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Plays Well with Others Book Summary, Review, Notes

Plays Well With Others by Eric Barker offers an in-depth analysis of people’s behavior, especially in the context of close human relationships. The book emphasizes the key roles of friendship, community, and love in people’s happiness levels. It also provides useful tools for identifying and dealing with problems in a romantic relationship, but also for improving communication between partners. 

Book Title: Plays Well with Others: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Relationships Is (Mostly) Wrong
Authors: Eric Barker
Date of Reading: May 2022
Rating: 7/10

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Table of Contents

What Is Being Said In Detail:

Plays Well with Others explores the universality of love and how it can be affected by people’s behavior and actions. Through a series of biographical stories and research studies, the author invites the reader to see friendship and marriage from different perspectives. Ultimately, this book is a guide for improving the quality of our lives through an understanding of human behavior. 

Part 1: Can You “Judge a Book by Its Cover”? 

 

 

Chapter 1 reveals one of the greatest challenges people face when they try to analyze others. In a frequently desperate need to make sense of the world around us, we tend to find meaning and discover somewhat logical patterns where they don’t even exist.   

Chapter 2 focuses on the high level of inaccuracy regarding our ability to read others by deciphering nonverbal communication. It sheds light on egocentric bias and how it interferes with our people-reading skills. Paying close attention to what people say and how they say it will increase the level of understanding of others.

Chapter 3 deals with the topic of confirmation bias, and it provides three crucial steps that one has to take in order to resist it. Feeling accountable, distancing yourself before making a decision, and considering your failures will help you be more objective and rational when assessing people or situations. 

Chapter 4 offers practical advice on how to improve your lie detection skills. It emphasizes the importance of friendliness in the process because people who feel more relaxed are more likely to reveal the truth. Open-ended questions invite longer answers that might turn into monologues, which is an indication of assuming control over the situation. 

Chapter 5 talks about confirmation bias, but also about the positive aspects of not being able to read people accurately all the time. It claims that being aware of every negative opinion or thought another person has about us will likely lead to poor mental health and anxieties. Although people wish to be able to perceive the world objectively and clearly, they still care about being happy, motivated, and self-confident. 

Part 2: Is “A Friend in Need a Friend Indeed”? 

Chapter 6 tackles the topic of friendship and its role in our lives. Regardless of the fact that friendship does not represent a formal institution, it is key to our happiness and satisfaction. It also proves that the happiest marriages are based on good friendships.   

Chapter 7 elaborates on the concept of closeness in a connection to friendship. In fact, our brain has to work harder to distinguish us, as entities, from our close friends. The contents of Darwin’s memoir support the claim that friendship played a critical role in his professional success.

Chapter 8 explores the implications of having WS. People with WS are too trusting and can easily be placed in danger, or taken advantage of. The chapter warns about the absence of distrust, especially in children with WS. Moreover, the chapter offers advice on how to make friends as adults, and how to maintain those friendships. 

Chapter 9 presents a good litmus test for determining if a person is a narcissist by using empathy prompts: emphasizing similarity, emphasizing vulnerability, and emphasizing community. If you are long-term friends with a narcissist, there is a possibility for them to soften with age and become more self-aware. 

Chapter 10 identifies the character traits of great friends. It offers an in-depth analysis of the popular saying “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” It promotes the claim that real friends are there for you when you need them. 

Part 3: Does “Love Conquer All”?

Chapter 11 talks about the universal feeling of love and people’s experience of it. The chapter mentions love in the context of marriage and the negative effects that an unhappy marriage has on people’s health. The topic of marriage is approached objectively, without the disillusion of romantic love. 

Chapter 12 explores the topic of romantic love and how its effects on people can be likened to a serious medical illness. It supports the notion that romantic love operates on the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum, which means it can make your life seem either like heaven or hell. 

