- The Triangular Friendship Experiment
The Triangular Friendship Experiment
A strategy for expanding your network and making new friends
In the past few months, I’ve made a conscious effort to do something new: I began introducing acquaintances of mine to one another. I’d take two people in my network with something in common, two people who didn’t yet know each other, and I would ask if they wanted to be introduced.
As I did this more and more, I noticed two incredible things start happening. First, it strengthened my own relationship with each of the individuals. And second, they began introducing me to others as well.
My professional network got both bigger and better as a result of proactively helping others improve theirs.
This is how I came up with the idea of The Triangular Friendship Experiment.
Here’s how it works: Think of two people you know who don’t yet know each other. Reach out to them and make an introduction. In turn, ask each of them to do the same for you: to introduce you to someone else in their network that you don’t yet know. By doing so, you’ve taken half the work out of them introducing two of their friends, because you’ve self-selected yourself as one of the two. Therefore, they each just need to find one other person with whom to connect you.
Let’s take a look at why this simple dynamic is so powerful.
You started off like this, a person with two friends or acquaintances (f1 and f2):
Before the experiment
You then introduced them to each other, and by doing so converted a loose network of nodes and edges into a much stronger friendship triangle:
First step of the experiment: introduce your friends to each other
Now you have a relationship with two people who have a relationship with one another, strengthening your existing relationship with each of them in a number of ways:
In addition to whatever they had in common in the first place, they now also share a friendship with you. In other words, you are part of the connective tissue that sustains their getting to know one another.
Your willingness to connect them with others demonstrates your trust in them, which in turn helps develop their trust in you.
There are now more justifications for engaging with or spending time with each of your existing connections. For instance: “👋 Hey f2. I’m getting coffee with f1 tomorrow. Want to join?”
But that’s not where the experiment ends, because each of those individuals has people in their network that you do not know (but with whom you might hit it off or share common interests). Let’s call them s1 and s2 (“s” for stranger).
Before the second step
So the next step is to ask each of your acquaintances to introduce you to that special someone in their respective networks:
Second step of the experiment: Ask your friends to introduce you to their friends
Once more, we’ve taken a loose string of connections and turned it into a significantly stronger pattern: interlocking triangles.
At scale, these triangles form a structure called a Hexagonal Lattice (essentially two overlapping Triangular Lattices). This pattern appears regularly in nature, from beehives to the arrangement of atoms in certain crystals. To architects, engineers, and material scientists, the networks arising from the meeting of triangles have geometric stability, load distribution, material efficiency… The list of benefits goes on.
Now we’ve found the ability to create the same powerful pattern in your social connections.
And the Experiment doesn’t stop there either. f1, your acquaintance, reached out to their acquaintance, s1, with the same invitation for reciprocity. In other words, now that you and s1 have been introduced, s1 will introduce f1 to someone else, thereby creating another triangle. And so on, and so on.
(This reminds me of this fascinating visualization that shows what happens at the molecular level as water freezes into ice. Notice the emergence of a crystal pattern out of the chaos of randomly moving water molecules.)
How To Introduce Others
Not sure how to warrant reaching out to acquaintances in your network to start this experiment? I just gave you an excuse in the form of this article. You can use it to give context and provide the justification for reaching out in the first place.
Many people (particularly those to whom networking doesn’t come naturally) may default to shrugging off methods like the Triangular Friendship Experiment. I myself am introverted. Yet in situations like this, I like to think of the upside scenario and the downside scenario. Best case, you make new friends, expand your network, and open new doors for the future. Worst case, you stay exactly where you are right now, which is also not too bad.
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