Photo by Laughing Squid
The stereotype is that geeks spend too much time sitting at home in front of a computer, and not enough time interacting with other people. But did you know that being a geek actually makes it easy to get out there and meet new friends?
Contrary to public opinion, geeks have many skills that translate well in the social arena. We’ll cover this in the next section.
Then in the following sections, we’ll get geeky about what relationships really are and how to create new friendships productively.
Embrace the 4 Geek Skills that Make for Great Socializing
1. Obsession: Geeks are obsessed about their PC’s and other gadgets. The general notion is that geeks would rather spend time with their toys than with actual people. But everyone is obsessive about something in their life. Maybe instead of iPhone apps it’s football, shoes, or scuba diving. Everyone has a passion whether they admit it or not. Geeks just embrace their passion more than the average person (which is why it’s viewed as obsession).
When you embrace your passions obsessively, it helps you connect with others who share your interests. It also helps you appreciate others’ passions. And it makes it easier for people to open up to you because they see how passionate you are about life.
2. Technical Savvy: Being technically oriented gives you an advantage in conversations. This is because technology is such a talked-about topic, as everyone has to use it at some point during the day. What’s more, people increasingly turn to their computers to accomplish things beyond work — staying in touch with others, socializing, and having fun.
Technology is often scary and confusing for the average person. But for you, it’s no big deal, and you can use that to your advantage. When you’re knowledgeable about technology, people ask you questions. You can help solve their problems and give them advice. You can recommend products and services, or educate them more about the bigger picture. All of this builds trust and likability.
3. Intellect: Intellect often intimidates people because they’re not used to being so engaged with their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. But intellect is just another form of passion — such that you think deeply about the things that matter to you (even if comes down to splitting hairs). People might not overtly aspire to be more intellectual, but deep down they do appreciate it and wish they could be more intellectual about the things that matter to them.
You can help other better articulate the things that they’re passionate about because it comes so easy for you. You can also use your intellectual nature to better understand social interaction and relationships, which we’ll get to in the following sections.
4. Introversion: Successful geeks have developed world-changing technologies and empires and received a lot of positive attention despite their shyness. But did you know that introversion is actually good for social interaction? Here’s how:
- Being alone gives you more time to know who you are. You need to know who you are, what you need, and what you can offer in a relationship in order to make the best of it.
- Solitude gives you the space to take care of yourself, and self-care is essential for any relationship with another person. If you don’t take good care of yourself, it’s unrealistic to expect that you can care for others. Or to expect others to care for you.
- Being shy is just a form of self-protection. It’s not healthy or ideal to open up to everyone you meet or trust people unconditionally. Friendships take time to grow; shyness is a natural way to avoid rushing things. In other words, being shy means that you don’t trust people too soon.
- Being shy means you have a sense of boundaries. You don’t impose yourself upon others when it’s inappropriate, and you get uncomfortable when others do so to you. For any relationship to thrive, each person needs to respect the other person’s boundaries so that they can find their common ground and form a healthy give and take (which is what relationships are all about).
Now that you have a better grasp of how your geek skills help you interact with others, let’s look at the six steps for applying these skills — to get out there and meet new people!
Step 1: Get Clear On What You’re Looking for in a Friend
Photo by Don Solo
It’s unproductive to meet new people for the sake of inflating your Facebook friend count or to simply pass the time. The whole point of getting out there and meeting new people is so that you can make good friends who enrich your life and remain an important part of it.
In order to make good friends, you have to know what to look for and what to avoid.
Utilize Your Obsession: The things you are obsessed about have a lot to do with what you value in life. Maybe you’re obsessed with WordPress because you like stating your mind for all to see. Maybe you’re obsessed with Chrome for its minimalism. Trace your obsessions back to what you truly value in life. Make a list if it helps. A good friend will probably have a similar list. At bare minimum, they will respect yours.
Utilize Your Technical Savvy: When people let technology take over their lives, they risk losing their most important relationships. In his essay The End of Solitude, William Deresiewicz talks about a major drawback of interconnectedness made possible by the web: lack of genuine connection. So be sure to use technology to genuinely connect to others.
Utilize Your Intellect: A good friend is someone you can really talk to. Someone who won’t make fun of you (maliciously, that is) for your geeky side, but will appreciate that part of you. A good friend is someone who can hold their own in a conversation with you..
