Enrich Your Life by Building a Social Network of Friends, Lovers and Colleagues

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Finding a Support Network for Love, Friendship and Business Goals!

Today as I was riding my handcycle, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts “A Better Life” by Rachel Rofe on iTunes (rachelrofe.com) “How to build a support network around yourself.”

This woman is amazing and provides so much value that I recommend her to anyone who is looking for great advice and insight on business and life.  In the podcast, Rachel admits that she is a self-described introvert, and needs “a LOT, lot, lot of alone time”, yet recognizes the benefits her connections add to her life.

“I would be suffering a lot more” she says, “without my friendships and romantic relationships which have been so important in shaping my life.”

Often, after an injury or illness, we have to find new ways of developing these critical relationships. Many of the things we used to do, we may not be able to do as easily, or at all, and so many activities are just not as accessible to those of us with disabilities.  It is not as easy to just sign up for a tour group to travel, to go to a house party, (as most homes are not without stairs), to join a photography club, or fitness group in the local park. Many may not work in the community or have the opportunity to freely and independently go out and meet new people. Also, people often may not be as comfortable around us initially (some never overcoming this feeling), and this can lead to social isolation.

We need to make more of an effort to improve our lives via the significant human interactions we all need to sustain our mental and physical health. Studies show that social interaction is necessary to prevent depression, as well as the positive physical effects of touch, eye to eye contact and mental stimulation we gain by actually being in the physical presence of others.

So here are some ways you can begin to build your own network or add to your current one based on the helpful tips Rachel advises to help you create these connections:

  1. Be intentional with the type of people you want to attract into your life. First determine what kind of people you desire in your network. Make a list of the qualities you seek in relationship partners. Some examples could be:
  • share your spirituality
  • share your hobbies; biking, yoga, cooking, etc.
  • single and looking for a wing woman or man
  • married and looking for couples events
  • Similar intellectual goals.
  • Similar entrepreneurial goals or fellow artists, craftsman, or writers etc.

But don’t be too exclusive. Even if someone has different opinions, politics, religion or hobbies, we can still learn from and enjoy those people who are different from us.  Focus on HOW YOU WANT to FEEL when you are around someone.  If they are negative, disrespectful of your time, or make you feel like you are not a priority, then even if you share all the same interest, they are not a healthy and supportive connection.

woman in wheelchair at park with quote" “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Image by Nick Muir. Model: Brandi for PhotoAbility

  1. Re-connect and reach out with people you currently know or meet. Suggest coffee, happy hour, or meal. Take the time to email, text or call.   It can be hard as a new relationship is like dating, you can get rejected if they “are just not that into you”…or your old friends may be busy with their own lives. But gather the courage and just make the contact. You have nothing to lose and friendship and fun to gain. Take the chance and push past the shyness or insecurity/anxiety and ask for a “friendship date”.  You only have one life…get the most out of it!
  2. Enable others to connect with you! Answer text and calls quickly and listen to your voice messages. I know that is an issue for many of us as we can get into our own heads, and there are times we just are not feeling social and are averse to being available emotionally. But when someone is responding to you or reaching out, don’t let that opportunity go unrewarded.
  3. Create consistent opportunities for connection: Frequent contact can be planned for via an established, once a month group or friend meeting, luncheon, happy hour, etc. A standing invitation to hang out at your place or a certain venue can be scheduled in your calendar…so people know where to find you.
  4. Schedule activities or events you want to experience on your calendar. You can look up local event calendars for shows, movies, festivals, art and cultural events, live bands, concerts, or just local bar and restaurant specials. Then invite friends to go with you in advance or plan your own Meetup.com group and list the events YOU want to attend on the calendar. If no one shows an interest, then go alone! I have never done it, but I have many friends who go out alone often and nothing stops them from enjoying their lives.
fashionable woman in wheelchair smiling in the sun

Jean isn’t embarrassed to goes out alone to restaurants and events she wants to experience.

Some good advice I have heard recently is to “go to everything your invited to…while you are finding your people, your tribe and your circle of friends.”  Making this effort to overcome any social anxiety or fears of the unknown can lead to finding a new job or business opportunities, as well as a new friends romantic relationships.

Lastly,

  1. Let people know how much you appreciate them, be dependable and thoughtful and strive to make others feel good about themselves.

Everyone wants to feel good, and if you can be a part of making that happen for someone else, the chances are that they will want to be around you more often. Listen and learn about your new friends and acquaintances, ask questions and take the time to show them they are special to you and appreciated.  Of course, if this is not reciprocated ever, then you have a narcissist or just a very self-absorbed person there, and this may take time to determine.  Once this is established, however, move on…people like this can be a drain and relationships should be mutually enriching.  After all, you are building a support network for when you need someone to share in life’s joys, triumphs, as well as sadness and tragedy.  All are a part of life, and having a strong support system can help you achieve more and recover through all of them.

A wise friend recently told me “Don’t settle for safe place, but the right place.” In other words, take a risk, and when praying, dreaming or asking the universe to answer your desires, ask for the people and situations that will enable you to grow and thrive and be inspired.

Don’t settle for comfortable.

Deborah Davis

Deborah is a Speaker, Disability Inclusion Consultant, Entrepreneur, Writer and Business Owner of Wheelchair Lifestyle Enterprise Push Living Inc.

She was a Former Dancer, Accident Survivor (C 6-7 Spinal Cord Injury resulting in incomplete Quadriplegia 1985), College grad (BBA Finance 1991 U of Miami), with a background in Sales and Marketing and Non Profit Development and Management.

She is now embarked on new path creating a market for Disability Inclusive Stock Images with the creation of PUSHlivingPhotos.com and publishing an online enterprise: PushLiving.com. The mission is to create Inclusion for people with disabilities through stock images for advertising, marketing and editorial uses, providing accessible properties for travel, swap or purchase, publishing an online magazine for improved health and well-being, providing information and opportunities for Accessible Travel, and operating an online store with products that improve lives.

She is most passionate about building a network of people with disabilities who are empowering, supporting and creating a more inclusive world. Personally, she is a mother of two beautiful, wise and exceptionally bright young women, and residing in South Florida.

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