how to pick friends

5 Ways to Pick Friends Wisely

I grew up on a large cattle ranch in a remote part of Wyoming. We were hours away from the nearest small town so I went to a little country school with one other pupil—my brother. During my grade school years, I didn’t count my brother as a friend. Instead, we took turns taunting each other at recess.

It was a lonely existence. When I started to attend a public school at the age of fourteen, I quickly learned that friendship building is an art, and one that can be quite messy at times.

Back then, I wasn’t picky about friends.  I just thought the more, the better. Friends meant I was popular, and when you’re a kid who is different from everyone else, that matters a great deal.

At first I thought that once I grew older, friendships would be more sincere and less superficial. I also used to believe in Santa Claus, so call me gullible. I spent a great deal of my early life lacking confidence in my ability to make my dreams come true.

And then there was always that exhortation from adults to “Quit dreaming . . . be practical!” As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized that I deserved better than friends who either would not or could not help me become my best self.

Plato once said, “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.”

Jesus said the same thing in his parables when he warned against putting down roots in poor soil. If we are not nourished, our souls will choke and wither away. It has been said that we grow where we are planted, and rich soil is likened to a noble and good heart.

Pick your friends with care—they create the environment in which you will either thrive or wilt. Give everyone the opportunity to be a friend, but share your dreams and goals only with those who value them as much as you do.

Here are 5 ways to pick better friends:

1. Change whom you hang around with – You have different friends for different parts of your life. If you have moved into a phase of life where you’re determined to set your own course, find people who can help you visualize what that future can look like. Like it or not, you become similar to the friends you hang out with. Your associations have a lot to do with where you’re at in every area of your life. Your friends are going to influence your behavior, so why not pick ones who will be a positive influence?

2. Establish a benchmark test for choosing friends – Ask yourself whether spending time with this person will lift you up or drag you down? Will spending time with this person help you to become your best self? Will you be happier after spending time with this person? Will this person help you achieve your most important goals? If not, find friends who will.

3. List five people who can help you achieve your dreams and goals – Make a list of five people whom you trust to listen to you attentively and tell them about your dreams and goals. Sharing details of our life creates trust, and if you don’t feel you can trust a person with the most vulnerable part of yourself—your dream—find someone else for a friend.

4. Create your own Advisory Board – Identify a group of friends who can help nourish the best in you. Meet with them regularly. Advisory Boards are made up of people who will lift you up, challenge, inspire, and hold you accountable.

5. Find a mentor – Have you ever talked with someone who thought you could accomplish more than you thought you could? Who gave you permission to follow your dreams? Who saw more in you than you saw in yourself? This is exactly the kind of person who would make a great mentor and encourage you to move toward your goals.

One of the best moves you can make in life is to surround yourself with friends who see the potential in you that you may not even see in yourself.

What criteria do you have for finding good friends who help you be your best self?

 

LaRae Quy was an FBI agent, both a counterintelligence and undercover agent, for 25 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. Government. Now she explores ways people can empower themselves via her blog Empower the Leader in You. You can find her on Twitter as @LaRaeQuy

Photo credit: ‘Furry Friends‘ by Big Stock

 

  • Jim

    That’s not what Jesus’ parable was about at all #context

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Jim

      The parable of Jesus was about  the way in which rich soil is likened to a noble and good heart. 

  • http://twitter.com/BetsyKCross Betsy Cross

    I am very blessed to have a network of great friends both online and off. Your message hits home because even though they are good friends, accept me and like what I’m about, I really love talking to people once in a while who REALLY get who I am and share my passion for family history. I’ve got some work o do with creating more of that.
    Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Betsy

      It’s good to hear from you! The qualities I look for in a friend have changed over the years but I think we all yearn to be heard by people who care about us. And I try to be a better friend to others as I think about the type of friend I need in my life.

      Have a great day!

  • http://twitter.com/BetsyKCross Betsy Cross

    I am very blessed to have a network of great friends both online and off. Your message hits home because even though they are good friends, accept me and like what I’m about, I really love talking to people once in a while who REALLY get who I am and share my passion for family history. I’ve got some work o do with creating more of that.
    Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    LaRae, that quote from Plato was an excellent choice, and it is indeed the key to the whole process. 

    Friends are one’s immediate social infrastructure. If that infrastructure is poorly built, it could collapse at any moment.

