Michael Woodward Ph.D.

Spotting Opportunity

Resolve to Detox Your Social Circle

Quietly dump those who are dragging you down.

Posted Jan 15, 2019

While many are charging hard towards those newly made resolutions for eating healthier, losing weight, and working out you may want to consider something a bit different. The New Year is always a great opportunity to make a fresh start, but the real question is how to make that fresh start stick. 

One of the greatest hurdles we encounter when trying to make a change is the people we surround ourselves with. Our social circles do matter. Social support has long been demonstrated as one of the leading indicators of happiness and one of the greatest buffers of stress. However, not all social circles are positive and many of us suffer from the influence of toxic “friends” who always seem to find a way to drag us down.  

"Ivan Misner, used with permission"
Ivan Misner
Source: "Ivan Misner, used with permission"

As the New Year gets into full swing you may want to consider a different kind of resolution: Taking stock of your circle. When it comes to our social circles Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI and author of the newly released Who’s in Your Room? The Secret to Creating Your Best Life believes we could all stand to do a little house cleaning and the New Year is a great time to start.  

Misner believes we should all take a hard look at our social circles and consider who among those in our social circles may be dragging us down or getting in the way of the life we want to live. Misner notes that, “while you can’t quite kick anyone to the curb without causing a substantial amount of drama, you can however box them up and put them on a shelf, so to speak.”

First, See Who’s in Your Room

Misner defines the “room” as your mind. Misner believes that everyone you meaningfully encounter does end up living in your room in some way, so we all have pretty big rooms. That is not to say that everyone you meet ends up in your room. Some studies suggest it takes 50 to 90 hours of interactions to establish a meaningful relationship that really sticks with you even if that relationship is far in the past. As he puts it, “people may be out of your life, but they’re still in your head.” So, you have to ask yourself, who are the folks in your room that still wield some sort of negative influence over you? It’s important to both understand how they got in and why they seem to have such a negative impact on your life.

The good news is that as you move forward you can learn from your reflections and be more thoughtful about how you continue to curate your circle of friends, so as to keep your “room” more constructive. The challenge is what to do about the ones who currently reside in your circle and have become toxic. According to Misner there are two simple, yet effective strategies for minimizing the effects of negative influencers: Benign neglect and homeopathic does.      

Apply Benign Neglect

When collaborating and cooperating with a toxic person just doesn’t seem to work, you have to find a way to minimize the negative influence of that individual. Benign neglect is about finding ways to push that person to the back of your room so as to make room for those more positive influences to find their way to the front of your room. “I’m not a burn the bridges kind of guy,” explains Misner, but you have to find ways to move toxic people to the back of your room.

Misner believes that sometimes it’s just easier to ice people out. “Start intentionally distancing yourself by increasing the time between your responses,” says Misner. “With a co-worker, suggest virtual meetings once a week instead of in-person ones. With a friend, speak when he/she calls, but only initiate a call once per month. Take more time between your responses to calls/emails, and increase this time a little bit each month.” Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away, but minimizing your contact with the negative people in your circle can’t hurt.  

Prescribe Homeopathic Doses

Another approach to minimizing the influence of negative people in your circle is to deliberately structure how and when you interact with these individuals. Misner describes these as homeopathic doses or guidelines for minimal, but critical exposure. This can be a valuable approach to dealing with loved ones who also drag you down. As an example Misner shares, “instead of telling them weeks in advance that you’ll be in town and can meet, tell them shortly before you arrive and keep your available window specific and small. Or, when they call, say you’re so glad they called but you only have 5 minutes to talk before you head into an appointment. Another way, instead of meeting one-on-one, set group outings to water down your dose of this person.”

Ask yourself who is in your room and are they helping or hurting you? Make 2019 the year you clean your room and clear a path to a more positive life! As Misner believes, “the best part is, doing this will free you up to spend more time with people that add value and joy into your life, thereby making you happier and more fulfilled.”