Tired of networking? If you’re like most people, you probably are. After all, who really feels good about getting out there to pursue business or job leads? Actually, not too many of us. In fact, according to one study, career-oriented, or instrumental, networking can leave people “…feeling somehow bad about themselves – even dirty.”
By contrast, spontaneous networking in pursuit of emotional support and friendship does not have this affect. So, meeting new people in social situations is generally less stressful, and can lead to more meaningful relationships. Not only that, but friends enhance your well-being. Making sure you have friends in all parts of your life builds a social support community that can enrich your life. Frankly, as Malcolm Gladwell points out in The Tipping Point, the best-networked people have a knack for making for making friends and acquaintances – often from diverse walks of life. You can too, and here are five tips that can help.
Become Your Own Best Friend. Counterintuitive as it may seem, you can’t be your best for others until you can be your best for yourself. If you want some quick tips on how to be your own best friend, you can always find them on line. Personally, I feel this is actually a deeper process that includes understanding who are, what you value, what you want out of life, and what you have to offer others. Even if you have some degree of self-understanding, you can always deepen it. So, I most often recommend using a process to attain greater personal clarity via introspection and external feedback.
Evaluate Your Relationships. Unless you truly are a hermit, you are no doubt connected to a lot of people. The question is, where do those people show up in your life, and what is the quality of those relationships? According to Shasta Nelson, you can benefit from thinking about the people in your life as falling into one of five friendship circles based on levels of consistent contact and intimacy:
- Contact Friends are people you’re friendly with when we see them in a shared context, say at a class, but with whom we share little intimacy.
- Common Friends are people with whom you share a common activity, but also with whom you make an effort to expand the relationship, making the common activity enjoyable.
- Community Friends are people with whom you have expanded your relationship to include more activities leading to more consistency and intimacy.
- Committed Friends are people with whom you have intimately and consistently shared your lives, and have a mutual commitment to be present no matter what.
- Confirmed Friends are people with whom you share intimacy and a history of friendship, even when your connection has not been consistent due to life changes (usually a move).
Looked at in this way, it becomes a bit easier to see your various relationship circles and figure out where and with whom to invest more time. Remember, though, that these circles are always in flux with people moving from one circle to another based on what’s going on in everyone’s life.
Be Sure To Establish Friends At Work. Most people tend to think about their coworkers as, well … coworkers. So, while they may enjoy their company at work, they usually don’t nurture friendships. If that’s the case for you, change it. Why? Research has found that people with at least three close friends at work, are 46% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their jobs, and 88% more likely to be satisfied with their lives. Think about that. Work friends bring not just job satisfaction, but life satisfaction!
Get Out And Play. One of the best places to meet new people is during leisure time activities. So, whether you attend a class, are a regular at the gym, volunteer in your community, or participate in social activities with other people, you have the opportunity to start new friendships. Often conversations flow naturally around the activity, and can get the ball rolling to learn about other interests of the people you meet. Just make sure to leave your elevator pitch at home and take a genuine interest in truly listening and getting to know others.
Use Social Media. With the explosion of social media usage, it would seem that meeting people and nurturing friendships online would be natural. Only it’s not. The fact is, many people tend to segment their social media usage into categories. For example, using LinkedIn for business contacts and Facebook for family and friends. Yet, breaking down those walls can have real benefits. Specifically, connecting with people you know on multiple platforms (including, yes, Instagram and Snapchat) leads to more interactions across more areas of interest, allowing relationships to grow. Even better, learning how to engage new people consistently, in meaningful ways, and on various platforms can be the basis for new friendships.
Take Small Steps. Relationships take time, and require consistent small touch points that lead to more shared experiences. Actually, this is a good thing because it removes the sense of urgency so often connected with business networking, and it allows relationships to flourish more naturally. Remember friendship is an art. It emerges from exchanged pleasantries, shared experiences, insightful moments, and growing affection all taking place in small steps over time. Yet, take those small steps with enough people and before you know it you’ll find yourself not only well connected but also happier.