Jim Rohn said that we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. It may be more than five, but it passes the “birds of a feather” test.
That influence works in both directions. It will elevate us if we surround ourselves with the right people. It will debase us if we aren’t careful.
We tend to have subconscious responses to other people’s actions. A lot of the time, we just ignore it. But more often than we realize, we either like what we see and want to emulate it, or we decide don’t want to be like that. Either way, it shapes our behavior. It becomes part of what we think is normal.
When you’re around others, see if you can identify when you’re having one of two emotional responses to their behavior. Watch for a desire to linger or a desire to leave.
If you want to linger, you like what this person is doing. You want to be around them more. You’re attracted to their behavior. You want more of it. So let’s identify it. Put your finger on it.
Say you have a favorite barista at Starbucks. Most baristas will ask you some form of “what can I get you?” But there’s that one barista—the one you always hope you get—who greets you by name. “Good morning, Jon! The usual?” It’s not the pumpkin spice hot chocolate with a whisper of cinnamon that’s starting your day right, it’s the interaction with the barista.
What was it that you liked? Was it that they said “good morning” and greeted you instead of going straight to taking your order? Was it that they greeted you by name? That they know your usual order? Identifying what it was that triggered your desire to linger will help you identify how they’re influencing you.
What about when you see something that makes you want to leave? You know those situations where you’re not comfortable and you want to climb out the window when their back is turned? (It doesn’t matter that you’re not on the ground floor—a quick defenestration would still be less painful than staying.)
Some people are the counterexample to what we want to become. Maybe you don’t like a barista that’s chatty. You’re in a hurry and you’re not feeling chatty, so you appreciate the barista that can read the room and get down to business. No nonsense. In, out, done.
With some people, it’s readily apparent that their behavior is not something you want to emulate. Remember that results take time to measure. Calling in sick may let you spend a few more days at the lake, but when you develop a reputation, even with yourself, for being someone who shirks their responsibilities, it’s clear how short-sighted that is.
Whether you want to linger or leave someone’s company, act on it. If you’re not in a room with five people who you want to be more like, find a new room.