Assess the Strength of Weak Ties
When it comes to cleaning up your life or moving on to your next promotion, you probably rely on your friends or family members for support, advice, and support. But, as Mag Joy writes in The Defining Decade , you’d better turn to an old colleague or an online acquaintance if you really want to broaden your horizons and move forward.
Most people limit their social interactions to a handful of like-minded people, their “urban tribe” they depend on for travel to the airport and a shoulder to cry on after a breakup. But for real progress, we need to accept the so-called weak ties, “which will quickly and dramatically change our lives for the better.”
Weak ties are people we have met or are in some way connected, but are currently new to each other. Maybe these are neighbors with whom we rarely talk, or neighbors with whom we only greet. We all have acquaintances with whom we want to date, but never meet, and friends with whom we lost touch many years ago.
It is these people — old professors, employers, and the like — that “will be the most transformative” because they are not like us.
As Joy explains, we often have too much in common with our strong bonds – our friends and family, for example – to offer us “more than empathy.” Often our experiences are so similar that they cannot help us with difficult careers or relationship problems. And since you most likely have the same interests and disinterests, these close connections can limit your horizons and what you think.
On the other hand, weak ties “know things and people we don’t know. Information and opportunity travels farther and faster through weak ties because weak ties have fewer overlapping contacts. ” We do not assume that they think the same things as we do, or they like the same things that we do, so we are more thoughtful when we talk to them. “Whether we’re talking about career ideas or love, we need to be more fully expressive of our position,” Joy writes. “In this way, weak ties promote, and sometimes even force, thoughtful growth and change.”
And, as Joy writes, accepting weak ties also makes us feel lonely. Although we think of our friends as our community, daily contact with only a limited number of people can be isolating. We begin to feel disconnected from the larger world. Asking your old boss for career or life advice can make the world more manageable.
If you are worried that your weak connections will find you strange or presumptuous to approach them, people love it when he helps you. Just remember, you don’t want to waste someone else’s time, especially if they are older and more affluent (i.e., more busy) than you. So, as Joy writes, when you ask for a letter of recommendation or to meet someone in your industry, “Make yourself interesting. Make yourself relevant. Do your homework so you know exactly what you want or need. Then, respectfully ask for it. “
And always be in charge of the service.