5 Basic Steps To Increase Your Social Capital (And Score A Free Burrito!)

silhouettes jumping dollars in background social capital
Reading Time: 6 minutes

NOTHING IN THIS LIFE IS FREE… OR, IS IT?

Picture this:

You’re at your favorite burrito truck, your stomach grumbling a bad mess. You’ve been coming here for years. The truck guys don’t only know you by name. They even know the last four digits of your social security number.

That’s how much this burrito truck means to you. And that’s the kind of relationship you’ve forged with the guys toiling away in the kitchen, the ones that begin work on your massive, delectable, and wet three-pound burrito whenever they spot you heading towards them, no matter how many others are waiting in line to order.

Now, imagine your deep shame as you grope in your pockets to produce cash for that three-pound burrito, only to realize that you’ve left your wallet at home!

Well, dear reader, if you’ve been cultivating some social capital in your life, there’s a good chance that this massive, delectable, and wet three-pound burrito is on the house, making it into your belly without costing you a penny.

flat lay burrito with cupid and hearts

WHAT IS SOCIAL CAPITAL (AND HOW CAN I GET SOME?)

Social capital is a network of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.1

In other words, when it comes to social capital, the needs of the community must outweigh the needs of the individual. 

And although some sources will argue that social capital doesn’t have a clear, undisputed meaning,2 from a wellness perspective it makes complete sense: if you wish to co-exist with others — to synergize or “vibe” harmoniously — it will behoove you to get your social capital game on and amass some “invisible currency” to pay for things like burritos and soft-serve ice cream.

Because, who knows? You might end up losing your wallet one of these days or leaving it on the console table back home.

(You should really pay more attention before walking out the door!)

FIVE BASIC STEPS TO INCREASE YOUR SOCIAL CAPITAL

Now that we’ve defined social capital within the context of health and wellness, let’s go over five basic steps to make “invisible cash” and get some free stuff along the way.

wallet with cash on marble table

1. Start Saying “Yes”

In Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton’s book, “Yes, And,” the authors discuss how reversing the “No, But” framework can set you on a social capital path paved with unlimited possibilities.

It’s just a matter of giving someone else’s perspectives, ideas, and requests a fighting chance; an opportunity to say “Yes!” to something that could open more doors for you down the road.

This includes saying yes to things that instill fear within you — things that make the butterflies in your stomach flutter with horror.

And why would you ever agree to tumble down the rabbit hole of fear, you ask?

Well, perhaps someone else’s wellbeing depends on you facing your fears. Perhaps that person is a loved one or a significant other. Perhaps saying “No” to them will affect your livelihood as much as it will affect theirs.

So, take Tay-Tay’s advice and start saying, “Yes!”

And while you’re at it, keep in mind that you must also practice active listening; you’ve got to really hear someone out before rushing to a “yes” or a “no.”

Pinky-promise me that you will. (Won’t you?)

yes sign in cursive

2. Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself

I have a theory.

The reason you avoid your neighbors like the plague is that you’ve had many altercations with neighbors in the past.

You feel that if you become besties with them and enter into a dispute, it would be that much harder to rule out emotions while mitigating said dispute.

Amirite?

Look, disputes between neighbors are inevitable, partly because human beings are fickle as fuck and often default to individual interests. This is known as “Psychological Egoism”: behaviors that are motivated purely by self-interest and selfishness.

In the savage days of the caveman, this notion of self-interest meshed perfectly with Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest,” meaning that if Caveman A wanted Caveman B’s home simply because it was smaller, darker, and therefore inconspicuous (an ideal residence when you’re hiding from predators), what was to prevent Caveman A from clubbing Caveman B over the head, rendering him unconscious, and then feeding him to a Saber-toothed tiger just to get his digs?

Now, I’m not a God-fearing man, but I can see the value in the phrase, “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself,” and Caveman A isn’t acting very neighborly, now is he?