Chapter 13 makes a strong point about the importance of healthy, continuous, and open communication between partners in a romantic relationship. This chapter lists the four critical problems partners may face that will lead to a break-up: constant criticism, stonewalling, defensiveness, and contempt. 

Chapter 14 emphasizes the significance of having deep, intimate knowledge of your partner’s likes and dislikes. The chapter makes a point that since love is a shared story, it should be rewritten repeatedly. If you have experienced positive romantic feelings recently, you will feel much more satisfied with the overall relationship. 

Chapter 15 talks about the ways in which love can indeed ‘conquer all.’ The positive idealization which stems from romantic love can lead us to a more fulfilled life, and it can fuel our desire to accomplish our goals, wishes, and dreams. 

Part 4: Is “No Man an Island”?  

Chapter 16 warns against the dangers of loneliness. It distinguishes between solitude and loneliness, especially since the former can be positive for our mental health, whereas the latter can be detrimental to it. 

Chapter 17 talks about romantic video games, which are becoming extremely popular in Japan, a country in which more than a third of its youth claim that they do not desire to be involved in a romantic relationship. The chapter does not attack technology, but people’s alienation and the lack of face-to-face communication. 

Chapter 18 focuses on the role of communities and the sense of obligation and the responsibilities that are intrinsic to them. The chapter finds a correlation between the decline of happiness levels and people’s reduced involvement in their communities, especially in the Western world. 

Chapter 19 explores the pitfalls of a hyperindividualistic society. Extreme individualism has weakened the sense of community and has made way for depression. The chapter purports that loneliness is rooted in individualism, which has caused the levels of happiness to plummet. 

Most Important Keywords, Sentences, Quotes:

CHAPTER 1 

“People turn to crystal balls and tarot cards not for hard answers but for a story that gives them a feeling of control over their lives.”

“We’re not objectively evaluating what we hear; we’re active participants in trying to make the puzzle piece fit. Rationalizing. Excusing. Accepting something vague as ‘close enough.’”     

“As Gilovich explains, humans are prone to seeing meaning where there is none. Emotionally, we want a feeling of control over the world around us. We desperately need the world to at least seem to make sense.”              

“The real challenge in analyzing people often isn’t with them; it’s with us. Yes, decoding the behavior of others is difficult, but the hidden problem, the one we rarely realize and never address, is that our own brains are often working against us. We think the secret to reading people is learning some special magic indicator in body language or lie detection. But the primary thing we have to contend with is our own cognitive biases.”

CHAPTER 2 

“‘Accurate person perception’ has a conga line of personal and interpersonal benefits. Studies show that those who possess it are happier, less shy, better with people, have closer relationships, get bigger raises, and receive better performance reviews. When we look more specifically at those who are better interpreters of body language and nonverbal communication, we see similar positive effects.”            

“As with profiling, we’re too trapped inside our own heads and stories. Even when we try to take the perspective of others, studies show our accuracy doesn’t improve. Yeah, it reduces egocentric bias, but what we replace it with isn’t any better. When we ask others questions, our accuracy goes up, but we don’t do that enough. Usually, we just play in our own heads with our own stories and replace bad assumptions with different bad assumptions.”   

Eric Barker Quote 1

             

“Michael Esterman, a professor at Boston University and cofounder of its Attention and Learning Lab, says, “The science shows that when people are motivated, either intrinsically, i.e., they love it; or extrinsically, i.e., they will get a prize, they are better able to maintain consistent brain activity, and maintain readiness for the unexpected.”               

“Since we can’t improve our people-reading skills that much, we have to focus our efforts on making others more readable. Instead of passively analyzing them like Sherlock Holmes does on TV, we need to actively elicit stronger signals to get more telling reactions.”               

“Truth be told, if you wanted to focus on something, skip body language and laser focus on their speech. When we can hear someone but not see them, empathic ability declines only about 4 percent. When we can see someone but not hear them, the drop-off is a whopping 54 percent.” 

