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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

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

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Owen Marcus

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

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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