Mastering Your Acquaintances

03.07.2024 |

Episode #6 of the course Mastering your relationships by John Robin


Welcome back to the course!

Last lesson, we finished discussing how to master friendships. We’ve now covered partners, family and friends, so let’s expand our reach now to the next rank of relationships: acquaintances.

Let’s dig in!


Nurturing Acquaintances: Where Friendships Are Born

We’re going to switch gears now that we’re at the halfway point of the course. Up to this point, we’ve covered the already-existing relationships in your life and ways to improve them.

Now we’re going to get at the other angle of relationship mastery: searching out other friendship opportunities beyond the obvious.

Let’s return to last lesson’s exercise to see how we might go about this.

You might have discovered when doing the year-at-a-glance calendar exercise that lots of people might have come up.

Here you are discovering the line between friends and acquaintances. Friends are people you have spent some time with, would gladly see again, and want to stay in touch with. Acquaintances, on the other hand, are people you might interact with, but haven’t gotten to know well enough to consider friends.

Examples of acquaintances might be:

• A co-worker with whom you often talk about movies, but have never gotten together outside of work

• A cheery barista who has a lot in common with you, who you often talk with long past them handing off your drink

• A fellow at the gym who has often given you some tips in your workout

It will be too overwhelming to try and write down every person you consider an acquaintance, so I recommend you try to list out those acquaintances that have these two things in common:

• You’d like to get to know them better

• There actually is a valid chance it can work—for example, if the other person has mentioned, or hinted at, possibly getting together sometime

Don’t worry too much about how much potential each acquaintance has. Just write down the names that come to mind.

Now go over this list of names, and on a scale of 1-10, rate how much you’d like to get to know this person.

Those people you rate 8, 9, or 10 will be your priority acquaintances.

Back when I was in university, I made many acquaintances in a tough math class, but then years passed and we all fell out of touch.

One acquaintance stood out to me. I remembered enjoying our conversations on math and philosophy, and even gave him some advice on his degree plans, so, of course, I ranked him a 9 for relevance when I did this exercise.

Though I’d fallen out of touch with him completely, I still had his cell number in my contacts, so I sent him a “hello” text. He replied right way and was pleasantly surprised to hear from me. Fast forward a few years, and he and his partner have become good friends, and they host a board game group my husband and I join regularly.

You never know where your next unexpected friendship might be waiting. Rather than going through life waiting for friendships to happen, this course equips you to be proactive, so you can at least make the most of your acquaintance network and see which doors open.

Getting in touch with people you might not know that well can be intimidating. This is why it’s important to do the rating on the exercise above. There likely will be some people you just don’t feel comfortable reaching out to. But those who you’ve rated 8, 9, or 10, should be people either who you feel are easy to approach, or else if they aren’t, you have good reason to want to take the risk on.

That said, after you break the ice a bit on reaching out to those you’ve rated the highest and start mastering your acquaintances, you may find you become generally more open to reaching out to those you may not have felt as comfortable with at first.

So, think of this list of acquaintances as both a good starting point, but also a measure of the potential of how rich your acquaintance network is.


Tip of the Day: Developing Good Opener Etiquette

Many years ago, someone I had known as an acquaintance back in university reached out to me, wanting to meet for coffee. I thought it would be nice to catch up, even if this was a distant-distant acquaintance.

We met for coffee, and I was quickly disappointed when simple warm-up conversation evolved into a business pitch. They had joined a pyramid scam and were working through their contacts aggressively, trying to reach out to everyone they knew.

I left feeling used and violated. Needless to stay, there was no sparking up a friendship with a long-lost acquaintance.

This experience has long served as a striking contrast to how I’ve gone about further connecting with acquaintances. If you reconnect with an old acquaintance, you want to be sure they know you are genuinely interested in connecting.

This is all about developing good opener etiquette.

Here’s some don’ts for opener etiquette:

• Don’t ask them to meet for coffee without giving any context

• Don’t call them—a friend who you’ve met and talked to on the phone has gained your trust, but an acquaintance hasn’t

Here’s some do’s:

• If it’s someone you fell out of touch with, send a simple text/email/message along the lines of: “hello” and “it’s been a while, hope you’re doing well”

• If it’s someone you know through a friend, in your text/email/message, mention that friend and say you thought it’d be great to stay in touch

• If you’re following a natural opportunity, reference it in your outreach, i.e., someone at the gym you admire, ask if you can chat about workout tips

Learning to be generally more conversant with acquaintances will also help you expand your acquaintance network, which opens up further opportunities in your relationships.

And that’s what the next lesson will be about. Stay tuned!


Recommended book

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi


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