During my five months in Encinitas last winter, I enjoyed getting to know dozens of people from the spiritual community that drew me there as well as from the surrounding area. Now that I’m back in Encinitas after spending the summer in Minnesota, I feel like it’s time to step up my efforts and expand my network exponentially. I want to feel even more connected to this community, and the best way to do that is to authentically connect to the people who live here. I’m excited about that because I truly enjoy meeting new people, building relationships, and interacting with these new friends when I’m out and about.
So, starting two weeks ago when I arrived in L.A. for the Self-Realization Fellowship World Convocation, I decided to be fearless. When I went to the lobby restaurant to eat, I asked people sitting alone if they wanted to remain alone or if they wanted some company. I made a point to go alone to the lectures and classes and sit next to devotees I didn’t know. I struck up conversations with people in elevators, the hotel gym and event areas. Granted, these were all members of SRF, but I still felt like I was venturing outside my comfort zone. Initially, that is. WIth every person I met, the more comfortable I felt introducing myself to the next.
Reaching out to others like that was tremendously rewarding. Instead of sitting by myself at dinner or classes, I met interesting people and heard interesting stories. It’s all too easy to go to weeklong conferences like that and feel fairly isolated in the midst of thousands of people. No thank you. I want to feel connected. I want to feel plugged in. I want to feel like I’m an integral part of things.
I’ve been back in Encinitas for less than a week, but I’m continuing to be fearless in meting new people. It’s tremendously rewarding and I’m more excited than ever to be here. And guess what? People are genuinely happy when you reach out and make an effort to know them. When you turn to someone in line or someone sitting next to you in a restaurant, smile genuinely and ask how they’re doing, almost everybody lights up and opens up.
If you’d like to expand your social network, try a little fearlessness. When you think about it, what is there to be fearful about? Ninety percent of the time, people will be happy to talk to you, and the few who would rather keep to themselves are not going to bonk you over the head with an umbrella. Sure, you may experience an awkward moment or two, but those will just be blips on the radar screen that you’ll quickly forget because you’ve got so many new acquaintances to interact with. If you want to add more fun and friendship to your life, all it takes is four magic words:
Hi, my name is . . .