘I love you’ to my mother as an adult. She was telling me about the things that happened to her in her life and I was telling her about things in my life. That was a beautiful day.” Another woman recalled an experience she had as a teenager: “My ﬁrst kiss. It was with my ﬁrst boyfriend and longtime best friend. It was tingly/sweet/ sincere/romantic. It made my birthday magical.”
There are two points that are worth noting here. First, all the individuals described these magical moments of connection using nearly identical words: euphoric, energizing, thrilling, and special. In fact, looking at just the emotions associated with the experience, you wouldn’t know whether the participant was describing a marriage proposal or a hike with friends. And that is part of the point. Although the individuals had very different experiences and arrived at this magical moment in different ways, they experienced it identically.
Second, when we subsequently asked a different set of people to describe “a time in your life when you clicked” with another person— as opposed to experienced a “magical moment”—they used exactly the same emotional descriptors as the participants did in the earlier study. In terms of the emotions they engender, quick- set intimacy and magical experiences appear inextricably linked.
Now, think about the fMRI studies about emotional connections and biological rewards. When we click with someone, when we get that surge of dopamine running through our neurons, we’re tapping into the very same place that we tap into when we experience a magical moment. That is one of the reasons the experience is so meaningful and powerful.
In the course of Click, we’ll explore our hardwired tendency to connect with other people and experience meaningful events. We’ll look at the speciﬁc factors that turn ordinary moments of emotional connection into magical ones. For now, though, it’s enough to recognize that quick- set intimacy starts a chain reaction in our brains that fundamentally changes the nature of our relationship with the person, place, or activity.
Let’s return to Pasadena and Paul and Nadia as they sit by the pool. Their second evening together, Paul hinted that he was falling in love with Nadia, even though they had just met. On their third night together, he asked her to marry him. And Nadia, just as caught up in the emotion, accepted. They felt like they were being swept up by a force that was bigger than either of them. A month later, the two were married.
Given how quickly they were engaged and married, did their relationship last?
It has. “That same magic we had in Pasadena,” reﬂected Paul, “is still at the heart of our relationship.” In other words, the experience of clicking can remain a permanent part of a relationship.
For Jim and Gerhard, the way the two of them clicked manifested itself as an intense closeness; it was as if they were in their own world. Remembers Gerhard: “When we were together, we were operating on a different level. We found ourselves more willing to pursue new angles and theories.” Their passion for ideas and high regard for each other, he explains, were always present.
“One time,” recalls Gerhard, “we were contacted by the Philharmonic Hall of Lincoln Center in New York. They built a new fancy concert hall, but the acoustics inside were very poor. The music critics wrote about it in the newspapers; it was a big embarrassment. Our job was to ﬁgure out why the acoustics were so poor and why the sound reverberated unevenly.”
The solution to this problem proved more challenging than the two initially had expected. “To ﬁgure out what was going on, you had to ﬁll the room with sound,” remembers Jim. “And you had to do it in a very short burst. Most of the environments that we had interrogated up to that point were much smaller and we were able to use something like a starter pistol to excite the enclosure. But the concert hall was far too big for that.”
“Of course we had loudspeakers,” interjects Gerhard. “But we needed a big bang, so to speak. We spent a lot of time brainstorming for solutions, and ﬁnally Jim said, ‘Hey, I have an idea.’ ”
“I’d been to football games down at Rutgers,” Jim explained, “and I’d seen that little cannon that they rolled out during the game. They only shot it when Rutgers scored a touchdown, and it wasn’t exactly the best team at the time, so they didn’t shoot it much.” He realized, “ ‘That makes a lot of noise; let me try that.’ I talked to the athletics department and asked to borrow it. I had to sign my life away, but they let me use it.”
Imagine two distinguished scientists rolling a cannon into Lincoln Center. Says Gerhard, “Jim prepared everything, and when it was all ready to go, he ﬁ red the cannon.” The acoustic burst was exactly what they’d hoped for: a really big explosion of sound. But they got more than they bargained for. “The manager ran in when he heard the bang, and he wasn’t sure what was happening. He said, ‘What’s going on here?’ The hall was full of smoke. He gasped, ‘Oh, gosh! We have a concert tonight. How are we going to get the smoke out of this room?’ ” It took three or four days to clear out the smoke, remembers Jim. But smoke and all, Jim and Gerhard’s cannon blast revealed a small area near the ceiling that was responsible for the acoustic abnormalities.
