Finding Your Tribe By Helping Them Find You

Published on June 17th, 2019

On any given day, you probably pass within arm's length of at least a dozen people. In a city, that number may be 100 or even 1,000. Yet how many of them will forever remain strangers? How many of them could become a close friend, a member of your tribe if you discovered that you share one or more deeply relatable experience? I know, it sounds unlikely. Yet in this past year alone, I've had the privilege of experiencing this again and again. And the best experiences were with people that, at first glance, I was adamant that we would have zero in common and it would be a waste of time.

The term vulnerability has become a bit of a buzzword these past few years and with good reason. Many of us are so accustomed to wearing our social masks. This habit is so ingrained in us that we need at least a nudge, if not a big push to try and obtain the benefits that vulnerability has to offer. Thankfully, I've had a lot of adversity in my life the past few years, which has given me ample opportunity to try and share part of my story with other people.

Many people are trying to find friends so that they feel less lonely and more connected. Many are trying to find a tribe or a community so they can feel part of something bigger. Yet the irony is that we may already be bumping into the exact same people we are so desperately looking for… we just can't see them because of our filters, habits, and inhibitions.

This changed for me the second I stopped sleepwalking through conversations. No more "How's the weather?" or "So where do you work?" small talk. Instead, I started to give more honest answers and to ask more interesting questions. All of a sudden people would light up when they figured out we shared experience X or had some common interest. It's hard to understate how strong this hits you, but you have probably had many personal experiences to draw from, such as:

  • A family member is just about to start chemo and you find out the person next to you at the coffee shop has not only survived the treatment but helps advocate for family members in need.
  • You had an old sports injury and you find someone that you can swap stories with.
  • You grew up in a different state or country and this person either lived there or travels there often.
  • You're trying to learn a new instrument and this person just happens to have a band that meets every Friday.
  • A family member has a problem with drugs or alcohol and you need someone to talk to to figure out how to navigate this situation.

Here's another irony. We find these people accidentally when they just happen to reveal to us who they really are and what they are really going through. Yet we are usually waiting for them to make the first move or share first while we keep searching. In my experience, it's in the sharing that they find me. I may be looking for more people in technology or that share a passion for cycling. As soon as I bring that up, there is a non-zero chance they may surprise me and reveal they are also interested in X, Y, or Z.

In short, vulnerability and (appropriate) sharing of who we are can be a great way to cast a net to find others that we've been searching for… our tribe.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CXO of Atomic Form. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.