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Why Do People Say the Most Obvious Things?

Posted: August 15, 2016 by Gregory Devore, Ph.D

It’s 3pm on a hot, sunny day and you’re waiting to cross the street. Your friend is standing next to you and simply states, “It’s hot out.”

No kidding; of course it’s hot out; you can feel it. So why do people state the obvious?

Well, it’s all about connection, and that’s critical for survival.

Language is our way of sharing understanding. In the distant past, all we had to communicate was the sound of our voices and smoke signals, and those important signals warned of war parties and resources. In today’s hyper-connected world, we now augment our reality by using email, text, phone, and social media apps to share information about just about anything.

Regardless of how we communicate, one thing remains constant. When needs are shared, we can work to take care of each other. When ideas are shared, creativity and action can occur. Those who are better communicators are more likely to receive support from others. From an evolutionary perspective, it aided survival to share with our loved ones what we are thinking and feeling. If we did not share, we were less likely to receive support, and if we are less likely to receive support, it puts our health at greater risk. It serves to reason that those who were better communicators were more likely to pass on their genes. Therefore, the desire to share our experiences with others became part of human nature.

Back to the scenario where you’re standing at the crosswalk waiting to cross the street. Your friend states, “It’s hot out.” Suddenly, your attention switches from daydreaming to noticing the sweat on your back and brow. Suddenly, the idea of air conditioning and iced coffee sounds really good. You say to your friend, “Let’s stop by the coffee shop for a bit and get cool.”

While getting iced coffee and air conditioning isn’t necessarily about survival, the tendency to share the obvious allows us to help each other. When someone acknowledges our experience, it helps us feel more connected to them. We feel heard and safe, and validation is very important to develop trust between two people. Oftentimes when people say the obvious there’s a tendency to be sarcastic or dismissive. “No duh, it’s hot out.”

Stating the obvious can be viewed as a “bid” for connection. A bid is any attempt from one person to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection. If that bid is not met, over time it can erode the intimacy in a relationship. In fact, one study found that successful couples met one anothers’ bids 86% of the time, whereas couples that had divorced averaged only 33%.

So the next time someone states something obvious, look at it as an opportunity to deepen your connection. It’s quality time sharing a cool beverage on a hot day together.

Tags: relationship and family

Gregory Devore, Ph.D

Clinical Psychologist

As your advocate, I provide a safe place to feel understood and receive helpful, proactive feedback. Using a collaborative approach we promote total health including a focus on insight, personal growth, stress management, overcoming fear and avoidance, and fulfillment in sex, love, and intimacy.

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