Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

What kinds of relationships do you have that enhance your status within your various communities?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) April 11th, 2012

This is about what kinds of people you know and how you know them. My intent is to get at this notion of social capital. We are familiar with notions of financial capital and political capital. These are resources we inherit or otherwise acquire that enable us to leverage resources to do things.

Social capital builds on relationships. There are many different kinds of relationships—some based on trust; some based on expertise; some based on just knowing someone’s name; and many other kinds of relationship.

To start with, I would like to know what kinds of relationships you have. How would you categorize them? If you want to go a step further, please explain how these different kinds of relationships provide support for you in your life.

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13 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

None. I may never be successful because I don’t network.

wundayatta's avatar

Whoa, dude! Do you think your fluther relationships give you nothing? Either you’re thinking too narrowly, or you care less about fluther than I thought you did.

Blackberry's avatar

@wundayatta Touche. But you matter to me, Wundayatta. :)

janbb's avatar

I don’t think in terms of social capital: I think in terms of meaningful friendships.

wundayatta's avatar

@janbb That’s fair. What is the difference between meaningful and less meaningful friendships, and what do the meaningful ones provide for you in your life?

janbb's avatar

I’m tempted to say “meaning” but that would be glib. I guess I mean people with whom I can share feelings and experiences and be understood and with whom I feel I can be my most genuine self.

janbb's avatar

@thorny fell asleep, methinks.

thorninmud's avatar

Well, my colleagues at my day job think of me as the guy who can solve their problems by making stuff. People come to me with problems that they think might be solved if only we could cook up some kind of widget. I have a history of coming up with pretty good solutions in those cases, and as a result they see me as a valuable resource. So I have accumulated some social capital by repeatedly helping them solve problems.

Social capital plays a much more complex role in my religious community. My leadership role is a direct result of the relationship I established with my predecessor. In our outfit, there’s a strict protocol for acceding to leadership; someone who’s already in a leadership position has to personally sign-off on your qualification. That’s a subjective call, based mostly on how he feels about you after working with you for many, many years.

That only gets you in the door, so to speak. I have a certain “paper” status just by virtue of having been named, but to be an effective leader, I have to then actually establish a relationship with every single member of the community, as well as with the board of the organization. Because I don’t have any objective performance measures at all, this is strictly relationship stuff. Either they find me to be a positive force in their efforts, or they don’t. If they don’t, they won’t trust me enough to open up. Their guard will be raised, and the kind of intimacy that’s necessary for my work will never be established.

To establish that trust, I have to prove to them that I’m not trying to get anything at all from them, not even approval. I also have to drop any vestige of pretense on my part. I have to open up and be vulnerable, so they’ll feel safe doing the same. Whatever social capital I have in that community would vanish in an instant if I betrayed the trust of even one person, or ever appeared to be self-serving.

wundayatta's avatar

I find that very insightful, @thorninmud. It makes me reflect on my role with others and how I see my value to others. I see it as being able to provide service to others; to help them.

I don’t know if I lead or not. I help people, but I keep it within certain limits. Like through fluther I can help people, but I have no set hours or even any requirement to be here. I am here when I choose, and I choose questions where I think I can be helpful. And all I want is to be helpful, although it can be hard to know if I have been helpful.

Sometimes I am serious. Sometimes I’m goofy. Sometimes people don’t get me. Sometimes people thank me. Sometimes there’s lurve. Sometimes nothing. I never can really predict when people will find me helpful, except when I am talking to someone with bipolar disorder. I generally seem to be helpful in cases like that.

But as in your organization, it’s not like I can get anything from anyone except maybe a kind word. Maybe people will be more inclined to respect me in an argument. Maybe people might come to support me in an argument. Maybe people will see my avatar and make sure to read what I have to say, even if it is long. Others may automatically skip it. There’s no way of knowing.

However I do feel I also need to open up and be vulnerable. Or at least open up and speak the truth even when it does not meet others’ approval. A lot of people do respect me when they think I am speaking the truth. Sometimes people say they respect my willingness to be vulnerable. I appreciate that. I mean, I’m glad it means something to others.

I think that I am self-serving, but I hope I make it clear that I choose to do that, and I don’t expect anyone to feed my needs unless they truly want to. But I will always try to help others, even if I don’t like something they do. I do get angry and I will think badly of people on occasion, but it isn’t permanent. Mostly I believe people are good, even when they do things that I think are harmful.

Dunno what all that adds up to. But it is my way of being here and also in the real world, except I reveal much more of my life here than I do in the real world.

thorninmud's avatar

@wundayatta The view you have of your role here certainly matches the impression I’ve gotten of you, for what it’s worth. That spirit of service really shines through. There’s a magnificent generosity to you. It’s uncommon enough that some people might be a bit taken aback by that. The interest you take in other people is clearly not always reciprocated, but the fact that you keep pouring yourself out like that anyway says a good deal about you.

wundayatta's avatar

Thank you, @thorninmud. That means a lot to me.

Bellatrix's avatar

I have been asked to join colleagues in projects they have because of my own experience.

I am asked to sit on committees because of my experience too.

Colleagues come to me to ask advice.

I am not a good networker though. I feel awkward at conferences and the like. It is something I have to force myself to do and I am an extrovert. I don’t like to have to network in a forced way though.

DaphneT's avatar

My relationships are mostly familial, and the amount of social capital I have has dwindled every year that I’ve failed to conform.

This notion of social capital is a label put on relationships to quantify the justification of political capital; as a label it is only meaningful when there is significant financial capital. Discussing any of the three as stand-alone entities emphasizes the pomposity of the concepts.

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