How Social Butterflies Meet New People

Who To Approach and When To Approach Them

You’ve heard this cliche before:

The best way to bond with other people is through shared experience.

Joining a book club gives you a book to talk about. Taking up salsa dancing gives you a skill you can practice with a partner. Volunteering gives you a common goal you can strive for.

These are excellent avenues to meet other people, but they’re also a huge time investments.

If I’m not passionate about books, salsa dancing, or volunteering, then taking up these new commitments feels like a part-time job. Additionally, it can be scary to join a new group completely cold-turkey.

Even if I wanted to take this advice I wouldn’t know where to begin.

I join new groups because I’m invited. Forcing my way into a book club seems far-fetched.

So how do people meet new friends without changing their lifestyle?

This is the million dollar question. Pop culture makes it seem like it easy to meet new people all the time. In reality, even social butterflies can struggle to make meaningful connections from the get go.

Photo by Katy Belcher on Unsplash

But, these social butterflies do have a special trick up their sleeve.

I studied, interviewed, and hung around my out going friends. I took notes on what they did. Who they approached. What was their introduction line.

In the end I noticed one common theme that drastically increased their ability to have a meaningful conversation from the start:

The Social Butterflies I Observed Sought Out Social Deviance.

In layman’s terms: my social butterfly friends approached people doing weird, bizarre, and interesting things. People who were going against the grain. Breaking social norms. Not following the status quo. They did not approach other extroverts necessarily. They did not approach people who looked bored. They chose to go after deviance.

Research shows this is quite a brilliant strategy.

I discovered people become socially deviant for profound reasons. Psychologist Robert K. Merton attempted to explain why people become socially deviant in his Theory of Structural Stain:

“A cardinal American virtue, ‘ambition,’ promotes a cardinal American vice, ‘deviant behavior.”

Merton claims humans have cultural expectations on what should happen. People want love, friends, and hold a certain amount of attention. But often society disappoints them in these areas. Even if they follow all the ‘rules,’ they still don’t meet the baseline love and attention they expected. At this point they have no other option but to break the rules, and become deviant, to get what they want.

To summarize Merton’s theory and to combine it with what I’ve noticed in my daily life:

People sometimes become deviant because they’re lonely or not getting enough attention. Often they’re bored and want a new experience.

In either case, this is the perfect time to approach and meet that person. Being socially deviant is an invitation for something new. They want attention. They want validation that the weird thing they’re doing is worth other people’s time.

Socially deviant people are not satisfied with what will come by following the norm.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Social deviance can take many forms:

Eating alone, dressing in a unique style, posting something interesting on social media, doing artwork in public, etc.

At the bar this can look like a limbo contest, or a dancing circle.

Last week I participated in an impromptu cartwheel contest at the bar and now we’re going out for drinks next week.

In my experience, these are all excellent opportunities to meet new people. Some of my long-term friends have noticed my increased extroversion and have made comments:

“He starts meeting people everywhere. I don’t know how he does it!”

In contrast introducing yourself to the wrong person can be embarrassing and a blow to one’s ego. One common misconception about social butterflies is that they are able to make good conversation with anyone. In my mind, this is near impossible. Social butterflies do not get to choose who is ready to meet someone new.

Many people are fine with not meeting anyone new.

People who are socially congruent are happy with the status quo. They do not want a new and exciting experience. They are happy with the norm.

Approaching people like this is futile.

The vast majority of people in adulthood are socially congruent the vast majority of the time. But everyone needs to express themselves. Humans are not good at following the rules 100% of the time. Though I don’t have concrete data to back this up, I would argue that every human becomes socially deviant here and there.

For this reason, you will come across social deviance every day as long as you’re looking out for it.

It can still be scary to approach a complete stranger. Meeting new people is always an exercise in courage. But if you want to have an immediate short-term connection with someone I’d look for deviance.