Ways of improving your social capital?

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BookLoverL
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Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by BookLoverL » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:44 am

I'm trying to make an effort on this again just recently.

As I think we all know here, social capital can be a very valuable tool in the ERE toolbox, with the possibility of replacing a significant chunk of financial spending with it. Plus, having a strong and diverse group of friends and other people who respect you also helps avoid loneliness and low self-esteem, and therefore leads to a better life.

Therefore, it's clearly something I should be interested in. However, I am, to be honest, a bit of a dork. Social efforts do not come naturally to me. So I'm putting in a gradual effort to climb out of my 0 charisma starting position and gradually improve my social skills. I've been learning just a bit at a time, working on each sort of subsection one by one, but I expect I'm missing a lot still. (If there's a Wheaton scale for social skills, I'm not on a high level for it.)

Here's what my breakdown of skills you need to get social capital that I've identified so far:

1) approaching people you don't know yet and talking to them without somebody you already know introducing you
2) making a good first impression that causes people to think of you roughly the way you want them to think of you
3) small talk
4) how to move on from small talk to bigger talk
5) following up on your conversation so they become a friendly acquaintance instead of just someone you met once
6) staying in touch with them regularly enough that they become a casual friend that invites you places and sends you opportunities
7) how to deepen the relationship to become a close friend that you can go to for emotional support if desired
8) how to manage conflicts in the friendship

So far I think I've consistently got the hang of points 2-4, and I'm working primarily on 1, 5, and 6. I think I'm at the point where the local community thinks of me as a sensible and helpful person, but none of them know me well enough to invite me anywhere.

If anyone has any points I'm missing, any thoughts or tips, or indeed any higher-Wheaton-level ways of thinking about the whole thing, I'd be glad to hear them.

bigato
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by bigato » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:49 pm

I'd say you need filters in your approach. You need the math on your side and then it will happen naturally. Talking to strangers is something I did a lot in my early twenties, but it rarely if ever lands you in a friendship if you are not close to average. I'm not and I don't think you are either. You need strategies to find the people that resonate with you. The deepening of the relationships will then happen naturally.

One of the best strategies that I know is to engage in activities that you like doing and that have a social side. For example, if you like reading, maybe engage in a book club? Even if you find the entire idea of a book club completely stupid (i know that i do), and even if you think reading is an individual activity, you make an effort to see if helps. Another example: I love bicycles but really I prefer the lonely aspect of it. Engaging in group rides is not something I particularly enjoy, but it was the gateway to get to know a lot of interesting people. Some activities will be a better filter than others as you will find out. For example, I like to breath pure air but that's probably shared by the most of the world's population, so not useful at all. One interest that was particularly great at bringing awesome people was polyglot's meetings, and since I know you also like languages, that could be a clue.

Another important distinction that took me a long time to reach was that selecting which people you want for friends is important, but selecting which ones you don't is even more so. Because they take time, energy and mental and emotional space. Those are all limited, and in my case mental and emotional space are tight. So each not-so-interesting person that you let in your life will occupy the place of a lot of others that you will not even get to know because you are exhausted of relating to people too different from you. Most of the time, all you need to do to achieve this effect is, contrary to what intuition would tell you, *not* make effort to keep in contact with people. Sometimes you may need more drastic action in the case of those few who take lots of space won't go away on their own (emotional vampires). Get rid of them fast.

In my experience, following those two guidelines in any medium-to-big city should score you plenty of the most awesome friendships available around. But if you are in a community small enough and you are not close to average, numbers could be stacked against you badly.

Loner
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by Loner » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:31 pm

Sorry, it might be me, but I’m not sure I got it : you would like to improve your social capital (favors in the bank), or rather your social skills? Because the strategy won’t be the same in both cases.

Looking at your numbered list, I’d say those are a good way to hone social skills. On the other hand, I think they are also a good way to increase your social capital by nothing at all.

Social capital is not very different from financial capital : it has to be earned. And lack of social skills does not preclude social capital. If you want social capital, you simply have to be generous with other people, ie, help them in one way or another. It can be very concrete things done specifically for them (e.g. put them in contact with a key person, fix their bike, cook for them, etc.), but it can also be less tangible or more social-oriented (actively listening to their problems and offering empathy, arranging a gathering, being a good conversational partner, etc.). For his role in this community, for instance, I’m sure Jacob has a lot of social capital because people here appreciate his work.

