5 Keys to Social Alignment

row of four men sitting on mountain trail

What is an aligned social circle? When people ponder improving their social lives, what do they actually want?

For the past two weeks, I’ve been reading and taking detailed notes on feedback from some questions that I posed to my email list. I asked people to tell me about their social circles, including what’s working and what isn’t working for them – and especially how they would like to improve or upgrade their social lives and friendship circles.

I spent days pulling out patterns and compressing the key issues to figure out what people really want in this area of life. Eventually I condensed it down to 5 core upgrades that people want to make, and I’m happy to share this now – because these are the changes we’ll be exploring together in the upcoming Guild course.

1. Growth-oriented friends

  • Enjoy dynamic relationships with people who actively seek growth opportunities.
  • Co-invest in helping each other grow, and celebrate your gains together.
  • Connect with people who care about you and who are willing and able to challenge you.
  • Build intimacy with a growth-oriented primary partner.
  • Embrace people who introduce you to fresh ideas and possibilities.
  • Mastermind with your friends on creative and business projects.

The most obvious change that people want to see is more close friendships (and romantic relationships) with others who are very growth-oriented. They want friends who are taking action and at least trying to upgrade their lives. This was so important that some people said they’d still appreciate more growth-oriented friends even if the values alignment wasn’t perfect in other areas.

People expressed disappointment with social circles that are too static, inflexible, and complacent. While some stability is appreciated, many people crave more flow, movement, and dynamism in their friendship circles. Otherwise they feel like they’re being sucked down into a fixed mindset by osmosis.

Multiple people also said they don’t want to be surrounded by those who always agree with them. They want people to challenge them, not necessarily confrontationally, but with exposure to new ideas and new ways of thinking. People want to see more boldness and courage in their friends, and they’re eager to receive some stimulating invites into mutual growth experiences.

2. Full range friendships

  • Replace shallowness with range and depth.
  • Replace mono-dimensional compatibility with multifaceted compatibility (more value per person).
  • Replace lukewarm relationships (“friendly but not friends”) with warm, heart-centered ones.
  • Enjoy holistic body-mind-heart-spirit connections (connect mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually).
  • Invest in like-minded people with similar priorities, values, and interests.
  • Enjoy multiple activities, experiences, and modes of connecting with the same people.

Many people reported struggling with overly compartmentalized relationships. They may have multiple social circles in different spheres such as work, family, online friends, and hobbies, but within each sphere they only connect on a few dimensions.

A common desire was to experience more range and depth in relationships. People don’t want to feel limited to some version of small talk in all of their interactions. They find it dull and tedious to be limited to surface-level communication.

People are busy, and they recognize that they only have time and energy to connect with so many friends and contacts. They don’t necessarily want more connections in terms of numbers, but they want richer and more satisfying connections.

People want friends with whom they can do co-creative projects; business and personal masterminding; and activities like movie nights, game nights, date nights, or travel adventures. And most would like for these to be the same people, so they can really invest in rich, juicy, multi-dimensional relationships.

3. Energizing and rewarding relationships

  • Feel restored and renewed from your social time, not drained.
  • Anticipate social time with enthusiasm and excitement.
  • Enjoy a low-maintenance, self-sustaining flow of desirable invitations.
  • Overcome social malaise and outreach fatigue.
  • Keep your social life fresh and pleasantly stimulating (not boring or overwhelming).
  • Replace a fatiguing invitation or coordination process with an aligned and motivating approach.
  • Enjoy camaraderie and fun with others as a normal part of your lifestyle.
  • Ensure that your social rewards amply justify your social investments.

Outreach or coordination fatigue was a big deal for some people. They’ve run through cycles where they would reach out to connect, and they get some nibbles and some basic interactions, but in the end it often didn’t feel like it was worth the effort. So then they spend more time alone because it’s easier and less draining. Rinse and repeat.

They still can’t help feeling that something is missing and that there must be a better way to create and maintain a vibrant social life that isn’t so taxing.