CHAPTER 3

“Our brains have biases. And sometimes those are for our own good. Many assume memory operates like a perfect video camera, but the truth is, memories warp with time. We forget details, reconstruct things, or change the narrative so we’re the righteous hero or the innocent victim. We forget the bad and remember the good.”              

“We make our minds up about someone’s assertiveness, beauty, competence, likability, and trustworthiness in less than a second. And, like mind reading, more time doesn’t noticeably change our opinions, it just increases our confidence.”              

“Our first impressions are often surprisingly accurate. Not only do people usually agree on first impressions, but they’re also impressively predictive. Just seeing someone smile for the first time was enough for viewers to make accurate predictions two-thirds of the time for nine out of ten fundamental personality traits, from extroversion to self-esteem to political preferences.”              

“And, unsurprisingly, a fair amount of this inaccuracy is due to your biased brain. We’re not talking about race or gender biases necessarily, but fundamental cognitive biases wired into our gray matter. Often these are shortcuts. Evolution has optimized our brains for speed or fuel efficiency over accuracy.”             

“Now if you think you can overcome these biases with conscious effort, you’re probably wrong. Numerous studies have shown we have a bias against noticing our biases.”               

“We’re prone to zillions of cognitive biases, and there’s no way to succinctly address them all. But when it comes to first impressions, the main battle is with “confirmation bias.” We’re prone to searching for and favoring ideas consistent with beliefs we already hold. We don’t test theories; we look for information to reinforce the position we’ve already decided on.”               

“Even when presented with incontrovertible new information about someone, our explicit impressions can change while our implicit impressions don’t. In other words, your very rational, evidence-based perspective can change, but your feelings about the person stay exactly the same.”

CHAPTER 4 

“Humans have been trying to master lie detection for thousands of years—and failing miserably.               

“The science overwhelmingly recommended a nuanced and sophisticated method humans have never tried in the past five thousand years when attempting to detect lies: being nice. We’ll call our new system The Friendly Journalist Method™. Never be a “bad cop.” Be a “friendly journalist.” You have to get them to like you. To open up. To talk a lot. And to make a mistake that reveals their deception. What’s the first step? Journalists do their homework before they write a piece, and so will you.”               

“Ask lots of open-ended questions that start with “What” or “How,” not things that can be answered with one word. You want to be friendly and say just enough to keep ’em gabbing. Letting them monologue makes them feel in control. They’ll relax. You want them to keep talking so you get more info and can evaluate.”             

“So liars are always improving. You aren’t. And that gives them an advantage. Don’t help them improve further.”             

“Truth tellers merely have to say what they remember. Liars need to know the truth. They also need to generate a plausible story. They need to make sure those don’t contradict.”

CHAPTER 5 

“Though we’re decent with first impressions, lie detection is a coin toss, and we’re horrible at the passive reading of people’s thoughts and feelings (I know a horse that’s better at it than we are). Even worse, our initial mistakes tend to stick in our minds. We are often our own worst enemy. Confirmation bias causes us to remember hits and forget the misses, blinding us to what might correct our story and make it more accurate.”               

“One reason is our poor accuracy may not be a flaw at all. Being too accurate when reading people can be a nightmare. We all have fleeting negative feelings about our partners, friends, and relationships. That’s normal.”               

“Seeing the world accurately is not our only goal. Yes, you want reliable info to be able to make good decisions. But you also want to stay happy, motivated, and confident, even when things aren’t looking so great. (Or especially when things aren’t looking so great.) This can be a delicate balance because the truth hurts. That’s how you know it’s the truth.”              

Instead of focusing on not judging a book by its cover, it would be more useful to say we would be better off putting more effort into revising the judgments we will undoubtedly make.”

CHAPTER 6

“Unsurprisingly, we have the most friends when we’re young (teens average about nine), and the number generally declines as we age. Which is sad, because friends make us happier than any other relationship. Sorry, spouses.       

