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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 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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