Utilize Your Introversion: If you’re not completely sure of what you’re looking for in a friend, it’s best to admit this. Take your time to observe others and pay attention to what you appreciate in those around you. Also, it’s important to remember that as you change, what you look for in a friend might also change. Don’t be shy about this; it’s a natural part of life.
Step 2: Remain Confident
After you’ve gotten clear on what you’re looking for in a friend, it’s important to remember that you have a lot to offer in a friendship. Self-confidence is not something you attain; it’s a decision you make. You need to remain confident at all times if you are to leave a good impression and connect with others successfully.
Utilize Your Obsession: Pull up a text editor and create two columns with the right one slightly wider than the left. List all your obsessions in the left column. (Remember, these are just passions that you act on.) List out the benefits and/or value of each one, in the right column. Print out that list, and keep it close. Whenever you’re feeling down or uncertain about yourself, refer to that right column. It will remind you of your strengths and talents, and what makes you unique.
Utilize Your Technical Savvy: Your technical savvy is one of your obsessions. The next time you find yourself following the latest iPhone controversy, take a moment to note why the discussion is an important one. As well as why you’re knowledgeable/thoughtful/engaged/productive for staying up-to-date. Add this to the list that you created from above.
Utilize Your Intellect: Communication forms the basis of relationships. Good communication requires two core ingredients, intellect and honesty. Your intellect gets you halfway there.
Utilize Your Introversion: Solitude builds confidence because the more comfortable you are with yourself, the more comfortable you’ll be with others. So don’t be afraid to be alone, because it helps you relate to others.
Step 3: Scope Out Opportunities to Meet New People
Photo by Laughing Squid
It’s relatively easy to find new ways to met new people once you know (a) what you’re looking for, and (b) what you have to offer. The first opportunities to scope out ideally involve (a) people who would make good friends, and (b) activities that give you the chance to show what you have to offer.
Scoping out good opportunities also means crossing out the opportunities which are likely counter-productive to making new friends. People usually go to bars and dance clubs to hook up for a one-night encounter, not to make lasting connections. So when scoping out opportunities to meet new people, keep track of the dead-ends.
Utilize Your Obsession: Start out by visiting the places that you can’t wait to visit. Is there a video game convention in your city? Do you live by Comic-con? Is your local book store holding a book signing by your favorite sci-fi author? Enthusiasm is infectious. When you’re already in your element, people will gravitate toward you. And you’ll be comfortable and relaxed talking with others about the things you love.
Utilize Your Technical Savvy: A great way to find local events is through social networks, including meet-up sites. Keep tabs on your favorite websites’ Facebook and Twitter updates — their fans and some of the admins might be having a meet-up nearby. Browse your favorite forums for leads on local events, as well as member meet-ups. The web makes it easy for organizations and individuals to plan group events, which also makes it easy for you to join.
Utilize Your Intellect: After you’ve gone to several places that speak directly to your passions, it’s time to scope out secondary opportunities. They may not be as exciting but they can be just as rewarding, if not more.
Make a table with five columns and at least ten rows to start out with. Title: the first column, “Location/Event;” the second column, “Hosted by;” the third column, “Appeal;” the fourth column, “Mindset of Visitors,” and the fifth column, “What I Might Gain by Going.”
Then start to fill in the rows. You can start out with locations/events, or you can start from another column and work your way back to naming a location/event.
Here are some basic venues to start with:
- Community park events
- Restaurant gatherings
- Wine tasting
- Book signings/readings/clubs
- Interest Clubs
- Volunteer organizations
- Blow-out sales
- Cultural gatherings
- Community college classes
When you populate your list, be sure to compare and contrast. For instance, a concert is a place where people go to enjoy music and relax. It’s different from a Star Trek exhibit where people go to grok their favorite characters and learn more about the production. What both events have in common is that the people in attendance are open to new experience and receptive to meeting new people. When you get familiar with these nuances, you’ll be better prepared for what to expect and how to relate to others, given their mindset and what they’re interested in doing.
Utilize Your Introversion: If you’re shy about going to a new place or event, get in touch with that feeling. Figure out what makes you reluctant. Now imagine yourself at the venue. How could a stranger help break the ice? What would make you more comfortable warming up? What works for you might also work for other shy people in attendance. If you’re honest about your shyness, it actually helps you break the ice.
Step 4: Show Up Prepared And Show That You Care
When you decide on which venue to explore, be sure to bring your best game. First impressions leave a lasting mark because they’re usually accurate. If you show up to an event nervous and unsure of yourself, it’s likely because you don’t think people will like you or appreciate what you have to offer. And if you do lack that self-confidence, you will have less to offer in a friendship. So pay attention to the first impression you leave; it says a lot about what’s really going on.