    Choosing your friends is like any other choice in life, or ought to be: quality is better than quantity. I’ve never been a part of any huge social circle but I’ve had the good luck of finding at least one mentor — she was one of my teachers in college, and I routinely came to see her in her office to discuss the subject matter of the course she taught (19th-c. English lit). Despite the age difference (30+ years) we became friends, and we keep in touch.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Jamie

      Cultivating mentors is one area I’ve been too lax in . . . I sort had this “go it alone” attitude but it hurt me in the end – why reinvent the wheel if someone else has already been there, done that? I also used to think that mentors needed to be someone older than myself but I’ve been so impressed by several young people I’ve met recently that I am starting to think they have something to teach me! 

      At any rate, always good to hear from you . . . I liked that Plato comment as well :-)

      • Anonymous

        I was just like that — thought I had all the answers or I was too smart to be taught by anyone.

        The truth of the matter was, I was sorely lacking in humility, and I did try to reinvent the wheel a couple of times. With rather limited success, I must say.

      • Anonymous

        I was just like that — thought I had all the answers or I was too smart to be taught by anyone.

        The truth of the matter was, I was sorely lacking in humility, and I did try to reinvent the wheel a couple of times. With rather limited success, I must say.

      • http://www.facebook.com/hoang.t.ngocphuong Hoang Thi Ngoc Phuong

         friend regardless the old. we only need to understand and trust together

  • http://www.titanic100thanniv.com/2012/02/titanic-100th-anniversary.html Titanic 100th Anniversary

    Friends are enough for lifetime.

  • http://Mazzastick.com/ Justin Mazza

    So true LaRae. I was the same way when I was younger, the more friends the better. I prefer quality friendships with people that will cause me to grow.  I find people that are where I want to be so I can pick their brain on how to get there.

    I believe we become the people we spend time with so it makes sense to choose the right people for us. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Justin,

      I agree – we become like the people we spend time with and too often I’ve just collected friends because they were easy relationships and didn’t require much work. But all good relationships require time and energy or they devolve into mediocrity . . . I’m know I’ve been guilty of that.

      Intentional is a good word for me right now . . . approaching friendships with intention and not default.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Planetnaveen.com

    Excellent post LaRae,
    Having great friends itself change us as a person and can make significant impact how we shape our life.

    I generally look for friends who are humble and resonate with mud ideas. I keep away those who are negative.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      I’m glad you liked the post – I had fun writing it!

      Humility is a wonderful trait in anyone, especially a friend. Thanks for mentioning it.

  • http://www.your-self-improvement-guidebook.com/ yourselfimprovementguidebook

    Sharing dreams with those around you can really bring you down.  Most won’t share your dreams and will be looking for you to fail.  Great post and we should all take heed in what has been said.   Quality friends with positive attitudes is what you need.  Some friends are just destined to be negative and taking strong action in not associating yourself with them (as far as your goals are concerned) can be difficult .  You have to decide whether it’s worth your while sticking around with them or moving on.

    Harsh but true. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Yes, I agree that sharing our dreams makes us very vulnerable. Dreams are very intimate and hit close to our life purpose. I know I need all the help I can get to make my dreams come true and my friends are an important component – like the advisory board.

      It is harsh but we do need to cut the dead weight of relationships that are negative or drag us down. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.your-self-improvement-guidebook.com/ yourselfimprovementguidebook

    Sharing dreams with those around you can really bring you down.  Most won’t share your dreams and will be looking for you to fail.  Great post and we should all take heed in what has been said.   Quality friends with positive attitudes is what you need.  Some friends are just destined to be negative and taking strong action in not associating yourself with them (as far as your goals are concerned) can be difficult .  You have to decide whether it’s worth your while sticking around with them or moving on.

    Harsh but true. 

  • http://www.furries-happyclub.com/blog The Furries @ The Happy Club

    Every relationship that you have is part of your life.

    Some are worth cultivating, others demand a lot of coping and handling (such as some relatives or collegues).

    Dealing with relationships in a good way is a key element to a happy life.

    But boy can it be difficult! And wonderful!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Yes, difficult, and wonderful . . . but best things in life often do take a little effort! And they do lead to a happy life.

  • http://twitter.com/janetcallaway Janet Callaway

    LaRae, aloha. Let me begin by telling you that I absolutely love, love, love the image you selected to go with this.  It seems that animals are much better than humans at knowing who to trust and who is a friend for them. What oftentimes seems “logical” from a human perspective, is not at all the way it plays out in the animal kingdom.

    Also, as a lover of quotes, I so appreciate being introduced to that one by Plato. On its own, it’s a great quote and as part of the foundationl in your post its superb!

