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George lost his wife Nancy to illness when he was 55. As the months passed he became lonely. Then he attended one of my talks and heard me give my two simple rules for meeting people: Entertain once a week without fail, and accept all invitations.
“The same night I heard you talk,” he told me later, “I bumped into the daughter of one of Nancy’s friends. She told me she was helping to put on a weekend jazz festival and asked if I’d like to attend. I was truly moved, but no way was I going to go. Then, on the way home, I had this flash; it seemed so obvious. ‘Why not?’ I thought. ‘I just got an invitation.’ That’s when it all began.” Over the next few days George called a couple of friends and invited them to join him. “I actually enjoyed myself. It was a warm night, the music was pretty good, and heck, there’s a world out there.”
George made up his mind to entertain once a week no matter what, at first inviting friends, family, and colleagues, and encouraging them to bring a friend or two—the more the merrier. “When the word got out I was a terrible cook they’d ask if they could help—which meant the party started in my kitchen and just got better from there. Or people would ask me to come over to their place instead. So I’d end up meeting all their friends.” A little more than two years after Nancy passed away, George remarried. “I definitely never set out with this in mind,” he stressed. “It’s just that I got to know so many people that my whole life changed.”
Daisy was in her mid-twenties when we met. “I’m so used to jerks,” she told me, “I can’t even recognize the nice guys anymore.” Ever since childhood, she explained, she had been uncomfortable being on her own. “I’d cling on to just about anyone for company rather than be alone.” Perhaps because of her fear, Daisy embraced the idea of the two simple rules.
It took some creative thinking at first, because she had to find a way to do it that didn’t depend too heavily on bringing people over to the place she shared, but before long she had become a sort of social facilitator. “One day I might phone some friends or acquaintances and suggest we go to a movie,” she explained. “I’d pick up the tickets ahead of time so we could meet and have a coffee before the movie.” Another day she’d phone a different group and suggest they meet up at an art opening or local fair. Yet another day she’d pull together a group to go bowling, or to hear an author speak at a bookstore. Because Daisy lived on a tight budget she let them know, upfront, each pays their own way. She ended up knowing dozens and dozens of people and had no trouble getting dates. She learned to reject the jerks and focus in on the good guys, and after a while she met and married her Prince Charming. Today Daisy is the wife of a diplomat in the Foreign Service—and entertaining in style.
So here you have it, two simple rules:
1. Arrange dinner or an outing once a week, and encourage your guests to bring new people.
2. Accept all reasonable invitations.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate: “Hey, I’m having some friends over for potluck on Friday night. Why don’t you come and bring a friend? I want to meet new people.” Or, “There’s a gang of us going to the
movies on Tuesday. Want to come along? And feel free to bring a friend; I want to meet new people.” There’s the key phrase: I want to meet new people.
Begin with people you already know—your friends, family, and colleagues. Starting close to home ups your chances of meeting people who share your social values. Let your friends know you want to meet people. Sure, you think they already know, but have you told them outright? If not, make sure you do. This is a time in your life to make socializing a priority, turn it into a habit, and get good at it. Agree to set aside just one day a week for the next year to get involved with the people you already know, those you only know vaguely, and some you have yet to meet.