For better or worse, we mirror the company that we keep. Here’s how we maximize its quality for the best reflection.
“I’m selective with second chances, but I’m always willing to give a first chance.” -AJ Harbinger
The Cheat Sheet:
- Are you due for a friend audit?
- How do you tell the difference between “high value” and “low value” people?
- Learn how high value people build you up and low value people tear you down.
- Where do you land on the Value Scale?
- Low value people identifiers: the red flags.
- And so much more…
Most of our friends are incidental. We grow up with them; they’re in the cubicle next to us; they’re on a sports team with us; they’re in our class. That’s the usual criteria for the people we spend the most time with: they’re there. But are they high value people or low value people? It might be time for a friend audit and, in some cases, a parting of the ways.
Breaking a connection with an incidental friend who isn’t right for you can feel like you’re doing something wrong, but it’s essential to be selective with the people who influence you most profoundly. In this toolbox episode of The Art of Charm, we talk about screening and qualifying the people you allow into your life.
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If you picture the five closest people in your life currently, have you really thought critically about their impact on your life?
Maybe you’re lucky and, on further examination, you realize that your friends really add to your life. You’re excited to be around them and you’re an amazing version of yourself when you’re with them — they bring out the best in you.
But there are probably at least a few people in your life who you second guess. Maybe you’re afraid to talk about the things that matter to you around them. Maybe you haven’t shared your future plans and dreams with them because you know that these people tend toward negativity.
It’s as simple as kindergarten math: the more negative people we have in our lives, the more negative we become. On the other side of it, surrounding ourselves with positive people will imbue us with positivity.
Let’s say you go into work with what you think is a great (albeit imperfect) idea to pitch. You know that your office is full of supportive people who will be fired up by your idea and understand that the better the company does, the better everybody does, then the few kinks in your idea will get massaged out. There’s no holding you back. You go into the Monday morning meeting and you’re ready to roll.
But if your office is staffed with conflicting cliques of small-minded, gossipy, two-faced backstabbers who can’t see past the petty politics of the latest office squabble, then you’re probably inclined to keep your idea to yourself. Why share something from yourself with people who couldn’t care less? If the environment’s especially toxic, it’s possible that you wouldn’t have had the energy to come up with the idea in the first place.
Peer pressure doesn’t really end in high school. Your friends and colleagues exert pressure on you every day to do things, to not do things, and to act a certain way.
Time, like its closely related counterpart, money, is a limited resource; you have to make the most of it. Are you going to use this resource to hold yourself back, or make yourself happy? Too much time spent with negative people is time that you’re wasting.
So how do you make sure that you’re spending more time with people who are good for you and less time with people who aren’t?
Being conscious of it — and willing to admit it and take responsibility for it — is a good first step. Time that you spend with low value people is time that you’re not spending with high value people. So you have to make room.
It’s not always easy at first — especially if you’re spending a lot of time with low value people who are having a negative influence on your behavior; high value people will generally pick up on this and, even if they like you, they may avoid you as a result.
When you’ve decided to make a positive change, you need to take a look at the things you don’t like about yourself. Then look at your network of friends and see if you can identify anyone who embodies these negative qualities and brings them out in you. Some are spotted quickly and become easy candidates for weeding out of the garden.
As you stop spending time with four or five negative influences, you’ll find that high value people begin seeking you out. Why? Because you’re being positive. You’re acting in a different way. You’re becoming a high value person.
The Value Scale
Everyone wants attention, approval, and acceptance from others in some capacity; it’s how we go about getting it that determines where we place on this scale.
Low value people usually fit into one of these categories:
Supplicative, who begs: “Please like me!”
Combative, who demands: “Like me, or else!”
Competitive, who insists: “Like me because I’m better than everyone here!”
High value people — our ideal company and what we’re really striving to be — usually fit into this category:
Cooperative, who reasons: “Like me as I am; nobody has to fall in order for anyone to rise. We all have potential. How can we mutually escalate our quality of life?”
