Many self-help books have an essential superficiality that’s revealed in their opening chapters because they go on and on with caveats and general principles, and they never get down to the nitty-gritty of what you, a person sitting alone in front of your computer, can do right now to help yourself out. So I’m actually going to abandon my original topic for today, and I’m going to give some serious thought to first steps.
For me I’d say the first step is to go to gatherings of any sort. I recommended a few posts ago that you only go to gatherings where you’ll find people who you actually like, but now I’m gonna contradict myself, because guess what? People are really shitty at knowing who they’re actually gonna like! This is what makes online dating so frustrating! There’s guys out there who’re auto-rejecting every lady who isn’t tall and blonde, and when they finally meet the love of their life she’s short and brunette, and everybody in the entire world is like fuuuuuck you dude, we could’ve told you that hair color didn’t matter at all! But he’s happy now so let’s not pick on him.
Similarly, I think it’s hard to know who you’ll like. I’m generally pretty open to anybody. I can be friends with Republicans, investment bankers, rich people, bitchy people, whatever. So long as I have chemistry with them. (This was my approach to dating as well). So although I do make decisions about where to direct my efforts (for instance, as noted before, I don’t put a lot of faith in geeky gatherings), I also go to a lot of effort to attend events I’ve never been to before.
Like if I’m ever invited out by someone who’s never invited me out before, I usually attend, even if I don’t want to, because I know that I have this deep-seated in-born aversion to new things and new situations, and that in this case the startup energy required to go someplace new is so high that unless I force myself, I’ll never muster it.
I also find that once I’ve actually gone to a place or gone out with a given crew, it becomes easier to see them again (assuming I want to). So that’s my first concrete piece of advice:
Concrete Advice #1 — If you’re invited to something, you should go.
Okay, but that’s simple, because it assumes you actually have somebody in your life who’s inviting you to things. What if you don’t? Well, the next step is to drum up some invites. Here’s one thing I’ve tried doing that does NOT work: asking people to invite you to shit. Unless someone’s your very close friend (or they’re just the kind of person who likes to keep people connected), they’re not gonna invite you to someone else’s event.
What works slightly better is texting people to ask, “Hey, is anything happening tonight?” But even that’s more of a next-level friendship maneuver, because if somebody invites you to something where you don’t know anybody, they’re going to feel responsible for you, and it’ll end up feeling awkward if you’re not already at least somewhat close.
I’ll say that the absolute best way to get invited to things is to throw a party of your own. I throw probably a larger than average number of parties and brunch-type events, and I generally cast a very wide net, inviting almost everybody I know who lives in the area. And for me the purpose of these events isn’t to see my close friends (they’re already my friends–I can see them whenever I want), but to see my acquaintances and to reconnect with old friends. What I learn from who shows up to my parties is something very simple: who out there wants to be my friend?
If you come to several of my gatherings, it gives me a pretty decent idea that, hey, this person probably wants to be closer to me.
But, even more importantly, it tends to get me a lot of invitations in return. I don’t know the psychology here, but I think people often find it too difficult to go to the party of somebody they don’t know well, but when they’re having an event in turn, they feel like, hey, maybe I should return the invite.
And that to me is the real point of throwing events. It’s the reciprocity. In return for me allowing you into my home, you’ll allow me into yours.
Concrete Advice #2 — Have a brunch or something and invite everybody you know who lives in the area; in return, some of them’ll invite you to their shit.
(Note that when I talk about throwing parties, I’m talking largely about doing it through the medium of a Facebook event. Since we’re mostly talking about people in their late twenties, thirties, and forties, most of us are on Facebook. But I assume similar principles would apply, albeit with a slightly narrower net, when it comes to inviting people via text or in person).
Okay, but even that only works if you already know some people. What about if you’re at the absolute rock bottom, and you know nobody. Then what?
Tomorrow I’m gonna talk about how a person can generate social opportunities in the same way that salespeople generate leads.