“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”
“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”
One of my favourite personal development people is the psychologist Wayne Dyer.
He seems to be a very warm person but he also someone who takes a lot personal responsibility and is assertive.
This is reflected in his work. He's kind but he's not here just to make you feel good. Through a no-nonsense approach he makes you realize obvious – but sometimes uncomfortable – things about how pretty much all of this is up to you. And how many things are quite simple but you are standing in your own way and overcomplicating it all.
Dr. Dyer's advice can be applied to just about any part of life. Today I'd like to take a few of his thoughts and see how they can help you improve your social life. If you would like to read more from Wayne Dyer then two really solid books to start with are Pulling Your Own Strings and Your Erroneous Zones.
1. Your relationships are in your mind.
“As you think so shall you be! Since you cannot physically experience another person, you can only experience them in your mind. Conclusion: All of the other people in your life are simply thoughts in your mind. Not physical beings to you, but thoughts. Your relationships are all in how you think about the other people of your life. Your experience of all those people is only in your mind. Your feelings about your lovers come from your thoughts. For example, they may in fact behave in ways that you find offensive. However, your relationship to them when they behave offensively is not determined by their behavior, it is determined only by how you choose to relate to that behavior. Their actions are theirs, you cannot own them, you cannot be them, you can only process them in your mind.”
“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.”
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
How you choose to interpret people and your relationships makes a huge difference. So much of our relationships may be perceived to happen out there somewhere.
But your underlying frame of mind – for instance an open one or a protective and closed up one – will determine much about your interactions with new people and people you know.
So you really have to go inside. You have to realize that your interpretations from the past are interpretations. Not reality. You have to take a look at your assumptions and expectations and thought habits. Find patterns that may be hurting you (and others). This isn't easy. Or always pleasant. You may discover that you have had some negative underlying habits of thought for many years.
But to change you have to do it. Instead of just keep looking at yourself as some sort of unmoving and objective observer of the world and reality. A change in you could – over time – change your whole world.
2. Let go of the need for approval.
“People who want the most approval get the least and the people who need approval the least get the most.”
A lot of the actions you take – or do not take – may be because you need approval from other people. When we are young we get grades in school that tells us that we are “good”. This makes it very easy to create a life where you always go looking for the world to give you the next hit of approval. It may be from your family, boss, friends, co-workers and so on.
But this need creates neediness. And the stronger the need the stronger the neediness. And so other people will sense this. And approval may be withheld or used to manipulate you. Or they may just not like your neediness.
The people on the other hand that does not care that much about getting approval often do more of what they want deep inside. They may be considered courageous for instance. So the way they live their lives will gain appreciation and approval from the people around them. It's a bit counterintuitive.
But it seems to me like this is how things work. If you really want approval in your life try letting go of that need – as best as you can of course, this is not easy – for a while. See what happens. You'll probably be surprised by how much better you feel inside and the reactions you may get from the outside world.
3. Let go of judgement.
“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”
“Real magic in relationships means an absence of judgment of others.”
“Judgement prevents us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.”
Judging can have a sense of fun to it and make you feel better about yourself as you put someone else down. So why give it up? Here are three reasons:
- People don't like judgemental people. People don't like to be judged. So there will be a resistance towards someone who is judgemental.
- Waste of time. You can spend your time doing more fun, constructive and positive things.
- The more you judge people, the more judge yourself. What you see in other people is often what you see in yourself. So if you judge them all the time for their looks or intelligence then you probably judge yourself often about these things too. To let go of judging others can lead you to letting go of judging yourself too. As you lift the limitations you put on others, you lift the limitations you put on yourself.
4. Enjoy the moment.
“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It's to enjoy each step along the way.”
One technique that can help you improve your social skills is assuming rapport.
Basically, instead of going into a conversation or meeting nervously and thinking “how will this go?” you take different approach. You assume that you and the person(s) will establish a good connection (rapport).
How do you do that? You simply pretend that you are meeting one of your best friends. Then you start the interaction in that frame of mind instead of the nervous one.
But why does it work? Well, I'd say it works because it puts you in the same mental state as when you are with your friends. When you're with your friends you are relaxed, positive, in the present moment and without many cares in the world. This is a great place to be socially. You are just enjoying yourself and your moments with your friends without much thought of the past or future. You are just there. The more you can bring yourself into this mental headspace the more fun you will have with people. And the more fun they will have with you.