“But even within a marriage, friendship reigns. Work by Gallup found that 70 percent of marital satisfaction is due to the couple’s friendship. Tom Rath says it’s five times as critical to a good marriage as physical intimacy.

“Unlike those other relationships, friendship has no formal institution. It doesn’t have law, religion, employer, or blood backing it up. And because there’s no metaphorical lobbying group pushing friendships’ interests, it always ends up second tier. It’s 100 percent voluntary with no clear definition and few societally agreed-on expectations.”       

Eric Barker Quote 2

         

“Despite all the joys and benefits of friendship, studies show that the person we are most likely to have a lifelong relationship with turns out to be not a pal but a sibling. It’s a tragedy. However, the weakness of friendship is also the source of its immeasurable strength. Why do true friendships make us happier than spouses or children? Because they’re always a deliberate choice, never an obligation.”

CHAPTER 7 

When you’re tight with a friend, your brain actually has to work harder to distinguish the two of you. The clincher was neuroscience studies that put people into an MRI and then asked them questions about friends. Of course, the areas of the brain for positive emotions lit up. You know what else was activated? The parts of the brain associated with self-processing.”               

“What is closeness? Closeness is when your vision of your “self” scooches over and makes room for someone else to be in there too. What is a friend? A friend is another self. A part of you. I have the urge to say, In your face, Charlie Darwin! But the truth is, Darwin was just like us.”

“Darwin did great things and had a whopping ten kids. (Nice way to prove your theory, Charlie.) But to do that, his brain didn’t need to be thinking “must spread genes” all the time. That wasn’t what was important to him as a person. What was? Believe it or not, friendship.”

“Darwin wrote a memoir and discussed the thing that affected his career more than anything else. His theory of natural selection? Nope: ‘I have not as yet mentioned a circumstance which influenced my whole career more than any other. This was my friendship with Professor Henslow.’” 

CHAPTER 8 

“If anything, those with WS are too trusting. They frequently get taken advantage of. It’s like they possess no social immune system to defend them. This presents a problem for parents of WS kids. While such a friendly child is a beautiful thing, having them happily hop into cars with strangers is not. These children must be taught to distrust others—but the lessons rarely stick. It’s not in their nature.”

“So what does Dale recommend? He encourages people to listen, to be interested in others, to speak to them from their point of view, to sincerely flatter others, to seek similarity, to avoid conflict, and many other things that seem obvious—but that we all routinely forget to do.”               

“So how do we make more time for friends as an adult? The key comes down to rituals. Think about the people you do keep up with, and you’ll probably find a ritual, conscious or not, underneath it. “We talk every Sunday,” or “we exercise together.” Replicate that. It works. Find something to do together consistently.”            

“We don’t want awful people to exploit our weaknesses, but the irony is that our weaknesses are where trust comes from.”

CHAPTER 9

“The data show, on average, for every ten friends you gain, you’ll also get a new enemy.

“Frenemies” are often worse than enemies. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology professor at BYU, found that frenemies (the formal designation is “ambivalent relationships”) increase anxiety and drive your blood pressure through the roof—even more than true enemies do. Why are frenemies more stressful than enemies? It’s the unpredictability.”               

“So what’s the best way to deal with a narcissist? The answer is simple: don’t. Say “MEEP-MEEP” and sprint away Road Runner–style as fast as you can. The first-line recommendation of professionals is consistent; we just usually don’t want to do it.”             

“The study “Attenuating the Link Between Threatened Egotism and Aggression” found this angle directly increases the feeling of “another self.” Emphasizing similarity actually has a bigger effect on narcissists than non-narcissists. Why? Because there’s some very clever psychological judo built into this angle. The researchers wrote, “This manipulation would also capitalize on narcissists’ weakness—self-love.” 

“The good news is that if you’re friends for the long haul, narcissists do tend to soften with age.”

“The irony is that narcissists are so full of themselves yet lack self-awareness.”

