Recently, one of my colleagues was looking for a good excuse to get out of a party early that night. Her invitation came suddenly and she failed to think of a good reason why she couldn’t go. But she was determined to come up with an excuse to leave early. The other colleagues in the office chimed in with their best excuses for getting out of social obligations. Everyone had one or two ready.
And then someone asked me what my excuses are for not going when I am invited somewhere.
“I don’t have a fake excuse; if I can, I go wherever I am invited,” I said.
In my 44 years on this planet, I learned that – no matter how busy you are, and no matter how much you don’t feel like going to your neighbor’s barbecue, it will probably be pretty great once you get there.
I am an extrovert, and I love both having people around and meeting new people, but I see this effect even with my introverted husband. I usually have to drag him somewhere, but after the initial discomfort, he is usually happy to mingle.
Most of us are, regardless of what we say to ourselves.
We are meant to have a community and in this day and age, it is all too easy to close up and live a busy life.
We tell ourselves that dinners need to be cooked, laundry needs to be done, home improvement projects have to be undertaken, kids tended to and we forget to connect with the special and even not-so-special people we know.
How many of us live day to day the same old routine of busy work (at work or at home) swamped with to do lists and things we plan to accomplish with some social activity on our calendar in three months from now?
But We Are Busy
We may be busy, but socializing must be a priority. It is good for our mental and physical well-being.
Study after study shows that having a good network of friends and social contact helps you live to a ripe old age. It also helps improve our cognition. A recent review of many studies confirms that socializing is important for keeping yourself cognitively fit.
We are not meant to live in our own little silos even though we can, especially if we are among the highly mobile urban population.
We just have to make the effort to meet people and to nurture exiting relationships.
Think of Social Commitments as Quality time?
Make room for, support and nurture the relationships in your life.
Arrange that weekend brunch date with family or friends.
Use your work lunch hour to meet an acquaintance and not-so-close friend. You can grab a bite or go for a walk and talk, but there is also a convenient end to it, time to go back to work. It is a lunch hour well spent.
Be diligent about creating time to hang out with your favorite people and nurture the relationships you have. Even when you are super busy at home.
Pick up the phone today and get communicating. Or send a text message if you must.
And even if you already have a brilliant set of friends you can still connect with new people who will bring a fresh perspective on life. There is always something new and interesting you will learn if you give others a chance and expand your social circle.
Take the Initiative
Catching up with friends and family regularly can become increasingly challenging as we juggle the demands of our lives. From experience, people are usually happy to meet up as long as someone takes the initiative. Be the one.
Take the initiative and consider arranging gatherings to catch up with a number of people at once. Even if they don’t know each other, they will probably enjoy meeting new people, too. I mean, think back on your life, we usually don’t regret new friends and new connections.
Even if you initially don’t feel like it.
Remember that you don’t have to hold onto every friendship
We often outgrow friends when our lives change in different ways. Our interests change, our children grow. If you have decided it’s time to cut ties with a friend, you don’t have to do anything active to signal the end of the relationship. The mere fact that you are initiating less contact should convey your message. (which is why it is important not to unwittingly convey that message to those special friends you want to keep in your life.)
End friendships graciously. Become acquaintances. You never know when your paths may cross again.
As someone who has moved a lot throughout my adult life, I appreciate the power of community. It is really high on my list of values in life.
I believe that you can meet great people everywhere and create amazing friendships at any time of life.
But you have to be the initiator. You can’t expect people to just approach you.
I recently met a woman who said that she’s been waiting for two years for a group of people she met at the gym to ask her to join them for drinks after the workout. I asked her if she asked to join them and she looked shocked. The thought never occurred to her. But that is exactly what you have to do if you are new in town.
Initiate that first contact. And second. And third.
Join clubs and events. Approach people. Say yes to social commitments. Don’t be picky. It is better to meet too many people at first. You can always let go later.
I recently moved to a new town in a new country and made it my mission to meet as many people as possible. I made some wonderful friends but also many acquaintances that I can say hello to while I am in town or picking up my kid from school. I did not feel like I needed to become best friends with everyone I met, but every person has added something to my experience of being a new person in town.
It is a wonderful opportunity both to reinvent yourself and to experience something new.
It can be scary and maybe even draining. It may be terrifying to some. But it is worth it.
We may say that we enjoy our solitary existence, and we may even believe it, but deep down, most of us like to feel a part of a social circle.
My friends laughed when I tell them about my experiences meeting new people when new in town. Someone once asked me if I’d like to meet so and so and I said “Yes, literally anyone will do.” And I meant it. Anyone has something to offer. Literally anyone.
Next time when that not-so-exciting neighbor invites you to a barbecue, just say yes and don’t dwell on it. If you don’t feel like going… go anyway.
It is not self-love to say ‘I’d rather stay at home‘ and deny yourself social contact but it is self-love to meet some new people or rekindle old friendships, relax and have fun.
No man is an island, after all.