Your Tango | The Ghana Report | 1/20/2024
The old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who.” The idea is that personal connections are more responsible for professional success than merit or ability. It’s certainly observable in cases of nepotism or cronyism, but those are so obvious that they don’t teach us anything useful or that we didn’t already know.
We need something faster and more specific — an effective approach to leveraging our connections that’s fresh. Ideally, the solution won’t feel like the traditional networking that so many people dread almost as much as they hate the idea of selling.
The answer — the theory of weak ties — is here to save the day, and baked into the solution is an easy method to increase your chances of finding work, clients, friends, and romance.
What is the theory of weak ties?
The counterintuitive theory states that people in our social networks with whom we are only peripherally acquainted can actually have a greater impact on our success in various areas than our closer friends can have.
In 1973, Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter developed the theory in his influential work, “The Strength of Weak Ties.” He referred to close, intimate relationships as strong ties, while more distant connections were labelled weak ties.
Our strong ties are our close friendships and family bonds.
These relationships provide emotional support, a sense of belonging, and the ability to mobilize aid in distress. Strong ties are built through shared life experiences over long periods of time, leading to trust and reciprocity. We interact frequently with these strong-tie connections, relying on each other for both affection and assistance.
On the other hand, weak ties represent our broader social network of acquaintances.
These include old classmates we rarely talk to, distant relatives we see only occasionally, or colleagues from an old job. The interactions are more limited and often situational. But most importantly, these weak ties bridge different social circles, giving access to non-redundant sources of information and opportunities for collaboration.
They expose us to fresh ideas and diverse world views. While our inner circle of confidants provides intimacy, the outer layer of weaker ties gives flexibility.
Through weak ties, we can tap into the resources, knowledge, and perspectives of a more comprehensive array of people.
It is the combination of strong ties that bond and weak ties that bridge, which enables cooperation and innovation on a societal level. Our networks gain strength and vitality when weak ties between groups are woven together.