Help me build a better social real-life network in 2009 !
December 25, 2008 5:30 AM   Subscribe

My new year resolution is to do more/better real-life networking : more/better acquaintances, more/better friends, more/better relationships. I need tips and tricks on how to get a generous-sized addres book and an improved social life and what to do once I meet these potential new friends.

I'm not a social magnet but I'm no shrinking violet either. I think I am good at empathy and listening. The better people know me the better they like me but I protect my soft/generous inside with a protective shell. The thickness of this shell depends on the circumstances with a maximum around first contact and lowering when I feel I can trust the person. Because I tend to trust 100% and don't like to be disappointed in that department.

My ADHD and creative personality sometimes makes me look or sound like someone from another planet because I saw, thought or said something off the beaten path. Socially, this curse/blessing of having creativity is a powerful potential-new-friends repellent.

The join a club, get involved in a charity previous advices are partially irrelevant : I need to know what to do in the step of the process where I actually meet people. How can I stay my creative, lateral-thinking self and not drive people i just met to the other end of the room as fast as socially acceptable ?

So... I want a better professional and personal network. What do I do ?

Are there any really useful books or web sites ? Things to always carry in my pocket ?

I have a free highrise account that runs the pro network side. My fixed-line phone plan allows me to call any number in my country for a fixed amount so I can call around a lot. I usually carry business cards with me. I will attend for the first time an adult ADHD support group in the first half of january.
posted by Baud to Human Relations (8 answers total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
I need to know what to do in the step of the process where I actually meet people. How can I stay my creative, lateral-thinking self and not drive people i just met to the other end of the room as fast as socially acceptable ?

Paradoxically, you should stop trying to make people like you. Other people can sense this neediness, and it's not attractive. Just talk to people. If you don't have a lot of experience, you'll suck at first. But you'll get better.
posted by mpls2 at 6:37 AM on December 25, 2008

Because I tend to trust 100% and don't like to be disappointed in that department.

This is wrong, and puts a burden on your acquaintances. If you trust 100% you will almost always be disappointed. Your brother is not your keeper, you have to do that yourself. Simply take people for what they are, and selfishly consider what they can offer you. This is not a negative tone, I'm just saying your network will be thin if it only contains 100% trusted individuals. Even enemies are useful in a network. Your primary purpose should be to connect as many nodes as you can, because this is the conduit through which information flows.

And in actual practical application of the system, be cool, be friendly, and look people in the eye when you talk to them. That will help them remember you and integrate you into their network. Remember that everyone has something to offer the network, even if you don't trust them 100%
posted by Area Control at 7:00 AM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Typically, I believe How to Win Friends and Influence People is the de facto book recommended in these situations.

Your creativity and lateral-thinking certainly doesn't need to be a deterrent to finding friends - if you don't want it to be. Clearly I don't know how you behave in real life, so this advice may be completely irrelevant, but projecting this idea of "I am different, please accept my apologies and tolerate me anyway" isn't going to help people feel at ease around you. I hardly believe that people consider you alien or foreign on a regular basis; don't drag yourself down like that.

Also, don't think of people as address book entries that ought to be collected and expanded upon; it seems like a somewhat counterproductive view to have.

In terms of the actual steps and processes of meeting people - I don't see why you would have to compromise the creative side at all. You're simply being selective in who gets to see which side of you. Be interested in them for the sake of being interested in them, not for the sake of how they can help build your social network. Ask open ended questions that require more than a one-word answer, and find commonalities. Listen more than you talk. This will also allow you to feel less self-conscious about being potentially off-putting, and provides more opportunities for gauging whether or not that other person is someone you want to trust.

On preview, I concur with Area Control. It'll be a lot easier to avoid disappointment and hurt if you begin to discern whom to trust with what - not everyone need be your bosom buddy. Certain people will be able to offer you more expertise and empathy in certain areas, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that. But along the same line of thinking, certain people will also be more trustworthy than others. That doesn't mean the others won't be useful in some other capacity.
posted by Phire at 7:11 AM on December 25, 2008

Networking is not the same as making friends. If you're networking, generally you're trying to find out your place in a large and complicated network of folks in the same community - you're attending networking events to meet people to find out what they do and find out what they need, so that at the next networking event you can connect the dots ("you should meet this person) if someone needs help. So, if you're networking, you have to figure out what you do, and what you want to do, and then broadcast that.