If you do it genuinely, ie, not simply by expecting to get something in return, you also have there a great way to start building friendships/relationships.

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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by sky » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:56 pm

Offer foot massage.

BookLoverL
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by BookLoverL » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:33 pm

Thanks for the replies, everyone.

Loner, I think I see your point that social capital and social skills are not the same, but I think I really did need to practise some of those social skills before I could even think about social capital - e.g., I used to be unable to approach strangers without an introduction, even sometimes in shops, and used to just stand there looking daft instead. With the being generous thing, do I just be generous at people at every level of relationship? Is it possible to be too generous and make things awkward? How do I decide what the best way of being generous is?

Bigato, I think the things that you have said will be useful when I am looking for close friends, but since I don't live in a city, it will be harder to make it work, due to, as you said, numbers, so I would like some more casual, lower-time-investment relationships with people who are more local even if they aren't quite as suitable. What I'm looking for, I guess, is some people who would invite me to come down to the local pub/cafe/wherever occasionally, even if I didn't always turn up, be vaguely amusing to talk to for a few hours, and actually remember that I exist when they have some sort of project or opportunity that would suit my skills.

The big problem I've been working on recently is that (now I've figured out how to keep the conversation going instead of sputtering out after a couple of sentences about the weather) I've been doing alright at having interesting conversations with people, but terrible at following up/getting their contact details/using said contact details if I've got them/otherwise indicating that I remembered meeting them, which means that in return they tend to forget I exist also. So I'm trying to work on actually contacting people outside of the public events that I meet them at. A relationship won't deepen if I never actually remember to talk to the people I want to get to know, I've figured out...

But in general I'm also interested in hearing how people who are more skilled than me maintain their social networks/social capital and how they see social relationships in theory, because they probably have a much more coherent idea of what is going on than me, and also it'll probably be a more interesting conversation than just focusing on me specifically the whole time.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:34 pm

Unfortunately, I think you have your order of operations backwards. First thing you should do is figure out how to be your own best source of emotional support. Everything else in the realm of social relationships will flow from that core functionality.

OTOH, almost all of my friends at the moment seem to be grouchy and/or eccentric old men because I am almost always too cheap to throw down for anything resembling margarita night out with the gals and I am burnt out on community service. So, any advice from me should be taken with huge grain of salt.

BookLoverL
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by BookLoverL » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:52 pm

Thanks, 7w5. Hmm, my own source of emotional support... well, I have mostly good self-esteem, I think. Usually my strategy if I don't think I can get any actual people to listen to me when I'm feeling bad about something has been to google people having similar problems and work it out by reading what they had to say, but I have recently been told by one of my few actual friends (she's great, but doesn't live near me so I can't see her often) that it's healthier to actually talk to someone about it...

I'm always very impressed when I see your posts, actually, since you seemed to have almost entirely replaced accommodation costs with social capital, so your advice is appreciated.

I do volunteer, at least, with a charity that my mum has volunteered at for a while, and I think that is starting to build me some social capital in my own right, rather than the "all my social capital is borrowed from my mum" situation I had going on before. But still nobody invites me anywhere outside of the official charity events.

anesde
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by anesde » Tue Jul 09, 2019 4:31 pm

I’m with Loner - your OP reads like you want to improve your social skills and perhaps general self-confidence when it comes to interacting with others.

If that’s the case I would suggest focusing more on activities based on your interests vs. the more academic exercise of following steps to improve skills. As Bigato said the easiest way to connect with people is over a shared interest. When I moved to a new place I took fitness classes, dance classes, joined hiking meet-ups, etc (my interests, not necessarily yours).

Approach/interact with people at them and start conversations - the initial awkwardness of talking to total strangers is mitigated by the fact you both chose to be at the relevant event. Ask questions and let the other person speak - most people love talking about themselves.

