In part one of our value toolbox episodes, we identified the low value behaviors that keep us from connecting with others. [Check it out here.]
In part two, we identified the high value behaviors we should strive to cultivate in ourselves and seek out in others. [Check it out here.]
In this, the third and final part of the value toolbox series, we dig into what we can do if we’ve identified low value behaviors within ourselves that need correction, how we can welcome high value people into our lives by leading with value first, and how we can become high value in our careers.
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As we work on our own social skills, we quickly come to realize that the time we spend with people is our most valuable resource — and who we choose to spend time with directly affects the quality of life.
This isn’t to say we should just write off anyone who exhibits low value behavior — because everybody has a bad day and we all do it from time to time. But ideally, we want to make sure we’re surrounding ourselves with people for whom this is the exception rather than the rule.
First, we begin with ourselves and understand it’s a process that takes time. We’re not going to instantly be our best selves if we start putting in the effort today, but over the next few weeks and months, incremental changes will build up and become more apparent — to ourselves and others. It also makes us more aware of how we relate to our current social circle and if we need to make some changes to the lineup or begin with a new one entirely.
“In three months, you can be thinking and looking at things [from] a completely different perspective,” says Johnny. “This is where your social circle gets in trouble because…you start seeing things differently, you start reacting to things differently, you start speaking differently, and all of a sudden there’s a bunch of questions that start coming up about what’s going on with you.”
The 80/20 Principle
We already know that nobody’s perfect and even the most high value people will sometimes display low value behavior. We’d easily forgive Mr. Rogers if we overheard him raising his voice to a telemarketer for interrupting Thanksgiving dinner — and probably suspect him of being something other than human if he didn’t. But we’d recognize it as a rare break from a seemingly eternal veneer of patience and kindness — an anomaly rather than the norm.
“We try to follow an 80/20 principle,” says AJ. “Looking at the totality of time spent with this person and where they fall on that value scale. If 80 percent of the time they’re high value and there’s been a couple of instances where you’ve seen them be combative, we’re not going to write that person off and give them no time at all.”
Keeping this principle in mind helps us avoid being too overcritical of our own faults and in the faults of others as we grow and assess ourselves and the world around us. As our own value climbs ever closer to 80 percent, we may find the people in our circle growing in value alongside us as a side effect of our influence.
“They’re going to start to feel better around you because you’re being cooperative, you’re appreciating them, you’re giving them attention, you’re acknowledging their wins and successes instead of just focusing on yourself,” says AJ. “And because of that, they’re going to want to spend more time with you.”
Honesty as a Gauge
When someone extends low value behavior in your direction, be honest with them about how it makes you feel. How they react will give you a pretty good gauge of whether this low value constitutes 20 percent of their usual behavior or 80 percent.
If the person chooses to hear you out and take into account that you’re trying to improve a situation rather than launch a personal attack, his or her high value is probably closer to 80 percent — further actions over words will confirm this.
On the other hand, if the person doesn’t take this as a moment of possible growth and reflection and only hears your words as a critique of him or her as a person, you’re probably dealing with a 20 percenter who isn’t worth your time.
Conflict aversion is easy. Taking the initiative to be the friend in the social circle who will call out low value behavior and risk being shunned by the group is harder — but a responsible step and evidence that you’re taking the road to high value behavior.
Out with the Low Value, In with the High
If we take a close look at our circle of friends, we’ll find many of our bonds have been made by convenience more than really having anything in common beyond the superficial. Maybe we grew up as neighbors. Perhaps we were thrown together in a college dorm because our names began with the same letter. It could be that we worked in adjacent cubicles at the same office. It’s possible these happenstance friendships have developed into something real over time — which is great. But sometimes we cling to friendships serving neither party because we’re comfortable enough with the familiar that changing this dynamic never occurs to us.
As we work to improve ourselves — even at one percent every day, examining those around us is only natural. So as we start to make cuts to the low value people among the old guard who aren’t worth our time, we want to start welcoming in high value people who are.
Once you make room in your circle, you’ll find yourself with the space to finally pursue things your low value friends inadvertently kept you from doing. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to paint, but the guys you used to hang out with were only interested in partying. Don’t be afraid to take that class, learn new skills, and meet new people who value what you value.
“High value people are always working on themselves,” says AJ. “They’re always trying to improve. They’re trying to find where their comfort zone ends so they can push themselves outside of it.”
Red Flags and Green Flags
We have to remain aware that just because someone’s new in our lives and we’ve met under circumstances more curated than being randomly selected college roommates, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re high value.
