Social Network

Shaping Serendipity as a Way to Make New Friends

If serendipity is the aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident, then trying to increase that encounter with luck would be what we call "shaping serendipity." John Hagel, one of the authors of The Power of Pull, spoke last fall at the monthly SF Coaches association meetings I attend.  He spoke of shaping serendipity as a decision we can make to pull the people, ideas, and objects into our lives that we need.

Serendipity Poster

In other words, if you want to start a career in fashion then there are certain cities you could live in where the "serendipity" of meeting the right people, getting invitations to the right events, and learning the ins-and-outs of the industry might increase more than the plains of Kansas. If you wanted to marry another Jew, then you're chances of "serendipity" increase in synagogues, Jewish dating sites, and through relatives than they do by hanging out at the bar down the street.  If you want to get pregnant then there are certain times every month where your "serendipity" improve. If you want to win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket. You get the idea.

Shaping Serendipity as a Way to Make New Friends

There are three levels of pull that Hagel breaks down, but I'm basically going to give my own definitions to tailor it to our subject of friendship.

1)  Access: Let's start with the obvious: You have a higher likelihood of meeting new people at an event than you do on your couch with a remote control in your hand. That's called accessing serendipity!  By showing up at something your chances have just gone up that you could make a new friend.

Where we spend our time affects our choices. How scheduled or open we are affects our availability. How much we're around people impacts our options.

2) Attract: The next level up is recognizing that some events are more likely than others to be filled with the kind of women you want to meet and could be conducive to your purposes than others.

For example, I've found that small groups are easier for me than large networking events.  Something about a small group gives permission to everyone to introduce themselves, whereas at a large mixer one person has to be very willing to walk around introducing themselves.

I've also found that it's easier to show up to something where interaction is expected such as at an entrepreneurs network, church community, or mothers/toddlers play group than it is to attend something where we're all there for the concert, lecture, or workout class.

I've also found that my chances for connection seem to go up if I'm either by myself or with someone else who is also committed to meeting people.  Otherwise it's too easy to stand there with my friend and talk all night to her.

I've also found that events or networks that cater to women increase my odds of meeting other women than events that are co-ed since we're not there to flirt or show off our husbands.

What you want to do with your female friends can also give you information about where you have the best chances of meeting them.  If you are hoping to find someone to hike with-- a hikers group ups your odds exponentially.

Joining a female friendship matching community like GirlFriendCircles.com is obviously one of the most strategic moves you can make since you know that everyone you meet is open to new friends and wants to connect. It's hard to get better odds than that!  (But then it goes back to Step 1 where you have to show up for it to work!!!)

3) Achieve: This is the step where we maximize the serendipity, pulling out the full potential of the experience.  This is where we smile and make eye contact with others, lean in toward the person we're talking to to hear everything they're saying, ask questions that communicate our interest, assure them how happy we are to have met them, exchange our contact information, and follow-up.

That is no small list.  But without this third step then all we're doing is networking up the wazoo, making small talk, and exhausting ourselves.

It's how we engage and take advantage of the opportunities that will determine our ultimate success.  We could be in the ideal group of women, all engaging in meaningful conversation, but if we never followed up to repeat the experience then we haven't achieved our serendipity.

One of the most powerful ways to do maximize serendipity is to care less about impressing those we meet and more about loving those we meet.  Sometimes our insecurities get the best of us and we erroneously think we need others to be wowed by us.  On the contrary, most people aren't drawn to people they are intimidated by as much as they are drawn to people who seem to care about them.  Our odds of building friendship escalate when we show up caring more about how they feel than how we look. 

Vulnerability elicits trust. One of the things John Hagel said when he spoke was "we can't invite serendipitous moments if we don't expose our needs, problems, and struggles." It's so true. It's when we risk showing our need that solutions are most offered.

A secret of neuroscience is found in what we call mirror neurons which ensures that what we give is the same as what we receive.  It's why we yawn when we see someone else yawning. It means when we smile, we're more likely to get a smile back.  When we're vulnerable, we're more likely to encourage their sharing.  When we tell them we like them, they're going to like us more. When we seem excited to get together again, they'll also feel more excited.

May making friends not just feel like pure dumb luck, but rather may we end up feeling lucky and knowing we helped produce the outcome.

 

 

 

Are New Friends Worth the Energy Output Required?