To make a good first impression, you simply need to complete Steps #1-5 first. Once you do, you’ll naturally be confident and have a good idea of what to expect at the venue. Here are more tips on how to make a good impression and show that you really care.
Utilize Your Obsession: It’s good to talk about your obsessions when meeting new people — but only in the right context. Only mention your Battlestar Galactica trading card collection if it weaves naturally into the conversation. And only go into great detail about each card and how you obtained it if the other person asks and seems genuinely interested. If you talk about your obsessions when the other person isn’t receptive, it can backfire on your first impression.
Utilize Your Technical Savvy: Don’t be shy about sharing what you know about the technical set-up at a particular venue. Don’t be shy about answering someone’s question that you hear two feet away from where you’re standing. Do it with tact (and know when to back off), and it might spark an interesting conversation.
Utilize Your Intellect: It’s never a good idea to show off your intellect. In fact, it’s better to get the other person to show off theirs. People like to talk about themselves (especially the ladies) and know that others care to listen. Engage with people you’re interested in, but avoid making the conversation all about you and what you know. Plus, you might learn something new.
Utilize Your Introversion: Shyness is a form of courtesy; you don’t impose on others and only add to the conversation when it’s meaningful. The most basic tenet for meeting new people is courtesy, which is a form of respect, as well as the foundation for any lasting relationship. There are several ways to show courtesy when meeting new people, but the most basic is by not expecting anything from them. Don’t expect them to remember how to say your name, to ask for you email, or to be interested in what you have to say.
When you truly have self-confidence at all times, you won’t need anything from anyone. In fact, the people that could care less about what you’re talking about — you’ll know in an instant that they’re not worth it. Instead, you’ll spend your time looking for people who can’t wait to hear what you have to say next.
Step 5: Know When To Call It A Day or Night
A big part of meeting new people without expectations is to know when to call it a day, or call it a night. Don’t expect for the interaction to go on longer than it naturally does. Instead, head home when it feels time to end the activity or simply recharge.
The key to a balanced social life is not letting it take over other areas of your life. Socializing is something that enhances your life; it can’t take away from work or sleep and still be something good for you.
Utilize Your Obsession: It might seem counter-intuitive to call it a day or night when you’re having so much fun, but it makes sense to end an activity earlier rather than later. That’s because at the end of the day, you still have obligations at home. And you need to get back to work feeling refreshed and productive. While work can be boring, remember that the more productive you are at work, the more time you’ll have to socialize and meet new people.
Utilize Your Technical Savvy: When leaving a venue, transition into a smooth goodbye. Make the other person feel good about having spent some with you. Thank them for a good time, compliment them, or thank them for something more specific — like a good tip they gave you, some fresh perspective they offered, or a funny joke they shared.
Utilize Your Intellect: When you get home, recall the events of the day or night, and reflect on what you think went well, and if needed, what you think didn’t. Get some perspective on how you might do things differently next time. Meeting new people is an ongoing practice and you can always learn from the past to better prepare for new experiences.
Utilize Your Introversion: When you get back home, put the day or night’s events into perspective. Going out and meeting new people should ultimately improve your life in some way. It should ultimately renew your inspiration, motivate you stay true to your passions, and keep you focused on doing good work. It’s just as much about your personal development as it is about other people.
Make New Connections Regularly
Photo by thinkpanama
When you start to use your geek skills to get out there and meet new people, you’ll find that socializing comes easy. And instead of getting out there where other people are, you’ll notice that people naturally gravitate toward you.
Apply your geek skills to make new connections regularly throughout your day when the opportunity arises. In fact, the best way to meet new people is to get to know those you encounter in a normal day. Chances are that if you’re working in the same building, going to the same school, eating at the same restaurant, or seeing the same movie — you have a lot in common. Use that to your advantage.
Embrace Your Inner Geek And Have Some Fun
As a productive geek, all your hard work pays off when you get some vacation time, as well as more free time. So utilize your geek skills to build up a network of friends that you’ll want to spend time with. Overall, your life will be more rewarding.
Melissa Karnaze is an experimental psychology masters student. She's interested in how we can use technology with greater mindfulness, writes about emotional productivity at Mindful Construct, and loves how the web is changing the world.
- Published 08/17/10