When we get attention, approval, and acceptance in what we consider reasonable measure, we tend to dole it out abundantly. This is generally healthy, and is characteristic of high value people.
Some might argue that people on the cooperative end of the value scale open themselves up to being taken advantage of by those who occupy the lower side. We would counter that people exhibiting cooperative traits open themselves up to getting attention, approval, and acceptance even more.
A while back, we talked to Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. As the epitome of a high value person who copiously demonstrates a cooperative spirit, one of his favorite ways to interact with others is to extend the five minute favor. The idea is simple: at least once a day, take five minutes to help make someone’s life a little better.
This could be anything from making an email introduction between two people you know who share a common interest to leaving a positive recommendation on a colleague’s LinkedIn profile. You could even say something nice on Yelp about the little family-owned restaurant that always slips a few extra almond cookies into your lunch takeaway.
The five minute favor stops short — by design — of being a grand gesture, but it serves a dual purpose: it reminds you to remain in the cooperative mindset, and it makes other people feel good (it’s okay to admit that it makes you feel good, too).
Low Value People Identifiers: The Red Flags
People Unwilling to Take Responsibility for Their Actions
Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes. But high value people will own their mistakes and accept the consequences — turning them into learning experiences. Low value people will redirect the blame for their mistakes onto something or someone else (and blindly keep making the same mistakes).
Avoid the blame game and people who find fault in others.
If you have any level of success in what you do — whether it be leading meetings at work, speaking in public, acting in movies, or playing in a band — you’ll find that some people are drawn to lurk on the sidelines and follow your every move in hopes of acquiring a residual sense of accomplishment. We’re not talking about legitimate fans who express their appreciation for what you do without crossing the line, but the hangers on — less kind people might call them stalkers — who feel that proximity to you will get them the connections and success they crave. They may even feel that you owe them some of your success for their constant devotion.
Everybody likes to kick back and relax from time to time. But there are people who make a lifestyle out being genuinely lazy and generally useless. The worst part about hanging around with lazy people is that their laziness is so contagious. Before you know it, you’re calling in sick to lounge around in your boxers and day drink on a Wednesday in front of a Walker, Texas Ranger marathon.
The Big Talkers and Braggarts
When you encounter someone who’s convinced that they already know everything, what can you really offer them? Big talkers and braggarts are most often spotted outside of popular nightclubs being refused admittance. They’re most often heard indignantly exclaiming the words “I’m on the list!” and “Do you know who I am?”
Nobody does, and you shouldn’t, either.
We all get the sniffles. Headaches, too. It’s normal to express how little fun we’re having when our bodies rebel against themselves, but some people never get sick and tired of telling you how sick and tired they are — ad infinitum. If they’ve ever had a good day, you’ve never seen them report it in any of their seven social media haunts.
Who wants to get stuck being the company that misery loves?
Drama Queens and Kings
You don’t have to live in Hollywood to encounter the drama queens and kings of the world. They’ll vividly air the intricate details of their sordid lives on the Internet for all to see or in loudly one-sided conversations for all to hear.
Shakespeare said that “All the world’s a stage.” Chuck Barris agreed, but wisely added a gong off to the side that judges could strike when enough was enough.
The Non-Dreamers and Non-Believers
Life’s not always easy, but it’s an amazing gift. And until Aubrey de Grey figures out how to postpone death forever, there’s always going to be something about the world that remains to be discovered by the time you shuffle off your mortal coil. It’s almost beyond imagination that there are people who lack…the imagination to dream of experiences beyond what they already know.
Like laziness, passion — or lack of it — is contagious. If you’re hanging out with someone who has no interest in growing and exploring, you’re allowing them to block the view of your own potential’s horizon. But a friend who isn’t afraid to share their passions is loaning you a jetpack.
In short: if you surround yourself with low value people, then your failure is inevitable.
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