If you’re making new year’s resolutions, I’d like to recommend you start 2017 with a different ambition than the typical “lose 10 pounds” or “quit smoking.”
Make this the year you value your relationships.
Why? A New York Times article headlined, “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us,” said in part:
- Party pointers from a hostess who learned later in life
- Pointers on hosting simple weekday suppers
- How my 40th birthday party changed my life OR why living room shows are amazing
Become a regular at a bar or coffee shop near you
Socializing at home isn’t the only option, of course. You can enjoy a bar, cafe, coffee shop or other gathering place near you.
Ray Oldenburg wrote a book called The Great Good Place in 1989 that spoke of the “third place” — someplace that’s not home and not work, but another spot where you connect with your community. Going to your third place isn’t just about scheduling a date to meet people you already know but about chatting with whoever’s there.
That means putting down your phone, making eye contact and opening yourself up to strangers.
The development of the individual depends on meeting people from different walks of life, and getting to know them. That’s good for the individual, and it’s good for the community. Coffee shops are great, and bars are great — they offer an edge because of what you consume, and you can relax and warm up to other people.
We feel fortunate to have fallen deeply in love with a cocktail bar a block from our apartment. It’s a place where we go to celebrate as well as to sulk or mourn, and where we feel welcomed and cared for, more like family than customers.
It’s the first time in our lives we truly feel like regulars someplace. It took trial and error to find the right place and to connect beyond a simple business transaction.
Here’s some of what worked for us in finding our local:
- We went to several places in our neighborhood early in the evening on weeknights
- We sat at the bar and talked with bartenders, asking them what they like to make and what’s good on the menu
- When we found a bartender we liked, we’d ask his or her name and when he or she works. For us, a good bar experience is about how we’re treated and that varies greatly from person to person so we don’t just go to a place, we seek out an individual who gives us a good experience.
My husband, John Tebeau, is writing a book about 50 great New York bars, not places with the very best cocktails or the hippest places, but bars that are beloved gathering places.
Visiting dozens of bars to scout them for his book has given us copious practice engaging with barkeeps and regulars, and as someone who used to find sitting at the bar intimidating, I can tell you that the more you do it, the easier it gets. I’ve learned to read the body language of patrons open to chatting and to gauge when a bartender has time to socialize versus needing to focus on the task at hand. Like hosting parties, it gets easier the more you do it.
Bring a social element to something you’d do anyway
Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Ann Arbor institution Zingerman’s, taught a webinar on time management last year that was beautifully philosophical — it wasn’t about shoehorning more productivity into each day but about living well by prioritizing how we spend our time.
One of the practical pointers Ari gave was to combine priorities so he can accomplish more things he values simultaneously.
For example, if you want to exercise and you want to socialize, work out with a friend. My husband, John, had a standing racquetball date with a co-worker twice a week when we lived in Ann Arbor. That’s part of why we’re still friends with his racquetball partner, Bob, two decades later.
I once read about two moms who swapped helping each other clean. They’d both spend an hour cleaning one family’s house, talking as they did it, then they’d switch to the other house. It turned a grudge task into bonding time.
What do you do — or what would you like to do — that could work as a social activity?
Make it a priority to show people you love them
I hear a lot of people, especially in go-go-go New York City, saying they just don’t have time to socialize. They work long hours, wrapped in a long commute on each side, then maybe they have the demands of parenting waiting at home.
I get that you might already feel you don’t have enough hours in the day, and squeezing in a brunch date sounds more stressful than relaxing.
But if you value your relationships, can you prioritize maintaining those connections enough to make time? Is there something you’re doing that you could ditch to make room for friendships, or could you make better use of downtime? Can you combine socializing with another activity, like Ari suggests?
I have one friend with a high powered job who leaves substantive voicemails, so I feel connected even if we didn’t get to chat. Another friend who travels a lot sends thoughtful texts about something happening on the trip or something that reminded him of me. A successful business owner friend routinely leaves cheerful comments on my Facebook posts. They’ve found ways to fit connection into their busy lives.
John and I spend a few hours every couple of weekends calling and writing people we love. We send postcards and texts as we drink our coffee. We value this enough that we schedule it in our shared Google calendar.
Making a resolution? Here are some past posts about how to make them stick:
- Resolve to do less
- Reblog from Zen Habits: The Child That Holds Us Back
- You don’t need a new plan — a reblog from Chris Brogan
- Christine Kane: How to Create Anything (Even When You’re Scared, Inexperienced and Don’t Believe in Yourself)
- Do you plan your life with the same diligence as a work project?
- Are you making a new year’s resolution?
- Making resolutions you can keep
- What makes resolutions achievable?
- Let’s call them goals instead of resolutions
- Focusing on one change at a time for two months each
- HBR: Developing rituals can help achieve your goals
- Be careful what you wish for: setting goals you’re sure you want
- How do you achieve what you want?