Author Topic: Unplanned social interactions  (Read 748 times)

mikescepaniak

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Unplanned social interactions
« on: July 04, 2018, 10:10:56 AM »
In reading MMM's most recent blog post, his comment about the importance of "unplanned social interactions" got me thinking:
Quote
According to people who actually study this stuff, the key to a really happy community and warmer friendships seems to be unplanned social interactions: you need to run into people unexpectedly every day, and then do fun stuff with them.

In the past, I've read discussions (both here and elsewhere) where people ask for- and give advice on how to foster friendships later in life. While housing would appear to be an important factor, so is lifestyle and what you choose to prioritize in your life. As is typical of others, I've been guilty of scheduling and squeezing friendship time into my life, to whatever degree that work, love, and family commitments would allow. But, now that the FIRE phase of my life is (hopefully) here, I'm looking to change that.

Over the course of the past 6 - 12 months, I've taken a few steps. I've been reaching out to existing friends and scheduling lunches/meet-ups/etc. And I've made a concerted effort to shrink my world, focusing on neighbors and others in close(r) proximity. But, I don't feel that those efforts have yet to catch fire. They're all very planned (by me) and structured. And so, I wonder...

Given the make-up of this community - of early retirees who find inspiration in the life philosophy taught by MMM - who here has found success in reversing the pre-FIRE pattern of withering friendships? Did you have to move to make that happen? Did you start "from scratch" or, rather, go back to previous friendships with non-FIRE types and strengthen them? Did it require joining/paying into something like the MMM HQ? I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts. Thanks.

rxfish

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2018, 11:58:37 AM »
I don't have the advice you are looking for as I am a 25 year old about to graduate grad school and start my career. However, that quote from the latest blog post really stuck with me. The happiest moments in life are usually when unplanned social interactions come about/feeling of belonging to a quality community (and not having to drive so far or schedule appointments). I am craving this situation and looking into where I should move upon graduation.

Moustachienne

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2018, 06:22:43 PM »
I definitely squeezed my friendship time while I was working, coasting on the friendships I'd developed earlier in my life.  It helps that I'm back in the city where I went to high school and university.

I had a lot of casual acquaintances through work, from colleagues to the lady in the snack shop who missed me when I didn't buy my daily Pocky sticks.  :)

In retirement I'm trying to spend more time with deeper friends, hanging out but also doing things together, e.g. taking courses together.

I've noticed that the more group things I get involved in, the more new casual acquaintances I'm making.  Volunteer work, courses, fitness classes.  I like to keep these local but even in my biggish city, I love how I run into people everywhere. 

On an individual basis, I have a number of people I see once or twice a year to catch up over lunch or coffee.  Very enjoyable.


Thanks for posting this question!  It was helpful to think through how and why I'm creating and maintaining connections of different types.

Moustachienne

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2018, 06:32:02 PM »
And to answer your question more specifically, I'm generating a lot of the connections but I feel there's reciprocity too. I'm strengthening old friendships and developing new ones.  I think of it as "layering". :)

I think we do have to take an active role in all this but there does seem to be a tipping point where it does seem to be "natural".  Last week I bumped into an acquaintance I hadn't seen for several years and she invited me to a catch up dinner. It is nice to be the invitee!

mikescepaniak

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2018, 10:00:55 AM »
Thanks for the responses. Right now, I'm focusing on current friends, rotating through them and inviting them to meet up every few weeks/months. While they all seem very appreciative of my efforts and eager to do it again, few/none of them have yet to step up and reciprocate. It comes down to me to circle back around and reach out again. While I'm OK with being "the organizer", that pattern doesn't smack of true, deep friendship to me. So, I suspect that I'm going to eventually end up looking for new "candidates". Fortunately, retirement is fresh enough to me that I'm still very busy and happy wallowing in my wonderful free time. So, I have time to let my current approach play out.

I'd love to hear other people's experiences in this area, though.

Malkynn

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2018, 08:59:31 AM »
I moved around in my 20s and did a lot of school, so I have very few friendships from before I started working as a professional in my 30s. The majority of my current friendships are new within the past 5 years, so all have been built while working as a very busy professional.

