In an ideal world we would pick and choose those we prefer to interact with or have in our circles, but the reality is, that unless you are a hermit (and many do choose this option) then it’s very hard. You can’t choose your family, but you can disassociate yourself and cut yourself off from them, you can’t pick the partners of your friends or children either, your co-workers, or your neighbors. People have been known to move house because they loathe the neighbors, or change jobs because of the toxic work atmosphere, but financially not everyone has that option or choice.
Then we look at manners and etiquette; are we being snobby by deciding someone is not good enough to be acquainted with you? You only have to look at rejections of Facebook requests to see some people want to be in your circle, but you hesitate to click accept. To accept means that you are sending a message that they are on your wavelength, so what do you do when they are not?
Another dilemma arises when human frailty occurs; do you support a friend who has been dishonest, or when someone you know says or does something you disapprove of? Is it wise to cut ties or not? The people in your circle are a reflection of you and what you believe in to outsiders who will judge. You may not care what they think (and you shouldn’t), but on the surface that’s how society works, and it does matter. Perhaps you are associated with someone with a bad reputation; you may lose out on a job, or someone decides they don’t wish to know you on that basis.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people can also inspire you to do more things, and give you confidence. No one wants friends to criticize everything they say or do, because those aren’t friends. Even if a friend disapproves, there is a way to do and say things to help support a true friend. Having the right kind of people around you can be liberating, and fun, but is everyone in your circle like that?
It’s no surprise many people do cut ties with family and go off and live in a remote part of the world. Realistically we can’t all do that, but we can find a balance of people we choose to have around us, and to keep those we cannot avoid at bay by limiting interactions. In hindsight I have done this several times subconsciously. One of my best friends had another friend who she would invite out with us every now and then, whom I, and her other friends didn’t particularly like. The other friend was false and had a reputation for being an unpaid escort with benefits—basically she slept around for money, dresses, and anything else she could get. We would exclaim people would think we were like her if she was around us, and avoided her as much as possible.
A work situation is much harder, where you get on with some and not others. When I freelanced I could choose who to work with and where within reason, but then was faced with the prospect of missing out on a job if I didn’t like the other people involved. In one instance I was booked to work with someone I could not bear and rang to cancel. My agent didn’t buy my story and asked why I canceled, and I told her the truth. Somehow word got around, and the person in question did find out (I was given an alternate job), but I wasn’t wrong, it was just that everyone else put up with the person and I wasn’t prepared to tolerate it. Working with that person would have made me miserable, frustrated, and angry, so why put myself through that? (Basically this person was renowned for being arrogant, talking down to people, and treating them like dirt when no one else could hear them, and people would walk out on jobs, or call in sick when she was involved.) By accepting to work with her it would have meant that I approved of her methods, and others would have assumed I would have used them too, and that is not a reputation a freelancer needs.
Even children subconsciously choose their friends, and reject those that don’t have shared interests. It’s something we instinctively do, but as we get older we have choices, and the option to be discerning. These days I choose wisely, and since cutting out some toxic friends, I have found it easier to let go of people that aren’t on my wavelength, but befriended to be politically correct. I remember my friend Ben (thanks Ben) telling me that a friend I recommended to work with him on a last minute job was so rude and offensive. He warned me that it reflected badly on me and that people would assume that I would be like that or consider that behavior as acceptable. I did tell him I was aware of the shortcomings of the friend and I was friends because I felt sorry for them, however, he was right and I cut ties completely a few months later when the offensive behavior was directed at me.
We can choose our circle, but often we have to compromise. Surrounding yourself completely with like-minded people isn’t impossible, but is unlikely to happen without some effort and culling. Even if you search for them very few, if any will be on your wavelength exactly. I once went in search of spiritual people and went to live on a spiritual retreat—that’s where you imagine you would find spiritual people. That was not to be the case; there were the odd few, but in reality classifying yourself as something doesn’t mean you actually are what you call yourself I discovered. Society does subliminally classify and judge people on who they are associated with, for example LinkedIn is a prime example of connections on social media. Even if you don’t care what others think, it doesn’t stop them judging you by the company you keep or whom you choose to associate with. It may not be right, but you can’t stop what is intrinsically human nature, after all it goes back to the school playground where children pick friends according to who they want to be associated with. In the adult world the pool to choose from is much wider, and a wise one chooses their company very carefully.
©2016. The Nomadic Philosopher.