Benefits: Learn to spot the red flag and green flag people in your life.
So That You Can: Intentionally choose who you are going to give your time and attention to.
Go From Inspiration to Action With the Worksheet Below!
Surround Yourself With People Who Know Your Worth
In my last post, we discussed: 3 Ways to Be Intentional with Media: Adopt a Skeptical Mindset. That got me thinking (what else is new ?), shouldn’t we also adopt a skeptical mindset when it comes to our relationships? Isn’t it just as important to be intentional with others; with the people we choose to spend our time with?
But, how skeptical do we need to be? Where do we cross the line from a healthy level of skepticism to living a Unabomber-esque existence? An extreme example, I know, but being skeptical of people/society can be a slippery slope. You can end up lonely and at rock bottom pretty quickly if you don’t Deliberately Think about why you’re being skeptical.
So, to ensure that we practice being intentional with others without sliding down that slippery slope, we’re going to discuss:
- Why intentionally choosing who you spend your time with is so important.
- Which behaviors should raise your skepticism of someone.
- How to spot the people you should be spending the most time with.
Our Brains Are Like Babies
By that I mean that our brains are very impressionable, and we’re rarely aware that pathways are constantly being formed in our brains.
Psychologist Karen Young said it best:
Every thought, feeling and action creates a pathway in your brain. . . . Whenever you do something over and over, that pathway becomes stronger and stronger. The stronger the pathway . . . the easier that behaviour, thought or feeling will be.
So it stands to reason that the behaviors, attitudes, and philosophies of the people you are spending your time with are continually creating and strengthening pathways in your brain. This is why it is important to intentionally choose who you spend your time with.
Time to stop and think a minute: Quickly think of three people who you spend a lot of time with. Are these the people you want shaping your brain? If not, keep reading. If so, keep reading anyway just for fun. ?
Of course, you don’t always have complete control over who you spend your time with — family and co-workers — but you can intentionally establish boundaries to reduce the level of influence these people have on your behaviors, attitudes, and philosophies.
Before you can establish boundaries, you have to identify the people you need to be skeptical of. Sure, you may have identified one a moment ago when we stopped to think, but other harmful people are not as easy to spot.
Red Flag People
In order to live the fulfilling life you were meant to live, you have to reduce the amount of time you spend with negative influencers — red flag people. These people can be hard to spot because they are often the people you are closest to, the people you spend the most time with. Just as you don’t smell your own stink the way that someone else does, because you’re too close to it, you don’t always recognize a red flag person. You become desensitized to their negative influence.
But, as a Deliberate Thinker, you can desensitize yourself and start seeing red flag people for who they really are. I love this quote from Dr. Maya Angelou:
When people show you who they are, believe them.
It’s important to keep this quote in mind as you become skeptical of the behaviors of others because, so often, we see people the way we think they can be or should be, not the way they really are.
This is something I struggle with because I believe everyone has a spark of greatness, no matter how hidden it may be. But . . . that doesn’t mean that you (or I) are responsible for helping them find their spark if they are a red flag person.
Spotting a Red Flag Person
Generally speaking, to identify a red flag person — a person you should be especially skeptical of and perhaps even cut out of your life — pay attention to the way this person makes you feel. Pay attention to how they react when you are doing well and when you aren’t doing so well. And, try to identify their life philosophy.
Now, let’s get into some specifics. I compiled these “flags” from a video put together by Julia Kristina, a Registered Clinical Counsellor, in which she outlines 10 signs of emotional abuse (link at the end of this post). I’ve chosen the three that seem most applicable to what we’re discussing today.
Red Flag #1 - This person is routinely inconsistent
They talk a good game, but their actions are not consistent with their words. This could be because they’re insecure, because they don’t respect you, or because they are trying to manipulate you.
Regardless of the motivation for their inconsistency, these people will crush your self-esteem and confidence if you let them. You’ll be left wondering, “What did I do to deserve this treatment?” and “What’s wrong with me?” when, in fact, the answer to both of these questions is, Nothing!
An obvious example of an inconsistent person is someone who says, “Hey, let’s go out tomorrow night. I’ll pick you up at 7:00.” Then 7:00, 8:00, and 9:00 roll around, and they haven’t shown up, called, texted, nothing. We’ve all experienced this, and it goes without saying that if someone consistently treats you this way, they do not deserve your time and attention.
But, let’s talk about Joe a minute (an imaginary red flag person with a very original name). Joe’s inconsistency isn’t as easy to spot unless you are being deliberately skeptical. Joe is the guy who seems buddy buddy with everyone. He’s charismatic and, on the surface, seems to be trustworthy. But, as you observe Joe’s reactions to challenging situations, you notice that he is quick to place blame on anyone but himself.
The Joes of the world can be very dangerous because they make you feel good about yourself. They make you feel like you’re part of their tribe. They offer a lot of false compliments and other ego pleasers, until the chips are down. In those situations, you can be sure that Joe will throw you under the bus without hesitation.
Red Flag #2 - This person bulldozes over your needs
Even when you make your needs known, they make it clear that they could care less. They are only interested in serving themselves and have no regard for anyone else’s needs or boundaries.
