The key is reconnecting

One of Rifkin’s maxims is “I believe in the strength of weak ties.” It’s in homage to a classic study by the Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter. Strong ties are our close friends and colleagues, the people we really trust. Weak ties are our acquaintances, the people we know casually. Testing the common assumption that we get the most help from our strong ties. Granovetter surveyed people in professional, technical, and managerial professions who had recently changed jobs. Nearly 17 percent heard about the job from a strong tie. Their friends and trusted colleagues gave them plenty of leads.

But surprisingly, people were significantly more likely to benefit from weak ties. Almost 28 percent heard about the job from a weak tie. Strong ties provide bonds, but weak ties serve as bridges: they provide more efficient access to new information. Our strong ties tend to travel in the same social circles and know about the same opportunities as we do. Weak ties are more likely to open up access to a different network, facilitating the discovery of original leads. 

Here’s the wrinkle: it’s tough to ask weak ties for help. Although they’re the faster route to new leads, we don’t always feel comfortable reaching out to them. The lack of mutual trust between acquaintances creates a psychological barrier. Byt givers like Adam Rifkin have discovered a loophole. It’s possible to get the best of both worlds: the trust of strong ties coupled with the novel information of weak ties.

The key is reconnecting, and it’s a major reason why givers succeed in the long run. 

From “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam Grant