Hiking in a group is particularly great for this as you can speak to various people and quickly end the conversation naturally if needed by slowing down or stopping for a break. The key regardless is just to do it a lot, and not beat yourself up if you don’t make any lasting connections. Focus on the activity itself (which you hopefully enjoy) and anything else is a bonus.

I understand smaller towns aren’t great for this - I spent a couple of years in “the middle of nowhere” (Eastern Shore, VA), but it’s still possible, just more difficult.

bigato
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by bigato » Tue Jul 09, 2019 4:38 pm

In smaller cities you'll have to be less picky about the type of activities and thus the people, but the principles hold.

BookLoverL
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by BookLoverL » Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:20 am

Thanks, anesde, and bigato. I do probably need to look for some social activities in maybe the local town (I live near a village near a town), and ought to try this.

I know I didn't word it that great in the first post, but I promise I am interested in social capital as well as general social skills, as in, I'd like to eventually find that more of my spending is conveniently being replaced by benefits I could gain from social connections, or that I'm earning more because of said social connections. I know this can't be relied upon and nothing specific should be expected, but it seems like human nature is such that it would be unusual to successfully build social capital and then have nothing come from it. I still am a bit confused how I could possibly build it WITHOUT also building my social skills, though...

Also, even though I interact most easily with fellow weird people, and would indeed focus on this type of people to become close friends, I would still like to be able to interact better on a casual basis with relatively normal people too, given that they're all over the place. ;)

bigato
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by bigato » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:52 am

There's this book by Andrew Carnegie, called "How to make friends and influence people", that have some basic stuff that may be useful to you in developing those skills.

BookLoverL
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by BookLoverL » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:10 am

I actually already have that book, and I agree it's very good, though I do need to work on consistently doing what it tells me. xD I definitely noticed a difference in the quality of my social interactions after I read it and started trying to do some of the things.

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Ego
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by Ego » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:15 am

@bigato's & Loner's posts above are excellent.

One thing I would add is a good way to start a conversation with a person you've never met is to engage your curiosity and ask questions. I've said this a few times recently.

If the person sitting next to you on the bus is wearing a shirt from a particular university, ask if they attended and if they liked it. If you are in the gym locker room and notice a person who was running on a treadmill, ask how long they run and if they use one of the programs or simply go at their own pace. In the grocery line, if the person has an unusual ingredient on the belt, ask how they cook it. Ask whatever comes to mind.

About an hour ago I had a really interesting conversation with a young woman working at a copy center while I was printing train tickets. It started when I asked her how she learned to speak English. I discovered that she lived and worked in Moscow and Israel for a few years. She grew up in Kiev and lived in Odessa before moving here. She wants to move to Canada next. I asked her about her time in Moscow and whether she was able to save much of her salary while living in Israel. Each time she answered she became more and more detailed, a good indication that she was interested in talking with me as well.

You will notice that some of the questions are somewhat imprudent. It is amazing the things people will tell you if you simply take the time to ask. I've noticed a strange analog to the Franklin Effect where people feel closer to you if they've told you something personal.

This kind of thing drives self-identified introverts a little crazy. :D So be it. If you want to make an omelet you must be willing to crack a few eggs.

Nomad
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by Nomad » Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:36 am

I think the best way of improving social capital which I take to mean social connections is by making friends via shared interests.
Not everyone wants to be sociable and if the person has no common interests with you, it can be hard to have much interest in them.
Some of the ways I have personally made connections include:

a) via a shared educational experience.
b) through work
c) from shared musical interests e.g. playing instruments.
d) by going to gigs/festivals/camping.
e) camping/hiking activities holidays.
f) people who 'do' computer stuff generally.
g) via fitness activities, play 5 a side with or go/meet at the gym.
h) a fondness of drinking or eating out...
i) via political ideology!
j) travel interests
k) cooking/health fitness.
l) friends of closer friends.

One connection then leads to another.
Over an extended period, you may meet someone in education; find out what music they like; go for a drink with them;
find out they play musical instruments; start a band with them; go to gigs together, go on holiday, etc. etc. etc.

Personally, I've noticed most of my friends have strong musical interests.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:51 am

since you seemed to have almost entirely replaced accommodation costs with social capital, so your advice is appreciated.
Well, since you are currently living amicably with your parents, the same could be said for you.