So, if you want to boost your social capital, don’t be Caveman A.

By promoting harmony (assuming that your neighbors are on the same page as you), you can reap the benefits of living in an apartment community or on a tranquil cul-de-sac lined with cute little houses.

Perhaps your neighbors can look after your dog when an overwhelming emergency takes you out of town, or gift you a bag of sugar to bake those decadent cupcakes you’ve been dreaming about.

But don’t get me wrong — self-interest can come in handy for sure, but only as a prerequisite for helping others once you’ve helped yourself.

Banksy's caveman with burger and fries street art

3. Constructive Criticism

A retail store that runs a tight ship will teach its sales associates how to respond to customers with solid constructive criticism that’s both safe and adds value to the overall customer experience.

That said, let’s see if you can answer the following correctly:

A customer asks a sales associate working in the fitting rooms, “do these jeans make me look fat?”

How should the employee respond?

A) Mmm. IDK.

B) If I’m honest, Ma’am, yes. You’re looking a bit chunky right about now.

Or…

C) Perhaps the fit isn’t quite right. Let me help you find the right one!

If you’ve guessed “C” as the proper “social capital response,” then give yourself a big bright star, you apt pupil, you!

The reason why everyone hates a critic is because they gloss over the good and go straight to the bad, often with a short fuse and guns blazing.

Now, how’s that helpful? How does it solve a problem? How do harsh critics expect others to learn from their mistakes, adapt to their shortcomings, and grow stronger and healthier?

To use a psychological term, the bad critic suffers from “delusions of grandeur,” and this won’t make a positive contribution to your social capital.

In other words, rather than impart criticism without offering a perspective for growth and improvement, choose from one of the following options:

A) Stuff that three-pound burrito in your mouth and shut the fuck up.

Or…

B) Follow these nine steps on how to give constructive criticism.

(Hint: if you want to boost your social capital, choose “B.”)

two jeans on hangers on white wall

4. Game Theory

Remember that scene in the film “A Beautiful Mind” where Russel Crowe, who plays the brilliant albeit schizophrenic mathematician, John Nash, is at a bar with some friends, and in walks an arresting blonde with a bold red lip, flanked by a group of young ladies who cast playful glances in their direction?

In this scene, Nash and his friends bicker over who gets the blonde, threatening to get in each other’s way, quoting the father of modern economics himself, Adam Smith, that “individual ambition serves the common good.”

“But what if no one goes for the blonde?” says Crowe. “We don’t get in each other’s way, and we don’t insult the other girls. That’s the only way we win. That’s the only way we all get laid.”

Indeed, social capital in the wellness context can benefit from the “Nash Equilibrium” — a notion rooted in what economists call “Game Theory.” It’s when “the best result will come from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself and the group.”

(Cue Oprah at her talk show, chanting and pointing at the audience members: You get a partner! And you get a partner!)

5. Be Delightful

The aforementioned steps culminate into one central theme that will grow your social capital bigger than the neglected pimple on your ass cheek:

Assholes don’t get free burritos.

But seriously, these are rudimentary steps governed by the law of attraction, which states that whatever actions or thoughts you put out into the universe, you’ll get back in the same manner, with the same energy.

So, go ahead: put some selfless and wholesome goodness out there, and let us know what you’re able to manifest out of your social capital.

And finally, be the spark that ignites positive interactions between you and someone else.

By doing so, not only will you prevent these “parking lot injustices” (for example.)

You’ll also learn that social capital is just the currency you’ll need to solve a clusterfuck of problems coming your way.

But that’s okay.

At least you can enjoy your free burrito.

  1. “Social Capital | Definition of Social Capital by Oxford Dictionary on lexico.com.” Lexico Dictionaries, English. Retrieved 14 April 2021. https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/social_capital
  2. “Definitions of Social Capital.” Social Capital Research & Traning. Retrieved 14 April 2021. https://www.socialcapitalresearch.com/literature/definition/
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