CHAPTER 10 

“Empathy is when the line between you and another blurs. Closeness is when your vision of your “self” makes room for someone else to be in there too. And a true friend is “another self.” A part of you. Aristotle said it first, and after procrastinating for a few millennia, science proved him right.”

“Friendship may be defined by mutual aid, but it’s not transactional. We don’t keep score with friends. Our brains tell us the story that friends are a part of us, and this is how we overcome the dictates of ruthless Darwinism and act altruistically, as Hector Cafferata did. There is no formal institution that regulates friendship. This makes friendship fragile but pure.”

“What was the most common thing people said about friends in surveys? “A friend is there for you.” And the popular interpretation of the maxim emphasizes the same.”

“In the future, let’s say: ‘A friend who is there for you when you’re in need is definitely a friend.’”            

“With no institutional backing, friendship gets no equivalent of a wedding anniversary, a family reunion, or a note of appreciation for ten years with the company. Friendship does the heavy lifting of happiness in our lives, so I’d say it deserves better. Time is critical, vulnerability is essential, but maybe something else we should remember is gratitude. Hug a friend today. We don’t celebrate our friendships enough.”

                

CHAPTER 11 

“Does love really conquer all? Of course not. (So far, this is looking to be a very short chapter.) I’m all for poetic license, but have you seen any divorce statistics lately? I’ll save you the Google search: roughly 40 percent of US marriages end in divorce.”               

“The experience of love is largely consistent no matter which country, age, gender, orientation, or ethnic group you study. It’s almost certainly innate, and we know this because throughout history many cultures (including the Shakers, Mormons, and East Germans) attempted to suppress romantic love—and all failed spectacularly.”           

“If you want to determine if getting married makes you happier, you need to include separated, divorced, and widowed people in with the currently married, not with the unmarried.”               

“If you’re unhappily married, your health is likely to be notably worse than if you never got hitched at all. A bad marriage makes you 35 percent more likely to fall ill and lops four years off your life.”     

Eric Barker Quote 3

            

“Human beings are pretty resilient. With almost all bad things that happen, your happiness levels eventually return to baseline. But not with divorce. An eighteen-year study of thirty thousand people showed that after a marriage goes splitsville, levels of subjective well-being rebound—but not completely. It seems divorce puts a permanent dent in your happiness. And when you look at everyone across the marital spectrum, nobody is more despondent than the unhappily married. If you’re going to be lonely, it’s better to do it alone.”                

“Fairy tales are passive. And these days happy marriages take proactive work. But if you do the work, you can have one of those greatest-marriages-ever. To quote Finkel, “Relative to marriages in earlier eras, marriages today require much greater dedication and nurturance, a change that has placed an ever-larger proportion of marriages at risk of stagnation and dissolution.”

CHAPTER 12

“Romantic love may be the best thing in the world. But you don’t need me to tell you that. Its power goes without saying . . . but I’ll say it anyway. The world is infused with magic, and your mind is like someone emptied the kitchen junk drawer onto a trampoline. There’s a reason so much of art and music is about romance.”               

“But truth be told, we all know it’s a mixed bag. We’re always up and down. It’s both pleasure and pain. Agony and ecstasy. Delight and despair. Dr. Frank Tallis writes, ‘Love seems to provide a shuttle service that operates between only two destinations: heaven and hell.’”              

“And that’s the side of love we don’t discuss quite as much: love can be awful. A massive multidimensional quantum dumpster fire.”             

“Making a case for love as a serious medical illness is far easier than you might guess. Let’s not forget how many people kill themselves or others over love. Oddly, though, we don’t take love seriously as a malady and generally see it as something not only benign but widely recommended and endorsed.”         

“Much like the physical universe, love is also subject to entropy. Energy dies down. The frenzy regresses to the mean. Romance stories don’t discuss this part; comedians do.”            

“Married love is a choice and one that will require diligent, consistent effort over time. Love is a verb.”

