Finding Better Friends

“The wise man is self-sufficient. Nevertheless, he desires friends, neighbors, and associates, no matter how much he is sufficient unto himself.” – Seneca the Younger

Knowing what people to avoid in life seems to be a topic that not many people talk about. It’s important to not judge a book by its cover, but after seeing a few red flags in someones personality or behavior, it’s important for you to decide on an ongoing basis who you associate with.

I’m going to do my best to avoid using any cliché’s in this post about “being the average of the 5 people you hang out with” or “if you hang with shit, you smell like shit” or “be careful who you hang out with” or “surround yourself with dreamers and doers” or “hangin’ out with the wrong crowd” or “monkey see, monkey do.”

There, I tried my best…

I’ve written before about the importance of tactfully avoiding certain people or relationships and what signs we should look out for. I even ranted very briefly in the same post (I think) about what flags to look out for when engaging in relationships, whether business or otherwise.

I was recently reading a book called Life is a Joke. 100 Life Lessons (with Punch Lines) and it had a piece about friendships. Here is some curated content from that book in deciding whether someone is worth hangin’ around with.

  1. Is your friend interested about what you have to say? Or do they make the conversation mostly about them? This sounds like a text-book narcissist move.
  2. Are you friends because you choose to be or just circumstance? A lot of friendships are just a matter or proximity or convenience. Like a carpool buddy or somebody from work. We like to think we can just make it work in these types of friendships, but we should be careful about ulterior motives.
  3. Do you look forward to hanging out? Some friendships can seem like an on-going soap opera, filled with drama. I personally believe this happens a lot with room mates, we’ve all heard the dreaded room mate dilemma.
  4. Are they supportive or competitive? You can learn a lot about how friends respond to your good fortune or success. Amongst men, a competitive nature is fairly normal, unless it escalates into fighting or tarnishing each others reputation, I wouldn’t worry too much. Sometimes we want to one up each other in front of other people though, which I feel is fairly petty.
  5. Do they praise you? Or put you down? True friends should be advocates for each other.
  6. Do you feel close or is there an invisible barrier you cant break through? Some friendships seem to have limits even when you try to make them closer. At some point you need to accept it, change it, or put on your running shoes.

I believe these to be pretty fair guide lines for relationships in general. There are a couple rules of thumb I usually apply to all relationships I have with other people, and I don’t mean just dating. I believe it’s hard to truly know somebody unless you’ve known them for at least a year. This can be for better or worse of course, sometimes people exhibit negative traits early on but you may realize after long enough that they weren’t exactly what you thought. Or vice versa, someone can seem awesome, then after a while you start to realize, despite how fun it might be to hang out with them, that they are a toxic person.

Another thing I like to remind myself of, is that we don’t really need a lot of people in our life. It’s not a popularity contest unless you get paid in Likes and Followers, which isn’t 99% of us, thankfully. (Even though we like to think it is.) Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. (oops I did it again!)

I find in most instances of my personal relationships, it is usually girls who have the hardest time breaking off a friendship. There is science behind this as well, and you can find a lot of it in the book Top Dog.

My strategy for breaking off a friendship isn’t to burn bridges or even to really announce it. I don’t advise hurting that persons feelings and “trying to teach them a lesson.” In the long run, that person might realize they were a shitty person and decide to change, at least we could hope. My strategy is to basically just stop hanging out with them, find new friends or things to do, and if you need to be assertive, it’s perfectly okay. As Buddha once said, just let that shit go.

For more tools and tricks on understanding people and personalities, check out this older post. (Some tools and references are in the bottom portion.)

We are forever students to life…


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