In January 2020 I decided to move notable blog posts of mine to DEV. This is one of them. The original post is from April 28 2016.
Most people have a primary hobby which falls outside of their professional lives. For me, that hobby is board and card gaming. People have weird and wonderful hobbies of all kinds — from making cheese to geocaching — we all have our reasons for enjoying these activities, and generally want to share our love of them with our friends and family.
I have had introductions to various hobbies that my friends are passionate about. If time permits, I welcome these with open arms as I may discover something I really enjoy which will, ultimately, bring me closer to the people I care about. There is one important thing to note with these introductions however, and it’s that you may have only one chance to infect the other person with enjoyment or you may lose them forever.
While I say I’ve had multiple introductions, very few of those are successful as my first experience, and therefore impression, hasn’t been fantastic. Once we spend lots of time investing in a particular hobby, we can sometimes become more laid back with it. This is absolutely fine because we know and remember why we love it, but this isn’t the case for others.
Here are some tips to make sure that your friends can see why you enjoy your hobby so much, and hopefully join you more in the future. My examples are from sharing my love of board and card gaming with others, but are applicable to most pastimes.
Most hobbies have a range in difficulty. For my hobby, this is the vast range in tabletop game types, complexity and length. While I may really enjoy long strategy games of conquest, they can often last longer than 4 hours — which is too long for an introduction.
On the other hand, there are fun strategy games which can last 30 minutes — these are much more suitable for beginners. If I can see that they really enjoyed it, I may suggest a longer game, while others will never go beyond their mild appreciation of the hobby.
While you have built your skill up over a longer period of time, your friends have not — be nice and remember that, at one point, you also had a much lower level of skill and someone had to give you a nice easy introduction, too.
People like knowing what to expect, and your hobby is no different. You should always start with a demonstration of exactly what you’ll be doing before your friend starts. In my example, this would be running an example turn in front of new players.
The key thing many people forget, however, is the importance of narration. Simply giving an example is great, but explain what’s going on in your head — the decisions you’re making and why. It will show your friends what things they should be thinking, whether that’s simply remembering what’s coming next, or knowing how to approach a challenge.
Humans love to learn — whether in an academic setting, self taught or otherwise — we enjoy gaining new knowledge. While many people suggest that you explain only the very basics of a given hobby, I believe you should go a step further and explain a subset of the intricate elements.
Making beginners feel like beginners is shit. Beginners are just learning, like the rest of us, and helping them feel knowledgeable will go a long way to increasing their buy-in to your hobby. It could be as simple as explaining some history, or telling the story of why an element is done in a certain way, or how it is applicable to other parts of the hobby.
I’m not saying you should go full-on fact book, as that would be a lot to ingest, but do share some of the knowledge you have which will take your friends from ‘beginners with low knowledge’ to ‘beginners with low experience’.
Sometime you may have the opportunity to approach a challenge in a slightly easier way. Sometimes these easier ways aren’t the ‘proper’ solution, but help your friends get started and see results quicker.
This is the most important thing — you want your friends to see some return on the investment (time) they’ve given you as quickly as possible. Don’t drag it out, don’t make it more complicated than it has to be, and be nice.