There are two things that are essential in cultivating a happy life: striving towards a sense of mastery and building great relationships. Really, if you set out to do these things with the intent of making the world a better place, you’re pretty much guaranteed to win at life. Much easier said than done, but the great relationships part isn’t actually that hard…right?
It’s not like we don’t have access to amazing people – there are literally billions of people in the world. I just graduated with my bachelor’s degree from one of the largest universities in America, and I definitely found a small handful of amazing people that I know are going to stick by my side for a while.
But there was definitely a learning curve. I had to throw a lot of shade and side-eye people before I realized that I shouldn’t have to do those things in my friendships.
Today I’m a young professional living alone in a city over a thousand miles away from my hometown. Once again, I have to sort through a sea of people and find the ones that are right for me.
My best friend right now is my ability to filter through people who are never going to be a good fit for my life. Here are 6 types of people that I definitely think about as I’m exploring my new city.
1. THE NICE GUY
Is your potential friend often described as nice?
Have you ever thought about what a lazy compliment calling someone “nice” is? Imagine all of the exceptional people you know in your life – your parents, your best friends, teachers, celebrities. What’s the first adjective that comes to mind when you’re thinking about them?
I’m notorious for bragging about my friends, and the first things I say about them is that they’re beautiful, caring, amazing, and smart.
I don’t call them nice. “Nice” is a word that people use when they don’t have anything better to say.
It’s boring. Unremarkable. Amicable without a bite. Potentially people pleasing. Often times entitled.
Think about how dumb the phrase “nice guys always finish last” is. It reminds me of that guy on Facebook who’s always complaining about women never wanting a good guy. They’re always talking about getting “friendzoned”, as if being designated as someone worthy of having a genuine connection with is such a horrible thing. Sorry that women aren’t attracted to you, but being a decent human being does not entitle you to have sex with someone, much less be in a relationship with them.
Pay attention to these guys, because that sort of entitlement and self-victimization reflects into friendships as well. Figure out what’s really behind the pleasant social demeanor.
What you want to find is kindness. That’s a value that people consciously choose to embody, and that’s what people sometimes mean when they’re describing others as nice.
Kind people want what’s best for others. They engage in actions to enrich people’s lives without wanting anything in return. They’re not doormats as “nice” people can often be. They’re kind just because they are, but are still assertive about their own standards in life.
If you look deeper into a potential friend and you can’t call them kind, they’re probably not a great fit for your life. So Screw nice. Look for kind.
2. THE QUIET ONE.
Are they “quiet”? What do they say when they speak up?
We live in an introvert vs. extrovert type of world and we know that there are a lot of quiet people in it. It can be a pretty endearing quality that can balance and complement high energy, but the more I run into “quiet people”, the more I learn to pay close attention to them.
To be blunt, quiet people can be pretty fake. We usually assume they’re nice because they smile at the right cues and don’t say a lot in social situations, but often times, they’re silent because they feel too insecure to assert themselves.
Tension with these types of people can lead to festering anger that explodes into passive aggression and avoidance. They’re experts in making victims out of themselves.
Soft-spoken, but confident is what you want.
When you’re studying the more silent types, look for how they criticize and analyze things. Soft-spoken people who are good additions to your life are the types that mostly observe and speak when they feel like they have something of value to add. They keep it relevant and direct. People you should avoid are the types that get bitchy or complain whenever they’re comfortable enough to speak up. These types can get toxic if you get in too deep with them – stay away from the negativity while you’re ahead.
2. THE CHARMER
Is their charm always on? Is it honest?
This person is the life of the party. They know everyone, everyone knows them, and everyone loves them. They’re good looking, have a great personality, and you feel on top of the world when you’re talking to them.
That’s a really great type of friend to have, but make sure you observe this person carefully in social settings. That “special connection” you have with them? It may be something that every person they ever met claims to have because charmers are just good at making people feel special. If you see them giving everyone they run into the BFF treatment, you can bet that this person is dishonest at best and manipulative at worst. Especially if the way they’re charming people is untruthful or frivolous.
If the flattery they give people is over the top and out of their usual character, don’t take a single word they say seriously. They’re addicted to other peoples’ enthusiasm for them, and that quality typically doesn’t come with a backbone when the going gets tough for you.