I find it super easy to meet and make friends, and I don't really try to schedule too much. I tend to try and just keep in touch with them regularly and frequently invite people out for last minute things. I just simply refuse to move into this middle-aged, overly organized friendship kind of paradigm when I really like a more fluid, spontaneous, low-key kind of socializing.

The key for us has been to maintain a lot of open communication with our friends beyond getting together with them. We send them messages, articles, funny photos of our cat. We generally just try and keep the communication steady, which makes spontaneity a lot more natural.

DH's closest friend just texted him asking where to buy a nice shirt for a date, and I grabbed the phone and sent back a message saying "meet me at the Moroccan restaurant for lunch and shopping, and we'll do some date planning. DH is busy and I'm better at this stuff.".
I had a ton of work lined up for today, but I would much rather spend my afternoon helping a recently divorced friend get back into the dating world.

Friendships in school were easy to maintain because people naturally stayed in constant contact and didn't disappear into their little isolated personal world bubbles. Most plans were last minute plans, most conversations were just natural extensions of shared experiences. I try to maintain that kind of open, free-flow interaction with my friends even when I don't get to see them too often. I find that my friends with kids really appreciate this because they easily feel trapped and isolated needing a babysitter to be able to socialize, but when I stay in constant contact, it's easy for me to pop by their house for tea/wine, or meet up with one parent while they're out and about, and it takes the scheduling pressure off of them.

I have one set of parent friends whom I almost never see together outside of their home. Their special needs son is extremely difficult to get care for, so they rarely go out together and when they do, it's for a date just the two of them. They find it almost impossible to schedule social time with most of their friends, but I will try and visit them on their terms. Mom and I will go grocery shopping together and take our time chatting and picking out tomatoes. Or, I've met up with dad and kept him company in waiting rooms while his son gets speech therapy/OT/medical care, etc. We fit our friendship into the little spaces that life provides which would otherwise be boring.

Lastly, I just try to do a lot of not boring things. "I have 3 bottles of champagne in a cooler back pack and a backgammon board. I'm heading out to a tree fort overlooking a waterfall. If you want to join me, bring a cup." tends to lure people out of their respective hovels a lot better than the basic "let's grab dinner sometime."

If you want friendships like you had when you were younger, then you need to identify what structured those friendships that way and find strategies to mimic those social forces.

Vasilisa

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Re: Unplanned social interactions
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2018, 02:39:29 PM »
Thanks for posting about this- it was something that had me thinking too!

I'm not FIREd but am living the unplanned social interaction dream- I live in a small mobile home community with some great neighbors, in a downtown area with some family within walking/biking distance. I tend to bump into people I know several times a day and it is awesome.

We share some community garden projects with neighbors which is great unplanned social time- you head out to check on your plants and an hour later you've swapped plants, produce or just neighborhood gossip.

I volunteer on a local nonprofit board (also within walking distance for most meetings) and often run into staff/board members/volunteers and it's great to catch up and hear about the latest events. @Moustachienne I completely agree- the more things I have been involved with, the greater number of casual acquaintances I have in town to bump into! Garden club, Parks and Rec classes, neighborhood emergency response team, local committees, all of those have been great social connectors for me.

Our neighbors have "scrappy potlucks" (a misquote of this article https://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/blogs/in-priase-scruffy-hospitality ) which takes the pressure off having a perfect house or 8 course dinners. It's given us an opportunity to get together more frequently with less stress.

I have had success posting and organizing in the local MMM meet-up forum. I've hosted some game nights/potlucks and currently we are organizing some hikes with local, like-valued peeps.

It does take effort to make those plans with friends and follow through. I have a couple friends who I encourage to get in touch when they're in the neighborhood- let's schedule a last minute walk or other plans and that's worked well for us both. I do find naming a specific plan or place to be helpful. Let's attend the free concert on this date, sort of thing. @Malkynn love your idea with the tree house and the waterfall- I'm in! ha!

I recently read about your choice to choose what you're struggling with- to me, making the effort to continually reach out to friends (even if I'm initiating most of the time) is worth it. Good luck in your process!
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"