How Your Distant Friends Can Often Help You the Most

You need to maintain a network that’s not only deep but also broad. 

Typically when we think about a network we divide it into strong ties and weak ties.  The strong ties are the people that you are close to and you know well and you have a lot of trust with.  The weak ties are more of your acquaintances. 


There’s some wonderful work by Mark Granovetter and his colleagues at Stanford showing that most people tend to go to their strong ties when they really need help - when they’re looking for advice or a new job.  But actually the weak ties tend to give more valuable information.  So you might be almost twice as likely to get a new job through a weak tie than a strong tie.  And that’s because the strong ties tend to provide redundant information.  They often know the same information and the same people that you do.  

The weak ties, on the other hand, travel in different circles, they discover different opportunities and they can typically get you more quickly to ideas and possibilities that you weren’t aware of.  And yet, we can’t survive just on weak ties.  We need strong ties that we really trust to be able to open up, to bounce ideas back and forth, to really feel like we’re in close and meaningful relationships. 

And so I think that it’s really important to keep a balance of strong and weak ties.  One of the things that I think is most effective when we study givers is they actually are willing to extend their help often to both groups.  They don’t just help the strong ties. When somebody reaches out and they feel like, “Yeah, I can help and it won’t cost me a lot." So often they will do it.  And I think that’s a great step toward making sure that you maintain a network that’s not only deep but also broad. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

The 4 types of thinking talents: Analytic, procedural, relational and innovative

Understanding thinking talents in yourself and others can build strong teams and help avoid burnout.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to collaborate within a team and identify "thinking talent" surpluses – and shortages.
  • Angie McArthur teaches intelligent collaboration for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Do you have a self-actualized personality? Maslow revisited

Rediscovering the principles of self-actualisation might be just the tonic that the modern world is crying out for.

Personal Growth

Abraham Maslow was the 20th-century American psychologist best-known for explaining motivation through his hierarchy of needs, which he represented in a pyramid. At the base, our physiological needs include food, water, warmth and rest.

Keep reading Show less

Horseshoe crabs are drained for their blue blood. That practice will soon be over.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.

Credit: Business Insider (video)
Surprising Science
  • Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
  • This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
  • Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
Keep reading Show less

Believe in soulmates? You're more likely to 'ghost' romantic partners.

Does believing in true love make people act like jerks?

Thought Catalog via Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • Ghosting, or cutting off all contact suddenly with a romantic partner, is not nice.
  • Growth-oriented people (who think relationships are made, not born) do not appreciate it.
  • Destiny-oriented people (who believe in soulmates) are more likely to be okay with ghosting.
Keep reading Show less