If you want to figure out whether someone in your life is a charmer or is just charming, give your friendship some time and watch their actions in relation to you. A true friend will show you loyalty, give you time, and take steps to nurture your friendship. The charmer will flatter you to no valuable end and use you to bolster their own social image. Stay away, and more importantly, never take their flattery seriously.
3. THE FLAKE
Do they stick to plans? Would they inconvenience themselves for a friend?
If you want fulfilling friendships, make friends with someone who sticks to their word. #NoFlakes2015
Flakiness is really two things: 1) a lack of respect for another person’s time and 2) a weird, people-pleasing tendency.
The flake is kind of like the guy who feels good about telling everyone about his future plans but never accomplishes anything. They get the social satisfaction of getting someone excited to spend time with them without doing anything. They might be fun, but if you’re going to put these types in your calendar, make sure you double book them.
If someone you want to call a friend can’t even spend time with you twice a month, you definitely can’t count of on them for anything. If you get flaked more than a few times by someone, dump them and keep looking. If you only hang out with them when you’re doing them favors / when you agree to do something they want to do? Run.
Sometimes flakiness is situational or just a minor problem people have when it comes to things like life stress. What you need to figure out with these guys is if they’re otherwise dependable. If they’re genuine, have a good heart, and would put in effort help you out if you needed them, you’re just going to have to stay on top of them. They issue here is just lazy communication skills.
It can be tiresome, but it can also be worth it.
4. THE EXCEPTIONALIST
What do they value in friendship? Do they celebrate you for who you are? Or what you have.
At the end of the day, people want to be desired for who they are, not what they look like or what they have. That’s why powerful people are so paranoid about their entourages – once the power is gone, so are the people.
Invest your energy in people who value a true connection with another person. Those are the types of people who are going to give you a fulfilling friendship because the fulfillment is what they’re actually looking for.
Stay away from people who worship exceptionalism. They’re the types of people who see others as assets to elevate their own self-worth. This sort of person is the type that evaluates themselves and others (harshly) based on physical attractiveness, intelligence, athletic talent, and other things that aren’t related to character.
Basically, if you don’t measure up, they’re not going to find your friendship worthwhile. And while it’s certainly a good thing to want to surround oneself with excellence, the foundation of that desire should be a drive to improve oneself, not one’s public image.
When you feel like you’re approaching a good friendship with someone, make sure you’re watching for a sense of reciprocity in celebrating your friendship with them. When you’re dating someone you’re excited about, for example, you’re ecstatic to show them off to friends and family.
Authentic friendships are the same way. They are happily claimed in both public and private spaces based on the intensity of the friendship. If you think you’re becoming good friends with someone but you haven’t met their other friends? You’re probably not as close as you think you are. If they’re a social media person and you never appear on their pages, that’s something to think about as well! (I know that sounds crazy but you know it’s true!)
I’m not saying they should post an overly sappy #MCM on insta to show people how close you are (sometimes social climbing), but they should show you off a little!
Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated.
5. THE TURTLE
Are they fulfilling their ambitions?
Pastor T.D Jakes says that giraffes and turtles occupy the same space, but they have completely different worldviews; if you get hate from a turtle, understand that they’re only capable of reporting from their limited vision.
Bear this in mind when you’re letting people get close to you. Ultimately, we all want a support system. We want friends and family that will affirm our visions and do everything in their power to help us realize our highest selves.
The people who are going to be in the position to affirm you in this capacity are typically those who feel like they’re striving towards their own best life. If you see signs that a friend is actively settling in their life, tread carefully.
What does this look like? They often talk about being stuck with friends that don’t appreciate them, ruminate on ways their partner isn’t good enough for them, and whine about their career. As wonderful of a human being that this person may otherwise be, they tend to be pessimistic and externalize their problems.
Victim mindsets are absolutely detrimental to healthy friendships.
If you get too close to this person, you might find them casting doubts onto your highest ambitions and sometimes belittling your achievements. Try to remember how irritated you felt the last time someone attributed your hard work to luck. That type of person isn’t going to help you realize your best self.
The bottom line is that the best way to be happy for other peoples’ accomplishments is by being happy with your own. If you’re around people who are dissatisfied with themselves, take a step back and reconsider the friendship!