Spring is here, and you are out of excuses to hide in your cave. It’s time to step outside, take a deep breath, and find something to do. Not so easy, you say? Here are 7 suggestions on how to get connected in Boston (or anywhere) this spring. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to a full social calendar.
1) Join a Group, or Two, or Three
Finding a group to join has never been easier. Try searching “[your city] [activity you like] group” in Google and see what comes up (e.g., “Boston Camping Group”), or try the hugely popular meetup.com which has groups for anything and everything imaginable. If in Boston, you could also try a “Boston Young Professionals Association” (BYPA) mixer (http://bostonypa.com), or join a Kickball Team through the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA).
2) Talk to Strangers
For our social life bolstering purposes, the proverb “Everyone is a stranger until you get to know them,” is better advice than “Stranger danger” or the “Don’t talk to strangers” mantra your parents taught you. I was recently showing a client how easy it is to make connections with others by starting conversations with fellow café goers.
It’s not nearly as hard as people make it out to be. We headed down to the 1369 coffee shop on Mass Ave. While waiting in line, a social work student actually started a conversation with us! On our way back, we encountered a young couple struggling to carry a new mattress down Mass Ave. We helped them, and they invited my client and I (they didn’t know he was my client) for dinner—we declined, but exchanged contact information. The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers – even in line or on the street. Get out of your cave and take a walk around Harvard Square, strike up a conversation with someone at Trident Bookstore and Cafe on Newbury Street, or go to Karaoke at An Tua Nua (held every Wednesday night). There are people everywhere looking to make a connection.
3) Say “Yes” to Invitations
Try to accept invitations from others, even if you’re on the fence about the event. There are two reasons why this is a good idea: First, the more often you reject invitations, the less likely a person is to re-bid you for your time. Second, there’re bound to be one or two people (or more) you don’t know who will be there, and you never know who you might meet, and how they might further expand your social network. The couch might be safe, but remember, every night you spend on the couch is a night you’re guaranteed not to meet anyone.
4) Avoid Negative Generalizations
There are a few negative generalizations I often hear from Boston residents struggling to build up their social calendar:
- “You never meet anyone of quality in a Pub.” You can meet quality people almost anywhere. Pubs are a big part of Boston culture, and you’ll find all sorts of people there. If you don’t like pubs, that’s a separate issue, and if that’s the case, there are lots of other places where you can meet people.
- “People in Boston are cold and closed off.” I meet very welcoming Bostonians every day who tell me that they think people in Boston are closed off, and that they wish others were warmer. I am convinced that everyone, even people in Boston, want to make connections with others.
- “I hate (or I’m really bad at) small talk.” Even if you hate small talk, the best way to do less of it is to make meaningful connections with others. That’s only going to happen if you let yourself meet new people, and then build those relationships past the point of small talk.
5) Kill Your TV (It is mocking you)
Here is a short list of hit shows: House, Scrubs, Friends (ok Friends is a bit old), Lost, Grey’s Anatomy (I know someone who still watches it), and Big Bang Theory.
Why are these shows so popular? Or, better put, what do all these shows have in common? Answer: Every hit show on this list displays profoundly close relationships that most of us don’t have in our lives. The Grey’s Anatomy cast lives together, the Lost cast is lost together, and do you remember that episode of Scrubs where three of Dr. Cox’s patients died?—his colleagues took shifts sitting with him in his apartment, as he drank himself silly.
I am willing to bet that, more than the lavish lifestyle, the beach, the adventure, or the interesting job, what draws us to these shows is the close relationships between the characters. We watch Grey’s and think we want to be a doctor. All we really want is to live in a big old house with six close friends. If you are one of the many Americans who yearns for closer friendships, your TV is mocking you – showing you the life you wish you had, at the very same time that it keeps you stuck on your couch.
Kill your TV. Move into a house with six other people. You will miss two seasons of your favorite show and not even notice.
6) “Things” are the red herring.
In the video game “The Sims” the players control the actions of an average person (a “sim”), living a normal life. You start with a basic house, then help your sim to get a job, build friendships, and buy stuff. Buying stuff is a lot of fun. There are hundreds of items to buy, from workout equipment to flat screen TVs to modern art that you can buy for your sim to make his or her life more enjoyable.
The creator of the video game “The Sims” was once questioned about the materialism in the game. The items are a “Red Herring,” he explained. The way to win the game—to have a happy sim—has nothing to do with the items. A happy sim has strong relationships with other characters in the game.
This same mistake made by players of The Sims is a mistake we often make in our real lives. We work 50-plus hours a week in order to buy things we think we want, or in order to live in lavish spaces we can barely afford. All the while, we would be happier sitting on milk crates with a group of close friends. A house full of nice things, but without friends, is no fun at all.
Here is the secret to personal success: People, not stuff. Community, not just career.
7) Pay the Price
Every choice we make costs a price. The choice to build a social network is no different. It takes an investment of time and resources. You are going to need to put some margin into your schedule if you are going to be successful at building relationships. You might need to work as hard for relationships as you do at your career. Warning: this could slow your business, career, and even your money-making potential. It can also increase your life satisfaction exponentially. So consider—what are relationships worth? Alternatively, how much money would it take for you to live a life of solitude (I am hoping there is no sum high enough)?
I know someone who recently left a lucrative position to be with friends in another state. Society might scoff at this, but she is happier now than she has been in years.
ABOUT THRIVE BOSTON COUNSELING
Thrive Boston Counseling and Life Coaching provides help to individuals and couples from Cambridge, MA, and the greater Boston area. Areas of clinical specialty include depression, anxiety, anger management, and relationship communication.
Thrive Boston Counseling’s philosophy is that that everyone has the ability to live a happy, meaningful, amazing life. Thrive Boston Counseling is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts (near Harvard Square), and has 13 full and part-time therapists.
For more information, contact Dr. Anthony Centore, Director of Thrive Boston Counseling. Phone: 617-395-5806. Email: email@example.com.