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Last Updated on October 26, 2018

15 Lessons on How to Surround Yourself With Positive People

15 Lessons on How to Surround Yourself With Positive People

Be honest: how many good friends do you have?

If you are a man, the chances are slim that you have a tribe of good friends. As men we tend to become isolated. [1]

Women, in spite of their natural ability to connect to other women, in our tech age are also losing deep friendships. “The number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades,” [2].

You may have hundreds of social media friends. But how many of them can you call at 2 AM to help you in a crisis?

I started out in a small Vermont town. Everyone knew you… and your business. There were not many places to hide. I felt secure in knowing others were watching out for me. I can remember years ago living in Phoenix sobbing as I read a Vermont Life magazine article. A town rebuilds a farmer’s barn because the previous week it burnt down to the ground. In that moment I longed for community and close friends.

Not having close friends since high school, I created a plan to develop them. I cheated. I started a men’s group. What we discovered with our Sandpoint Men’s Group is going international. We are helping other men start groups and develop deep friendships.

The core of what we learned was the ROC formula: Relax, Open and Connect. They are the first three strategies to generating close friends.

In this article, I’m going to tackle, step by step, how to gain more solid friendships and how to ditch your enemies. If you’ve always wanted to be surrounded by people who bring you up rather than pull you down, then read on.

How to Thrive in Friendships Using the ROC Formula

I started out in a small Vermont town. Everyone knew everyone… and each others’ business. There were not many places to hide, and I felt secure in knowing others were watching out for me.

I can remember years ago living in Phoenix sobbing as I read a Vermont Life magazine article. A town rebuilds a farmer’s barn because the previous week it burnt down to the ground. In that moment I longed for community and close friends.

Not having close friends since high school, I created a plan to develop them.

I cheated. I started a men’s group. What we discovered with our Sandpoint Men’s Group is going international. We are helping other men start groups and develop deep friendships.

The core of what we learned was the ROC formula: Relax, Open and Connect. They are the first three strategies to generating close friends.

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Step #1: Relax

We live in a world that continues to run faster with more to do. Your nervous system starts to habituate to that pace along with all those around you. You don’t realize how fast your body or mind are going or their effects on you.

Once you begin to accept and experience your pace you can start to relax. In relaxing, you may feel anxious. That is OK. That is your body feeling what it couldn’t feel when it was on its treadmill.

This is a lifelong process. You don’t need to be a master at it. You need to start to see results. Mindfulness is a great tool to speed the development of this skill. By slowing down, you are more able to do the next skill.

Step #2: Open

Once you begin to accept your body, mind and emotional experiences you have more room to open up to being vulnerable to others. This is THE KEY to close friendships. Without vulnerability you don’t have a relationship, you have interaction.

Brene’ Brown, the champion of vulnerability, describes how all close relationships–be them romantic or friendship–start with vulnerability.

It’s scary. You may be rejected, hurt or shamed.

Without vulnerability, another person has nothing to connect with other than your external mask.

With vulnerability you are real, you are human. Sure, some will not like you. Though, many more will and they’ll want to be vulnerable with you.

Step #3: Connect

Once you relax and open, you are ready to reach out to connect to another. If vulnerability is the key, connecting is the door. When you step through your fears to reach out to another while being present and vulnerable, you upped your game.

Shifting from being passive to active by moving forward to connect has you give up some control. Sure you can connect from your hyper-persona, but you know what that will get you. If you want more friends sooner, apply these three steps tomorrow.

The Key Points of ROC

Creating a Safe Space

This is critical to the ROC formula and friendships. To the extent you feel unsafe your physiology will shift into its survival state. When your body believes it’s at risk, you aren’t naturally oriented to friendship.

If you feel unsafe, there is a good chance the other person feels unsafe. You can push your way through by denying your physical and emotional feelings. Or you could slow down to allow yourself to feel the lack of safety AS your risk to move forward towards connecting.

When you speak to what’s happened, so it’s not hidden or denied, others can relax. When you say “I’m nervous”, others relax because you admitted to a vulnerable experience. A safe space is the fertile soil for friendship.

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Clarify What You Want

When you slow down to connect to the kinds of friends you want you are more likely to create them. Rather than hoping, you get clear so you can create a plan.

If you want friends that enjoy nature, hanging in bars may not be the place to meet them. Joining a hiking club would set you up to meet nature lovers.

Say No to What You Don’t Want

With clarity comes taking a stand for what you want. That often means saying no to friends that aren’t giving you energy. Sure, a good friend is there for another when he or she is not receiving from the other.

You know what I mean. It’s the friend that always call in a crisis, not willing to listen or do what it takes to shift his or her life. When you see his caller ID, you hesitate to pick up.

If you fill your life with relationships that suck you dry you will have no room for those that can nourish you. Start speaking up. Start saying what you truly feel and want. Sometimes the truth will set one of these people free.

Others speak of having good boundaries. I say fill your boundaries with all of your feelings and wants. Be courageously authentic and the need to work on strong boundaries will be irrelevant. The people you don’t want as friends will avoid you. Those that you would want will be attracted to you.

