Use the 'plus one' technique to make your friend's day a little better

Make personal connections more meaningful with people you already know and care about, and deepen your relationship with others who you're just getting to know.

Jane McGonigal: Pick somebody in your life and you send them a message asking them how their day is going on a scale of 1 to 10. And it’s very important that you ask them on a scale of one to 10 for a couple of reasons. You’ll actually get a more interesting answer because usually, you know, if somebody says a three or an eight, they’ll explain it a little bit. And suddenly you’re getting a little more in-depth information than you’d normally get if you would just ask them, "How are you doing?" "Oh, I’m fine or I’m tired or I’m hungry."

And then when you do get a reply, what you do is you immediately text back or write back and say, "Is there anything I can do to make that number plus one? Anything I can do to move you from a three to a four or from an eight to a nine?" And that shows that you are really willing to take some time and effort to do, you know, a little favor. It’s just a little boost for your friend. We know in looking at video games that this is one of the reasons why video games are such effective relationship-management tools, specifically social games like Farmville or Candy Crush Saga. Lots of research has shown that when you play these games regularly with people, you become more likely to talk to them about non-game topics. You do that more frequently. And you’re also more likely to ask them for help with a real-life problem or more willing to offer than help. And the reason why is the design of the games supports more frequent interactions, which are really important for building up that kind of relationship. And also to show reciprocity. You are asking someone for help or you are offering help. And you think about a game like Farmville, where you can go water somebody’s crops or feed their chickens for them or Candy Crush Saga where I’m constantly asking my in-laws to send me extra lives and I’m sending them little power boosts in the game.

That little act of reciprocity — “I’m willing to help you; you’re willing to help me.” And doing it regularly, you know, every day or a couple times a week — that firmly cements in somebody’s mind the idea of you as an ally. And you might have people that you want to have thinking of you that way that aren’t playing any of these video games. So the "plus one" technique is a way to make sure that you’re talking regularly about these everyday topics, but also that you have a chance to give a little bit of support or help; just, you know, “How can I move you just plus one on this scale?” Something small that I can do today. And it’s something that I do quite often. Not only does it help, you know, make someone else’s day, but I kind of enjoy it when I get the chance to hear how people are doing and just do that one little thing to make their day better.

Parents love it, by the way. That’s my real advice. Parents love it. Parents love it when you do that. That’s, like, the most prime audience for this. They will, like, write you back a paragraph on why it’s an eight day and then you offer to plus one and they’re just like, “It’s already plus one because you wrote!"

Social media networks are sometimes criticized for making our personal connections shallower. The ease with which we can now contact anyone makes the effort to do so less impactful. But gaming researcher Jane McGonigal says that we can use instant, online communication to make a real improvement in another person's day. Her "plus one" technique is a simple, direct way to make an earnest connection with a friend or loved one, engage them in a genuine exchange, and give their day a little boost.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

Ashamed over my mental illness, I realized drawing might help me – and others – cope

Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.

Keep reading Show less

Sexual activity linked to higher cognitive function in older age

A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.

Image by Lightspring on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
  • The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
  • The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Keep reading Show less

What the world will look like in the year 250,002,018

This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now

On Pangaea Proxima, Lagos will be north of New York, and Cape Town close to Mexico City
Surprising Science

To us humans, the shape and location of oceans and continents seems fixed. But that's only because our lives are so short.

Keep reading Show less

Scientists are studying your Twitter slang to help AI

Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • A group of mathematicians from the University of Vermont used Twitter to examine how young people intentionally stretch out words in text for digital communication.
  • Analyzing the language in roughly 100 billion tweets generated over eight years, the team developed two measurements to assess patterns in the tweets: balance and stretch.
  • The words people stretch are not arbitrary but rather have patterned distributions such as what part of the word is stretched or how much it stretches out.
Keep reading Show less