Today I want to take a little break from all the book blogging I’ve been doing to switch gears for a minute. It feels like with every new year comes new—or recycled—posts about banishing the toxicity from your life. While I support the overall message year round—yes, you absolutely should not keep people who make you feel bad in your life—I do get tired of seeing the same idea said a million different ways every three posts.
I also think that, while its so important to keep negative forces out of your life, it’s also just as important to focus on those positive forces.
Sometimes I feel like we search for “toxic traits” in other people. I’ve caught myself doing it too. Whether it be a self esteem thing where you push people away before they can hurt you—which was always my problem—or a thing where you just don’t like someone and you’re trying to justify that feeling, we’ve all done it.
And sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re looking for these traits in people. Sometimes, we’re just so caught up in our own negativity that we look for negativity in others, too. Misery loves company, right?
This is something that I’m aware of doing myself, and something I’m striving to stop doing. I have always wanted to be the type of person that can find the good in people. I don’t always succeed, but I do want to make a more conscious effort to do this going forward. While thinking about this, I started thinking about “green flags” in relationships.
Now, I don’t mean just romantic relationships. The green flags that I’m going to talk about here shortly are universal for all relationships—those with romantic partners, friendships, and even family members. The people who do these things are the people you want to surround yourself with.
We all have “toxic traits.” At one point or another, we have all been the toxic villain in someone’s story. Whether we want to admit this or not, it is what it is. I think understanding this makes it easier to look for the good in people, honestly. There are people that have taken up space in my life over the past 24 years that, to me, are truly toxic—but to someone else, they’re the perfect friend, the perfect partner, the ideal person. More power to them.
So, with that in mind, here are 7 surefire “Green Flags” to look for in the people you surround yourself with. Look for these traits, and learn to appreciate the good in a person that, more often than not, outweighs the bad you’re searching for.
1. They actually listen to what you say.
We’ve all had a conversation where it was painfully obvious the other person isn’t really hearing what you’re saying—they’re waiting for their turn to speak again. A Green Flag is when this person listens attentively. My favorite thing is when I mention something in passing and the person brings it up again later on—sometimes days, weeks, months, even years later. No matter how small the detail, it just means a lot that they listened and remembered.
2. They respect your boundaries.
We all have our own lives, and we all need to set our own boundaries. People who force or guilt you into breaking your boundaries to cater to them are people you should keep at an arm’s length. I had this problem a lot especially when I was in school, where I was overworked and beyond stressed and despite that, people would wrangle me into plans that I wasn’t really into. It’s important to learn how to be firm in your boundaries and to be okay with saying “no,” but it’s equally as important to find people who respect those boundaries and work with you to find a happy medium.
3. They’re willing to return your energy.
This one, I feel, is fairly self-explanatory. The people in your life should treat you with the same respect as you treat them with. In the same breath, they should return the love you give them. People love in their own ways—love languages are very real, and sometimes the ways people show you love will look different than what you’re used to. The form their love takes doesn’t necessarily matter; it’s the fact that your feelings are reciprocated, and that you’re not left questioning if this is a one-sided relationship.
4. They don’t treat you like free therapy.
We’ve all had that person in our lives that only contacts us when they need something, or when they want to talk about something going on with them, and they have no interest in hearing about you or asking questions about you. This is frustrating, and not fair. That’s not a friendship. The Green Flag to look for is that they’re equally as invested in you and your life as you are in theirs.
5. They support you in your goals and dreams.
Nobody likes a jealous friend. A jealous friend is not a friend, in all honesty. But the people who are supportive of you are the people to keep around. Those are real friends, who want to see you succeed and find happiness, and those are absolutely people you want to surround yourself with!
6. Spending time with them makes you feel good.
Some social outings leave me feeling drained and exhausted, and others have left me feeling rejuvenated and light. The way you feel when you’re with someone—and how you feel after spending time with them—really matters. Those people who you can spend hours and hours with without feeling drained are good people to surround yourself with; you really connect with them and that connection is so important.
7. They don’t gossip all the time.
This one may seem a little weird, but I stand by this from my own experience. I, personally, love a good gossip session every so often—but that can’t be the only topic of conversation you have with people. The Green Flag here is holding conversations with them that aren’t centered on other people. There are hundreds of things to talk about—movies, music, food, hobbies, the news, there’s literally so much. People who only talk about other people are hard to trust; if they’re talking about all these other people with you, what are they saying about you to other people? The greatest friends I’ve ever had are the friends I can sit around and talk about anything and everything with—not the people I’ve only ever talked about other people with.
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