You need a certain level of creativity, along with a sense of chutzpah, to pull off something like that. It was another quality Jim and Gerhard shared.
But can the success of Jim and Gerhard’s relationship be attributed to the nature of their initial connection? Would Jim and Gerhard have formed the same kind of relationship, with the same shared passion and durability, if they hadn’t clicked in the ﬁrst place?
In the Netherlands, a husband- and- wife psychology team, Dick Barelds and Pieternel Barelds- Dijkstra, set out to better understand the effects of clicking and quick- set intimacy on long- term relationships. Rather than focusing on dopamine levels, the Bareldses were interested in how an instant bond of this nature affected the relationship years after that initial spark.
The Bareldses contacted one thousand couples whom they randomly selected from the Dutch phone book. Each couple was invited to take a survey that explored the fundamental health of their relationship. Because the questions were personal and revealing, husbands and wives took the surveys separately. They were assured that their responses would remain strictly conﬁdential. This allowed the Bareldses to ask rather probing personal questions of the couples— and gain unusual insight into their marriages.
Their responses revealed that the couples tended to fall into one of three categories. The ﬁrst were those who’d been longtime friends before they started dating. These couples had known each other very well; eventually, over time, the relationship had turned from a platonic one into a romantic one.
The second group had followed a traditional courtship— the couples went on numerous dates, gradually became more serious and intimate, and eventually decided to get married.
The last group started out as strangers and— like Paul and Nadia— immediately clicked and fell headlong in love.
After an average of twenty- ﬁve years together, all three groups— at least on the surface— looked similar: They had similar levels of education, similar household incomes, and an average of 2.1 kids. And when you looked at their individual personality traits, there were no signiﬁcant differences among the groups.
But the Bareldses wondered if there were signiﬁcant differences that would emerge when they examined the underlying quality of the couples’ relationships. The Bareldses predicted that the couples who had been friends ﬁrst and those who had dated for a substantial amount of time would enjoy higher- quality relationships than their counterparts who had fallen in love in an instant. They reasoned that if you take your time to really get to know the other person, you’re more likely to end up with a spouse who’s compatible with and similar to you, making for a better long- term match.
And indeed, the data showed that those couples who had been friends ﬁrst and those who had dated extensively were more similar to one another than those who had clicked. But when the Bareldses asked the couples to evaluate themselves with regard to statements having to do with commitment and closeness (e.g., “I could not let anything get in the way of my commitment to [my spouse]”; “I expect my love for [my spouse] to last for the rest of my life”; “I value [my spouse] greatly in my life”; “I feel that [my spouse] really understands me”), there was virtually no difference among the groups.
Some individual relationships were closer and more committed than others, but regardless of how the couples began their relationship, all three groups scored about the same in terms of commitment and closeness. In other words, although the spouses in the friends- ﬁrst couples and the dating couples shared more similarity than those who had fallen in love at ﬁrst sight, the quality of the relationships in all the groups was equal.
While similarity is indeed important in a strong, lasting relationship, when the Bareldses asked additional questions that were even more revealing and intimate, they discovered another, equally powerful factor that contributed to the health of the relationships of those who had fallen headlong in love. They asked the couples how they would respond to each of the following statements: “There is something almost ‘magical’ about my relationship with [my spouse]”; “When I see romantic movies and read romantic books I think of [my spouse]”; “I ﬁnd myself thinking about [my spouse] frequently during the day”; “I cannot imagine another person making me as happy as [my spouse] does”; “I melt when looking deeply into [my spouse’s] eyes.” These statements describe an ongoing level of intensity, even years later, that is uncommon among couples. How many of us melt, after all, when we look at our spouse?
When the Bareldses analyzed the results from this section of the survey, they found that, as a group, those who had clicked were more likely than their counterparts to agree with these statements. These people spent more time thinking about their spouses, found it difﬁcult to imagine being married to anyone else, and felt that there was a magic to the relationship. In other words, they were signiﬁcantly more likely to exhibit a higher level of passion in their relationships, even after marriage, kids, and the mortgage.
