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Why do we hate networking events? - Podcast Highlights

In this episode, we discuss why we hate networking events but love group holidays, and we try and figure out how to better connect with our fellow human beings.

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.

In this episode, Taimur and I discuss why we hate networking events but love group holidays, the various degrees of social optionality at all group events and how we can overcome our issues and better connect with our fellow human beings.

Some highlights from our discussion:

Social settings can colour the interactions we have. The main concept underlining the discussion is social optionality. This is the idea that we treat social interactions differently according to the level of freedom we have in taking part in them. Scale ranges from high optionality events like networking to low optionality events like group holidays.

Our initial impressions are very often wrong. The issue with high optionality situations like networking events is that we tend to overweight our initial impressions – it’s very easy to pattern match and make wrong impressions. Whereas in lower optionality settings, the fact that you have to spend an extended period of time together means that even if your initial impression isn’t that good, you’re forced to suck it up and get on with it.

High optionality events put pressure on the need to add value to conversations. We sometimes feel under pressure to provide value into conversations – especially with those we don’t know – for instance at networking events. Taimur discussed his lack of confidence or belief that he is providing value to the conversation which you feel under pressure to provide in high optionality situations. There is something inherently uncomfortable about the high optionality events like house parties for example where you are having to sell your value in a very short amount of time.

Low optionality events force interaction and can lead to surprising outcomes. Taimur discusses his experiences on group holidays and I talk about my GP placements where we were both forced to interact with those around us and our initial relationships with certain people changed, developed and improved the more we interacted. Taimur suggests that in settings where there is not much optionality, you are forced to spend time with a group of people which can lead to more fruitful relationships and deeper connections.

The key is working towards acting in a low optionality way in high optionality situations. We should start thinking with a mindset of low optionality – there is some connection to be had here, let’s figure it out. One tactic is to loosen the inherent filter in our minds that considers everything we are going to say on a balance sheet of utility or value.

We need to adopt a third person perspective on our conversations. People who have better social skills and are charismatic don’t seem to be as concerned by what others think which is actually one of the reasons they can connect with a wider variety of people. We would care a lot less about what other people think when we realised how seldom they think about us. We think that people are analysing us, but they’re probably just as insecure about what they are saying too.


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What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.


Follow Not Overthinking on Twitter: https://twitter.com/noverthinking.

Who are we?

Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, Instagram

Taimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram

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Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.