Here are a few behaviors that act as low value red flags to us:
It’s a social environment, and your new “friend” seems to know everybody, but can’t be bothered to introduce you to anybody.
The kiss up, kick down mentality: people who kiss up to people in higher standing, but treat people they see as below them poorly.
People who talk negatively behind other people’s backs. Chances are pretty good they’ll talk negatively about you behind yours.
Then there are the green flags of high value:
In a social environment, your new “friend” who knows everybody includes you by introduction.
When people go out of their way to look for the best in people, no matter their standing in the social hierarchy. They’re more concerned with building up than breaking down others.
People who are generous with time, attention, and appreciation — especially when it doesn’t have an obvious reward greater than helping someone else.
Staying the Course
As we grow into our high value selves, here are a few things we can do to make sure the course remains true.
Journaling doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to spend hours writing pages upon pages from the heart every day — that might last a week if you’re lucky. Instead, keep it simple and just take a few minutes to:
Record your thoughts and feelings in the moment.
Identify a weak point you’d like to correct.
Identify something you did well that day.
“You go through dips,” says AJ. “You go through moments where life throws a curveball at you; all of a sudden your life is turned upside-down and it can get difficult if you don’t have that perspective of how far you’ve come, where you were months and months ago, versus where you are now.”
If you’re trying to learn a new skill or improve upon an old one, getting an outside perspective can make all the difference. Maybe you’ve reached a plateau and you can’t see a way beyond — an expert in that field may coach you with insight you couldn’t have imagined for yourself.
Being aware of how you handle conflict with others gives you a lot of data you can work with for improvement. Are you conflict averse? How did you get this way, and what might you do to better resolve conflict than just avoiding it? Are you too aggressive? Where did this begin and what problems has it caused? How might things have gone differently if you’d taken a softer approach?
Working on Body Language
As we often say at AoC, the mind leads the body and the body leads the mind.
“It’s easier to act your way into thinking than to think your way into acting,” says Johnny. “Reason being is you can take responsibility for your body language by bringing it to a conscious level easily. Your thought process takes a lot more work. Straighten out what you can straighten out first.”
“Body language is that low-hanging fruit,” says AJ. “It’s one of the things we attack first during the week here in L.A. is fixing that body language — showcasing the most confident body language that you can muster — can allow you to start to feel better in the moment, and all of a sudden you’re less risk averse, you’re more adventurous, and people are taking interest in you.”
Be warm and approachable.
Express open rather than closed body language.
Make good eye contact when you’re talking, break it when you’re listening.
We all have triggers in our lives that set us off and send us down the path of low value. Being aware of what they are and exposing yourself to these triggers helps you resist them in the moment and puts you in control of them rather than the other way around.
At work: look at how you treat your coworkers and interact with your boss. Are there things that happen in the workplace that trigger low value behaviors?
With your significant other: how do you trigger each other into low value behaviors?
In your social life: who and what tends to trigger low value behavior at social events?
Taking It Live
Going to a social event — whether it’s a networking seminar, a party of colleagues, or the neighborhood bar — might seem scary at first, but it’s a great way to test boundaries and get comfortable with meeting new people. It gives you a chance to practice your body language, discover and improve your triggers and weak points, and gain confidence as you get better.
The 30-Day Challenge of Being High Value
“The idea here is to unapologetically — not looking for any transactional value — to machine gun value indiscriminately to everyone you come in contact with for the next 30 days,” says Johnny.
Give attention. Listen and take interest. Put down the smartphone!
Appreciate. Give people genuine compliments based on actions, not appearance.
Accept. Welcome people into your life; invite them to hang out and spend time with you.
Leading with Value In the Workplace
We’ll finish by showing how you can lead with value in your workplace. No matter what your position in the company happens to be, these show you’re willing to lead by example rather than taking the “it’s someone else’s job” approach.
The stronger frame dissolves the weaker one — in our personal lives as well as professional. So if you start leading and behaving in a high value manner at the office, you’ll quickly find your high value comrades and weed out the low value hangers-on.
Show that you’re organized and on top of things in a visible and obvious way: keep your workspace clean. You’d be surprised how such a simple thing can be a lead for others to follow.
Strengthen relationships based on what you’ve learned in these three toolbox episodes
Take responsibility: this includes ownership of your mistakes rather than blaming others on your team who make mistakes on your watch.
Become high value by fixing yourself first.
What it takes to welcome high value people into your life.
How we can measure our progress into becoming high value by journaling, coaching, self examination, and testing ourselves in the real world.
How to become high value at work — even if it’s leading from your seat.
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AJ Harbinger - author of 1166 posts on The Art of Charm
AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality.
Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.
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