Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How to Build a Network of Friends

A friend is somebody who cares for you, and helps you meet your wants and needs. Friendship is a give and take relationship, never one way. People love to be able to help their friends, so having a network of friends is a deep source of just about everything. (Learn more at Be a friend and Winning the power and benefits of friendship.)

But how do you build a great network of friends?

Starting out, you should aim to have 12 people in your network of friends. On the other end of the spectrum, nobody can keep track of 150 people without an assistant.  Twenty-five friends is a comfortable number for most people, but you can grow it as big as you want.

Build your network one conversation at a time. LISTEN first, but don’t just listen in a general way. Listen specifically for the person’s wants and needs. Keep track of them, and even write them down. In your third conversation, you can go deep by asking them, “What is the greatest challenge you’re facing today?”

Second, GIVE them something helpful. It might be calling them to share a joke or email them a link to an article they might find helpful. Don’t overdo, just let them know that you’re thinking of them. If you come across something that would help them achieve their wants and needs, take them by the hand and walk them to it. Don't wait for them to recognize it. And understand that they always have the option to reject your contribution. Love them anyway. 

Okay, so now you are taking care of them, but a friendship goes both ways. Most people don’t know how to get what they need. They don’t realize that people love to be helpful. We all feel good when we can help somebody. So give your friend a chance to help you. It cements the friendship.

So the third thing in a good friendship, TELL them a story that identifies your greatest challenge. Don’t whine, but share the adventure, the ultimate goal, and the specific challenge you are currently facing. People remember stories, and if you are facing a challenge, most people will automatically try to help. 

Fourth, ASK them how they would handle your challenge. No matter what their answer – mundane to master – thank them and encourage them to explain further. This not only gets you desired results, it lets people feel good by helping you. They'll be happy to help again because it feels good. Also ask them who they would ask for help if faced with a similar challenge. One or more of your friends will know an expert in the area of your challenge. Tell your friend, “I’d love to meet that person. Can I buy you both something to drink? Lunch?”

Finally, FOLLOW UP. In your subsequent conversations, ask them specifically about the challenge they were facing last time you talked. They'll be surprised you remembered. And then ask them again for their ideas and connections to help with your challenge. Repetition helps them to remember you after the conversation. 

This can be the pattern that gives meaning to every conversation: Listen, Give, Tell, Ask and Follow Up.

And remember, a friend – a real friend – will actually keep you and your challenges in mind long after the conversation. They'll find something that they believe might be helpful to share with you. Never reject their offerings; always accept them graciously. It encourages them to continue trying to help. 

There are all kinds of little ways to tweak your conversation to make it more fruitful. In fact, you could print out this post and share it with a friend, asking them how they approach friendship and networking.

Copyright © 2017 Christopher Aune,

Winning the power and benefits of friendship

Everybody needs to have friends, right? It’s really important for lots of reasons. For instance, scientists have discovered that lonely people experience real physical pain because of being isolated. Ouch! It is even likely that social isolation (which can be experienced in a crowd) is the cause of most of our society’s ills, from crime to poverty to mental illness. I should write about that sometime, but not today.

Instead, it’s important to understand what friendship is and how it works, so we can receive the power and benefits of friendship. That’s right, you get stuff out of friendship … IF you do it right.

If you’re a natural at friendship, this post may help you to better understand what you’re doing. If you’re a total klutz at relationships, this is how you can become a great friend and collect some of the coolest best friends ever.

First, let’s define friendship. Friendship is when two people take care of each other. That means a friend helps a friend accomplish their wants and needs … without asking. You give some, and you get some. It’s a reciprocating exchange.

If you give but don’t get, it’s not a friendship. If you get but don’t give, you’re a fucking leach. Don’t take it too hard. Sometimes your friend doesn’t need anything, so you’re just standing ready. But if the time comes to help and you are too busy, you are not really a friend.

For a little closer look at friend relationships, check out this short essay.

You should always be building your network of friends. They are a deep resource for all kinds of things. Whatever you have a want or a need, chances are that one of your friends knows somebody who knows somebody who does what you want or has what you need. A friend’s introductions are invaluable. No matter what you seek, if you have a network of friends, it will always be pretty easy to find what you want. Hard to believe? Not at all. Once you try it, you’ll know it’s true.

Build your network of friends in advance, before you need something. If you start digging a well when you’re thirsty, you’re in for a tough dry spell. If you plant your garden after you’re already hungry, it’s too late. Cultivate your friends well in advance so that, when you need something, your friends are already there for you. Take care of them so that you can even call them in the middle of the night to ask them for a ride to the hospital.

So, now you know what a friend is and why your network of friends is so important. But how can a total social geek build a group of real friends from scratch? There’s a clear process I’ve taught for decades. My students come back to me surprised, declaring, “It really works!” Of course it does! I’ve seen the worst home bodies just follow the instructions, and in a matter of months they have a crowd of go-to people.

Copyright © 2017 Christopher Aune,