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.
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.