I have heard many great people talk about how we tend to model the behaviour of the people that we spend most of our time with. They say that you are the average of the 5 persons closest to you. The 5 people that have the most influence on you.
Just think about it. If you hang around people who are constantly complaining and talking negative, you are highly likely to start to complain as well. If you let them get close to you, you allow negative thoughts to enter your mind. If you start hanging out with people who talk about positive subjects or discuss daily topics with an open mind, trying to look at things through multiple perspectives, you are going to start doing that as well.
‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’
– Jim Rohn
The influence of the people you surround yourself with goes much further actually. The surroundings of your friends and the surroundings of their friends influence them in return. This is a great social influence that occurs and it can have a tremendous impact on your life. To give an example we can have a look at what is accepted as a ‘normal’ body size. If you are surrounded by people who are overweight, and they are surrounded by people who are overweight, you are going to adjust your ‘normal’ scale to a different body size.
This is what you can see, encounter, and be influenced by. There is nothing wrong with that, until it becomes unhealthy or until you want something different. If you are trying to lose a few pounds, you might want to surround yourself with people who are very fit or at least try to become aware of the influence your surroundings have on you. Once we become aware of the influences people near us have on us, we can try to make an effort to reduce this influence or enhance it.
We can be influenced in many ways. Ideas are transferred from one person to the other by the use of words. Words in this case are essential for this transference to happen. For the contagion of feelings, words are important, but the nonverbal cues are even more so.
‘Sometimes, if you want to change a man’s mind, you have to change the mind
of the man next to him first’
– Megan Whalen Turner
Emotional contagion occurs most of the time this occurs unconsciously. So if you spend a lot of time with people who are feeling sad and/or talk negatively about others, it is possible that you start feeling the same emotions without even being aware that they weren’t yours in the first place!
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how emotional contagion can take place when people are physically close, but also through video, images, and even texts. A Facebook message can transmit the emotions of a person to another, without them being aware of that transaction, and suddenly the receiver is feeling the same type of emotions.
A Facebook message is not necessarily directed to one person in particular, and there is no nonverbal communication to be observed as well. This means that we are capable of transmitting and absorbing emotions from others without having the intention to do so.
‘We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why’
– Stephen King
If the behaviour, feelings, or ideas are helpful for what we are trying to achieve, then by all means spend more time with those people! Yet we should try to avoid people who create trouble and are consciously or unconsciously holding us back.
At first I thought that this meant that you had to cut out certain people from your life, but this is not the case at all. You can still hang out with everyone you are hanging out with today. What you can do is choose who you are going to be influenced by. What topics are you going to talk about, what do you share with whom.
By this I do not mean that you have to ignore certain persons you hang out with. Even a close friend or a sibling might be someone who has a bad influence on you, this does not mean that you have to eliminate them out of your life. What you can do is try to be aware of the influence they have on you and your life and choose how you let yourself be influenced by them.
At one point in life I started to understand this better and better. I decided to choose my people and create my own inner circle. This process costs time and much effort, but it is worth it. Think about it if you would like to succeed as an artist or business person, would you hang out with successful artists and people that excel at their ambitions, or would you let yourself be influenced by people who talk down on dreams and have a tendency to attract drama or create it.
You can also start looking at how your surroundings influence you. You might enjoy spending time with certain people, however, they might have a bad influence on your physical and mental health. And if you have certain dreams and goals that you want to accomplish, try to look for people who excel in those areas. These are the influences that can help us.