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4 Proactive Strategies to Build a Social Life

4 Proactive Strategies to Build a Social Life

A lot of people believe that developing a social life is something that should just happen naturally, on it’s on, without you needing to do anything. I disagree.

I think that while this can happen for some folks, in certain stages of their life, it’s not always the case. Which is why many of us today lack a fulfilling social life. If you’re in college so you get to hang around lots of other people and you’re naturally a social person, your social circle will develop on its own. But if you’re an accountant working in cubicle all day who doesn’t go out much and is kind of shy, your social life may be seriously deficient.

In my view, building a social life requires the same active and strategic approach that making money or building a career requires. An approach based on setting goals and acting on them. Coming from this angle, I want to show you 4 proactive strategies to build a social life.

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1. Understand Your Type

A fulfilling social life looks differently for different people. Some of us need lots of friends and a large social circle. Some of us are more fond a having just a few friends, but who are very close to us. And some prefer a mix of the two. What is your preference? Do you know? Take some time to think about this and visualize what your ideal social circle would look like.

Another aspect to think about is what kind of people you want in your social circle. Do you prefer people who are artistic, or people who are tech-oriented? People who are outdoorsy or prefer to be indoors? Usually, you will get along best with individuals who are similar to you. So I advise you to consider your dominant traits and consciously decide which of these traits are important for you to find in others. If you know what kind of people you want in your life, you’re much more likely to find them,

2. Go Where the People Are

Once you know how many and what kind of friends you’re looking for, it’s time to take action in order to meet them. This may seem obvious, but it’s something many of us disregard: if you just wait for others to come to you, you’ll never build a social circle. You must have the initiative and go to them.

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My recommendation here is to think about activities where you are likely to meet people you’d enjoy interacting with, and get involved in a few of them. For instance, you may take a class on a topic you’re interested in. You may volunteer for a charity organization. Or join some sort of club. Even if you don’t have any friends whatsoever at this point, you can apply this strategy. You can get involved in such activities all by yourself, and you’ll meet others there.

In using this strategy, the Internet is your friend. You can discover all sorts of classes, social events, clubs and organizations near you online. But keep in mind that this is only the first step. Then you need to actually get out of the house, go there and participate.

3. Be Friendly First

So you attend a training program on, let’s say, urban photography. There are lots of other people there. What do you do? In general, the passive approach tends to prevail. Many of us just sit around doing nothing and expect others to come talk to us, ask us questions, and be chatty. And this may happen, or it may not. One thing I’m certain of though is that it’s not the best approach. You want to be friendly first. Be the one to break the ice.

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Walk up to other people and introduce yourself to them. Then start chatting with them. For example, ask them how they found out about the event, how long they’ve been interested in urban photography, segue from there into other topics, and if they seem to enjoy talking to you (which they almost always will), keep the conversation going.

Doing this may not be easy at first, especially if you’re not used to being this outgoing, but it’s something you get used to with practice. The trick is to not let hesitancy prevent you from being social. And I can tell from experience that if you are social and friendly with new people first, you’ll really stand you and they’ll love you for it.

4. Make New Friends through Current Friends

If you’re building a new social life from scratch, the beginning is always the hardest part. However, once you’ve met a few people, it gets a lot easier because you can then leverage them to meet even more people. You can then meet some of their friends and acquaintances, and expand your social circle further.

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Again, a proactive approach works miracles. Let your friends know that you’re interested in meeting new people and you’d love for them to introduce you to other people they know. If they indeed are your friends, they’ll love to help you out. They may invite you to come with them to parties they go to, they may call other people to join you when you go out, and they’ll introduce you to new people. But you have to let them know their help is desired.

The best part is that the bigger your social circle becomes, the easier it is to employ this strategy. Your social life will expand faster and faster, and you’ll find it progressively easier to find people you match well with.

Your social life is completely in your hands. You can have a social life as rich, connected and diverse as you want. All you need is to do a bit of smart planning in this area, and take massive action. There is certainly no shortage of possibilities to meet people and make friends. It’s up to you to capitalize on them. Good luck!

More by this author

Eduard Ezeanu

Eduard is a confidence and communication coach with 7+ years of experience.

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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