Studies have shown that people who build and maintain a strong social network are more likely to be healthy, happy, and live longer than those who donâ€™t.
It does make sense, doesnâ€™t it?
Whenever you feel down or need to borrow someoneâ€™s ear, theyâ€™ll always be there for you. When youâ€™re down and out and need a place to crash, youâ€™re only one phone call away from a place to sleep. When the dough is running low and you need to make this monthâ€™s rent, youâ€™ll have people you can count on to lend you a little to keep you afloat. When youâ€™re unemployed and looking for a job, youâ€™ve got 20 other people looking alongside for you. All because they WANT to. Now thatâ€™s a social network. A strong social network. Truth be told, no man is his own island. We really do need each other.
So how can you begin building your own social network?
In order to find out, letâ€™s analyze how social networks form in the first place.
Most people build their social networks around the following institutions:
What are the common factors that allow strong social networks to be built around these institutions?
You see your family 24/7. You probably go to church/mass/temple/etc once a week or more. You go to school every weekday if youâ€™re a student. You go to work every weekday if youâ€™re an employee. Habitual association garners familiarity and trust, two things that are necessary for building relationships and a strong social network.
Families, well, theyâ€™re families. Religious people share the same beliefs. Schoolmates share the same homework/tests/growing pains/concerns, etc. Employees, well, they work at the same company. There is some form of common ground that brings people together to these institutions in the first place.
Age group gravitation
Siblings that are of the same age range tend to spend time with one another. After religious services end, people tend to seek out those of their own age group to socialize with. Little kids with little kids, married couples with married couples, teenagers with teenagers. At school, rarely do you see students socialize with anyone outside their own grade level. During lunch and breaks, employees tend to seek out the company of others who are of the same age levels. It makes perfect sense because itâ€™s just another thing people have in common.
Ok, so the formula for building social networks seems to be:
(consistent meetings + common ground) of the same age group.
Is that all you need? If you just regularly show up at the same place at the same time with people who are of the same age as you and share common ground with you, will your social network automatically connect and form? Of course not! YOU must initiate things.
Itâ€™s not enough to plant yourself in the ideal place. Youâ€™ve got to learn how to socialize and connect with people, but before we do that letâ€™s examine how we can build social networks around the institutions mentioned above.
Your family will always be there for you when you need them the most. Donâ€™t take them for granted. You can extend your network pretty far via your cousins, uncles, nephews, brothers, sisters, your brotherâ€™s friends, your sisterâ€™s friends, etc. Itâ€™s an easy in. After all, you are family! Spend time with them, donâ€™t neglect them. Attend the family get togethers and parties. Donâ€™t blow them off.
Take time to get to know people you meet at your religious service. Chances are, thereâ€™s a wide mix of people that each have their own unique mix of social circles that you can extend into if your social skills are polished enough. Do good towards these people. Do favors for them. Help them in any way you can. You never know if that old grandpa sitting in the corner can one day introduce you to your next husband/wife!
By far, the easiest place to make friends and to build your social network. You meet other people every single day! Youâ€™re of the same age! You share the same experiences and hardships! Itâ€™s too easy. Go to the movies after school, hang with them at the mall, study together, etc.
Another pretty easy place to build your social network as well. You spend 8 hours a day together. You eat together. You talk about each otherâ€™s lives during breaks. You celebrate each otherâ€™s birthdays. Itâ€™s an environment conducive to building friendships. So go to the bar after work to pound a few down or play in the office softball tournament.
Ok, besides these four institutions, what other institutions can you go to in order to build your social network even further? To answer that, ask yourself a clear question.
Where can I go to meet people on a consistent basis who share the same interests as I do? (and are of the same age range preferably)
If you like to play tennis, you can go to the park every weekend or weeknight and play a game of pick up there. Tennis is a very social sport. Itâ€™s actually a really good networking sport because during breaks, itâ€™s expected you chit chat and get to know one another. Also, since itâ€™s so hard to find regular partners to play tennis with, if you play a good match, chances are the other person will want to play with you again. You can always tell if youâ€™ve played a good match if the other person suggests that you play with him/her again at the same time and place. Same interests + consistent basis right there.
If you like kickboxing, go join a kickboxing gym that meets every Wednesday.
If you like to work on your speech skills, join a Toastmasters club that meets every Thursday.
You can also go to meetup.com where you can meet people in your local area who share the same interests.
The key here is consistently meeting people who share your beliefs/interests and taking the INITIATIVE by approaching them FIRST. You canâ€™t be passive here if you want to build your social network.
But before you approach people, thereâ€™s one step you must take and that is simply:
Be the kind of person you would like to be approached by.
If you join a kickboxing class and try to approach somebody that you would like to be friends with but reek of B.O., guess what? Not going to happen. Would you like to be approached by some sweaty guy smelling like a crowded bus on a hot day?
You get my drift here. Be kind and courteous. Actively listen. Be genuinely interested in the other person. Put on deodorant.
Be the kind of person you would like to be approached by.
Then you can go and take the initiative by approaching people. However, itâ€™s not as easy as it sounds. 99.9% of the population don’t have the guts to approach total strangers in public.
Two limiting beliefs regarding approaching strangers.
1. They must already have their own group. I donâ€™t want to intrude.
2. Nobody likes being approached by a stranger.
1. Everybody wants more friends. Everybodyâ€™s always looking to expand their social circle because theyâ€™re sick and tired of hanging out with the same people everyday.
2. The majority of people tend to lead isolated lives (wake up, go to work, come back, eat dinner, watch tv, hang out with same friends during weekend, repeat). They want something spontaneous to happen, like having original refreshing conversation with a stranger who has the guts to approach them. People want this. Donâ€™t believe for a second that people arenâ€™t open to this at all.
Ok, so youâ€™ve got over those limiting beliefs and off you go to approach. Keep it light the first couple of times. How are you? Whatâ€™s your name? What do you do for a living? Howâ€™d you get into that? Whereâ€™d you go to school? Obviously, donâ€™t batter them with question after question. Ask, respond accordingly, and just go where the conversation goes. Donâ€™t come across as too overbearing. Remember, relationships take time to build. Start off light.
Keep this up the first couple of times and then youâ€™ll find yourself talking about deeper topics, where you can then really get to know the person.
If you find that you really like the person, take the initiative to invite them for a cold beer or Jamba juice afterwards. If youâ€™re throwing a barbeque, invite them. If youâ€™ve really knocked their socks off, youâ€™ll find that theyâ€™ll be the ones inviting you in their social circle. Never turn down the first invitation. Thatâ€™s your in.
One last tip. Have something going for you in your life that youâ€™re excited about. Purse that dream or goal. Make your life fun and interesting and you will begin to view talking to people as opportunities for THEM to come enjoy YOUR wonderful and fulfilling life.
Build your social network to lead a more happy and fulfilling life. Donâ€™t neglect the institutions that your current social network is built on (family, religion, school, work).
Build your social network even further by asking yourself: Where can I go to meet people on a consistent basis who share the same interests as I do? (and are of the same age range preferably)
Remember to be the person you would like to be approached by. Then take the initiative and approach. Keep it light. Give to the other person. And most importantly, have a dream, passion, goal that youâ€™re working on to make your life the kind that people will want to come and be a part of because as they say, if you build it, they WILL come.