One of my friends’ daughter recently qualified in the medical field, and was starting her practice from scratch in Cape Town. She was finding that being young, inexperienced, and in a new town made it particularly difficult. Fortunately for her, she is outgoing and bubbly, and so finds it easy to make friends and extend her new professional network. In fact, she is finding that almost all her success had been through her contacts.
The power of networks is well known, particularly in this technologically connected age. Social media has made it easy to connect to other people and to have many “friends”.
It turns out that there are three types of connections in your social networks, which you need for coping with tough times and being resilient. Firstly, there are strong connections, which are your personal friends. Then there are weak connections, which are those people that you know, but you don’t have regular contact with them. And finally there are those connections you don’t know, but are known by your contacts.
Strong connections with your personal friends are understandably really important. Doubling the number of these friends increases happiness levels by as much as 50%!
But surprisingly your weak connections and even those people you don’t know but are known by your contacts, can have a profound influence on you. Studies have found that people 2 or 3 connections removed from yourself, can have very important impacts on our lifestyle, emotions and even the choices you make.
Take for example happiness or sadness. Emotions spread though social networks. It apparently works just like a flu virus would, travelling from person to person. The scientists who study this call it “social contagion”. Even something physical like wellness and obesity has been shown to spread dramatically through social networks, and so you are more likely to be overweight if your connections are also overweight.
So Facebook friends may be more important than first thought!
What should all this mean to you? There are two implications for you to do real networking that builds your resilience:
- The first implication is appreciating that your connections and social relationships are important in good times to enhance and nourish your sense of meaning and relatedness. But they are perhaps even more important during tough times. That’s when you may need to ask for help and assistance, as well as coach and give help to others.
So nurture your close connections to those people who are meaningful to you, such as your loved ones and close colleagues. This will help you build up “credits” in your resilience bank account which you can call upon during tough times. It acts as your internal buffering resources.
- The other implication is that you should be kinder than necessary to everyone you meet. The old saying of “what goes round, comes round” turns out to be absolutely true. Your weak connections, extending to the people that you may not even know, may just be the people who can assist you in the next phase of your life.
So be generous and kind to a fault. It feels good and meets a deep need we all have as humans. In the long run, kindness could actually benefit you …….. and eventually even all of society.
Now those are really great reasons to do real networking to build and use your contacts and networks! They will help you bounce back from tough times and be resilient.