“Fine tune your people picker.” That’s a phrase my brother taught me. I decided to dedicate an entire chapter in my book, Live Your Playlist, to that lesson. And unless you live a solitary existence, it’s a lesson that applies to you. Of course, it’s my brother’s favorite chapter in the book. And I can see why. It’s a timeless lesson, no matter your age or sex. We all have people who sneak into our lives, and in time, prove themselves unworthy of our time and energy.
I found that just because I wrote a chapter about fine-tuning your people picker doesn’t mean that I’ve mastered it. While I talk about it regularly, and dish out sound advice to friends and audiences that I speak to, sometimes I get it wrong in my own life. I’ve joked that it’s old-fashioned trickery on the part of others - they’ve fooled me into believing that they’re someone they’re not. But maybe I just overlooked the warning signs of a bad friend? Signs that were never deceptive because they were always present. I suppose we’re all guilty of giving someone the benefit of the doubt from time to time. And for the sake of honesty, I must say that I’ve failed a couple of times as a friend during my life too.
I took a short hiatus to Florida recently. In part for work; certainly for pleasure; and always to recenter and balance myself. Daily walks on the beach have a magical way of clearing my brain from chaos and helping me find clarity. And I find that it’s a great place for me to live my playlist. One morning, I decided to reevaluate my people picker (and a few specific people). And so, with my earphones plugged in and my finger on the play button, I listened to my music and searched for answers about some friendships in question. I also reflected on why some friendships are so strong and why others don’t last.
Do you have someone in your life that you’ve put on a pedestal; you count them as one of your most trusted friends? And then something changes, putting that relationship into question. Or maybe it causes you angst, anxiety, or frustration. I think we all recognize that feeling when a friendship takes a shift. And it leaves us questioning the future of that relationship. Depending on your personality type, you either fight to stay connected to that person, or you let them go. When you take yourself through that process, it’s worth considering the following questions while fine-tuning your people picker:
Does that person’s values and beliefs match up with your core values and beliefs?
We are all different. We all bring our own experiences to relationships. And our experiences give us substance, depth, and a history of how life works. While I think it’s always enlightening to hear a different point of view, I think it’s more important to have commonality for a long-term friendship/relationship. I was talking to a close friend the other day. She told me that she and her husband were thinking about “divorcing” some of the people in their friendship circle. While these soon-to-be-dumped-friends were usually fun and often the “life of the party,” they were also gossipy, materialistic, and quite frankly, a bad influence. My friend and her husband decided that their friend’s bad behavior was spilling over into their marriage. Their people picker told them that it was time to weed out those friends from their lives because their values were very different. Those negative friendships left a residue of ugliness. Marilyn Monroe once said, “If you’re gonna be two-faced at least make one of them pretty.” But let’s be honest, there’s nothing pretty about being two-faced, a gossip, or exhibiting ugly behavior.
Does that person have trouble maintaining friendships/relationships?
Let’s face it, if your friend is on a three-year cycle with his or her friendships, you’re eventually going to fall at the end of one of those cycle too. Some friendships aren’t meant to last forever. But if you decide to invest yourself in someone you trust, make sure they are someone who places as much value on friendships as you do. I once had a friend whom I thought would be in my life forever. It was planned out in my mind... she would be at my wedding someday, and if we both ended up single, we would be in the old folks home drinking wine together as roommates. I noticed that most of her other friendships didn’t last, but I would never fall into that group, I thought to myself. As the cliche goes, history has a way of repeating itself. Let’s just say, we won’t be fighting over a gent named Hank with a full head of silver hair in the nursing home! Be observant. Pay attention to how your friends treat their other friendships. If it’s a revolving door, you can bet that eventually you’ll be on your way out too.
Do you feel good when you spend time with that friend?
Happiness, laughter, and positive energy is contagious! We all want to spend time with people who make us feel good. I’m not necessarily talking about someone who feeds our ego (although a little bit of that can be good for the psyche too). The energy that happens in relationships is palpable. We feel the weight of negative people in our lives. Whereas, the positive people in our lives make our hearts smile. Good friendships should never be complicated. You may help each other through life’s complications, but a good friendship will never be the cause of those complications.
Examine the company you keep. Ask yourself: Is this a person I admire? Do their goals match mine? Are they a positive influence on me? Do I feel good when I spend time with this person? Your answers will definitely help you fine-tune your people picker.