How Can I Meet More Interesting People?
This is a question I’ve heard dozens of times in the past three years at MEA. People arrive at our beachfront campus on a dirt street with no name. They’re in a foreign country, and they’re a little cautious, like turtles whose heads recoil in their shell at the first sign of danger.
Ironically, our MEA compadres may soon spot baby sea turtles hatching in the morning in front of the veranda where we eat breakfast.
Over the next few days, people are astonished by how close they become to these new friends, once strangers. Secrets are shared, dreams are validated, and bonds are created. Having seen 50 cohorts go through this cycle and now dozens of Sabbatical Session pilgrims, Christine, Jeff, and I feel blessed to witness the miracle of this new form of social alchemy.
It is increasingly apparent to all of us at MEA that there is an inherent need to be among like-minded people who understand and share a common thirst for growth and belonging. It brings us together, and it’s why so many will ask that same question—how can I meet more interesting people? It’s a good question, too. We can all use more interesting people in our lives.
However, as I will often say, the real question is how can we discover what makes the people we already know more interesting. I’m willing to bet that many of the people you already know are more interesting than you think.
One of the key lessons we’ve learned at MEA is that people need to meet each other from the “inside out” instead of the “outside in.” Yes, when people arrive, there’s a lot of mutual judgment going on, often based upon how we look or act. But we don’t know each other’s stories. We haven’t tapped into each other’s hearts or souls. I haven’t read your LinkedIn profile. In fact, I don’t even know your last name. I have no clue how much you have in the bank or your political point of view. Generally speaking, we are blank slates to each other—tabula rasa.
So, the real question is, how do we rediscover the people in our lives? How do we turn an inert friendship into an ignited relationship? Once we can create fresh and deep relationships with those we know, it’s much easier to connect with new folks.
If you’re ready, I have some MEA inspired ideas for you.
1. Create a “Getting to Know You” Dinner.
Handpick a collection of friends who are also interested in deepening their friendships. Plan a dinner with no more than 6 people. Have a three-course meal with the precursor to the first course being this question:
“If you really knew me, you’d know ________________.”
Each person would go in turn, so all six of you finish sharing this sentence before starting that first course. Then, before the second and third course, each person would pick one of many handwritten cards placed face down on the center of the table, with topics like Money, Intimacy, Emotions, Death, My Childhood, etc. Depending on the card the person chose, you'd have to finish the following sentence:
“If you really knew me and my relationship with Money (or Emotions or My Childhood), you’d know that _____________.”
Don’t worry; it’s natural to feel a little scared by this question—growth can be titillating.
2. Play “36 Questions” With Someone You Want to Fall in Love With.
Of course, when I say fall in love, I don’t necessarily mean romantic love. I mean the holistic appreciation of someone else’s unique humanity. You can start by spending a minimum of two or three hours with your friend answering psychologist Arthur Aron’s questions. I guarantee you’ll feel a new sense of connection, not only to that other person but also to yourself.
3. Start a Spiritual Book Club.
Any book club can be a welcome mat to exploring juicy topics, but a spiritual book club offers the opportunity to go on meaningful meanderings. It takes you away from the obvious topics of the day—weather, celebrities, politics, or how busy you are. Be prepared for a certain amount of intellectual jousting and different viewpoints. Book clubs are not for the nice nor the nasty,. They’re for the authentic.
4. Go Fishing in a Different Pond.
The first three ideas assume your existing friends or family are ripe prospects. But maybe it’s time to widen your net. What’s a hobby, passion, or topic that you want to explore? How could you connect with a collection of people who are similar enthusiasts? For example, let’s say you live in the city and your friends are urbanites who don’t appreciate nature as much as you do. How could you find a “birders” group that meets each week in a large park in your city, or how could you connect with a local Sierra Club chapter (or other similar org) to go on excursions and donate your time to environmental causes?
And, finally, if you want to find interesting people, be interesting yourself. Likes attract likes.