Spending time with friends IRL feels more important (and more high-stakes) than ever.
I sit down with designer and community builder Kat Vellos — the author of We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships — to talk about how the past 18 months have changed how we think about friendship, and how we can dive back into cultivating existing and new friendships. How can we skip the small talk? How can we ask better questions? What approaches can help us lean into developing intimacy and trust?
* This episode was originally recorded in front of a live Zoom audience on August 31st, 2021.
Key takeaways from this conversation:
- How the pandemic is a lens into who we can trust & how we can trust them
- The problem with thinking about our friendships as something that should “serve us”
- How to treat our relationships like a place of connection rather than extraction
- What’s a reasonable expectation for how many new friends you can make in a year
- The power of great questions for accelerating friendships
“Questions are the doorway to connection. To me, a thoughtful question asked by someone who then gives really deeply attentive listening is one of the purest expressions of love in my book. The fascinating thing about asking good questions is that studies show that people who ask really good questions are thought of as better conversationalists, even though they’re going to spend a good chunk of their time just listening quietly, not even speaking.”
“I think about trust in terms of the world that we share together. So I think about: How does this person that I call my friend care about their fellow humans? How does this person care about their health, my health? What values are important to this person? Is this someone who prioritizes community care or their personal preferences above everything else? So trust for me is informed by the answers to all of those kinds of questions.”
“There’s this idea around people removing anything from their life doesn’t serve them. It’s like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t serve me, I’m removing that from my life.’ What’s underlying this… is this idea that we should only keep things in our life that serve us, e.g. ‘Everyone in the world is here to serve me and everything in the world is here for my sole perpetual pleasure.’ The reason I think that’s problematic is because if you’re going to throw away a person or a relationship at the very first sign of challenge, or dissatisfaction, or conflict, then you’re going to rob yourself of a lot of opportunities for growth, and for healing, and for forgiveness and you might find yourself constantly disappointed… I think it’s a path to disconnection and loneliness.”
The articles and ideas that we mention in this epi:
- Kat’s book We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships
- How Covid-19 is making the loneliness epidemic even worse
- An interview with friendship researcher Robin Dunbar
- Robin Dunbar’s Friends: Understanding the Power of Our Most Important Relationships
- Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
- Follow Kat Vellos: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter
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