Being mobile and having loose social ties can be a valuable thing; if you’re not obligated to anyone, you can freely pursue opportunities across the country, for example. But as you compare job offers and weigh expected salary versus cost of living, or scout for affordable housing and book an auto transport firm to facilitate relocation, the intangible value of social support systems often becomes a key factor.
Leaving a community where you have a couple of friends or neighbors who can be relied upon to keep an eye on things when you go on vacation, for instance, can make it more challenging to transition to a new location where you don’t know anybody. Here’s how you can speed up the process of building up a social support network wherever you go.
Improving social skills
In the age of social media, our ubiquitous smartphones tend to become a substitute for real, face-to-face interactions with people. Conversational skills may atrophy as a result. Consider body language; it’s a non-factor on a phone call, chat, or text, so we may not be aware of it all the time. That lack of awareness, if carried over to a conversation in person, may form an effective barrier to building good relationships, as you send out nonverbal cues that you’re unapproachable or closed off.
Conduct an honest self-assessment of your social skills or seek feedback from a close friend. You may find that you have plenty of room for improvement in terms of becoming a good listener and showing empathy.
When you move to a new location, interactions with locals can be tentative at first. Starting off with a simple “good morning” isn’t bad, but eventually, you’ll want to add a little more depth to the relationship. Building trust and getting closer to people are things that you can achieve with the right use of conversation.
Just as effective leaders use the right words to send a message of inclusion and motivate their employees to be more productive, you can improve conversations with small adjustments. Use open-ended questions instead of those answerable by yes or no; be mindful of allowing both sides to share a little more about themselves. Leave your phone in your bag, pay closer attention to the quality of your conversations, and you can start to establish a higher level of trust with someone new.
Finding venues for interaction
Our social support networks tend to grow organically. Think about your existing social ties; how many people do you know based on where you grew up, schools you attended, churches, or other activities which you’ve been part of?
Relocating and making friends with neighbors or co-workers is just a starting point; you can build more social support in a new location by finding more venues where you can interact with people. Volunteer work at a church or non-profit organization, signing up for a club or fitness group, or attending local events will help you meet people who share your interests. Hanging out with like-minded individuals eases the barrier to good conversations and will help facilitate the growth of your new network.
Social ties don’t have to be seen as a hindrance to our ability to seek a change of pace and scenery, but social support plays a significant role in our lives. With these steps, you can forge a new social support network more easily as you settle down somewhere new.