The world has sure changed a lot.
Just a couple of centuries ago, most people lived in small towns and villages, where they had a basic social life and well-defined social roles. In time, human settlements grew, and a large percentage of the population migrated to the city.
Then came newspapers, radio and TV, as well as enhanced transportation, which enabled news, goods and people to travel faster and further than ever before. And more recently, we saw the rise of the internet, mobile communication and social media, which created a whole new level of possibilities for social interaction.
I find that many people are very confused by today’s social structures and social tools. They find it difficult to build meaningful relationships in the intricate modern world. I’ve been coaching such people since 2008. Based on my experience, I’d like give you what I deem as 4 essential rules for a fulfilling social life in today’s world.
1. Don’t Stay Too Informed About Others
With social media websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter being so popular today, it’s very easy to connect online with others and stay informed about their lives. The problem is that staying too informed about other people’s lives, particularly those you hardly ever see in real life, can be a major source of frustration.
You see, we are all inclined to compare ourselves to others. And when we receive constant updates about a large number of people and compare ourselves to them, they’re always bound to be at least a few who seem to be doing much better than us in some way: they travel more than us, they go to cooler parties, they have better relationships, they have more expensive cars, etc.
Our minds really don’t know how to properly handle all this personal information. They’re wired for living in small bands and tribes (which is what we did for most of our existence as a species) where there weren’t that many people to compare ourselves to in the first place.
If each day we go online and we notice there are all these people who are doing better than us in some area, it’s gonna create the false sense that we’re losers. We’re not, of course; we’re just comparing ourselves with a really big sample, and looking mostly at the positives in their lives. This is prone to create a sense of defeat and disturbance.
So often when you cut down on the amount of info you get about others via social media, it will feel like a huge relief. You’ll be happier with yourself, have a better mood, be more productive and focus more on your own life.
I’ve experienced this every time I’ve cut down on my social media usage. Nowadays, I only use it scarcely to keep up to date with the lives of others. I much prefer face to face conversations, which limits the information I receive to what truly matters to me.
2. Keep Your Social Expectations in Check
Not only that we stay connected with lots of people today, but we also get constantly exposed to the highest examples of social success in the world.
Turn on the TV and you’ll quickly stumble across news about some movie star going to exclusive clubs, spending $10k on champagne, and dating a supermodel. Moreover, we’re subtly suggested that we all can and should get the same type of lifestyle.
Unsurprisingly, many people’s social expectations are off the charts. Men wanna date models, women wanna date VIPs, many folks seem to be going around meeting others with a 50-qualities-you-must-have-to-roll-with-me checklist in their pocket. Then they complain that they’re single and they don’t have any friends.
Now, I’m all for having standards regarding who you date or befriend. And it is true that many persons have the opposite problem of lacking any standards whatsoever. Nonetheless, many people have social expectations that are way too high. It’s not necessarily that they can’t achieve them, it’s just that it’s gonna take tremendous effort and sacrifices, while settling for something less will prove very fulfilling as well.
You don’t need to have an elite social life to be happy. Connecting with like-minded people is what truly matters. If you have several upbeat, easygoing people to hang out with regularly, plus they have similar values with you, your social life will be much more fulfilling then if you reject social opportunities constantly, waiting to meet the perfect people.
3. Concentrate on Substance over Appearances
I think people today focus on how they come across to others more than ever. They concern themselves with their image fanatically, often to the point of caring about it much more than about the way they truly are, and thus ending up manufacturing false appearances about themselves.
Every time I see I guy I know is still living with his parents going out dressed in an expensive suit on which I knew he blew all his money, it makes me laugh. And I see this kind of stuff often. Maybe it’s not a suit, it’s a car or a watch, but it’s the same pattern.
Creating an embellished image of yourself can get you some attention and validation from people who just met you. But once they get to know you better, all that validation will go away because you’ve cheated their expectations.
Since you can only keep up appearances for so long, creating false appearances is a very ineffective strategy to build deep, long-term relationships with people. And ultimately, these relationships are the most important ones, because they are the most rewarding.
This isn’t to say that appearances don’t matter and you should ignore them. That’s a mistake too. However, in my view it’s wise to make sure you never put appearances over substance. Consider how you come across, work on putting your best foot forward when you interact with others, but don’t try to seem someone you’re not. It won’t get you far.
4. Don’t Try to Please Everyone
In today’s world, we interact with more people than ever before in the history of humankind. Some of our interactions develop into deep relationships, many more remain transitory.
In such a context, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to approach social interactions from a mindset of trying to please everyone. This, unfortunately, is something a lot of people do.
Trying to please everyone is simply not a realistic or helpful attitude. It gets you constantly stressing about what others think of you, acting inauthentic, sacrificing your needs to please others, only to end up being the generic person that nobody remembers.
I believe the best mindset to have is the mindset that, while you do want to be liked by at least some people, you can’t please everyone and you don’t have to either. It’s a mindset that will permit you to be authentic, confident and relaxed in social situations, while also being sociable and bonding with lots of people. And it will do wonders for your social life.
The tricky part is internalizing this mindset if you currently don’t have it. You need to immerse it into your subconscious beliefs system and make it a part of who you are. Then you’ll naturally operate on it in social situations and rip the benefits.
This is an issue that I often work on with my coaching clients, and there is a lot I have to say about it. So I created a special presentation in which I discuss step-by-step how to stop trying to please everybody and become authentic and confident in social settings. Go here to watch it right now. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot from it.
The best part of living in today’s world is that there are more social opportunities and social tools than ever. But it’s important to know how to navigate the opportunities and use the tools effectively. With the right know-how, you can build a truly rewarding social life, and that will make your whole existence feel more meaningful.
For more social advice from me, I invite you to join my free social success newsletter, and I’ll talk to you some more there.