Go for Something Bigger Than Yourself

We are attracted to people who have a purpose in life. We read books and see movies about people who stand up for something that puts them at risk.

Go for more than finding your passion. Explore what you want to live and die for. Go for it. It’s less that you are achieving it and more you are going for it that will draw people to you.

Enjoy Your Solitude

The more you enjoy your own company, the more others will. When you don’t need others, they will be more attractive to you. We’ve all met that needy person who you don’t want to hang with.

The more you enjoy being by yourself the less you have misplaced needs. We instinctually and biologically, let alone psychologically, need others. I’m not talking about being the isolated hermit. I am speaking about being OK with your own company.

Connection Can Be Critical

We are trained to understand, diagnosis and fix a problem.

That’s a great strategy for fixing code. It doesn’t work well for developing friendships. We are social animals; we are hungry for connection. We want to be heard and witnessed, not analyzed and lectured to.

The next time you find yourself not being heard or see yourself go into problem-solving mode, slow down. Use the ROC formula to reorient. Back away from seeing the person as a problem. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What did it feel like when your boss told you that?”

Listen less for understanding and more for connection. Encourage the person to express vulnerable feelings with your actions and words. If it feels right, you may touch the person. Research proved that touch is a powerful connector that can immediately tell someone they are OK.

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Shared moments of heighten connection.

When a situation has intensity and possibly perceived danger we will move beyond our hesitations to reach out for help. Studies were down during the bombing of London in the Second World War. Rather than people fighting each other for the limited resources they bonded together to share.

Going on a strenuous hike with another can cement a friendship. Maybe you got lost. Once you rediscover the trail, you start laughing at all the mistakes you both made. Those mistakes become your shorthand to remind each other about the experience and how good it felt.

Plan special moments to catalyze a friendship.

Creating connection rituals can be repeated shared moments.

We need predictability in our lives. When the predictable is planned it’s a ritual. In lieu of no positive rituals, our unconscious will use negative rituals.

A couple may have a date night every week. Through the week each person, rather than daydream about the last argument, can reflect on their weekly date that will be relaxing and connecting.

Plan activities with friends that bring you closer. In our weekly men’s group, men look forward to spending four hours together. Most would not have thought hanging with other men would be fun. It is because these men aren’t hanging, they are being vulnerable and connecting every week. They know if something tough happens, they have their group.

Listening may be the best quality of a deep friendship.

Your ability to listen allows another to go deep into their experience. But how many people do you have that can sit with you for an hour and listen?

When you look at listening as a mental task, it looks boring. When you look at listening as emotional intimacy, it can be scary or exciting.

As the person speaks, feel your response. Notice how your body responds. Notice how you are opening up. You can reflect back to the person the impact what they are saying is having on you.

When is the last time you were truly heard? When is the last time you got someone else’s world?

Fun is the magnet that draws others to you.

Laughter a social phenomenon opens us up. To have fun, you need to relax and express.

For many of us, we don’t know how to generate fun or laughter. I was one of them. It was when I started being like a kid that I started having fun. When I teased people in a loving way and laughed at myself that I started having fun.

We are drawn to those who are fun. To be one of those people you need to risk making a fool of yourself. You will at first do or say something that is not fun. Write it off as learning. Keep putting yourself out there. Your failures will feel worse for you than others. Others will appreciate the risk-taking.

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Be your own friend first.

Practice the above behaviors with yourself. Have a weekly fun activity. Use the ROC formula with yourself.

If you are doing a lot of negative self-talk, go to the underlying emotions. Feel them so you can release them. Shift your state, get your body moving. It’s less talking yourself out of a negative state and more accepting your experience.

Often as kids when we had no one to console us, we did it for ourselves. Now as an adult you have more choices. Choose to feel and express as you move through life. Give yourself the voice you didn’t have as a kid. Stand up for yourself, as you would for a good friend.

Others will sense how you take care of yourself which sets them up to believe you could do it for them. They will naturally trust you more.

Give—to others knowing you may not get anything in return.

Give the most precious gift, gift of yourself in vulnerable ways. Reveal not to get attention. Reveal to be the first to take the emotional risk.

Give a compliment when it doesn’t benefit you. Tell the woman at the checkout she looks good in her dress. The more giving becomes a habit, the more you will be the person others want to be around.

You want to have good friends in your life, first be a good friend to others. Take risks when others don’t. Be real, be vulnerable when others aren’t.

Be willing not to have others like you. Like in business when they say a product for everyone is a product for no one. So is trying to be everyone’s friend can turn people off. Have your focus be less on making friends and more on relaxing, opening and connecting.

Take on one of these skills every day. Play with them. As Bucky Fuller used to say, you’re not learning unless you are making mistakes. Go out of your comfort zone. Put yourself in new, possibly mildly scary, situations to expand your repertoire of friendship skills.

If I can do this, a guy who grew up with Asperger’s Syndrome, dyslexia, and a speech impediment, you can do it. Have fun.

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Owen Marcus

Author, Men’s Workshop Developer and Coach, Relationship Guide

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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