    Loved learning more about your background. Even though we chatted away like magpies over lunch, we never went all the way back to your beginning. What an extraordinary journey you have traveled, LaRae.

    Your tips for picking better friends are excellent. Simple as it may seem, if you see someone’s name on your caller ID and it makes you feel good or smile, then that friend is good for you. If seeing that’s person’s ID makes your growl, anxious or otherwise uncomfortable, they are not a fit with where you want to go in your life.

    LaRae, I believe that if we listen to ourselves we know if someone is good for us. We should feel better from having spent time with them be it in person, online or on the phone. They don’t have to agree with us all time and, of course, if they are true friends they will tell us the “truth” even if we don’t want to hear it.  A friend is one who lets us be us while encouraging and inspiring us to be all that we can be.

    When you talk of advisory boards or mastermind groups, I think of that wonderful quote of Abraham Lincoln’s that is so appropriate.

    “I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” 

    This post was a wonderful way to start the day and the week.  

    Wishing you a week of new friends found and “old” friendships nourished. Aloha. Janet

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Janet

      I feel you are a friend – you’re on my Advisory Board!

      I LOVE that quote by Abraham Lincoln . . . I’m going to have to write a blog around that one day. And I agree – good friends inspire us to be bigger, better, bolder.

      It’s so good to hear from you – Aloha!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Janet

      I feel you are a friend – you’re on my Advisory Board!

      I LOVE that quote by Abraham Lincoln . . . I’m going to have to write a blog around that one day. And I agree – good friends inspire us to be bigger, better, bolder.

      It’s so good to hear from you – Aloha!

  • http://twitter.com/janetcallaway Janet Callaway

    P.S. Thanks so much for the link back to my post, my friend.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Anytime :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Anytime :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Anytime :-)

  • http://rmctech.net/ Ryan Critchett

    Love this. It’s sooooo important to choose friends. Some people don’t understand it. Lots don’t get why you suddenly up and stop talking to them. But it’s important to know what’s bad for your brain. Thanks for the validation. Great post, as usual.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for your kind words . . . I agree with you that some people don’t think about the type of friends they collect . . . and that is a bad habit that needs to be broken.  It’s important we validate each other on the important things in life.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  • Cat P

    LaRae,
    This one really spoke to me!  Thank you.  I especially like to quality vs quantity aspect of this idea.  I’ll be sharing this with a college student I am mentoring.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Cat,

      Congratulations on being a mentor! That is a word that has a lot of meaning for me these days . . . thanks so much for sharing with others.

  • ChrisN

    LaRae,

       I’ve been reading your blog posts for quite a few months now and really am enjoying them, but this one struck really close to the heart. I am in a transition phase of my life right now (graduating college and moving on to the Marine Corps) and I want to keep my close friends from college but at the same time I struggle with when I should cut off putting effort into a friendship when it seems some of my close or formerly close friends just do not care enough to put much effort into it themselves. It takes a lot for me to break ties with close friends because I can be an intensely loyal friend (and I think loyalty in a friendship is essential), but your post today helped me figure out at what point those friendships should be reduced and which ones I should cherish and nourish. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

    Chris

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Chris

      And thank you for sharing . . . I can tell from your thoughtful way of writing and expressing yourself that you care about people deeply – what a gift! And what lucky people your friends are . . .

      Not everyone cares as much about friendships, even though they are good people and really are there for you when they share your space. Once they move out of your space, however, they move on (in more ways than one). As I write this, there are only 2 or 3 friends left from my early days and we all really make an effort to stay connected in deep and meaningful ways. 

      It’s worth the effort :-) They gave me the wisdom to write this post.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Chris

      And thank you for sharing . . . I can tell from your thoughtful way of writing and expressing yourself that you care about people deeply – what a gift! And what lucky people your friends are . . .

      Not everyone cares as much about friendships, even though they are good people and really are there for you when they share your space. Once they move out of your space, however, they move on (in more ways than one). As I write this, there are only 2 or 3 friends left from my early days and we all really make an effort to stay connected in deep and meaningful ways. 

      It’s worth the effort :-) They gave me the wisdom to write this post.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Chris

      And thank you for sharing . . . I can tell from your thoughtful way of writing and expressing yourself that you care about people deeply – what a gift! And what lucky people your friends are . . .

      Not everyone cares as much about friendships, even though they are good people and really are there for you when they share your space. Once they move out of your space, however, they move on (in more ways than one). As I write this, there are only 2 or 3 friends left from my early days and we all really make an effort to stay connected in deep and meaningful ways. 

