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How to Eliminate Negative Relationships to Create Room for Inspiring Ones

Make a list of people who inspire or deplete you. Draw a big X through the people on the "deplete" list. Now go cultivate the relationships you want.
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One of the most interesting conversations I’ve been having with people recently has revolved around the importance of friendships and thinking critically about the people you spend your time with, both while at work and when not working.

I’d like to start by challenging you to truthfully assess if you fall into one or more of these categories:

  • I realize that there are people in my life who aren’t helping me be my best; they may even be holding me back. I want to surround myself with the right people
  • I’m done going to bars and watching football for ten hours on weekends with my college friends who drink their faces off, and I want more.
  • I want to build a new community of friends who challenge, support, and inspire me

So often, we fall into the routine of spending time with the people we feel comfortable around, even if they aren’t giving us the energy to do something meaningful with our life.

How many friends do you have right now that are just "space fillers?"

With that in mind, here is a system I call BET (bullet, eliminate, take on) to help you stray from the comforts of your usual group and get the results you want.

Step 1: Create a list of commitments, affiliations, relationships, and individuals.

Put those who inspire you on one side and those who deplete you on the other.

When I say inspire, I mean people who love life, who have the confidence you’ve always wanted, who have relationships that you admire, who you admire for their compassion or abilities, who are achieving things in their life, and who really support and care about you.

When I speak of people or relationships that deplete, I mean people who make you feel bad about yourself, who have a negative attitude, or who make you feel insecure, guilty, unsuccessful, or deflated.

I took a hard look at my friends when I was 25, and discovered there was a clear line between people who made me feel good and those who made me feel bad. I wrote out a list of good and bad relationships and chose to reinvest my energy where it would be the most rewarding. 

So sit down and examine the nature of your relationships. If negatives outweigh positives, write that person’s name down under your "deplete" list.

It’s okay if you don’t have a lot of people in the "inspire" column. I’ve had to start over a few times with only a few people I could truly count on. Having a few true and loyal friends is better than a bunch of negative acquaintances any day.

Step 2: Eliminate the bad relationships and nurture the good ones.

Now draw a big X through the people on the "deplete" list.

I know it can be complicated. But I also know that if you allow yourself to live or work with someone who makes you feel bad, it will hold you back.

It’s not always easy to eliminate a friend. But be aware of how you feel when you spend time with them. If you feel bad every time you see them (or guilty, negative, or exhausted afterward), it’s time to step away. Take steps to spend less and less time with them until you can phase them out entirely. And if it’s really bad, and they’re a consistent and significant negative influence on your life, find their contact info in your phone and just press delete.

That may sound harsh. And you may be thinking, "It’s a lot more complicated than this." The person who makes you feel bad could be a business partner or a boss. It could be a spouse.

Just think about it. Maybe you already tried being nice and attempted to reason with them in the past, but it backfired. Maybe you had a conflict that really never got resolved and grudges remain. Or maybe, no matter how hard you tried to communicate, you just can’t see eye to eye.

Each time you eliminate a person on the "deplete" list, it will free you up to cultivate the great relationships you have or want. You only have a limited amount of time to devote to your friends, so pick them wisely.

Step 3: Take on new activities and relationships that energize you.

Go to a place where people are doing the things you love and excel at--or want to excel at. If you want to start a business in technology, go to, say, General Assembly (a start-up incubator) and connect with people there. Bring a friend if you’re intimidated.

If you want to create a design product, find out when design meet-ups are happening on Meetup.com. Another great way to meet new people is by becoming an intern. More often than not, if you’re friendly and sincere, you will make great connections quickly.

If you are a small business owner or are launching your own business, you can find allies through local entrepreneurship groups. Contact your chamber of commerce and join their small business administration. Go to the businesses where you see good people working and ask them where they found their workers and if they know of other good people who are looking for jobs. Put feelers out on Facebook and Twitter.

This BET System will remove undue stress from your life. It will give you more time to find and do what you love and to build your business. And it will put a bounce back in your step. Straying from "your comfortable group" is the way to have the most unique opportunities to make new friends and build key contacts quickly in a new city. Being a sheep in the herd is not where you want to be, and you’re only your best when surrounded by positive influences.

Take a BET on yourself: Stray from the group.

IMAGE: mbeo/Flickr
Last updated: Oct 17, 2013

MIKI AGRAWAL | Columnist | serial entrepreneur

Miki Agrawal is a serial social entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and television personality. She founded the farm-to-table alternative pizza concept called Wild in New York City and partnered with Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh to open the concept in Las Vegas. She was a recipient of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival's Disruptive Innovation Award. Agrawal is also a partner in Super Sprowtz, a children's media company. Her book, Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, and Live Happily Ever After, came out in August 2013.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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