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Making Friends in Digital Nomadic Life (Part 1 / 2)
Digital nomadic life often means traveling to amazing places, but often missing out on friendships.
An English bulldog and his owner are in line at a coffee shop. The bulldog sniffs around a radius that is as long as his leash. Eventually, the bulldog circles his way to the customer behind, and the customer politely pets the dog admiring his well-tamed behavior.
The customer says to the dog owner, “that’s a well-behaved dog. What is the name?”
The owner responds, “Blue. Because when he was born, he had blue-ash gray fur. But he’s grown out of most of the blue now.”
The owner pets his bulldog on his side belly and talks to him. “You good, Blue? You feeling good?!” The owner addresses the customer again, “we just arrived into town from Massachusetts. We’ll be living here now.”
What started as a pet-friendly encounter in line at a coffee shop became a 20-minute conversation, and the brewing of two new friends.
In the Facebook Group, Digital Nomads, which boasts a community size of 61K members, a member posted a poll titled ‘what is your biggest challenge as a digital nomad?’
After 160 votes and 14 choices, the two top challenges were finding friends and feeling lonely. Inarguably, these two challenges are closely linked. Find a tribe of friends and there is a greater likelihood to minimize the feeling of loneliness.
Making friends in a digital world introduces its own set of challenges. The virtual world of Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, FB Messenger, Google Hangouts, Viber, and other telecommunication services have proved to be extremely beneficial while simultaneously making us lazy in our interpersonal skills.
Interpersonal skills is the ability to have a conversation where listening, empathizing, articulating and debating are necessary to have and maintain meaningful friendships. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, 20 years old or 40, man or woman, these skills need to be practiced which takes a lot of time and effort. In comparison, the virtual world permits us to communicate when it’s “most convenient.” As digital nomads move from the virtual world to the physical world, the interpersonal skills are not translating, and this is inhibiting the ability to make new friends.
Here are 4 rules of thumb to make new friends:
1. The Meaningful Observation
The meaningful observation takes notice of something interesting and adds your personal taste to it. For instance, in the coffee shop scenario above, the customer makes a meaningful observation of the dog’s behavior, which is interpreted as a proxy of the good job of a dog owner’s training.
Take mental note of something interesting about the person, be ready to express your thoughts, and ask a leading question.
Whether you are searching online or you are in-person, find something interesting about the person and ask a leading question. A leading question is common in the field of law where a lawyer interrogates a witness and makes a statement that frames and precedes the question. Naturally, tone and delivery will be friendlier since you are not in a court of law.
2. Mini and Multiple Rejections.
A ‘no response’ to your online message, no reciprocating of the conversation, or a literal ‘no’ are forms of rejection that go hand-in-hand with making new friends. These rejections are small, but many.
But, stay the course. Every rejection leads you one step closer to making not just a friend, but a good friend.
3. Prepared Communication
Extroverts adapt to conversations easier than introverts. A big reason for this is the preparation. Extroverts have a library of topics and replies stored and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
Provide a more thoughtful answer to the easy questions like ‘how are you’ and ‘what do you do for a living.’ A thoughtful answer over a one-word answer demonstrates that you are wanting to engage in a conversation.
Think of 2-3 memorable experiences and introduce it into the conversation. These experiences may be travel related, work related, or knowledge related. For instance, useless facts or ‘did you know’ statements as they relate to your memorable experience is a positive way to engage a good conversation.
4. The Role of Humor
As someone who enjoys engaging in difficult topics discussing religion, politics, race, or even sexual relationships, the timing to introduce these topics is more important than the topic itself. Same goes with humor.
A behavior people exhibit in new environments is to crack jokes. Joke-telling is an art form, and if the skill of telling a joke is not properly executed, then humor is missed.
The simple rule of thumb here is to delay the introduction of jokes and sarcasm. Inevitably, the timing will introduce itself and that simple delay may be all the time needed in order to make someone laugh.
The plan has and will always be to make new friends. Sometimes, new friends turn into lifelong friends and others turn into a friend-at-that-time. Because making friends and feeling lonely are top of the list for digital nomads, make yourself open to meeting new people and practicing the rules of thumb.
Read Part 2 by Anna Rubesova.
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