What people need are relationships and social activities that energize them. They also need more efficient and sustainable ways of managing their social lives. People recognize that a sporadic or half-hearted approach isn’t going to create the results they want. They’re willing to try different approaches, but they also want to see that there’s a reasonable path to success that won’t require an extraordinary investment of energy. There’s a real desire for more social efficiency with better energy flow.

4. Social and personal integration

  • Replace multiple masks with shameless self-expression.
  • Stop compromising to feign compatibility with partial matches or mismatches.
  • Practice discernment to build intimacy with aligned matches.
  • Avoid over-investing in partial matches.
  • Discover the hidden strengths behind social awkwardness.
  • Enjoy forgiving, resilient, anti-fragile relationships (not flakiness or skittishness).
  • Love who you are and who you’re becoming because of your friends.
  • Merge your character growth with your social growth.

People lament having to invest in social “skills” that feel misaligned or having to bend their personalities in different ways to connect with others. They wonder if they need to compromise more or if they just need to find different people to connect with.

What people want here is a more natural, easy-going way of connecting. Perhaps the word I saw people use most often to describe this desire was like-minded. They crave relationships with people who think similarly and who see reality similarly, so they can communicate effectively right out of the gate.

Some people blame their own social deficiencies while others blame the mismatches and partial matches they’ve had to deal with. Some don’t blame anyone and see this as a puzzle to be solved. They all want better solutions to bypass the unsatisfying parts of the social game, so they can get to the other side and experience a home base of like-minded friends and relationship partners. They want people in their lives that they can easily like, love, respect, and appreciate – without feeling like they must overstretch themselves to get there.

People especially want their personal pursuits and their social circles to be pointing in the same direction, so their friends are genuinely helping them grow.

People want friends that they can help as well. Some people noted that without the right friends, they’re missing out on the giving aspect of friendship too.

5. Free-flowing social abundance

  • Develop an abundant yet manageable social moat through which aligned connections bubble up with relative ease.
  • Accept that alignment is often temporary, especially among growth-oriented people.
  • Recognize that as one connection abates, another will soon arise.
  • Upgrade from a mismatch-rich environment to an alignment-rich environment.
  • Replace neediness and social scarcity with a heartset of social abundance.
  • Know how to satisfy your social needs without being needy.

Many people recognize that human relationships are dynamic and that from time to time, a disconnect may happen, and it needn’t be anyone’s fault. Sometimes people grow apart, and that’s okay.

While some people would love to settle into a social circle of 6-10 good friends and leave it at that, others also recognize that a wider moat of social connections will make their lives more active, vibrant, and socially secure. Many people want that home base of really tight friends while also recognizing that a wider circle beyond that has its benefits too. That blend of comfort and variety makes for a really nice combo.

About half of our romantic relationship partners in life flow to us through our network of friends, family, and co-workers. So if you want more social flow, it’s wise to upgrade your extended social network. This can help you move beyond social scarcity, neediness, and clinginess, knowing that you always have plenty of accessible options.

I’ll have more info to share about the upcoming Guild course soon. I can say that it’s going to be very interactive – lots of live Zoom calls like we did with Deep Abundance Integration – so you can connect and practice with growth-oriented people. Beyond that I’m still tweaking the format and the bonuses I’d like to include. I always find it best to figure out what kinds of improvements people want to make in their lives, and then I can design the form of a course to match its intended purpose.

For some people it will take courage to enroll in this experience. The feedback made it clear that some people have trust wounds wrapped up in past relationships, and that’s still affecting them today. Some have acknowledged to me that just answering the questions I posed brought up feelings of intense anxiety, fear, or dread. I felt some of that emotional feedback pretty strongly too, like people were broadcasting these emotional waves right into me.

I’ll do my best to facilitate this shared journey with caring, compassion, gentleness, and encouragement. It’s predictable, however, that it’s going to be emotionally intense for some people. As always, every part of it will be consensual – nothing forced and no undue pushing or pressure – so you’ll always get to decide how much to engage and when you may need to step back and regroup.

I think many of us are detecting the common signal, as if life is broadcasting it to us, that now is the right time to invest in upgrading our social lives. For many people this won’t be easy, but I also know that this will be a beautiful and rewarding challenge to undertake together.

Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site stevepavlina.com and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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