It is a lesser known fact that the older you get the more difficult it gets to make friends. Most would rather be caught dead than accept it! But research proves that adult friendships are few and far between.
How do we navigate adulthood without getting caught in this quagmire? Working a job helps, of course. You meet more people, network and make new connections. Incidentally, having a kid does too! Your circle grows with your children’s friends, their parents and so on. But for an average Joe or Jane simply looking to make friends, it is a tough world out there.
We, at NewCampus, decided to dive into why a network is so important and how you can build your own. Read on to know more!
Do I really need a network?
Turns out yes, you DO need a network and cannot live under your rock any more. And why is that? We need friends in the first place for our general good health and happiness. Sandstrom and Dunn, in their piece “Social Interactions and Well-Being” in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin state that even interacting with people with whom one has weak social ties has a meaningful influence on well-being. Apart from that, as this article in the Harvard Business Review indicate, “networks deliver three unique advantages: private information, access to diverse skill sets, and power.” The bigger your network, the more your access to information that is privy to a very few. And as we all know information is wealth. Your network also creates a circle of trusted associates with varied skills who can come to your help at different points, saving you time, energy and money. Finally, network is your “net worth,” or in other words, it dictates how much power and influence you have in your society personally and professionally. The people you know and how much they are invested in you makes you rise in the ranks in every conceivable way.
Your network introduces you to new opportunities, connects you to more people and makes you professionally stronger and keeps you mentally sound. It becomes your support system during personal and/or professional slumps, transforming into a shoulder to cry and vent, or a stream of ideas to help you pull through. What more, it exposes you to new ideas and thoughts, expanding your perception of the world as you know it.
How do I even meet people in the first place?
Now that we know why networks are established, it is clear that one definitely needs to build it wide and strong. Today’s connected world (thankfully!) offers two ways of building a network — online and offline.
While the online world is always a hit or miss lacking the essential IRL (‘in real life’ for the uninitiated) component, it is still a great place to connect with people beyond the constraints of geographies. People who lead transient lives, digital nomads, remote workers and travel enthusiasts rely on online communities to stay connected and build their networks. There are hundreds of Slack communities, FB forums, LinkedIn groups, and networks built through city walks/tours, Couchsurfing, etc., that helps them discover like-minded people. And of course, social media networks always come to the rescue! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat have broken down many barriers making even celebrities just a click away. Online communities also offer a degree of separation, making it less awkward in some ways to reach out to strangers and break the ice with memes and gifs. These communities are especially great for introverts and ambiverts who find more comfort in the less overwhelming world of virtual connections.
But, let's be honest, nothing beats an offline IRL network. Even transient folks key into the local coworking and coliving spaces to make real connections in a new city. Post school and colleges, as adults, we rely mostly on parties, meetings, and conferences to meet new people and help us foster this community. But that’s not all! We can choose to join a group of robotics enthusiasts and build our own Roombas or learn to tie-and-dye with a group over the weekend. We could join a yoga or a cross-fit class in the neighbourhood. If language piques our interest, we can sign up for lessons and discover grammar and diction together. Music jams, spoken word poetry sessions, laughter clubs and more offer many ways to meet kindred spirits in person. And if all of the above fails, we could always attend events and join communities using discovery platforms like Eventbrite, Meetup, etc.
In fact, the idea of building a community in person was what prompted us to build NewCampus. Inspired by the penny universities and the Ottoman cafes of the past which acted as hubs for news, activity and community, we began our quest to create organic spaces that are similar in spirit for people to gather, talk about topics of interest and hang out in a casual manner.
Building a community without the pressure of networking
Remember those awkward pauses, fake laughs, clichéd introductions and worse, the forced jokes at networking events? We have all been there and want to simply steer clear of them.
So how do we even connect with people without jumping these hoops?
Here’s the tricky part — a recent study by Jeffrey Hall titled ‘How many hours does it take to make a friend?’ published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships reveals that “it takes about 50 hours of socializing to go from acquaintance to casual friend, an additional 40 hours to become a real friend, and a total of 200 hours to become a close friend.”
So, the bottom line is that it is not just enough for us to meet and greet people, we also need to “build” our network brick-by-brick, or hour-by-hour in this case!
And of course, we want to build it without awkward networking routines.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, how do we work on this? In a study titled ‘Self-disclosure and liking: a meta-analytic review,’ N.L. Collins and L.C. Miller of the Department of Psychology at the State University of New York state that if you are likeable and you reveal aspects of yourself to people, you are more prone to make friends. These friends tend to disclose to you and if they do, they also tend to hang out more with you. It works on the principle of initiating and establishing trust.
There are also other such tricks you can employ to make better friendships, and one of the masters on this subject, Dale Carnegie, shares three great pointers in How To Win Friends And Influence People:
a) Smile to make a great first impression
b) Get people to take interest in you by getting them to talk about themselves. Everybody loves talking about themselves!
c) Get people to say yes to you many times to convince them
Bored of the classic opening “what do you do?” to break the ice? Worry not! Arthur Aron and his team discovered through their study Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin that “it was possible to increase the intimacy between two complete strangers by asking 36 specific questions.” From questions as deep as ‘What would your ideal or perfect life be like’ to as inane as ‘What was your most enjoyable dream and your worst nightmare,’ this series is supposed to help people organically open up with each other while also establishing more closeness.
Closer home, asking people about what they do to build communities, we found a treasure trove of answers. We got advice to “always initiate connecting people with one another” and to try “Couchsurfing while travelling to build your network and community that’s not restricted to your daily space.” At the end of the day, a community and network stems from sustained effort and genuine engagement — whether in real life or online.
So, find your comfort zone and use our tips to initiate newer and wider communities in your life.
Have any tips we can use to build communities? Write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org to share more J