In fact, when you make your needs known or try to establish solid boundaries, they will call you selfish or bitchy or worse. And, if you’re not being deliberately skeptical of this person, you might buy into these accusations. You might start second guessing yourself and thinking that your motives are selfish.
That’s when you need to remind yourself that taking care of yourself and being selfish are not the same thing. You need to take care of yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself. When you are the best version of yourself, you can freely serve others. That is not selfish.
What the bulldozer is doing is different. It is selfish because what they are doing is manipulating someone to get what they want.
Now let’s talk about Jane (another imaginary red flag person with a very original name). Jane wants you to come help her paint her living room. Normally, you would be glad to, but you happen to have a big project going on at work and are spending any extra time you have on that.
You explain this to Jane, and she decides to turn your valid reason into an assault against her. “No one ever wants to help me.” “All you care about is your career.” “You never spend any time with me anymore.”
These sentiments alone do not signal a red flag person. If Jane were to say, “I understand that. I was just hoping we could spend some time together. Let’s schedule a time to get together,” she has acknowledged your needs and is seeking a solution. On the other hand, the red flag Jane is trying to manipulate you by making you feel guilty so that you will bend to her wants and needs.
Red Flag #3 - This person tries to control your decisions
It’s one thing to offer advice, honest feedback, and constructive criticism. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about someone who controls your decisions without you even realizing it.
How? By criticizing your decisions, belittling your choices, or making passive-aggressive comments. These are subtle forms of manipulation that can leave you doubting yourself. If this goes on long enough, you will start to second-guess yourself so much that you will stop trusting yourself. When you stop trusting yourself, you forget who you really are and what is important to you.
Last, but not least, let’s talk about Zelda (yet another imaginary red flag person but with a more common name). Let’s say Zelda is a co-worker who you go to for help on a project. The problem is, you have come at the project from a completely different angle than Zelda would have. Your angle is just as good, maybe even better, but it’s not the way it “should” be done.
You propose an idea, and Zelda says, “Do you think you have enough experience to handle that? I don’t know. I’d forget that idea if I were you.” — criticizing you.
You propose your next idea, and Zelda actually calls another colleague and says, “Amanda came up with a new way of doing Y (spoken with heavy sarcasm). What do you think of this? Would you do it that way?” — belittling you.
For some reason you’re still in this meeting, so you propose one last idea, and, without trying to understand your reasoning, Zelda immediately laughs and says, “Yeah right, that’s not going to work with our clients. I guess you can try it, but it seems like a waste of time.” — making a passive aggressive comment.
By the time you leave this meeting, you are so turned around and deflated that you can barely walk straight. What do you think is going to happen to all of your great ideas? They will die in that office if you let Zelda get the better of you — if you aren’t deliberately skeptical and don’t believe her when she shows you who she is.
Spotting a Green Flag Person
Now, maybe you’re fortunate enough to have an amazing green flag person in your life (Pat). After your meeting with Zelda, you go to Pat for a pep talk and some sage advice. Pat has three attributes that make him your go-to person.
- Pat genuinely wants the best for you and always encourages you to take care of yourself.
- Pat challenges you to grow and develop. The two of you often engage in meaningful, thought-provoking conversations.
- Pat is a person you admire, and he has qualities that you would like to have. Here’s the kicker though; Pat also admires you and recognizes your spark of greatness.
It’s important to root out the red flag people in your life so that you can either cut them off or set firm boundaries with them. But, it’s just as important to seek out and recognize the green flag people in your life. Find ways to spend more time with these people and let their influence override the influence of the red flag people.
What if you can’t think of any green flag people in your life right now? How do you find them? Yes, finding these people in real life can be difficult, especially if you’re an introvert like me. But you can turn to books, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, documentaries, etc.
Even if you can’t be with these green flag people face-to-face, they can still offer the three qualities I outlined above. They can still want the best for you, challenge you to grow, and be someone you admire.
Start being intentional with others. Start Deliberately Thinking about who you want to give your time and attention to because you know that your time and attention are valuable. Because you want to live the fulfilling life you were meant to live. And because you know that not everyone is going to help you get there.
I created a worksheet for you to summarize this post and help you practice spotting red flag and green flag people.
If you’d like to learn more about the people who will help you become your best self, you might enjoy this post. 3 People Who Will Help You Become Your Best Self
Want to learn about having more faith in yourself? Then this post is for you. Have You Opened Your Heart to God?
Click here for more posts with a “intentional living” theme.
If you’re ready to Stop Settling & Start Living! check out our home page to learn more about what The Expectation Gaps has to offer.
Until next time . . . STAY CURIOUS!
Only Have 1 Minute
What is Emotional Abuse? | The Top Emotional Abuse Warning Signs, posted to YouTube by Julia Kristina Counseling on 2.28.18
“WALK AWAY From BAD Friends!” – Jordan B. Peterson, posted to YouTube by Evan Carmichael on 3.27.18
You Are The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With, posted to YouTube by The Art of Improvement on 8.26.18
You’re NOT the Average 5 People You Spend the Most Time With!, posted to YouTube by Matthew McGill – TridentLion on 5.04.17
Aristotle’s Timeless Advice on What Real Friendship Is and Why It Matters, posted to YouTube by The Art of Improvement on 5.07.18
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