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The Secret To A Richer Social Life Lies In The Underrated Magic Of 'Weak Ties'
What About Your Friends?

The Secret To A Richer Social Life Lies In The Underrated Magic Of 'Weak Ties'

If you’ve taken stock of your friend groups and wondered why there are some friends with whom you share deeper connection and vulnerability than other acquaintances, there’s a reason for that. While it can make you feel guilty or disappointed by the reality that not every friend can hold the same tier as the other, you might be surprised to know that you could be better off with more casual connections than close companions.


“Weak ties” is a term popularized by sociologist Mark Granovetter that refers to connections or relationships between individuals that are not as close, strong, or frequent as what you might find in strong ties. These weaker connections are characterized by lower emotional intensity, less time and interaction, and typically serve different functions in one's social life.

While the name can imply lesser meaning or value in your life, maintaining “weak ties” in your life can become a great source of social capital.

Strong ties provide bonding social capital, while weak ties offer bridging social capital. The connection you have with the barista at the coffee shop you frequent, the co-worker you clicked with, or the church associate that you see at bible study all have the potential to enrich your life by introducing you to new information, opportunities, or resources that you might not have access to through your strong ties.

Why Weak Ties Are Your Social Superpower

While these folks may not be your official “besties,” these forms of social capital are vital for social support, particularly during adulthood when they become increasingly crucial for coping with challenges and enhancing well-being.

Most people shy away from embracing the concept of having weak ties because the idea of having surface-level friendships can feel unfulfilling or vapid. But forming deep, platonic intimacy with every person we come into contact with just isn’t manageable. Building strong friendships takes time, love, and energy that, if you’re honest, isn’t an endless interpersonal resource.

If we embrace the idea of having casual connections that are familiar but not particularly deep, we can then welcome all the other benefits they can provide us with, like increased happiness and decreased feelings of depression and isolation.

“With weak ties, we can have them everywhere,” expert friendship coach Sarah Siegert tells xoNecole. “Every time we have a social interaction, it releases chemicals in the body that make us feel happier and less stressed. If we're feeling more happy and less stressed, it has a positive impact on our mental health, so we're less likely to feel depressed.”

@thefriendshipexpert

The beauty of “weak ties”

The beauty of “weak ties”

Cultivating Weak Ties for Lasting Connections

Because the cultivation of weak ties is proven to have a positive impact on our overall well-being, promoting more feelings of hopefulness, happiness, and joy, it’s important to know how to form those connections — and according to Siegert, it’s all about adopting the right mindset. “Have the mindset of wanting to connect with people,” she shares. “Ask, How can I meet this person? What can I ask them? What can I find out about that? And how can I get in touch with them?

While making these connections can feel awkward at first, remember that every strong tie and close friendship started off as a weak connection; the only difference is, “We spend more quality time with them,” Siegert explains. “It all starts with that initial showing of interest. Stay in touch, exchange phone numbers, sharing social media handles, whatever you feel comfortable with. Have the courage to speak with people or even just smile at them, make eye contact, give that initial invitation to connect with someone, and see what happens.”

Having weak ties in friendships is an asset to our personal and emotional development, especially as most of the world navigates a post-pandemic loneliness crisis. And in order to nurture and maintain weak ties, it’s all about taking the initiative and not waiting for others to make the first move.

To help get you on your way to forming these new bonds, Siegert shares a few tips on just how to do it.

1. Be proactive:

“I'm not going to wait for other people to do things. I'm not going to interpret them not reaching out to me as them not wanting to be friends with me. I am going to do my best to reach out to people and suggest ways to connect on a deeper level. And I'm going to be open and vulnerable and interested. I'm not internalizing their behavior, thoughts, or opinions. Don't let yourself get defeated by any sort of ‘negative feedback’ from others. It's never about you, it's always about them. And if that happens, just continue finding other people to connect with.”

Drazen_/Getty Images

2. Be mindful of boundaries:

“We're still respectful of other people's boundaries and whether they are willing to engage in that connection or not. We're still looking for small signs that might indicate that someone is not interested because we don't want to pressure anyone into connecting with us. But we want to make sure that we give everything that we can, but if someone repetitively declines your offers to meet up, give the other person space and don't put any pressure on it."

3. Reclaim your social life:

“Take control over what you want. If you currently don't have as many friends as you'd like and you feel there's a lack of connection, work towards the results you want. Don't wait for others to do something for you or feel entitled to the other person to build the connection — work on being their friend first."

4. Reframe your mindset on friend-making:

“Really work on your mindset. If you feel that there is a lack of connection, listen to yourself, listen to the thoughts that you have about your friends and the friendships, and listen to the thoughts you have about yourself. What is it that you tell yourself about this friendship? Check in with yourself and ask if those thoughts are serving you, and work on changing the thoughts to something that is true.”

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Featured image by Drazen_/Getty Images

 

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