So try out assuming rapport. And explore other ways to bring yourself back into the present moment through articles like this one or by checking out Eckhart Tolle's books (two good are A New Earth and Stillness Speaks).
5. People like positive people.
“Unhappiness is within.”
“Simply put, you believe that things or people make you unhappy, but this is not accurate. You make yourself unhappy.”
Now we are back in the same territory as in the first tip in this article. How you feel is up to you. You control you.
This is important to understand to be able to create and keep a more stable positive attitude. If you let what other people do control – or at least control you too much – then you are on a mental rollercoaster where your thoughts and feelings go up and down all the time. You have to look within to find a great stability to how you think and feel.
I'd say that one of the most attractive qualities a person can have is a positive attitude and energy. It is attractive to people at your job/school, family, friends or just that cute girl/guy in the bar. I think that one of the big things people want in any relationships is positive emotions. People simply want to create a flow back and forth with people where all of you exchange positive emotions and feel good.
Building yourself a more positive attitude will of course not only make you more likeable. It can also improve every other part of your life.
6. You teach them.
“Maxim for life: You get treated in life the way you teach people to treat you.”
This is a very important point and something I think is perhaps often missed by people who want to improve their social lives and make it more positive. They may think “well, I have been so nice towards everyone for the last few months but it doesn't seem to have changed their behaviour towards me much”.
This is the “nice guy/girl” problem. S/he is very nice but there is no assertiveness. There is no changed feeling within about how you feel you deserve to be treated. You may still be nice just to get approval from other people. You feel the craving need. And as point # 2 explains, you won't get the approval.
We do to a large extent choose how we want to be treated. How you expect people to treat you can have a big effect on how you allow yourself to act and how people around you view and treat you. If you start creating a role for yourself where you always let people do what they want to you then you may create some pretty destructive and negative things.
You may create an identity for yourself where you get used to always taking whatever anyone doles out. You create a kind of victim identity where you may look happy on the outside but don't feel so good on the inside. But since you have gotten used to it after a while you may accept it and think that: this is just who I am.
You may create a concept in the minds of the people around you that it's OK to treat you this way. Either because you seem so positive despite what they are doing so they think it's OK. Or just because you aren't saying no and some people may take advantage of that.
Look, you can't please everyone. I think both Eleanor Roosevelt and Buddha have mentioned something along the lines that whatever you do there will always be people who don't like what you are doing. And that's OK. That's normal.
Going around trying to please everyone at your own expense isn't healthy though. Or even a realistic thing to attempt. It eats away at you both mentally and physically.
So be nice. Be positive. But make sure you set your own standards, rules and limits too. And remember that you might as well do what you want because there will always be critics.
7. Take responsibility for your social life.
“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it's always your choice.”
I really like this quote from Nathaniel Branden's excellent The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: “No one is coming”.
You can look for the next big thing that will fix you. Read more blog articles. Read more personal development books. Look for people to help. And yes, some articles or books or people will give you insights that resonate deeply with you. But in the end, if you are an adult then no one is coming. No one is coming to save you. You have to take responsibility for your own life and what happens in it. Other things and people can certainly aid you quite a bit. But you are responsible.
You can go around blaming society or some people for your problems in your social life (or finances or health). You can always find scapegoats to judge and thought that feel better about yourself. For a while. You can look for people that will “fix you”. You can do this for the rest of your life if you like. It won't change much. Whatever has to be done, it's you who have to take responsibility and do it.
Yeah, things might always not go your way and you will probably have bad luck from time to time. But you still have to focus on yourself and doing what you can do in whatever situation may arise in the outside world.
8. Like yourself.
“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with.”
Liking yourself is vital to live a happy life. If you like yourself people will of course like hanging out with your more too. A person who likes him/herself, who is positive but also assertive is a lot better than the opposite.
Obvious, yes but the hard thing is how to go about liking yourself more. This is a topic that has filled many books but here are few tips that have helped me.
- Follow the rest of tips above. For example, taking more personal responsibility, working on your attitude and being more assertive consistently will make you feel better about yourself.
- Do the right thing as much as you can. When you do the right thing you lift your own self-esteem. When you don't do the right thing you tend to stay at the same self-esteem level that you are at the moment (or perhaps even lower it).
- Be appreciative of yourself, don't just look at your flaws. By appreciating the positive and good things that you think and do you can replace the need for approval from outside sources. You are giving yourself approval instead. This is a lot better than the alternative, because this is an unlimited source that you are in control of.