Much networking is goal directed. You want something in your life, and you go out and network to find that thing, be it a lover, a friend, a job, a service or a product. There is more to life than goal directed networking, however. It is also important to just be with people sometimes. Socialization involves being with and a part of other people; enjoying their company, confiding in them or letting them confide in you, and working together towards shared goals. Going to church, joining a club or group, chatting on line, calling a friend on the phone, or hanging out with friends are all means of socialization. These are the activities that banish loneliness feelings and promote the sense of safety, belonging and enjoyment that helps people to feel secure.
Being able to socialize well is one of the main reasons that having good social skills is important. If you have social skills, you will have an easier time socializing and you will more easily enjoy the benefits of having healthy caring relationships with others:
- you feel a part of something larger than yourself (a church, a lodge, a club, a group)
- you are supported in various ways when you need support
- you have people to spend time with and do things with. This wards off loneliness and provides entertainment and distraction from pain.
- you feel wanted, included and cared for
- you have a place to confide your secrets or to share ideas and feelings
Time spent socializing can help build your confidence (or at least keep it from sinking lower), strengthen your sense that life has meaning and purpose, raise your spirits and confidence and help protect you against the effects of stress and loss.
Since socialization really just boils down to spending time with other people you care about or whom are engaged in something you care about, there are numerous ways you can increase your socialization:
- Initiate interactions with friends and family. Call friends or family members and talk or chat, or invite them to spend time with you. Have a party, exercise together, eat at a restaurant or just hang out. If your schedule is too busy to allow for this sort of thing, then change your schedule to open up a little time.
- Introduce yourself to neighbors and other people you come into contact with frequently. Say hello when someone walks by and ask how they are doing.
- Join groups. Participate in religious services, civic groups, service groups, hobby groups, exercise groups, gyms, and similar sorts of community groups. Take a class that interests you. Regular attendance is important; it takes a while before people sense that you're no longer a stranger.
- Advertise yourself. Create a profile on a dating website, or describe your plight anonymously on a free classifieds service like CraigsList (where interested people can email you anonymously).
Private or shy people who struggle with loneliness issues often find it a challenge to increase their socialization because of intense feelings of anxiety or self-defeating beliefs. Such people should consult our sections on changing behaviors and thoughts and on changing moods above where methods for overcoming social anxiety such as cognitive restructuring and relaxation are provided.
Keep in mind that it is the quality of your relationships and not their number that determine what benefits you will receive from socializing. It is the deeper, caring relationships that provide benefits, and not the shallower temporary ones. For this reason, even if you are good at socializing, take steps to deepen your relationships. Do things for other people and test to see whether they reciprocate. Pursue those relationships which do reciprocate your investment, and avoid those which do not. Risk letting a few special people know your intimate thoughts. Do this slowly so as not to overwhelm. Relationships have to be reciprocal to become real friendships. Give-and-take is essential.