When I moved to Gothenburg, I found myself barely knowing anyone. Being a social person, this was a rough state of affairs. I started going to events. It took some time for me to meet a person I liked hanging out with, but eventually, I met a person I could dive into deep conversations together with. After having spent most of the event breaks talking, I looked at him and said: “I like talking to you. I want to do it more. How do I get in touch with you?”

I then started reaching out regularly, turning a random encounter into a long-term friendship. This post will cover a simple technique I used to reach out consistently, along with the hurdles that stand in the way for many. I have more tricks up my sleeve, and may write follow-up posts covering them.

A widescreen oil painting of a dramatic scene where a person is rising from a grave. The setting is an ancient, overgrown cemetery with a backdrop of dark, tumultuous clouds pierced by rays of light. The person, draped in tattered garments, emerges with an expression of determination, symbolizing rebirth amid decay. The landscape is rich with dark greens, deep blues, and hints of gold reflecting off the scene, capturing the essence of overcoming adversity. This scene is meticulously detailed, emphasizing the contrast between the eerie atmosphere of the graveyard and the triumphant spirit of the figure.


The Murder of Relational Agency

Many people struggle socially after leaving school. They spend their youth forming convenient friendships, connecting with people they happen to spend time with. Once they leave school, friendships stop happening automatically.

School kills relational agency, with many people reaching adulthood lacking basic relational skills — cultivating friendships outside the confines of an institution.

Meanwhile, friendships and real social connections are becoming increasingly valuable — the most important things in life cannot be bought. This is not a platitude about the power of love — relationships get you access to things like social contexts, jobs/collaborations and other powerful network goodies.

Relational agency is a proverbial thousand-dollar bill lying on the sidewalk.

Let me tell you how to pick it up.


Automated Outreach Reminders

A key aspect of building and maintaining relationships is to connect regularly. Automatic school-relationships form around shared classes, with people you happen to be paired up with. As an adult, you can’t rely on a system to meet others — you need to do it yourself. Your capacity to reach out to others will shape your relationships to a large degree — you’d better put energy into doing this well.

Many people leave this up to chance, reaching out once in a while when they happen to remember. Their relationships tend to fizzle out over time, with life getting in the way. After a long period of neglect, these people are left alone, unsure where all their friendships went.

This is a very preventable outcome. Reaching out consistently isn’t rocket science — set a recurring reminder! Use your todo-list, post-it notes on the fridge, or whatever system you use to keep plants alive. Given the massive advantages you get by reaching out, I’m amazed more people don’t do this. Using systems to keep track of important things is an obvious thing to do — and relationships are important to most people.

There are concerns stopping people from using these kinds of reminders. These hindrances are worth overcoming — being better than most people at reaching out is a high-value skill. Being unusually good at reaching out means that you get to decide who you connect with, and how you want to connect. Over time, this will shape your social circles to fit your ideals.



Status dynamics

Most people want relationships where both parties reach out roughly the same amount of time. Reaching out more than the other person raises concerns - “Am I being too much?”, “Does the other person like me?”, etc. People like being on the receiving end of hangout-requests, feeling special and wanted.

They play things safe by keeping things balanced, letting the other person reach out around half the time. This is a bad strategy. Most people suck at reaching out — waiting for the other person will often backfire. In many cases, this leads to a gradually decreasing amount of contact, with the relationship fading away over time.

I find this status-concern absurd. The power exchange may seem tilted in the receiver’s favour at any given outreach-instance, but over time the more agentic outreacher clearly wins out. The path of the outreacher allows you to shape the relational environments you move through — much better than staying passive, hoping for someone else to initiate a flattering dynamic.

Taking initiative and going for what you want may feel scary — taking power into your own hands implies responsibility; owning the direction of your life. This kind of agency is the epitome of power in a network society. Thinking of it as low status is absurd.


Aversion to Explicit Priorities

Another potential hurdle is the explicit nature of reminders. Most people keep their relational decisions implicit, “going with the flow” rather than making uncomfortable decisions. Setting outreach-reminders is the opposite approach, requiring you to set explicit priorities:

“Do I want this person on the list?”

“Is this a ‘once-every-four-weeks’ kind of friend?”

Practically, I update my outreach-reminders regularly, basing the intervals on:

  • Short-term impact of relating to the person — do I leave hangouts feeling 
  • Long-term impact — who do I become by hanging out with this person?
  • History — do we have a history of trust and collaboration?
  • Potential — does the connection offer opportunities, power, potential collaborations etc?
  • Group vs 1-1 — some people I meet mostly at events, and rarely connect 1-1 with. My outreach-reminders are dedicated to people I want to have 1-1 relationships with. I’m planning on writing more about event-connections in a later post.
  • Liking — do I like the person?
  • Etc

If this feels strange to you, remember that you are already making these tradeoffs. Your decision criteria are likely implicit, and most likely over-weighing short-term benefits/status quo. I’m not advising you to treat friendships as an exposable commodity — in good relationships, most of the criteria I listed are likely to become better over time, as you learn and grow together.

Not making a choice is a choice. Going with the flow can open up for serendipity and unexpected connections. If you combine this with a strategy for consistently picking up the relational opportunities that come your way, you will end up in great places. The first step is thinking about what you want, and then acting on it.

Also, you don’t need to tell people you’re doing this. Sharing it openly is only advisable if people are used to you being eccentric.


Chore:ification of Relationships

People tend to treat repeated reminders as chores — not a vibe you want to associate with your relationships. These vibes are not connected to the task-list itself, but rather your relationship to it.

Is it a list of demands you impose on future you? “I don’t feel like it right now, but I want to get it done — what if I do it tomorrow?”. The long-term part of yourself decides before the short-term part of yourself starts caring — i.e. a unilateral decision — and then tries to impose “the agreed upon” decision on a suddenly resistant short-term part.

Is it a set of helpful reminders, there to support future you? “Let’s make sure I don’t forget the massage event — would be a shame if I missed it!”. The long-term part makes sure you make an informed choice when the time comes, in a non-demanding way.

If your relatioship to tasks is more like (1) than (2), I can recommend looking into non-coercive motivational systems. Getting into the right relationship with getting shit done is a core skill, with repercussions extending to all parts of life.

Developing an aversion to structured commitments can help you break away from ways of being that no longer serve you. Long-term, this aversion will rob you of the capacity to build/shape parts of reality, leaving you dancing according to the whims of others.



Setting recurring outreach-reminders is an easy way to increase your relational agency, giving you the power to shape your social environment over time.

This approach carries with it a couple of potential challenges. All of them are worth overcoming, unblocking capabilities in many parts of life.

I hope this post has given you some food for thought. Best of luck shaping your social environment!

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