We all know by now that
reading is good for you — reading makes you kinder, less stressed, more attractive, and immortal (or something like that). Reading is great for your mental health. But did you know that reading books can also help you seduce your crush, stop all those fights with your roommate, and make you remember to call your mom more often? Here are a few ways that reading can help improve the relationships in your life.
I think most book-lovers already know that it's easier to get along with other book lovers. I mean, have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who "doesn't read"? It's not easy (especially if you're me, and have little to no working knowledge of band names). If you both read books, you have an instant rapport. You have a conversational safe haven, a way to connect to another person without first listing siblings and college majors.
And reading books can do a lot more for your relationships than simply giving you some new, literary ice breakers. If you're looking to have kinder, smarter, and more fulfilling interactions with other members of the human race, then head to your local bookstore, because reading is a surefire way to improve your relationships:
Fiction helps you empathize
Want to understand what your friends are going through? Read more fiction. A study from the
University of Buffalo found that reading fiction improves people's empathy: the more time you spend putting yourself in a fictional character's shoes, the better you are at understanding the non-fictional people in your life. And having better empathy is essential when it comes to taking political responsibility, understanding your partner's problems, and not saying the wrong thing when your friend's cat dies.
Reading makes you less grouchy
Reading reduces your stress levels, making you a more relaxed, less grouchy person. Being less stressed is probably the most effective way to be a better friend, partner, and family member. Non-grouchy people don't pick fights with their roommates nearly so often, so try unwinding with a good book before you confront Steve about the dishes.
You’ll be a better writer
Reading ups your vocabulary, improves your grammar, and makes you an
all-around better writer. That might not sound super helpful if you don't write for a living, but so many of our relationships exist primarily through the written word these days. If you're a better writer, then you're better at e-mailing, texting, and crafting clever Facebook comments, which is essential to nurturing long distance friendships.
Yes, reading actually does
make you seem sexier to potential partners. You look all smart and literary with your nose in a book, and most people dig that. Even just describing yourself as a reader gives you more game on dating apps. So you should always carry a book around, just in case you find yourself needing to impress any local cuties.
You can learn from fictional relationships
...even if you're only learning what
not to do. For instance, Junot Díaz's This Is How You Lose Her might show you the extreme harm that one person's misogyny can cause to a relationship. Or Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre might teach you the lesson that you should never, ever lock your ex-wife in the attic (or if you do, at least tell your girlfriend about your attic wife).
You'll understand what everyone is talking about
It's no secret that
reading makes you smarter. The more you read, the more you learn, and the more people you can find common ground with. You'll get more references, and feel comfortable speaking up about more subjects. Plus, befriending other readers gets you more book recommendations, so you read more, so you befriend even more readers, until you are the smartest and most popular person in town (or something like that).
Reading helps you avoid talking to people
Alternatively, reading is a great way to avoid small talk and cut toxic people out of your life. Hide from awkward chats about the weather behind a trusty novel. Or use a potential date's taste in literature as a litmus test before you decide to go out with them. I'm not saying you should discriminate based on which books a person loves... but if you love to read, chances are you'll be happier with someone else who loves to read.
Reading gives you perspective
Working through a tough relationship problem? Reading a book can help you
gain perspective on your own life. It can be hard to sort out complex emotions on your own, but reading about a boy wizard or a Russian count go through similar troubles can help you figure out how you're feeling. Just make sure you take the next step and communicate your feelings to the people in your life, rather than just sending them a reading list.
You’ll remember more birthdays
The process of reading actually trains your brain to
record more memories—and we all know that a lot of relationship tensions come down to a faulty memory. Forgetting birthdays or allergies can strain even your closest relationships. Read more, and you'll remember to call your mom more often.
Books are a great way to connect
Whether you're starting a book club or just pressuring your partner to finish
The Bell Jar so you can talk about it, books bring people together. Reading fosters deeper, kinder connections between people. Books can help you start conversations that you wouldn't know how to handle otherwise. And reading is a great activity for snuggling together on the couch. So head to the bookstore, and maybe pick out a few books for the people you care about.