One thing to realize is that even though we live in highly individualistic, egalitarian cultures, it is not the case that all relationships in every context are at the level of "We are peers and we like the same things, so let's be friends." Simple example would be the model of Producer, Director, Writer, Ingenue. In any social context (throwing a party, taking a road-trip, raising a family), if you want to be the Producer, you will have to be the one who takes on the responsibility for securing and providing the necessary funds. OTOH, if you are willing or wanting to play the Ingenue, that will not be your responsibility.

This did not become clear to me until I was in my early 40s and repeatedly found myself cast in the role of ingenue after decades of thinking of myself as more suited to other roles. This is because conventional dating, even when mediated through the internet, is a context in which this will naturally occur. Most men do not flick through photos or profiles thinking "Wow, she really looks like a highly competent individual who would do a great job taking charge of my life. I will text her right away!"

Another example, less mired in the swamp of gender dynamics, would be the example of my ex-step-daughter who was a young introverted INFP like you. Her affluent parents were already providing her with full support since she was only 17, but she had the desire to engage in some very expensive hobbies; horseback riding, wilderness travel, and scuba diving. So, she managed to finance these hobbies by first getting just a small foot in the door with parental financing, and then making friends with much older, more affluent, single/divorced women who liked having a young friend who was always available for an outing or willing to lend an ear to their gripes about ex-husband, etc. This was actually sort of annoying to me, because the older woman she accompanied on wilderness travel was actually one of my "husband"s ex-girlfriends, and she would use her continuing friendship with daughter as an excuse for behavior such as hanging out at our house playing video games until 11 pm on a Friday evening.

This brings me around to the point that two other very important concepts to consider in conjunction with "social capital" and "social skills" would be "cultural capital" and "sexual capital." When considering possibilities for "free" accommodation in exchange for social skills and/or capital, you can't not consider sexual ramifications, because sex is one of the top behaviors for which modern humans desire privacy. So, if you are living with somebody and not paying rent, and not providing them with any or all of the sort of sex they like yourself (obviously, the sort of sex you like being provided will change the dynamic), then at a minimum you must not hinder their ability to get laid, and it would behoove you to develop the skills relevant to helping other people improve their sex lives. For instance, how to be a good wing-person, or how to help somebody improve their wardrobe, etc. etc.

Cultural capital is also relevant, because if a person has a great deal of cultural capital, having them as a house guest will improve the house-holder's social status. For instance, a broke yet still semi-famous musician can often get free lodging with an affluent fan, or even somebody who doesn't care much for his music, but recognizes that others she may want to impress do.

Also, another problem with reliance on "social capital" is that it is pretty easy to flush it all away with one very bad bit of behavior. For instance, obvious case of 30 years of marriage down the toilet with one incident of adultery.

wolf
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by wolf » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:45 am

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:51 am
Simple example would be the model of Producer, Director, Writer, Ingenue.
Does this model have a name? I cannot find it googling.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:27 pm

@wolf:

No. I made it up. Open source- feel free to use, alter, or extend- lol.

Loner
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by Loner » Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:07 pm

Did you have any people actually telling you, in a way or in another, that you are awkward? Because I think we sometimes all tend to feel more awkward than we really are. By the way you write, you certainly do not come across as dorky (to me). You are polite, articulate, you show zero defensiveness to advice (which most people do not do – they rather seem to jump to the conclusion that it’s an attack), etc. I have no proof to say it’s your case, but sometimes we just tend to be shy and put it on the back of a lack of social skills. If it’s your case, and again only you can know, what’s needed is just a bit of pep and self-ass-kicking to get you going.

If on the other hand you feel like you need to improve your body language (ie, the non verbal part of charisma), have a look at the youtube channel Charisma on Command. It’s really good. (Btw, body language is super important. As Ego evoked, you can ask just about anything, and you will be surprised at how open and happy people will be to answer… if only you have the tone, posture, and expression that communicate your friendly intent.)

As for your questions, I’m no schmoozer myself, so I unfortunately do not have a clear cut answer for you. Should we be generous with people at every level of a relationship? I believe we should, though the level of helping should vary with the level of commitment. I would not endeavour to build a house for a guy I just met, but I would have no problem working for free on a long term friend’s house. I’m sure he'll be happy to help later on, and anyways he helped me in the past.

