The WD-40 for Growth

I was recently re-reading a book by Robert Putnam and Lewis Feldstein about social capital, and stumbled upon a very cool metaphor. Putnam and Feldstein have been pioneers in understanding the importance of social capital (relationships) in making a better community. 

In this book (Better Together, 2003) they discribe the difference between "bridging" and "bonding" forms of social capital.  They state that "bonding" social capital is found with people linked in similar and crucial respects and tend to be inward looking.  Think racial, or gender, or religious connections and convictions.  They see these bonded relationships using a type of "super glue" that helps create and keep the connection.  However, a community that is only bound by bonded issues can become narrow, and even hostile to outsiders.

This brings us to "bridging" connections, that are things we have in common that can get us closer to people who have other, and maybe more deeper, differences. This might be interest in sports, music, various hobbies that create a sort of bridge to others.  Putnam and Feldstein see these bridging relationships as a type of sociological WD-40.  I love this metaphor! 

We know that bonded relationships create a comfort, and security for us, being with "our own kind." Bridging social capital promotes a more pluralistic effect, and broadens our thinking. This is actually when we grow. 

So, get out of your comfort zone and look for people different from you who share a common interest. This will be your WD-40 to a broader perspective on people and life!