Why Coffee Klatches Work: Low Investment, High Return

A couple of years ago I read a great article by columnist and author David Brooks in which he said that if he were given $500 million dollars he’d spend it setting up places that would cultivate friendships.  Why?

Brooks wrote: “…friendship is not in great shape in America today. In 1985, people tended to have about three really close friends, according to the General Social Survey. By 2004, according to research done at Duke University and the University of Arizona, they were reporting they had only two close confidants. The number of people who say they have no close confidants at all has tripled over that time.”

Few would argue against the belief that we need friendships.

“In the first place,” Brooks said, “friendship helps people make better judgments. So much of deep friendship is thinking through problems together: what job to take; whom to marry. Friendship allows you to see your own life but with a second sympathetic self.”

Developing adult friendships in this modern age is a challenge. But I believe, and I’ve experienced, that a simple cup of coffee can begin to conquer that challenge.

If you haven’t yet, would you think about starting a coffee klatch in your neighborhood? 

Organizing a neighborhood coffee klatch is a great way to begin to thaw the Seattle Freeze in your neighborhood.

Coffee mugs, check. Some fruit & muffins to nibble on, check. Perfect kitchen? Nope (and not necessary!)

I have found mine to be a continuous source of meeting new friends, all of whom live within walking distance of my home.

Whether you host a klatch on weekdays or weekends (either works), a quick push of the vacuum, a quick email invitation and the making of a pot of coffee is all you need to invest to bring people together to start a conversation. AND, it’s a low-investment ‘yes’ for your neighbors as well.

This last weekend I hosted another gathering of my Neighborhood Coffee Klatch. I chose a Saturday this time to make it accessible for the gals who work full-time and can’t make it on a weekday morning.

Each time we’ve gathered, the group has included original owners, those who’ve lived here 10+ years, and some who’ve moved here within the last year. That tells me that a desire to connect is not just about who’s in the current ‘freshman class’ of the neighborhood, but confirmation that we all share a genuine desire to be known in our corner of the world.

Five women that had been on my Evite list since last August were able to attend Saturday for the first time.  One of the ladies said two things that summed up the importance of the Klatch experience for me:

  1. “Thank you for not giving up on me.”
  2. “Thank you for making it so easy for us.”

An invitation for a cup of coffee is about as low-intensity and non-threatening of an invitation as it gets. You’re not asking your neighbors to do anything, bring anything (although many do), or prepare anything: just show up for a cuppa Joe and the possibility of some nice conversation.

There's no need to bake up a storm for your neighborhood coffee klatch. Keep is simple and just pick up some bakery muffins and fresh fruit.

There’s no need to bake up a storm for your neighborhood coffee klatch. Keep is simple and just pick up some bakery muffins and fresh fruit.

Don’t give up on your neighbors who may not initially respond to an invitation. Chances are, they’ve got as hectic of a schedule as you have.  If they want to connect, they WILL come when they can.  The women that were able to attend our klatch for the first time on Saturday were so delighted to finally be free to come; they were so happy to see neighbors ‘they hadn’t seen in years’ and a few even offered ‘would you like some of us to host occasionally? You shouldn’t have to do all the work.’  I’m all for that. 🙂

Connection is a basic human need and I increasingly believe that there’s a war against it as we all battle for free time in our lives.  We are busy, busy people. I’m frequently seeing statistics and speeches by leadership consultants that verify what so many are feeling: people are feeling pressed to work longer and harder, to do more with less, to be available via Smart Phones 24/7 to ‘handle it’, ‘improve it’ or at the very least ‘weigh in on it.’ After work, we are constantly in motion delivering kids to music lessons, sports, tutors and scheduled play dates.

A Neighborhood Coffee Klatch can give just right amount of low-demand structure and frequency (I do mine every 6-8 weeks) that is attractive to busy lives. It’s not a club, per se, with expectations, but more of a ‘drop-in-when-you-can-we’d-love-to-see-you’ kind of vibe. Yet every time I have one, I see it also provides an opportunity for ‘beyond the mailbox’ conversations, and opportunities to develop friendships beyond the Klatch meeting itself.

The housing boom has returned to Seattle in full force. 

If your neck of the woods is as dotted with For Sale signs as mine, we’re on the cusp of yet another big wave of new home buyers & neighbors.   Think about organizing a Coffee Klatch in your neighborhood.  Think about using the summer to perhaps find one other neighbor who’d like to partner with you to get it started.

I have found that it truly is a delight to bring people together and watch friendships develop, for myself and others. And now, more than in generations past, people are feeling more disconnected and pressed for time and are in need of EASY, LOW INVESTMENT opportunities to connect and find new friendships.

A Cup Of Coffee.  Think About It.




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