CHAPTER 13 

“In our relationships we all struggle with the issue of passion versus logic, especially in the area of communication. When ardor fades, do we focus on reigniting the flame or building a conscientious system that can sustain a busy household and life? It’s hard to know the path, to find a balance between scientific skills and feelings of the heart.”

“Famed psychologist Albert Ellis calls it “devilizing.” It’s a flip from dealing with someone you assume has good intentions but occasionally makes errors, to someone you assume was forged in the darkest pits of Hades but occasionally does something nice.”

“As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” And with time you talk less and assume more. “He’s quiet so he must be angry” or “She said no to sex so she must not love me.’”            

“You have to communicate. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Communication is so vital that shyness is actually correlated with lower marital satisfaction. Meanwhile, the average dual career couple spends under two hours a week in discussion. You gotta talk. Yeah, that means you’re gonna fight more. But guess what? Fighting doesn’t end marriages; avoiding conflict does.”

CHAPTER 14 

“Can love really survive when the memories are gone? I’m pleased to be able to answer that with a confident yes.”               

Remind yourself of intimacy through “love maps.” Renew your intimacy with “the Michelangelo effect.” Rewrite your shared story. Again and again. Love is a verb.”             

“At the end of the workday when you reunite, you each take a turn sharing the good news of the day. And both of you support and celebrate what the other says.”               

“Just as in romantic love we’re able to see our “real” partner but discount the negatives and idealize them, we can benefit from that here. With the knowledge of the current block of marble and what it has the potential to be, we can better see how the idealized version parallels it.”             

“In the end, love is a shared story. (My deep and insightful realization that lasting love is inextricably part of a shared story is due to congenital brilliance on my part and has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that leading love researcher Robert Sternberg wrote a book titled Love Is a Story.)”

 

CHAPTER 15 

“Sometimes love requires more of us than we expect. But if you’re devoted, if you’re prepared—and maybe if you’ve got a chain and padlock—sometimes love can conquer all.”             

“Everyone asks how you got together; nobody asks how you stayed together. And it’s the latter that is often the real achievement to be proud of.”               

“Love is a mental illness. It’s a crazy addiction that even clouded the mind of the callous Casanova. But it turns out we need the crazy. That wild-eyed idealization, that positive bias, is the magic of love. Life is hard, so we need its drive not only to fulfill our genes’ goals to make more genes but to fulfill our hopes, dreams, and hearts.”             

“When people buy into benevolent stories, humans form nations, religions, and communities that allow us to survive and thrive. Just as the falsehood that a friend is “another self” binds us together and improves the world, so does the mutually agreed-on delusion of love.”              

“With the responsibilities of adulthood there’s a desire to turn everything into a stable routine, but this turns love a shade of stultifying monochrome. In the end, we don’t want to conquer love’s challenges and mystery. In being vague, there is uncertainty and in uncertainty tension, serendipity, and surprise.”

CHAPTER 16 

“And we are lonely. Even before the 2020 pandemic, 75 percent of UK doctors said they saw patients every day whose main complaint was loneliness. In 2017 the problem got so bad—with more than nine million lonely Britons—that the country appointed a minister of loneliness.”

“Repeated studies have shown that what the happiest people have in common is good relationships, hands down.”               

“Loneliness is so bad for your health, I’m surprised insurance companies don’t mandate you put this book down and go see friends.”              

“Solitude is what you mean when you say “I need time to myself” or to “get away from it all.” We need alone time to recharge and reflect.”              

“We used to be forced to be together by necessity, but we got rich and didn’t have to be connected to one another anymore for survival. Understandably, we wanted more freedom and control. Like a nuclear reaction, we broke bonds and released tremendous, useful energy into the world.”

CHAPTER 17 

“Romantic video games are becoming a big business in Japan, with the market leader bringing in over one hundred million dollars in 2016.”         

