Since November 11th of 2015, I’ve met over 2,300 people, 1:1, for 1 hour each simply to connect and get to know each other for my project, Robs10kFriends. For me, the experience has been life-changing. It’s opened my eyes to how many different paths a life can take, it’s inspired me to practice active appreciation for everything I have, it’s made me a better conversationalist & a better listener, and it’s made the world feel much more like a home.
As a big believer in the value of intentional human connection, I now want to encourage all of you to get out and meet some new people in your lives in hopes that maybe you’ll experience some of the same benefits! I’d like to formally invite you to be part of my 2019 movement, the #12friendchallenge! I challenge all of you to meet 1 new person per month, 1:1, for 1 hour each throughout this upcoming year!
Some of you may see this as a simple task while others may find it to be quite daunting, but don’t worry, I want to give you a framework for how I’d approach the challenge and how I approach each of my individual meetings, so without further ado, let’s jump into it!
Meet 12 new people in 2019 – 1 person per month, 1:1, for 1 hour each
These are just a handful of the benefits I’ve experienced as I reflect back on how my project has affected my life:
- An increased perspective on what those around you have been through in their lives (creating gratitude for your own life path)
- A more refined ability to share your own story in an interesting and digestible manner
- More confidence in your ability to lead and hold a conversation with anyone
- The opportunity to create future friendships, business relationships & personal relationships
- A sense of community by increasing your chances of running into familiar faces around town
The more proactive you are about reaching out to people, the more likely you’ll be to reach the goal! I reached out to and met 65 people before anyone started reaching out to me to meet. Now, I get incoming messages almost every day and am able to fill my calendar each week with new faces!
Here are some of the methods I’ve used along with some that I’ve seen others use in their own endeavors to meet new people:
- Instagram (this probably works for Twitter too): I started my project by direct messaging people in the local Philly community whom I was inspired by — street artists, photographers & musicians. Think about who inspires you, not in terms of their following, but in terms of their work, and shoot them a DM!
- Friends of friends: If you want to expand your network, but aren’t totally comfortable with meeting a stranger, try to meet some of your friends’ friends! You’re both pre-vetted for being good people and will have an immediate connection to chat about!
- Instagram Story / Facebook Status / LinkedIn Status Announcement: Let people know you’re undertaking the goal to meet 12 new people and ask for recommendations of good people to meet!
- Shapr: I actually hopped on this app back in September as part of a partnership and used it to meet 20 new people throughout that month. It’s a swipe to connect app that feels more like LinkedIn / people wanting to connect for professional reasons, which you can see in their bios. (download here)
- Bumble BFF: I’ve never used this app, but it’s designed to help you swipe for friends. I believe the biggest hurdle in these apps is the fact that the culture of connecting for fun isn’t totally there yet, but you can help break that simply by explaining to your matches that you’re trying to reach a goal for the year! (download here)
- Referrals: By far, I’ve met the most people in my project through word-of-mouth. People I’ve met have told their friends and family about my goal, leading them to reach out to me. If you have a good meeting with someone, ask them if they have anyone interesting they think you should meet!
Reaching Out to People
Here are a couple of sample messages / statuses you can feel free to use when reaching out to people to meet:
- Instagram / Twitter / Shapr / Bumble BFF: “Hey (**name of person you want to meet**)! I’m doing a challenge this year to spend 1 hour, 1:1, with 1 new person each month in 2019. It’s called the #12friendchallenge and is just a way of expanding my comfort zone and helping me get to know the people around me. My goal is to keep track of it on Instagram (**or wherever you want**) to share a bit about what I’ve learned from each conversation throughout the year. I saw you (**include reason why you want to meet with them**) and thought you’d be a great person to meet! Would you be interested in taking part and being 1 of the 12 people I meet? Let me know! — (**your name**)”
- Instagram Story / Facebook Status / LinkedIn Status Announcement: “Hi all! I’m doing a challenge this year to spend 1 hour, 1:1, with 1 new person each month in 2019. It’s called the #12friendchallenge and is just a way of expanding my comfort zone and helping me get to know the people around me. If you know someone I should meet, please connect us! Thanks so much!” (**feel free to include the link to this article in your post so people have something more formal to reference**)
The large majority of my meetings are held in coffee shops because the atmosphere is typically light and quiet enough for good conversation. I usually look up places on Google Maps that are convenient for me and those I’m meeting and then look at the photos of their seating to make sure it’s a spot where people sit and hang rather than grab and go!
Alternatively, I’ve met people in public parks where there are always a lot of other people around or in bars (if you’re 21+ in the U.S.) if you’re meeting in the evening after coffee shops close.
Don’t be afraid to try new experiences together though! I’ve gone surfing and flying with people, have played in company softball games, have gone to Disneyland, etc. so do whatever you think is comfortable and fun! (Disclaimer: it’s harder to focus on each other’s stories when you’re doing an activity, but it’s always a fun memory to look back on together!)
Ok, so this may be the most important section for some of you, especially those who are thinking, “What am I going to talk about for an hour??”
