Help me manage my people collection.
April 28, 2008 11:38 PM   Subscribe

I seem to have a very particular social skills deficit. Can you suggest software that might serve as a kind of brain prosthetic for me?

I like people - I really do. But I'm an introvert. And, for lack of a better word, I just lose people if they don't get in my face on a regular basis. I want to maintain relationships, but I just lose track of people and before I know it months have gone by and the friendship has atrophied. A lot of my interactions with friends are sort of "yeah, sorry I haven't been in touch, how are things going with you? I'll try to be better about that." Over and over again.

Also I'm in a field where the ability to network is quite important and because of this particular issue, I really suck at it. Basically I seem to be able to keep up with only a very small inner circle of friends - smaller than most people's - and everyone else drops off into that outer circle of contacts or acquaintances, whether I want them to or not. Sometimes they are hurt. More often they just realize they're having to put in most of the work to keep the connection running, while I'm not really holding up my end, and they let things drift off.

Its occurred to me to wonder about contact management applications like ACT. I gather salespeople use them to manage social connections with more people than our primate brains could normally deal with. But I don't really know much about them. What do they actually do? Would they be useful for me? Or perhaps there's some other kind of application that could basically keep a database of people I know, track how long it's been since I did something to keep that particular plate spinning and prod me to give so and so a call or an email or something? What would you suggest?
posted by Naberius to Human Relations (14 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Social networking sites (like Facebook, with its News Feed) do almost exactly this, although it would require the other party to be a member of the network. This might not be feasible in a business environment, but maybe check out LinkedIn?
posted by SuperNova at 11:55 PM on April 28, 2008

I use OMNIFocus, a GTD time management software. I have an action to set up a time to get together with each certain friends about once a month. It is set up so that when I complete the action it creates a new one due a month later. When it pops up, I send them an email suggesting that we get together. If they are very busy, I try to get something on the calendar with them even if it is a few weeks out, knowing that soon enough the day will come around.

Setting up this kind of system will also help you think about what is a realistic level of networking for you - how much time, what kind of actions (lunch, email, phone call) and many different people you want to do it for.
posted by metahawk at 12:05 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I use Act! at work and it's very good. It would work beautifully as a `friend management' piece of software, you could schedule calls, make sure you never forgot a birthday or anniversary, that sort of thing. It also saves a history of all the activities you've done with each contact, so you can remind yourself of places you've been, things you've done etc.

You could turn into that person who always sends a card or makes a phone call, never forgets when you're going out and remembers details of what you did months ago, all by a bit of note taking and revising!
posted by tomble at 12:06 AM on April 29, 2008

I think Facebook would be particularly good for this purpose. There's a "feed" you can view to see when you did what with which person. Translating it to the real world might be trickier, but you can always use an old-fashioned planner until you get the hang of it.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:21 AM on April 29, 2008

many md's write when they last spoke and about what into patient files so that when their patients come back they can casually ask how the vacation in xyz was. this has quite the effect on many - as long as they don't catch on.

perhaps you could make a text file with conversation notes. make a note in cal for the following week or month, an appointment with yourself to call this person or walk over to their desk.
posted by krautland at 1:43 AM on April 29, 2008

I made a list of names in Excel with a column for each month. I check people off each month... it doesn't need to be complicated :)
posted by prefpara at 5:10 AM on April 29, 2008

Spinning off what krautland said: I use my PDA for reminders like that. So if I call my cousin today, I'd add a note six months from now to call her. When that date comes up, I'll move the note six months forward.
posted by davcoo at 5:53 AM on April 29, 2008

Wow, Act! looks really neat. Are there alternatives for either OSX or Linux?
posted by Netzapper at 7:05 AM on April 29, 2008

I don't think software is the issue. Being shy and introverted simply means that you are more focused on your self than on others. It's not a disability or condition in which you can expect the world to cater to your needs.

If you want more friends and a broader network you are going to have to focus less on your self, and more on others. It's that simple. I'd recommend reading Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People". Although you may roll your eyes, there is very helpful fundamental psychology tips that will help you function better in the social world.

I think spending more time on the computer, learning new software, etc. will only serve to isolate you further and compound the problem.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 7:16 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite] -- plug in your contact list and it randomly sends you email reminders to contact people. Apparently you can also set reminders at certain intervals for specific people. I ran across it years ago, and apparently it's still up and running, and still free.
posted by jerryg99 at 7:33 AM on April 29, 2008

Seconding Dale Carnegie's book.

I just wish he'd name it "How to Stop Being an Asshole" or something like that. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" sounds so manipulative, and it's not about that at all.
posted by LordSludge at 7:40 AM on April 29, 2008

I use Highrise to keep track of business contacts, and it could easily work for social contacts. You can enter notes about each person, such as recording the last thing you did together or some event coming up in their life, and schedule tasks, such as "Call Ann to see how her dad's surgery went." The tasks are emailed to you when they're due. The free plan (described in what is essentially a footnote here) lets you manage 250 people, which is probably plenty. I don't recommend Highrise for business use, but the free version should be fine for your purposes.
posted by PatoPata at 9:26 AM on April 29, 2008

I never explored Act! much, I found it annoying to use, but from what I recall it's basically a people/contacts database put together with a calender. You can store information about what you did on a particular date with a particular person, and also schedule regular times to call them on a calender. So, if you are calling Aunt Millie, you can take notes about your conversation, and put down a reminder to yourself to call her in a month. You check your calender each day, and in a month you see that you need to call her that day. You look at the "Aunt Millie" entry, and see that she was planning a trip to France. You call her and ask how her trip to France went, and she's impressed that you remembered.

If anyone knows of contact management software that works with a Treo, I'd love to hear about it.
posted by yohko at 10:44 AM on April 29, 2008

FlyingSquirrel, it's pretty clear to me that if the poster asked this question then they are genuinely interested in other people, it is just hard for them to stay connected. Being shy and introverted does not necessarily mean that you are more focused on yourself. It may mean that you are less adept at certain social skills. Using a tool, like software, to help you when you're less naturally skilled is a perfectly normal.*

I would suggest getting something that can sync with your phone (even if it's just something as simple as tasks). That way, you can get reminders at any time, review your friends database while commuting or something, and be able to call them right away to get in touch. Scheduling the time to sit down at your computer to do "social scheduling" might be a bit more difficult, and it's very easy to close reminders that might pop up on your computer if you are busy with something else.

I know a salesperson who very successfully used Act to stay in touch with yohko said, it is great for keeping detailed info about contacts, conversations and notes.

However, I think you could wrangle this with something like iCal by adding friends as "Tasks", setting "Priorities" (perhaps either by how close you feel to them, or how long it's been since you last interacted) and a "Do by" date that represents a maximum amount of time to wait before interacting with that person. Tasks will very easily integrate with your phone (I know you didn't specify this but I do think it would be very useful). For each friend who is beyond an acquaintance, put in their birthday and anniversary date, and maybe a date of significance for you both. These dates are opportunities to get back in touch with people you might have lost contact with.

*Sorry for the small derail. I very nearly got on a huge massive derail. Let's just say I'm a bit sick of people making light of any problems that aren't overtly physiological.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:34 PM on April 29, 2008

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