If you're looking for friendship, why not try volunteering at some place where you know you'll be a good fit with the people there. When I returned to Canada after living overseas for many years, I was not that interested in reconnecting with my old university friends who, in many cases, had not moved on with their lives. So, I volunteered at an organization that provided services for immigrants. In my line of work I'm supposed to network, and I have actually helped introduce immigrants to technology jobs. Some of these people I was able to connect with (same values, family situation) and we became friends that way.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:51 AM on December 25, 2008

I have a goal to turn all acquaintances I like into FRIENDS. Does it always work? No. Mostly it doesn't. But I keep trying, and when I do get a real friend, it was totally worth it.


You keep seeing them around at parties/school/work/shows/clubs/etc.
You kind of remember their name, and they kind of remember yours.
They're a friend of a friend, but not your friend.
You run into each other, but you've never planned an meeting.


You can call them up for no particular reason without awkwardness.
You make plans together.
You keep in regular contact (how regular that is depends on the people and situation).
You know things about each other, and enjoy sharing activities and proclivities.


Get your number in their cell phone, and vice-versa.
Give them a business card (I use Moo cards with pictures of myself; egotistical, but people don't forget who it's from.
Bring up past parts of your "relationship" in conversation to foster a bond. This is hard to explain, but when I see people I've helped at work out and about I'll mention how I always admire their collection of winter hats or I'm always happy to see them come in. I know a lot of musicians and while they may never have noticed me in the crowd before, it means a lot to them when I say "Your first show was your best show, you should try to bring that energy back," or "I loved those strobe goggles you wore at the Skylab show," or "Your performances just keep getting better and better, I like how you've become less experimental and more rhythmic and tribal and dancable." It's not all about flattery, it's about showing people that you're paying attention to the things that make them special, and appreciate them.
Stalk their address and send them a card. This sounds really creepy, but this is how I turned an acquaintance I'd only met twice into my boyfriend, so in the right context it works.
Stick around in a social circle long enough to get past the awkward new-kid phase. Somehow I've become accepted into the art school scene of my city despite not going to art school or being particularly hip; just keep showing up and being fun times, and eventually people that were just quickly-forgotten faces become familiar friends.
Pester people. Again, this sounds really creepy, but I'll keep trying to get people to hang out with me until I get the hint that they're not into being friends.
Be the one who makes plans to hang out. "Hey, you want to come over, drink some beers, and draw?" "Did you hear Girl Talk is playing in January?" "I'm having a party in a few weeks, here's a flyer." "There's a show this Saturday at The Crackhouse." "This is kind of geeky, but since we both have Saturday free, do you want to check out the new exhibit at the art museum?"
Set up a tradition; a coworker who I'd chat with occasionally has become one of my best friends since we started The G&C Society, a bar hopping happy-hour-club formed around Dollar Grilled Cheese Night at a watering hole.
Return calls, make calls, send emails for no reason, network online, be friendly and personable to EVERYONE, introduce yourself, remember faces and names, take photos of people, hand out flyers for shows and parties like they were your own.

Basically, I pursue friends the same way in a similar way to how I would pursue a comely chap I had a crush on, with less flirtation. Some people ignore the bait. Some people probably think I'm desperate. Some people just ain't interested. But I keep trying, and that's how I've made strangers into acquaintances, acquaintances into friends, friends into best friends or significant others.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:41 AM on December 25, 2008 [193 favorites]

Being performatively happy to see someone when you see them is usually a good start to making a friend. If you are looking to have more friends, I would suggest re-examining that "trust 100%" rule, or maybe adding a category of "new friend" which you would not trust 100% but look forward to maybe trusting 100% at some time in the future.
posted by idiopath at 12:35 PM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

One way to narrow your scattershot approach might be to get to know the very gregarious party types. Everyone I know and trust I've met through people who make themselves "nodes" in the local party scene. I (not intentionally) attach myself to them for awhile and ride them around like a remora, and then pick off the friends I like. It's not "stealing friends" or anything so juvenile, we genuinely enjoy hanging out, but man, some people are just ALWAYS out, and they dragnet whoever they can get to go with them. Follow one of those people around for a couple months and you'll have a huge new network of friends, most of whom can't sustain that level of sustained partying for long, and will be glad to spend some time doing non-drunken activities.
posted by saysthis at 4:27 PM on December 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Check out: Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi

Its a great book that definitely touches on the question you are asking.
posted by verevi at 11:48 AM on December 28, 2008

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