Sitting in my aunt’s living room having tea together on a rainy November day directly raises a warm feeling in me. Is this because of the cosy couch, the room temperature, recognisable smells in her flat or just because I really like her? That’s actually hard to tell, hard to measure and probably a combination of a lot of factors in this specific situation. In this case, I don’t even care to overanalyse the situation but enjoy the fact that I enjoy myself there.
A fact is however that physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth. This was shown by Lawrence E. Williams and John A. Bargh who let people first hold on to cold or warm beverages and then let them judge a target person. They found that the participants holding warm beverages judged the target persons as more generous and caring. You can find their published paper here.
So I can at least assume that this warm, comfy feeling when having tea at my aunt’s is to some extend promoted by the physical warmth I’m holding in my hands. That’s nice to know but could I actually use this knowledge for good? Well, here’s what I’m going to try in the future: When I have a tough conversation coming up, I now consciously want to grab a warm drink to hold on to, to increase my ability to emphasise with and stay positive about the person I’m talking to.
Afterthought: I do wonder if this interpersonal warmth is also promoted when you’re feeling hot, like in the middle of the summer. Should you, my dear reader, ever empirically test this, please let me know.