It turns out there is little, if anything, more important to our happiness than our level of connectedness with others; both in terms of quantity and quality of our relationships. Even so, I can’t say that I have a formal practice for broadening and deepening my network of social connections, nor do I know anyone who does. If you have one, please share it with me.
For me, connectedness begins with interest in another person. Some years ago I decided that if I met someone I had a good conversation with, that I would try to pursue that person in order to renew the conversation; or perhaps connect them with another person I think shares one or more of their interests.
After that initial interest, I need to be able to trust the person, and show myself to be trustworthy in turn. Those who are unreliable, who don’t keep their commitments, or say things they don’t mean or believe don’t make very good friends.
If we share an interest, and build a solid foundation of trust, then perhaps the deepest level of connection comes from a willingness to be vulnerable with the other person. Vulnerability implies revealing certain of those aspects of us that could cause great embarrassment or injury if the other person does not value and treat with some reverence those parts revealed. Here are the greatest risks, and greatest rewards, of a relationship.
But perhaps the heart of a social practice is as simple and as complicated as staying in touch. It takes time to stay in touch. It takes some courage (we might be rebuffed). And as our circle of acquaintance grows, it takes some creativity and diligence in order to keep those lines of communication open. How do you stay in touch with 150 people? Facebook right?
One thing I’ve noticed about my connections is that they tend to be clustered. These clusters tend to exist at a certain level of intimacy across the whole cluster. Hence I can send an email to everyone in that cluster at the level of trust and vulnerability of the cluster which everyone can feel safe responding to. I think it’s hard to do that on a venue like facebook. I still haven’t figured out how to use it.