TED Conversations

Lisa Cook

President and Founder, Plan B Connections

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How do you build offline meaningful social connections?

There are many life transitions which trigger the necessity to make new friends- a geographic move, retirement, new job, divorce, etc. How does one establish meaningful friendships - relationships where you both are able to talk about what's really happening in your life rather than Facebook-type status updates?

The US and other nations are seeing an increase in the numbers of people living alone and studies are showing increased loneliness in society as a whole- it affects people regardless of age and marital status. For all those seeking meaningful social connections and stronger social ties, this is an important question. I think building social capital is very important. What is the glue that makes for meaningful social connections?


Closing Statement from Lisa Cook

I was fortunate to have the chance to share my story at TEDxMahtomedi!

Hope you'll watch my talk and share your ideas on making meaningful connections. Let's keep the conversation going!


Lisa Cook

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    Feb 17 2013: Lisa,

    What a heartening question to hear.

    I'd wager a majority of people seek meaningful relations and, if not, intentionally engage them, would certainly welcome them--beyond, as you note, cyberspace.

    I think there are two or three primary Qs to ask first: Why, Where and Who? Once these are known, the How?, in my view is actually really easy.

    First, the Why? Why do want meaningful connections? Because I'm lonely, bored, want to step out of my normal circles, need to change companions, want to share specific activities with others interested in the same or new to the area? The answer will inform the next two Qs, of course.

    Once you've got an idea of these, making the connections themselves is as easy as asking questions. Most people enjoy sharing bits of themselves, as long as they feel the other person's curiosity is sincere. In the process of dialoguing with each other, you'll discover what if any shared interests you have. From these you can deeper your discussion to orient around them in more meaningful ways. And, if all goes well, agree to stay in touch -- maybe plan to catch up at the same place sometime and continue the dialogue.

    This 'technique' can be expanded to bring more people into your fold, using roughly the same process. I've found when meaningful connections occur, where both parties recognize how nice they are, they are interests in intentionally extrapolating the effect and bringing others in where apropos, to share in relationship building.

    And, if for any 'breaking the ice' sounds too daunting, you might consider three more things:
    First is that it is likely that nearly everyone at different times has wished to have a meaningful connection around shared interests. Second, that nearly all people feel some reluctance to risk reaching out, but someone has to 'make the first' move. And, Third: you are not only doing yourself a favor, you are also giving someone who might well appreciate it, some attention.

    • Feb 18 2013: I agree with the three primary Qs to ask in narrowing down to how we build meaningful social connections.

      A few years ago (when I was immature), I had a lot of friends, different groups of friends that I meet in different occasions. I had fun of course, but at the end of the day, I felt so hollow. Spending so much money just to spend time with these different people and all we did were talk about other people's lives, what's the latest fashion and where the next party was. And when I was in need of someone sensible to talk with when I felt so down, I could only count a few people that I was comfortable spending time with. I had reached the point that I realized I had to be more matured in spending time with my friends. I could still be friendly and meet new people but I should also think of which kind of friendship is healthy to me.

      So, yes. I have the answers to Why? - It's no longer healthy spending so much time and money for a shallow friendship who was only there when I had money or whenever I had something good to offer them. Who? - My real friends who are there when I'm happy and sad. People who truly care about me and are there to listen to my problems or just there to share sensible thoughts with me.

      The answers to where and how will follow. Because of our busy or different schedules, I am already satisfied to meet with them once or twice a month for a coffee, lunch or dinner. And we get to spend a couple of hours talking about what's new in our lives and our plans to unwind the next time we meet. Sometimes, if our schedule and money permit, we get to spend a night by the beach or drinking a few bottles of beer. And at the end of the day, I know I have spent my time well with the people who truly matter to me.

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