I hear from a lot of women who feel defeated in their friendship search, or simply feel like it cannot be a priority in their lives right now.  Many mistakenly think that friendship is the thing to cut when their lives get busy, express feeling guilty for asking their husbands to watch the kids so they can go spend time with a girlfriend, or conclude that since friendships are not happening naturally in their lives that they somehow just need to learn to live without a circle of friends. Maybe you've been there before? Maybe you're there now? Today I just wanted to poke my head in your inbox with a bit of a reminder about that pay-off.  You know the risks.  You know the difficulty.  You know the challenges.  You know the excuses to say no and give up.  You know how weary you feel.  Give me a moment to remind you what you're investing in!

Energy Output: The Investment can be Exhausting

It's a paradox that the actions that take energy also tend to reward us with the most energy. In many life moments, higher investments lead to higher pay-offs.

I mean, the very act of going to the gym is tiring for the vast majority of us, but the pay-off is, ironically, more energy. Most of us don't sit at work feeling fulfilled by the daily tasks and mountains of emails, but the sum total of that output seems to create a sense of achievement and meaning.  I know just on a recreation level that it would be easier and more comfortable to sit on my couch tonight watching TV, but that if I attend to my women's business group, I'll actually come home more rejuvenated than any show could provide. I've learned that most things in life aren't the easiest default option, but they do tend to be worth the investment.  And friendship is simply one of those things-- less meaningful in the beginning and a greater source of energy output, but the payoff is exponential.

Energy Input: The Payoff can be Exponential

Gallup's latest research revealed in the book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements

shows that there are five universal, interconnected elements that together reveal your overall well-being.  Apparently, liking what you do every day (career wellbeing) is the most significant factor to your overall health and happiness, but guess what number 2 is? Yep, social wellbeing, also known as "Do you like who you're doing life with?"

While you have undoubtedly heard me quote all kinds of research about how important your circle of friends is to your life, the research just continues to inspire!

  • You're Influenced by Entire Network. Our wellbeing is impacted by our entire social network. You are 6% more likely to be happy if your friend's friend's friend--count them, three degrees removed!-- is happy. The reverse is just as true.
  • Friends Impact More Than money. Compare the above 6% increase to the 2% increase in happiness if your annual income goes up $10,000! "This led the study's authors to conclude that that the wellbeing of friends and relatives is a more effective predictor of happiness than earning more money."
  • Your Health Prevention is at Stake. People with few social connections are at twice the risk of dying from heart disease or of catching a common cold (even though they're arguably exposed to more germs!)
  • Proximity Matters. A friend who lives within a mile will have way more positive influence on your wellbeing than friends across the country. (Why GFC advocates making local friends even though it's not as easy as picking up the phone to talk to your BFF in your hometown! It's worth it!)
  • Friendships Especially Important in Aging Well. One study showed that in adults over the age of 50, that their memories declined at half the rate if they were socially active compared to those who were least social.
  • You Need More than One BFF! Every additional close friendship adds to your wellbeing. "Our research has found that people who have at least three or four very close friendships are healthier, have higher wellbeing, and are more engaged in their jobs."
  • The More Time Invested, the Happier You Are:
    Every hour of daily social interaction increases your happiness by 10%!

    The data shows that to have a thriving day you need six hours of daily social time!  Six hours?!?!?! That even surprised me! Apparently regardless of personality types and other variables-- those who are thriving in life are reporting an average of six hours every day of connecting which can include: talking to friends, socializing at work, being on the phone, communicating on facebook, etc. Across the board, every hour of social connection added to your day increases your happiness almost 10%! (Isn't it ironic how easy it is to cancel on a friend when we've a bad day or skip out on socializing when we're depressed, when in actuality, that very act of connecting will raise our spirits?)

I know it's tiring.  I know.  I know it's discouraging at times, I know.

But I also know that this is one investment that promises the biggest pay-off to your overall happiness and health. No small thing!

May you be reminded that your willingness to engage, to meet new people, to initiate the next get-together, to schedule women into your life and to foster these friendships over time is proving to raise your wellbeing! And don't we all want that? ______________ * All research listed in this blog can be found in the chapter on Social Wellbeing in Gallup's latest book, Wellbeing by Tom Rath & Jim Harter. Purchasing their book provides a code for your access to take their Wellbeing Assessment.

Facebook and Friendship? Is It Serving Your Needs?

With all the hype of the recent Facebook movie hitting theaters, I feel a little inspired to rant-and-rave about the famous social network.

