Without going to a bar or meeting for coffee.
Social Psych 101: We do as others do. You walk into an elevator, and subconsciously you swing through the motions: Turn around, press the little silver button next to your floor number, and rock back and forth on your heels while you wait.
In a classic social science experiment by Solomon Asch, an unsuspecting participant tries to have a simple ride on an elevator when a few more riders hurriedly jump aboard. Unlike the poor participant, these riders are all actors. Instead of following the obvious motions—get in, turn around, press the button and wait— these actors walk in and stare, blank-faced, at the wall at the back of the elevator. Stuck with the choice of being the odd egg, most people follow the lead of these actors and turn to face the blank wall.
Surprisingly, that’s exactly what makes living sober a challenge for so many of us — because relying on substances is the cliché of any TV show: a young couple’s first flirt is over a martini at the bar. The bartender, whose face is cropped out of the picture, points out the generous purchaser at the other end of the bar. A young group of college students hunch over their laptops, twitching as they down their fifth cup of coffee over a mountain of textbooks and crumpled notes.
We see it so often it becomes hard to think of other ways we would meet up with people. We forget that other people have quirks like us, that they enjoy new experiences and something other than just bars and cafés. We forget that dates and hangouts don’t have to be stereotypical and boring. Asch had a term for this, the “Wisdom of the Crowds,” which is supposed to be ironic. We don’t trust most drivers on the road, let alone would we trust these people lead any facet our lives… so why let them define what our typical hangout is?
Here’s the challenge: Next time you want to reconnect with a friend or loved one, make it something you haven’t done before, or even seen on TV in the past week.
Getting together doesn’t need to include drinking at the bar over cocktails. Make your sacred time together really worthwhile. Try some of Yes and Yes’s ideas, for example:
- Walk or hike: Bring it on. Get some exercise and work your glutes. Bust out those new tennis shoes that have otherwise only been used on garage cleaning days and the occasional lazy Friday at the office. Go to some place that overlooks the city and point out each other’s houses, or just enjoy a picnic that isn’t in the local park.
- Run errands together. Wait, wait! Hear me out. There’s so much stockpiled on my to-do list at home that by the time I’m done worrying about it, I’m too tired to actually do any of it! Well forget that! Get yourself a work-buddy and tackle these errands together. One day you handle your stuff, the other day theirs. Keep a schedule and instead of freaking out about it all, you just get to look forward to seeing each other.
- Do the touristy stuff. Five bucks says that someone has traveled across the globe to visit something that’s in your backyard… but you haven’t. I’ve passed by Madamme Toussad’s and the Hollywood Bowl a dozen times each, yet I haven’t caught a single show. It’s one of those things that just eats at me. Use your friend as an excuse to finally cross some of those touristy things off your list!
- Host a clothing swap. I’m not going to lie, I’ve got a few belts in my closet that have “new” notches carved into them… and they still don’t fit. Sometimes, we just have to let these things go to a better home. Do a get together with your friends and really mix up your wardrobes. Whatever’s leftover can be a nice tax donation at the local Goodwill, anyways!
- Rent a cabin. Nothing gets you back in good health like a few days away from, well, everything! Enjoy the stars, roast some s’mores, and bring some board games, cards, and fishing reels. Whatever you’re into, just turn your phones off and go manual for the weekend. Being in nature is extremely healing and rejuvenating.
- Take a non-committal class together. I’ve got a hole in my favorite top but instead of ever getting it fixed I just wear it ragged. Honestly, there’s some good deals online for sewing classes, and it would be a blast with a friend. Make some silly decorations or designs on your favorite tees. Or maybe take a cooking class with each other so you can laugh as both your soufflés collapse.
- Have an article club. Book clubs are fun, but you’ve seen them on TV. Be original and start your own article club so everyone has time to read it. Pick out your favorite crazy article online and share it with the group. If you’re into politics, this is a great season for some crazy stories!
- Craft together. The classic, but for some reason you never see it on the tube. A block of modeling clay is under ten bucks and will last you all day. Best part is you get to hang whatever goofy thing you model as a conversation starter for any future guests.
- Make a to-do list for future events. Let’s face it, everyone has something that they want to do reaaaal bad, but even their best friend or significant other won’t do it with them. ATVing? Shooting a bow and arrow? Riding a horse while shooting a bow and arrow? Two heads are better than one, and your friends have probably been exposed to a plethora of things you haven’t even thought of. So go ahead and write down everything you want to do and share your lists. Maybe you could even combine your “hunt for a geocache” with their “visit the Pyramids” and end up finding the pharaoh’s buried treasure.