A study done at the University of Leipzig examined how people choose their friends. Do you think they found that friendships are built on shared interests, similar backgrounds, or common values? The results may surprise you.
The conductors of the study came to the unanticipated conclusion that people do not choose their friends primarily based on their similarities. Rather, the largest deciding factor is merely proximity.
To put it more simply, people choose their friends based on whoever is hanging around. We love to think that our choice in friends is deliberate but the fact is most of us just let it happen to us.
Who Are These People And How Did They Get In Here?
Just as our choice of friends may be unintentional, so the impact may be. We tend to become like those with whom we spend the most time. This could be really good news, or it could be really bad news.
Have you ever thought, “Sure I hang out with Bob, and he’s kind of a jerk, but I don’t let that rub off on me.”
The truth is the only way to tolerate someone with negative traits is to let those traits become acceptable to you. Otherwise you would have sent Bob packing long ago.
The Friendship Reboot
So it behooves you to make choices, conscious choices that serve you. If you are thinking, “Ok, I’ll be more careful about my friends in the future,” that’s a positive step. But what about the friends you have now?
First you have to get clear about you. What do you intend in your life? Until you examine yourself, it is useless to examine others.
Next, consider this: Do your friends share your values, your interests, and your passions? It is not an indictment to realize that someone is not on the same page with you. You don’t have to make anyone wrong, you are just recognizing that you have your preferences and they have theirs.
Your first reaction might be to try to save some of your current friends by fixing them. But let’s face it: nobody wants to be “fixed.” Accept who will be supportive of the true you and, more importantly, who will not be.
Wait…Why Would Anyone Cool Want To Be Friends With The Likes Of Me?
This proximity thing swings both ways. Your friends probably didn’t choose you either, you were just there. By being conscious about it, you can have some say in the outcome.
So get in the vicinity of the kind of people you would like to befriend. Nature will take its course and you will have been more deliberate in choosing who your friends will be and who will be allowed to wield the most influence over you.
There’s an Epidemic Going On – So Inoculate Yourself
Some proximities are unavoidable. You may not get to choose your fellow team members at work or your lab mates at school, and you sure don’t get to choose your family. So take steps to protect yourself from negative energies by planning ahead.
You know what situations get you into trouble. Consider the outcome in advance. What usually precedes a fight, a squandered night, a hangover? Walk it back and figure out where you can change the trajectory.
For example, if someone wants to quit smoking, they would do well to look at the friends they smoke with. How does it happen? Is it breaks at work together, or drinks at the bar after work? Is it when you’re playing cards, or maybe watching the game together?
Sometimes the only way out is to sacrifice a certain activity. If you just can’t picture poker without a cigar, you know what you have to do. Remember, you get to choose what is most important to you.
At the end of the day, we can’t blame our friends for who we are. We have a choice with what we do, what we think, and what influences we allow into our world. And what is your biggest influence? Simply this: Your biggest influence is you.
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