Personally, I have no prepared questions or expectations of how a meeting should go when I walk into it. I’m mainly concerned with establishing a new connection, getting to know someone’s backstory and sharing mine with them. I am, however, genuinely curious about what a person’s life has been like up to that point and where they want it to be in the future.
I think about people’s stories like a timeline. I want to know where they came from, where they are now, how they got there and where they want to go. To give them an idea of how to structure their backstories, I sometimes share mine first and then ask, “How about you? What’s your background?”
My favorite question to open with, though, is “Are you originally from here?” From there, I’m curious if they’re local as to whether or not they ever left (if so why or why not), OR if their home is somewhere different, what brought them to the area.
Nowadays, I have an easy time chatting with people because my mind is a library of topics that I can pull from if a conversation begins to drop, but I developed this library strictly through time and experience. For your purposes, I’d definitely check out these following lists and see which questions stick out to you the most! The more you ask them, the more they’ll stick to your memory.
- 48 questions that’ll make awkward small talk so much easier — I mostly enjoy the “Work” and “Life Story” questions from this article.
- 50 revealing questions that aren’t too deep so you can skip the small talk
- The 55 best questions to ask to break the ice and really get to know someone
Overall, don’t put too much pressure on yourself! I chose to meet with people for an hour partly because I knew it’d give us time to run out of topics to talk about, and I knew in those moments of awkward silence that we’d be forced to dive a level deeper to keep the conversation going. If you feel the conversation dropping, take a breath and think about what other curiosities you have!
I wanted to included a general list of things you may not think of since I’ve been down this road before so here a few things you should try to keep in mind:
- Send over a calendar invite to hold the time and confirm the night before: I do this through Google Calendar to keep myself organized and to keep the people I’m meeting with accountable. As humans, we very easily forget things unless they’re right in front of us.
- Anticipate cancellations / no shows: Sometimes people will cancel on you last minute or not show up at all. This still happens to me on a weekly basis even though the people I’m meeting are reaching out to me. If you build it into your expectations, you’ll feel less affected when it happens to you. Remember, you can only control the controllables!
- Understand that value comes in many different forms: I think a lot of us are wired to believe that a meeting is only worth taking if it involves some type of career or dating agenda. I’d encourage you to think of value first and foremost as the time spent simply enjoying another person’s company. From there, you may be able to help each other immediately, a few weeks, months or years from now, or maybe never at all! The important thing is you’re opening the door and laying the foundation for a future relationship.
- Vulnerability breeds vulnerability: If you’re having a hard time getting to know each other in a conversation, try sharing more about yourself. People become more comfortable opening up about topics once they see you taking the charge to open up first!
- Be a consumer of opinions rather than a provider of them: The main reason I’ve been able to get along with over 2,300 people is because I’m more interested in the facts and experiences from their lives that have shaped them into who they are today. I don’t necessarily agree with everyone I’ve met, but I can empathize with pretty much all of them. Do your best to learn from people rather than teach them what you believe to be true.
- Be a good person: This goes without saying, but having a good reputation will take you a long way in this challenge and in life. Be kind and genuine with everyone you meet!
If you’ve made it this far through the article, I assume you’re actually interested in taking part in the #12friendchallenge — congrats! So here’s the plan for documenting everything.
- Post a picture with you and your new friend on Instagram (or Facebook, Twitter, etc. whichever you prefer): I’ll be keeping track of everyone’s posts via Instagram.
- Write how you met: Let everyone know how you got in touch with the person you’re meeting. They may be able to use a similar method if they want to join in on the fun!
- Use the hashtag, #12friendchallenge: This hashtag had no posts prior to the conception of this movement so it should be a good way to keep track of everyone’s activity. Hopefully, it’ll have a bunch of positive posts by the end of the year!
- Write a little bit about what you learned from them: Knowing you’ll be writing a little blurb afterwards will help you stay focused and become a better listener since what you remember is what you’ll have to work with afterwards. Writing about the person will also be a good way to capture the memory of your conversation and to share some of the perspective you’ve gained!
I’m hoping to encourage a lot of intentional human connection in 2019 so I plan to share some of the posts on the stories of my own account, @robs10kfriends!
So that’s it y’all! I tried to think through everything that I thought could be useful in aiding you towards the goal of meeting 12 new people in 2019. I’m sure there are several things that I did not think of, but let’s use this guide as a starting point that can be improved with everyone’s feedback throughout the year.
When I introduced this idea to my own audience on Instagram, I had 250 people express interest in joining the challenge. If each of them completes the goal, we’ll have collectively created 3,000 new connections in the world throughout the year. If the idea begins to spread, then who knows how many connections could be made!
Through my own experience with my project, I’ve seen how quickly meeting just 1 person can turn into 10 to 100 to 1,000 so I’m excited to see how this small movement plays out and hope you have the best time ever taking part in it!
If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Instagram and I hope we have the opportunity to sit down together in person someday!
Thanks so much for reading and happy connecting!