This week, I’m going to talk about ways you can create community, so whether you’re feeling lonely and isolated, or you want to engage with a wider group of people, or you feel stuck in relationships that you know you’re in purely because you don’t know how to find better ones, this episode will cover ways to engage and create community, things to look for when developing relationships, what to avoid when creating relationships and how to overcome some obstacles that might arise for us in this area.
I wasn’t born with a brain for relationships - I grew up thinking that you were meant to keep everything to yourself, and I was told to never talk about what went on in my home. I was taught not to trust people outside of my own family. As a result I think I was quite guarded, and isolated because my conversations were kept trivial and not very meaningful. I didn’t let people in. I thought that was inviting trouble. I learnt to build up walls and keep people out. But healthy relationships don’t have walls - they have fences. You use fences to keep the good in and the bad out. To connect with others you need authenticity and to have deep meaningful connections with others you need to be able to share your life, and your thoughts and your heart and what matters to you. You need to be heard and understood, and you in turn need to be able to listen and understand. We all have varying needs in this area, but good friends are what makes life great and when you don’t know how to have good freinds, sometimes you just have bad ones and then life’s not that great either!
So, if you’re in a position where you’re looking to develop some new, healthy relationships, whatever your reason is a couple of ways to do that is to
Join a group that exists - that can be anything from a playgroup if you have little kids, a P&F if you have older kids, a mothers group, a mens shed, volunteer in the canteen, join a local association like the Lions Club, or CWA, or even something like Toastmasters or if you’re that way inclined you could join a local church group. Most communities will have an information centre where you can find the groups that already exist, or you can find access to the lists of organisations in your area. Find something that obviously appeals to you - if you hate chess, don’t join a chess club - find what feels good.
Create a group that doesn’t exist - if you’re looking for something and it doesn’t exist - create it - those of you who have listened to my previous episodes will know I’ve created a walking group. You can often find local facebook groups that connect people in your area - make a post about a group you’d like to create - have a designated public meeting place (I don’t suggest inviting strangers to your house), but meet out, do that thing you’re interested in together, and start building relationships that way. The good thing about doing it like that, is often you can start to build rapport online, so when you do meet face to face it’s not quite as daunting.
Connect with people within the groups that you are already a part of: you might already be a part of the local school, so when you volunteer, strike up a conversation with the people you’re their with. Ask them what they do, ask them what they do for fun - look for the common ground. Often it is only after a few conversations you realise that you’ve actually got quite a lot in common with someone. Talk about what you like, what interests you, what’s important to you - resist the urge to bitch or moan about things you don’t like as it’s a quick way to get healthy people to avoid you.
Look for people with common interests
Health, fitness, recreation, spirituality, personal growth, hobbies, schools, sports, games, bikes… even quilting (yes that's a thing).
When you find you do have something in common, or you’ve met a few times and you know that they’re not the kind of person you should avoid (which I will cover later), suggest after the meeting or group get together, a coffee - often after the walking group if I’ve hit it off with someone I will go and get coffee with them and have a one on one chat so I can get to know them better and develop that relationship.
A couple of things to look for when developing relationships:
People who are responsible. By this, I mean listen carefully inside the conversations. Look for where they acknowledge what is within their power and what they’re contributing. As in, if they’re having trouble with their children, or their ex, or other people, look for how much ‘blame’ they’re putting on others. People who blame everyone around themselves and never look at their own involvement are generally not growing, and not taking responsibility for their life. They end up sucking the life out of you because it is one drama after the next… and then when that ones finished, another drama comes up. It will never be a balanced relationship unless you are joining them in giving up your personal power and whining about life. Then it will be balanced but you’ll both be feeding each others’ drama and that’s not healthy. Look for people who tell it like it is, but that acknowledge they need to do something, or acknowledge what they are working on in the situation. Even people who are struggling but asking the question “what can I do with this”, are better than the ones who are too busy pointing at everything that sucks.
People who are stable - what does that look like? By stable, I mean, good friends are the friends that don’t change with the wind. There are people out there that are one person one minute and another person the next. Healthy people tend to be one person in almost all circumstances. Look at the way people engage with others - if you notice any duplicity and by that I mean, one person to someone’s face and then totally different behind their back - run.
Either comfortably single or comfortably not-single. I know sometimes being single sucks, and sometimes being not single sucks - relationships are hard work. But avoid people who are in perpetual states of drama, constantly cycling through members of the opposite sex, or trapped in super unhealthy relationships. Ultimately you’re looking to find healthy relationships here and either one of those extremes are big fat red flags.
Non-drug dependant - people dependent on drugs or who use drugs frequently are not dealing with something bigger. Healthy, stable, mature, wise people don’t use drugs and don’t drink to the state where they are incapable of being in control of their own actions. We are grown ups now - at 17, things might have been a bit different, but at this stage in life, if we’re wanting transformational personal growth, we need to be surrounding ourselves with people of a similar mindset.
Not violent or aggressive - this goes without saying really. But when you’re first meeting someone and deciding if that person is a potential friend, you need to listen for language - even violent language and hate speach is a big red flag. Haters be haters and it’s only a matter of time before it’s directed at you.
Able to disagree with respect - healthy people are able to disagree with you. They’re not yes men, and they’re not going to pick a fight with you… they can calmly share a different perspective. If someone disagrees with you and they do it with grace and maturity - this is one big fat green flag because it means that not only are they able to express themselves well, it means that they are comfortable with being themselves and being authentic. It also means, that when you’re doing something that’s bad for you and they can see it they won’t let you get your canoe all the way up shit creek before they tell you that you’re heading the wrong way. Good freinds are great for that. They help you identify red flags and help you to make decisions that are good for you, and when you make decisions that they don’t agree with, they can talk about it with you without giving you grief and ruining the relationship.
People who are responsible for themselves (emotionally, financially, spiritually)
People who are part of a community and who engage with others well.
What to avoid
People who are dishonest
People who are disrespectful (to anyone - the old saying, someone who is not nice to the waiter is not nice).
People who have a chip on their shoulder or believe that ‘life isn’t fair’ and who are always out to even the score for themselves
Heavy drinkers or people who use drugs
People who avoid reality
People who abuse boundaries
People who don’t respect themselves
People who talk about people behind their back.
People who are duplicitous (two faced)
That’s all we have time for this week, but don’t worry there’s always more where that came from and if you have any questions as always send us an email and ask away!
And lastly, for my good news! I have had over the space of the last six months (and actually over the past few years) quite a few people contact me to see if I would work with them one on one and I have felt that that not only was I unqualified to do anything of real substance one on one, I didn’t have the format or structure to do something like that effectively. In short, I like to help people as best I can and for the last while, not having a framework for one on one has meant just sharing my stories and my own lessons in this format and from a stage. HOWEVER. Seeing as though so many of you wonderful people have been interested in working with me, and how much I have LOVED the few sessions that I’ve had with the few of you who I have had the opportunity to Skype with and get to know, I thought I should get myself trained as a life coach. So that’s what I have been doing. Yes. On top of everything else. I’m still chipping away at getting my qualifications BUT I am opening up a waiting list. So if you are keen to be notified when my books are open for coaching, let me know. Send me an email to email@example.com and get in touch with me and let me know what you would like to work on with me. I’m specialising in basically everything we chat about here on the podcast, but in coaching sessions I will be able to really personalise what we are doing and help you create the transformational personal growth you would like to see in your life.
* UPDATE: I am now qualified to take clients *
So go on and email me right now… go on… just do it. And then have yourself a fantabulous week!
See you next episode!!!