In media interviews I am almost always asked what I, a huge proponent of face-to-face friendships, think about all the social networks. And, without fail, I express that I a fan. I'm not out there hating on them-- in fact I use them all in my own life and business. They all serve fabulous purposes from reconnecting with old friends (my next-door neighborhood friend from when I was 6-10 years old just found me last week!), networking with possible contacts and enabling us to feel more connected to others by getting glimpses of their lives. However, let me clarify to say that just because they serve some of your relational purposes well, doesn't mean they serve all your relational purposes well.

I read one blog recently where the author seemed shocked that research reveals that most of us have 1/3 less friends that we used to twenty years ago. Her question was "with all this technology, how is that possible?" And therein lies the central problem-- socializing isn't the same as developing friendships that matter.

Five Purposes of Social Media that Could Limit Meaningful Friendships

    1. The Purpose of Establishing Outweighs the Developing. I find that social networks serve the two ends of my friendship spectrum pretty well-- they help me establish connections with people who might interest me and they help me stay in touch with the people who already matter to me. However, no social platform takes the former and turns them into the latter. Your time online might help establish commonalities with others but it doesn't develop the friendship into something meaningful without your intention. Your interest can increase because of what you read about them, but again, that doesn't make a friendship. At some point you have to intentionally foster the growth on your own as no amount of status updates will turn a contact into a friendship.
    2. The Purpose of Quantity Outweighs Quality. Our energy is automatically spread out over many people rather than focused on the few. The nature of social networking encourages growing your follower list. And for networking and socializing purposes-- that's perfect. However, let's recognize that if deep and meaningful friendships are lacking in your life then it's possible you're pouring your daily "one-hour of relational energy" into responding to 20 contacts for 3 minutes each rather than bonding with one person for the full hour. I've said it before, but some of the loneliest women happen to also be the busiest and most networked women. They mistakenly try to stay in touch with everyone and end up not close to anyone. It's easy to feel connected without ever connecting.
    3. The Purpose of Convenient Outweighs Connection. With most of us feeling tired after work, the idea of spending an hour reading status updates online in our pajamas takes much less energy then getting a drink with a possible friend on the way home. And it makes sense since we can feel like we're connecting with everyone without actually having to be "on" and hold up a conversation. Unfortunately, while you may now know what all your friends are doing back home-- you didn't really have any bonding experience that developed your trust in each other which is essential for intimacy to occur. You may feel updated, but it's doubtful that it felt meaningful. You may feel you know something about them, but that's not the same as knowing them. It was easy and convenient but doesn't fill the gap for real mutual connection.
    4. The Purpose of Bragging Outweighs Bonding.You can post an update about the promotion you got, but that's different from toasting it with a local friend. And vice-verse, knowing what they did over the weekend isn't the same as now feeling close enough to them to spend this next weekend hanging out together. We may become more interested in each other after following our updates, but if it doesn't turn into making new memories together than you're simply bragging about parallel and separate lives but not merging the two together. Bonding takes more than interest-- at some point, it simply comes down to time together. A bond happens when you create a memory together, not simply brag about two separate memories.
    5. The Purpose of Interesting Outweighs Intimacy .Our status updates range from the inane (what I just ate for lunch) to the interesting (whatever big, unique thing we want to wow everyone with), without always capturing the actual moments that matter. And for the record, it's not Facebook and twitter's fault-- our conversations in real life can focus just as easily on the boring, small talk, the celebrity gossip and the big stories that we hope will make everyone else jealous. But, certainly, the social network heightens the lack of real sharing, focusing more on announcements than conversation. We can forget that just because everyone knows that you have cute kids-- it doesn't mean they know what it feels like to be a stay-at-home mom, the actual fears you have about parenting, the longings you hold for your kids and the questions you are processing about your own identity. Intimacy requires vulnerability which social networks don't easily facilitate.

I love Facebook. I love twitter. I know how they can serve me. I also know how they can be limiting to the friendships I need if I am not intentional and mindful.

The value of social networks: the ability to Establish connections with large Quantities of people in a Convenient way to Brag about our lives and be exposed to Interesting things with people in our network, is no small thing!

However, if Developing relationships with a Quality Few where the focus is on real Connection that creates Bonding and leads to Intimacy then by all means be intentional about where you spend your time, how you engage and what you can do to make sure that social networking provides you the best it can offer without it costing you what you truly are craving.

Now... off to post this onto Facebook! ;)