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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Surround Yourself With Positive People

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 surround yourself with positive people who bring you up rather than pull you down, then read on.

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.

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

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 okay. 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.

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.

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.

How Does the ROC Formula Work?

What exactly does the ROC Formula do to help you surround yourself with positive people? Here’s how it works:

Create 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.

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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.

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 okay with your own company.

7 Ways to Maintain Connections with Others

Connection with others is critical if you want to develop and maintain deep relationships. To do so, here’re some important lessons for you to learn:

1. 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.

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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 okay.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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?

5. Fun Is the Magnet That Draws Others to You.

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

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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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

Final Thoughts

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!

More about Building Positive Relationships

Featured photo credit: Omar Lopez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] New York Times: The Challenges of Male Friendships
[2] Time Magazine: How Many Friends Do I Need?

More by this author

Owen Marcus

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

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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