      It’s worth the effort :-) They gave me the wisdom to write this post.

  • http://twitter.com/W8FU_ElliE Eslam Ragab

    what a great words ! and really thanks for the this ,but i feel that it’s not applicable for me

  • http://www.selfhelpurls.com/ Dennis @ SelfHelpUrls

    I am very picky in making friends. Well, I can make social friendship with almost anyone but when comes to true friendship, I only have a few (probably less 20) to date. I never worried about having lesser friends because I believe when I need help, these people will definitely help me :) 

  • http://www.selfhelpurls.com/ Dennis @ SelfHelpUrls

    I am very picky in making friends. Well, I can make social friendship with almost anyone but when comes to true friendship, I only have a few (probably less 20) to date. I never worried about having lesser friends because I believe when I need help, these people will definitely help me :) 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaRae-Quy/1197206901 LaRae Quy

      Hi Dennis

      20 friends sounds like a lot to me. Congratulations! The main thing is this: you can count on them :-)

      • http://www.selfhelpurls.com/ Dennis @ SelfHelpUrls

        Less than 2o friends:

        High school probably have 4-5 friends
        College A has 4-5 friends
        College B has 4-5 friends
        Working Life = 4-5 friends.. 
        Each level has 4-5 friends.. rather than 100 friends in each level :D I consider very minimal already.. haha! 

      • http://www.selfhelpurls.com/ Dennis @ SelfHelpUrls

        Less than 2o friends:

        High school probably have 4-5 friends
        College A has 4-5 friends
        College B has 4-5 friends
        Working Life = 4-5 friends.. 
        Each level has 4-5 friends.. rather than 100 friends in each level :D I consider very minimal already.. haha! 

  • imopers

    I look for friends that can really listen and empahise.  Otherwise it can be hard to move onto to find solutions to problems. I explain mroe on my blog http://miraclecatalyst.com/blog/

  • http://crazyintrovert.blogspot.com/ ZeCrazyIntrovert

    Number four is a great advice. I only have a few trusted friends.  Most are just acquaintances, but the few that I have are the people I trust. I’m an introvert so I don’t easily open up to people. But I know and value friends although I don’t show it sometimes.

    I should really spend more time with them though. The regular meet ups is a great idea!

  • http://www.wowtotalcleaning.com/ Marlo | Austin Carpet Cleaning

    This is so overwhelming, it’s really important to have friends. Friend
    has an important part in our life. They are the people who are with us through
    ups and downs. As you have shared with us these five ways, it’s really
    important choosing good friends. Thanks for sharing this. 

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  • http://www.cmoe.com/ CMOE

    It’s definitely hard to pick friends wisely, and it’s just as hard to keep them. I once had this friend who I got along with for the most part–except she would never support me when it came to my decisions in my life, career, and relationships. Rather than explaining why or helping me see her side more clearly, she would just say I was being stupid and leave things at that. Looking back, she certainly wasn’t acting like a friend. So you also have to be able to know when it’s time to end a friendship.

  • frineds

    i love all my friends and im blessed to have a very large amount. I do sugesst you make older frineds as well as younger it is good to have a variety.

  • BoB

    if a friend ever tries to change your persanalty their not worth it dont be friends with someone who tries to change you be yourself and nothing else

  • dont trust the stalkers

    dont always go by what people have on the internet for friendships half the time its some wierdo who may end up staling you if you give them persanol info dont always trust them as your friend untill you have meet them in person

  • http://www.epsmiles.com/ EP Smiles

    Friend is an important part of life. A good friend is hard
    to find but when you’ll find people like this you are so lucky. I like this because
    you really raise the topic to also help others. Also I appreciate that you
    share your own story and inspire people. I’m sure this will help us to have a
    better social life.

  • http://www.motivation.net.au/quotes/love-quotes Marriage Quotes

    This is an excellent post. I liked this post very much. All things are described in very excellent way. In my eyes you should keep on such kind of postings for us. In future I would like to come here again for some new and more information.
     

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  • TotalThriver

    I love point 4 about creating an advisory board–it’s so valuable to surround yourself with good leaders to progress to the top!

  • simon

    i like your conclusion

    One of the best moves you can make in life is to surround yourself with
    friends who see the potential in you that you may not even see in
    yourself.

  • Oliver

    This post just breathes energy, why have a lot of hollow relationships when you can choose who you want in your life? Love love love!!

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