Some of you may be familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s famous set of archetypes that are the key to social epidemics (social movements that sweep very quickly over a nation or group of people). He outlines salesmen (people who can convince you to do anything) and mavens (people who know a lot and like to share knowledge) and connectors (people who know a lot of people and bridge different types of people/groups together). The notion has gotten a lot of attention and spurred a lot of argument. Regardless of the usefulness of the typology or classification we can generally agree that there are traits in people that might make them connectors (relative) in almost any group.
I was giving this some thought tonight. I’ve always considered myself a connector – particularly because I’m an extrovert and leader and I know (and like!) a lot (different) of people. I tend to make invitations and initate contact and start groups. But I’ve often struggled with getting groups to be cohesive once the basic connections between individuals have been formed. It makes me wonder what a connector does, exactly. Like in some sense an alternative measure of a connector is the type of person who would be interested (not just willing and able) to go to an event or break into a new group alone. I’m sure we can think of many people we know that refuse to go to a given event, especially when it’s recreational, unless they know someone there. Moreover some go so far as to need certain people there.
And this spurred me to thinking about who those people are. I think there may be another class (if you will) of connectors who don’t initiate (usually anyway) or may not be the most outgoing or outspoken. They are instead the ones who still know a lot of people, but know how to make them feel comfortable. I’d like to think I can do this but the reality of my personality is that I’m intense, I’m often overwhelming, and if I really would like a person to be a real friend I expect a lot of them. And this is too much to face up to for some people. I’m often action-oriented and while I like to talk about feelings or ‘just hang out’ I’m usually more interested in creating something or discussing a topic towards some greater benefit. I’m overtly passionate, and especially interested in people, which is a little freaky sometimes to those who aren’t.
Anyway thinking over my friends I can point out several who’ve been sort of complementary connectors to me. I bring people in and make the initial group/event formation (whatever it is, club, social, class group, etc…) and they end up making that person feel extra comfortable and bringing out the best in them. My X played this role in my life for the past year or so, which ispart of why I’m sort of floundering now trying to figure out what to do with my social life.
So where do I go from here? I suppose I could try to work on making people feel more comfortable, but honestly my personality is what it is, the fragile, picky or undependable ones are always going to be a problem. I think maybe a better direction is to show more appreciation for the connectors I know who make it their job (overtly or covertly) to create a welcoming rapport with others. Meanwhile I can continue to keep a positive hat on.
I won’t make any specific shout-outs to people at GSLIS, but there are several of you who I think really fill this role. Thank you.