Is it possible to be too generous? For sure. Does it risk making things awkward? Yes, very well. People expect others to be nice with them, and will generally accept a favor if it’s in line with the depth of the relationship. But if you offer a guy whom you just met to come help re-roof his house, he might expect that there’s a catch, or think that it’s a bit intrusive. In the worst case, some people will take all they can from you which will lead them to ingratitude, and ultimately to turn their back on you : because you gave them so much, they feel they’ll never be able to pay you back, so the next logical step it to cut the ties.

As for your last, and most difficult question (How do I decide what the best way of being generous is?), well, the answer goes along the line of what I mentioned above. You would not and should not get the moon for some random bloke, but as long as it makes you feel good and does not feel like a drag, you are probably doing it right. ;)

anesde
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by anesde » Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:14 am

Loner wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:07 pm
If it’s your case, and again only you can know, what’s needed is just a bit of pep and self-ass-kicking to get you going.

Excellent advice for anyone.

All of Loner’s points are great - especially this one and the fact that most people aren’t as awkward as they appear. Usually other people are more concerned with themselves then worrying or judging other people’s awkwardness.

Reading up and watching videos on body language is great, but remember that the most important thing is just doing it. Don’t be afraid to “fail” a bit - try out what you think is too generous, or not generous enough. Eventually you’ll get enough of your own data points to make sense of it.

BookLoverL
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Re: Ways of improving your social capital?

Post by BookLoverL » Thu Jul 11, 2019 12:02 pm

Thanks Ego, this is very helpful. I shall attempt to practice randomly talking to people without worrying they will somehow look at me and say something like, "How dare you presume to talk to me, complete stranger!?", which is what my brain tends to tell me will happen even though it's likely completely unfounded in actual evidence. Re: self-identified introverts, I am a self-identified introvert, since I want more than 0 interaction, I figured out a while back I should at least attempt to learn how to do the social thing when I want to. ;)

Nomad, I definitely agree shared interests are helpful - assuming I remember to talk to people at the interest group and not just focus on doing the interest, which I've done my share of in the past. I think it's helpful also to learn how to interact with people who don't have much in common with you too, just in general, but for close friends, at least one shared interest is definitely useful.

7w5, thanks for this, I appreciate it. I admit I'm not hugely familiar with the producer/director/writer/ingenue model in general - the ingenue is providing some sort of combination of skills and glamour, if I'm understanding this rightly?

Personally, my desired type of sex is "not very often", so I think I probably can't go for offering that sort of capital as my primary benefit, but I probably could try the wingman thing. So, if I have correctly got what you're saying, then, combining it with the cultural capital aspect, I should try and be the sort of friend which the other people at an event will see as an excellent reflection on the character of the person who invited me, and also then try and reflect some of that back towards them so that the people met try to hit on them rather than me. And I could achieve being this sort of friend by being an interesting conversationalist or by having some sort of cultural appeal - obviously I'm not currently famous, but I am a (currently unpublished) poet, and I'm also learning the ukulele, so I could end up achieving that. Or if I end up in a position with some local power somehow through my volunteering, that would also count as cultural capital? Your daughter's strategy also sounds like something for me to potentially try, with some planning, since there are a significant amount of middle class pensioners in my local area.

Loner, thanks - I'm glad I'm not coming across as awkward on here! I think some of my perceived awkwardness probably comes from shyness/low-key social anxiety around some areas, but some is probably actual awkwardness, as there's been numerous times in the past I've said something and had everyone interpret it completely differently to how I meant it, and also I know I have a tendency to forget to make eye contact or use people's names when I'm in person, and other things like that. I tend to come across significantly better in writing, because I have time to think about what I'm going to say, and also you can't see my body language. I think I have already made significant improvements in my in-person social skills (and therefore reduced awkwardness) since I first started trying to learn about the topic, but I'm pretty sure I could still improve. I'll definitely check out the body language channel, thanks for that.

With the generosity aspect, I will try some things out and see what works, and also maybe see if I can find any further reading that's specifically about generosity.

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