The Horror Movie Guide to Building Relationships

Hands behind window

Building relationships and strengthening interpersonal dynamics is essential to Internet marketing – but it’s also at the core of every industry, job, and facet of our personal lives. This makes building relationships important, and sometimes our lives depend on it… (Insert scary movie score here.)

While horror movie aficionados recognize that there are certain rules you must abide by in order to survive a horror movie, they probably missed out on the fact that – amongst the unearthly creatures, masked psychopaths, and gore – most classic horror movies can teach us something about interpersonal dynamics too.

For example, even scientists in a research station in Antarctica need to know about building relationships. These researchers need to understand each other and work cohesively if they’re going to make any notable discoveries. Also, if they have strong relationships, they will notice fairly quickly that their co-workers are being taken over by an alien life form. If these scientists had formed more meaningful relationships, there might have been a lower body count in The Thing.

Here are five ways that we can apply horror movie rules to building relationships.

1. Scream: Never say – I’ll be right back

Scream face

As Randy points out in the film, you should never say “I’ll be right back,” because chances are you won’t be back – EVER. While, saying this phrase in real life probably won’t get you accosted by a masked killer, this type of phrase may unwittingly alienate people.

Whether you email, skywrite, or utter phrases such as “I’ll be right back,” “I’ll call you right back,” or “I’ll send the deliverable soon,” the outcome can be extremely frustrating for the recipient. Why would this be frustrating? Because the timing you’re alluding to in all of these phrases is extremely vague.

Everyone has different perceptions of time, which is why more often than not these phrases unintentionally incite hurt feelings and misunderstandings. For example, my mom will tell me “I’ll call you right back” and I hear from her 6 hours later. I clearly wasn’t expecting the return call to take so long, and she is generally baffled by my exasperation and the policemen at her door.

Instead of leaving timing vague, give people an exact date or time to expect things by. The timing doesn’t have to be to assigned an hour, minute, or second, but there does have to be some universal measurement. For example, if my mom had said “I’ll call you back in a few hours,” I would have been much more prepared and happy when she finally called me back.

2. Nightmare on Elm Street: Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep

Haunted house in London, Sepia Tone - Brown

Falling asleep in class, in a hospital, or pretty much anywhere can spell trouble in a scary movie. Sleeping may lead to nightmares where you’re running from a man with finger knives and a ratty striped sweater. As a rule, you’re pretty much doomed – not even Nancy survived Dream Warriors.

Falling asleep when interacting with others in real life usually won’t end in death – well not physical death, anyway.  However, it can lead to social death, or the slow death of a relationship.

Good relationships are built on good communication, and being an active listener in conversations is a large part of good communication. This is a key skill in interacting with others and showing them that you value what they’re saying.

3. Friday the 13th: Don’t run into the woods alone

If you hear a noise and wander into the woods alone to check out the source of that noise – you’re probably a goner. At least, in a horror movie. You’d probably end up being chased by a hockey-mask-wearing maniac, and no matter how fast you run, he’ll eventually catch you.

The lesson that we can glean from this in real life is all about collaboration. When you have the benefit of others’ ideas and experiences – never go it alone. The ideas that come out of a brainstorming session will be different and perhaps better than the ones you come up with by yourself.

I’m not saying you can’t be an independent thinker, but relying on yourself too much can make your ideas a bit stale; eventually you will end up hitting a wall. Plus, collaboration not only lets you learn from others, it also lets you learn about others, and in turn helps to build a productive relationship.

Scary girl in bath stretching her hand to camera, Halloween

4. Halloween: Don’t turn your back on people

Being ignored is irritating, and while most of us don’t don a William Shatner mask and seek out our estranged families for revenge, we are likely to express our frustrations in other ways that can be destructive. For example, the evolution of social media started in part because there was a large communication gap between customers and corporations.  And blogs such as Comcast Must Die came into existence because customers were tired of the poor customer service they were getting.

When brands turn their backs on customers, they start to lose revenue and turn promoters into detractors. Not having a good user experience on your site, not communicating appropriately to your customers, and not making quality products are a few of the ways that brands disappoint their customers. There are many ways to avoid this scenario, particularly with the emergence of social media.

  1. Communicate with your customers where they spend time online (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).
  2. Listen to what users are telling you they want. Social monitoring and analytics are great ways to find out what your customers are saying about your product, and ways they believe you can improve.
  3. Improve the user experience on your site. Utilize tools like Crazy Egg or Google Consumer Surveys in order to get information about what’s working for them on your site and what’s not.

5. Poltergeist: Avoid building on a burial ground

It’s important to build relationships on solid foundations. Even though the Freelings made the potentially fatal error of moving into a house that was built on an ancient burial ground, they were saved by their ability to make and sustain good relationships with people (well, the ones who were still alive).  After all, I’m pretty sure they would’ve been in trouble if no one was there to yell, “Don’t go toward the light Carol Anne!” The family’s relationship with medium Tangina was so good she followed them through three movies!

A healthy foundation (such as the one between the Freeling family and Tangina) is built on communication, follow through, and trust. Building these elements into a new relationship is incredibly important, whether it be a friendship, working relationship, or another type of relationship. Building healthy habits and establishing trust will save your relationships when there are bumps in the night – or road.

For example, something unexpected happens and you have to tell your client that a deliverable is going to be late. If you’ve built a strong foundation by being transparent, honest, and reliable, this won’t be as big of an issue as it would be if you didn’t have a previously established rapport.

On the other hand, the same news coming from a person who is consistently late and doesn’t communicate very well will breed frustration. This frustration may build and eventually the relationship will end. Put in the time and effort now to ensure you’re not haunted by inaction later.

All of the “rules” that we’ve covered are basic guidelines to building and maintaining relationships. There is nothing new in these concepts, but we sometimes overlook these best practices in everyday life. Shortcuts are rarely the answer to building affinity with others. Plus, putting in work now can make things easier on you later.

So the next time you’re struggling with your interpersonal skills and your relationships are suffering, go watch a horror movie – you may actually learn something.

Is there a really obvious horror movie metaphor I have missed? Let me know in the comments!

A black and white portrait of an old scary doll

Kimberly Williams

Client Partner
Client Partner

Kimberly is a Sr. Client Partner with over 9 years of experience in digital marketing. She's passionate about building relationships, helping brands communicate effectively with their audience, and learning more about consumers through market research. Outside of the office, you might find Kimberly cooking, reading or taking long walks on the beach with her dachshund, Frank.

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  1. Quite a set of horrific lessons! I guess it was well researched and I can easily relate different business scenario with the ideas shared. Building relationships in business still begins with trust and not fear 😀

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