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Bonding principle


Principles > Bonding principle

Principle | How it works | So what?



I will do what my friends ask of me.

How it works

As social animals, we build friendships with other people. And a part of friendship is helping one another without having to negotiate an exchange at every turn, partly because we know that over time, the exchange and social capital will balance itself out.

Bonding also happens with parents and siblings - 'Blood is thicker than water' is a common saying. It can also happen with family substitutes including employers and other organizations and institutions that we join.

Emotional bonding

One of the effects of becoming friends is a very human process of bonding, whereby we feel an emotional connection with the other person, such that our identities are connected together.

In such a situation, with connected identities, if I do something  for myself, I am also doing it for the other person, and vice versa.

Variable bonds

Emotional bonds vary. We have family, we have close friends and we have general acquaintances, and the degree to which we will help them varies accordingly.


Bonds occur even when we simply like people, including in the short term. For persuasion, this provides a powerful tool - being likable also makes you more persuasive.

Primitive bonding

In psychoanalytic theory is the principle of the neonatal phase in which an infant is literally 'at one' with the world and before their separate identity is formed through the mirror phase. Life thereafter is a dilemma of wanting both a separate identity and also returning to that early one-ness. Bonding with others helps create some sense of this as we introject their good objects.

Seeking one-ness is also found in many religions, whether it is connecting with God or achieving Nirvana or enlightenment.

Attachment and Loss

Particularly in psychology and early life, the term 'attachment' is commonly used to describe not just a connection but a sense of clinging on.

Attachment may hence be driven by a fear of loss. The sense of loss is again deep and primitive and can be very distressing, making it an understandably fearful thought.


People are, by and large, sticky. They cluster together and form cohesive groups with minimum excuse. Like atoms, they are often unstable when along and seem programmed to form into recognizable 'molecules'.

So what?

Make friends with the other person. Build emotional bonds. Find things in common. Thus when you ask them to do something for you, they will feel as if they are doing it for themselves.

See also

Exchange principle, Harmony principle, Trust principle, Ownership principle, Attachment, Bonding Conversations

Identity, Theories about friendship, Attachment Theory, Minimum Group Theory

Out with the boys

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