Weak Ties and the Lasting Joy of Passing Friendship

On a work trip I once took to Arizona, I made the most delightful group of friends. There were six or seven of us who all worked for the same company from different offices around the country. We had all flown into town for the same annual event. We met around the breakfast table on the first day and immediately hit it off as a group.

For the rest of the 3-day trip, our little group met up for meals together. We’d wave and high-five each other in the halls during the event; we even went on a group hike on our one morning off. It was great.

But after the weekend concluded, I never spoke to any of these people again. At this point, I couldn’t even tell you any of their names.

It’s okay, though. I am not disappointed in this in the least, and I hope none of my friends are either. I enjoy this memory fondly because it is one of my favorite experiences of treasured weak ties.

The Power of Weak Ties

We all have some human connections with people outside our inner circle. These connections, known as weak ties, have great value to offer us if we’re ready to accept them.

Our tighter connections, or “strong ties” – like our close friends, families, and some coworkers – are essential, too. That’s not the issue here. But that doesn’t mean that these are the only relationships in which we should invest our energy.

Everyone you meet and interact with is an opportunity for connection. But not every person we connect with needs to become one of our best friends or so close that we consider them family. Imagine pouring that much of yourself into that many relationships. The time commitment alone would be staggering! There’s only so much of you to go around, after all.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t discover some joy in a weak-tie relationship.

Think of the people who work at your local grocery store or one of your favorite restaurants. You likely know a few of these people, maybe even by name, and they may also know you. Even if someone doesn’t hold a key role in your life, does that mean you can’t both be friendly? Share some polite banter, maybe even learn a thing or two about each other?

Humans are inherently social animals. We want to connect to others and feel like part of a community. Relying only on a few strong ties for this, and discounting everyone else, means giving up on a lot of potential to experience (and spread) joy.

Weak Ties and Single-Serving Friends

In Fight Club, the narrator, at one point, describes his life as constantly on the go. For him, everything is good for only a single use. From single-serving sugar and cream packets for his coffee to hotel shampoo bottles to the people he meets on flights. He refers to these as “single-serving friends.”

Despite the cynicism in context, I think that there’s something beautiful in these so-called single-serving friendships. Something worth treasuring.

There are many times in life when you interact with someone only in a certain context, likely never to see them again. Those you meet while traveling, for instance. Or while taking a class or on jury duty.

You could take the fleeting nature of these relationships as an excuse not to invest in them. Or you can jump into the opportunity to treasure a weak-tie friendship. Enjoy a moment of getting to know someone, understanding their experience, and maybe sharing a laugh.

These single-serving friendships, like my Arizona group, are one of my favorite ways to enjoy the possibilities of weak-tie human connection. Why let the unpredictability of life get in the way of simply enjoying moments, forming relationships, and creating memories?

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Hey, I’m Sam. I created Smarter and Harder to explore big ideas, both old and new, about building a better life. My mission is to evolve the conversation about personal growth and have fun doing it.

2 thoughts on “Weak Ties and the Lasting Joy of Passing Friendship”

  1. Great read! Such true information. I like how you can put into words life happenings and make it touch base in my life. Each time I read one these it definitely relates to me in some way. (also each time I mean to send one of these replies) This “Weak Ties” on Smarter and Harder has brought back good memories of my ‘weak ties’ in life – and some were exactly how you said it, nice memories of good times, but no names in my memory….

    • Always glad to hear when I’ve been able to touch on something relevant 🙂 I think we’re all aware in some way of the people we know, but don’t know that well. But I usually only hear this topic taken from a cynical angle about people being “so disconnected these days” or some such. But there’s plenty of room for beauty in these relationships if we’re open to it!


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