Close friendships are incredibly valuable, allowing us to form deep connections with a select few people who act as our core support system. But we shouldn’t underestimate the friends and professional ties outside our inner circle, either. A recent New York Times piece made a great case for cultivating casual, low-stakes friendships. Research has shown that not only can these “weak ties” boost our job prospects, but they also improve our well-being by making us more empathetic, broadening our worldview, and helping us feel more connected.
To help you commit to your Microstep of making connections with people you might normally tend to pass by or take for granted, we asked our community to weigh in on the strategies that help them maintain their “weak ties” relationships, and make other meaningful connections with others.
Say hello to strangers
“When the day feels especially challenging, I make an effort to smile at strangers on my morning commute. It’s my way of acknowledging them without saying anything. Then, when I enter the lobby and see the security sitting at the front desk of the building, I always make a conscious effort of saying good morning to him or her. I think it’s those simple gestures that allow me to express gratitude for others in the world around me, and they always enhance my day by smiling back or saying hello.”
—Cecilia Grey, client liaison and content creator, Santa Barbara, CA
Use your calendar to schedule — and keep track of — social time
“In my house, the rule is: ‘If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist.’ My calendar lets me know when I need to be more social. It’s really easy to get busy with life and wonder, ‘When was the last time I saw James?’ Check the calendar. If it’s been a while, I know I need to shoot James a text and schedule dinner. If I notice that nothing social is on my calendar for the next couple of weeks, I know I need to get scheduling! When we put it on the calendar, we gain visibility into how social we’re actually being, not how social we think we’re being.
—Jeff Callahan, social confidence coach, Little Rock, AR
Send updates on topics they’re interested in
“When I see something that will appeal to my ‘casual relationships,’ I send it with a brief note. I know one man who loves his RV, and when I see the newest, coolest RV out there, I share an article about it with him. Another woman I know is active in solving homelessness. I send her articles about unusual solutions including tiny homes, retired cruise ships, and an old bus converted into a hygiene station.”
—Arielle Ford, love & relationship author/expert, La Jolla, CA
Express appreciation for the little things
“Throughout each day, whenever I see people who have said or done something that I appreciate, I make a point to let them know that I’m grateful for the specific ways they’ve recently made a positive impact on me. Ongoing conversations like these can help start a cycle of gratitude.”
—Whitney Hopler, communications director, Fairfax, VA
Set reminders to check in with people
“I treasure so many people who have touched my life in so many ways over the years, and I try to stay in some sort of touch with them. I have birthdays noted on my calendar. I use ‘tasks’ in Salesforce – which I use for work – to remind me to reach out to friends with whom I haven’t connected in a while. And every now and then, I ask myself, ‘whom have I not spoken with recently?’ and I’ll either shoot them a text or try to schedule a get-together or a chat.”
—Lisa Kohn, executive coach and author, Wayne, PA
Understand the ebb and flow of relationships
“For workplace ‘weak ties,’ I try and reach out to some of them if we are going to the same conference or I am visiting their area. I do my best to be connected to them via LinkedIn and post regularly. For personal looser ties, I invite them to events I’m attending, send them congratulations and birthday greetings, and stay in contact through social media. Over the years, some of those contacts have become either business partners or good friends. Others I’ve been close to are now more of a weaker tie. It is an ebb and flow, but I know the benefits of staying connected has been a gift both personally and professionally over the years.”
—Mim Senft, founder, CEO, Blooming Grove, NY
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