“A Japanese government survey found 37.6 percent of young people don’t want a romantic partner. Why? Most said it was “bothersome.” Real relationships seem too difficult, too much of a risk. Japanese men say they don’t want the mendokusai (“too much trouble”) of human relationships.”               

“No, I don’t think most of us will be finding our future soulmate in the Bed Bath & Beyond pillow aisle, but this is a long way from the harmless distraction of Tamagotchi games. We’re dealing with an epidemic of loneliness, but what’s even more concerning is the new ways we’re trying to address it, ways that don’t seem headed for long-term fulfillment and happiness.”               

“Being lonely sucks. Meanwhile, being popular is good. Like really good. Being popular as a kid made a huge difference in people’s lives decades later—and in some very surprising ways.”                

“When we feel connected to others, control is less important because we feel help is there. But when we’re lonely, our brain scans for threats twice as fast. We need control over the environment to feel safe.” 

“Harvard professor Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone is the best dystopian science fiction novel you’ll ever read—except that it’s not fiction. He meticulously details the decline of American community involvement over the final quarter of the twentieth century.”          

“Technology isn’t as inherently evil as some have made it out to be. The real problem is, just like television, we often use tech time to replace face-to-face interaction and community activities.”

CHAPTER 18  

          

“Loneliness heightens our attention to negative emotions because you’re not safe, you have no one looking out for you, and your body knows that historically this has been mucho bad for Homo sapiens. The placebo effect is the reverse. It says, Someone is looking out for us. Backup has arrived. We are safe now.”               

“So what happens in a world so focused on status and the extrinsic and so little on care and the intrinsic? We become depressed. Happiness levels have declined in the Western world over the past fifty years and the incidence of major depression is up, despite our enormous material success.”       

   

Eric Barker Quote 4

  

“With community comes obligation. But we need the burden, as we need the responsibilities of parenthood. We have gone a little too far in the way of freedom. We want a two-way street because too much control is unfulfilling.”

CHAPTER 19  

“We forget that our supremacy on this planet was far from fated. We lived on the edge of extinction for most of the 125,000 generations of Homo sapiens.

“Loneliness sucks and we’re lonelier than ever, but it’s less about a lack of people and more about lack of community. And loneliness is new, born of our relatively recent story of individualism.”             

“Happiness is down and depression is up as a result of our hyperindividualistic society. We’ve tried to cope via the placebo effects of antidepressants and the pseudo-cuddles of opiates, but that’s not going to do it. What we need is more community.”             

The 1800s brought revolutionary new ideas that led to a lot of good things but also to some not-so-good-things. Individualism went a little too far, and we ended up nutritionally deficient on community, resulting in emotional scurvy. And that’s where our lovely theme of “story” comes back. How do stories play into community? Lee Marvin once said, “Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.” You’re not the only character in the story.

Book Review (Personal Opinion):

The author has made truly valid points about the topics of friendship and romantic love. The book tackles issues that are important for any person, and it identifies behaviors that may seriously impact the level of happiness, fulfillment, and self-realization. Although some ideas aren’t new, the author manages to present them in a new light. 

Rating: 7/10

This Book Is For:

  • Partners in romantic relationships
  • Married couples
  • Anybody who wants to understand themselves and others better

If You Want To Learn More

Here’s an interview with Eric Barker in which he discusses the ideas presented in the book:
Podcast S7E160: Eric Barker – Plays well with others

How I’ve Implemented The Ideas From The Book

My wife and I have decided to always end the day by telling each other only the good things that happened during the day. This way we can end every day on a positive note, which is crucial for our mental health. Also, I’ve become more aware of some toxic behaviors that might cause problems in my marriage, such as unconstructive criticism, or stonewalling. 

One Small Actionable Step You Can Do

Before you go to sleep, tell your partner all the good things that have happened to you during the day and ask them to do the same. This will improve your communication and it will foster feelings of satisfaction and happiness. 

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