It’s important to remember that those individuals who had clicked with their future spouse weren’t any different from the other individuals in terms of personality. It wasn’t that they were naturally more passionate. Instead, because they clicked, whatever the couples lacked in commonality they made up for in mutual passion. And that directly translated into a high- quality relationship.
When Rom analyzed the results of his study on magical moments, he found that simply recalling magical moments, even years later, produced nearly identical levels of passion and intensity as the original experience. You might expect that with the passage of time people’s memories would fade and the emotions would lose their power. But as the subjects recalled their magical moment during the study, they experienced the feeling of magic all over again. More than 90 percent of the respondents said they felt happy and excited and even reported reliving the original intensity: “It makes me smile,” said one. “It brings me so much happiness and joy,” said another. “I get such a wonderful feeling inside recalling the magic I felt that day.” One participant remarked that it was “almost like I’m back there; I wish I was.” Another said, “It ﬁlls me again with what I felt that night— puts me back into that frame of mind, calms me.” Yet another participant reported, “It stirs the same feeling from when I ﬁrst realized I was in love. It’s magical all over again.”
What the couples in the Bareldses’ study were articulating is something that we came to realize is an important principle of clicking: that the magic of quick- set intimacy continues to deﬁne the tenor of the relationship even years later.
Similarly, ﬁfty years after they ﬁrst met, Bell Lab physicists Gerhard Sessler and Jim West describe the intensity of their partnership in the same way. “There was a certain ethereal quality to our collaboration when we began, and it continued to be there even when I retired,” recalls Gerhard. “I’ve worked with many people in my life, but the relationship with Jim was the best.”
This special type of bond doesn’t only alter the quality of the relationship— it can also serve to bring out the best in the abilities and attributes of those involved. For Jim and Gerhard it resulted in their being able to solve a tricky problem that had vexed audio engineers for decades.
In one of their early conversations together at Bell Labs, Jim and Gerhard started talking about microphones. The instruments used at the time were quite bulky (think of a 1950s radio announcer shouting into a big metal grille) because they relied on an external power source. This limited the wide- scale application of microphones, especially in compact and mobile devices.
“The microphone consisted of small carbon granules with an external source,” explains Gerhard. “It was a crazy, outdated type of device, but it worked. People at Bell Labs told us, ‘You can never beat this.’ ” After months of back- and- forth conversation about how to improve the device, Jim and Gerhard hit upon a simple yet ingenious solution: why not insert an electric power source (an electret, composed of a charged foil) directly into the microphone? With no reliance on external power, you could create a much smaller device.
From the get- go, Jim and Gerhard ran into resistance. Bell Labs questioned why two of its most promising scientists would occupy themselves with a seemingly impossible problem. They received a great deal of pressure to abandon the project. Time and again, the pair supported each other despite the naysayers. “Look, if I had to do it alone,” explains Gerhard, “if I didn’t have Jim there, I would have given up a long time ago.” They relied on their bond to keep them charging ahead. In a very real way, quick- set intimacy can help to bring out the best in us, especially in facing challenges. “That same spark that initially drew us together kept us going even when everyone told us to abandon the project,” Gerhard said. Their passion and drive were unwavering.
Today, the product of Jim and Gerhard’s collaboration accounts for the vast majority of all microphones produced. Every time you use your cell phone, camcorder, or laptop, you’re beneﬁting from the invention that they came up with because they clicked together so long ago.
As for Paul and Nadia, ﬁfteen years after they ﬁrst met, it’s clear that the magic of their initial encounter still plays a key role in their relationship. Today the couple runs an emergency management company called ESi. “It wasn’t easy that ﬁrst year,” Nadia conﬁdes. “We’ve had our challenges.” Nor are the two of them always on the same page. But they’re never afraid to disagree. As Nadia explains, “I wouldn’t have it any other way. If either one of us would cave in, it would be detrimental to our decision- making process. We absolutely need to evaluate everything from different perspectives. That’s what makes us powerful.” She pauses and smiles. “About the only thing that we’ve always agreed on is how important we are in each other’s lives.” That initial spark has had a lasting effect on their relationship. It’s clear that these types of interactions aren’t just ephemeral occurrences.
But why do we click in the ﬁrst place? What are the hidden forces working to make those connections occur? To examine the ﬁrst of what we call click accelerators, we visit a police ofﬁcer embroiled in a hostage situation, where the magic of an instant connection can be the difference between life and death.