Expanding Your Circle

I’ve noticed a lot of friends grumbling about how they’re not meeting anyone interesting lately.  While often times, this is in a very social context; I see it happening a lot in business too.  Especially with young professionals.

It’s a strange time of life, this twenty-thirtysomething period.  Especially if you’re single.
So many things run through your head about where you are, where you’re headed, who you’re with (or not with), what you should be doing, achieving, what kind of people you should be hanging around.

Those “I should” voices in your head can really mess with your life and career choices.

Your social and career status has a lot to do with your environment and the influences you’re exposed to on a regular basis.  If you’re not happy with where you are, shake things up.  Meeting new people and expanding your social circle is so much easier than most people think.

First, let’s look at a problem.  Just imagine yourself living in a bubble.  (Because we all sort of are to some extent).  Everyone you know and interact with is in that bubble of yours.  How often do you step or reach beyond it?  Talk to someone outside?  Go somewhere foreign?  Engage with groups outside of that bubble?  If you do this all the time, then this is more an issue for your friends than for you, but there’s a real opportunity here for all of us.  If you’re one of those people who live safely in that bubble of yours – see the same people, do the same things, over and over and over – you’re really missing out.  On so much.

Living a life confined to set boarders, whether a 10 foot cell block or a metropolitan lifestyle with the same dozen or so people surrounding you everyday, is totally limiting you.  If you’re happy with it all, by all means, stick to what’s working!  But if you’re not, if you’re asking yourself all those questions above about why you’re not where you want to be, it’s time to start making some changes now.

Here are a few tips.  I’ve been helping a few friends with this lately, so I am talking from seriously fresh experience.  And please keep in mind, if you’re not the one who needs to get outside your own bubble more, think about helping your friends out by leveraging your own charm and social fearlessness!

1.    Look at the patterns you’re stuck in. Where are you typically going?  What are you doing?  Who with?

2.    Consider what’s been stopping you from venturing beyond. Be brutally honest with yourself.  Is it fear, lack of confidence? Not knowing were else to go or what to do?

3.    Think about your objectives. What do you want to achieve by expanding your circle?  New clients, better connections, more friends, more interesting activities, find the love of your life, just have some fun?  Use your answers to focus your efforts on new opportunities that are most likely to surround you with the right type of people.

4.    Consider all the places these people you’d like to spend more time around spend their time. From coffee shops, to restaurants, to stores, to athletic spots, conferences, etc. Pop in.  Get yourself there.  Bring a friend if you need to for confidence.  Most of these places are no big deal to just walk into and sit down.

5.    Start talking to new people everywhere you go. Smile more.  Open yourself up to conversations with strangers (just not creepy ones!) Notice your body language.  Sometimes just your shoulder placement, direction of your head, angling of your body can send off strong signals to others that say “stay away” or “come say hi”.  Don’t shut yourself off from outsiders.  Start engaging more.

6.    Be strategic too. Mingle, bump into, plant yourself by interesting looking people intentionally.  Then do all the things I just mentioned above.

7.    Find a great wingman or wingwoman. Not just for prospective dates either!  I do this with friends all the time.  The shy ones to tell me who they want to meet and I go make it happen.  It’s just happens to be easy for me.  But I would never know to offer “my services” if friends didn’t open up to me about this in the first place.  A lot of people are actually so much more timid than they look! Trust me, you’re not alone.

8.    Talk to some friends and colleagues who are super connected and social and outgoing. Tell them in confidence what you’re thinking, feeling, craving.  Enlist their help.  Tell them you want to meet new people, do new things, and expand your circle.  Explain your objectives.  Ask to spend more time with them and their world.

9.    Start finding pockets of people, new venues, events, social and professional groups that you find intriguing. Find an excuse to go!  Check them out.  Wander in.  “Act as if” you belong there as much as anyone else.  Don’t feel like an outsider.

10.    Stop saying “no” to new and different. Embrace them.  Start thinking about these little exploratory expeditions into adventures.  Some will be strange or duds, but others will be interesting and even wonderful.  It’s all good though when you’re expanding your circle and engaging with the outside world more.

Try it out.  Let me know what you find.  Or how you’re helping friends out.  I’d love to hear your own experiences!

Jennifer Kushell is the Founder of YSN.com – Your Success Network, the place for tools, insights, and inspiration for success in your life & career.

Does the idea of expanding your circle scare you because you don’t know where to start? Check out YSN’s Fast Track to Success Programto help you discover where you want to go, who you need to meet, and how to move quickly along the way to success!