Denver life coach, counselor, and therapist Gideon Killion shares some thoughts about make friends and improve your relationships.
Modern life can feel really lonely sometimes. It seems like we’re connected 24/7 to social media and our phones, but somehow that doesn’t always translate into a sense of being truly connected with others.
If you’re feeling a social disconnect and want to forge new friendships in real life, you may not be exactly sure how to begin. Here are some suggestions to get you started meeting new people.
Connect through Shared Interests
One of the most effective ways to make like-minded friends is to pursue an interest or hobby that involves other people. Whether you’re into foosball tournaments, car shows, or martial arts, there’s sure to be a group or event near you. Or you could take a class to try out a new skill, like improv or beginning guitar. I learned the hard way that many people are put off or intimidated by direct invitations to become friends. But friendships develop naturally when you’re doing things together.
When you find yourself in a social situation and aren’t sure what to say to someone, it always helps to get curious about them. Most people enjoy talking about themselves. Look for clues in their conversations about what they’re interested in, what they like to do, and what’s important to them so that you have an idea of where to start. If there are no clues offered, ask open-ended questions such as, “What do you do for work?” Then encourage them to provide more detail by asking a follow-up question like, “How’d you end up in that career?”
Build In Time to Meet People
We have a tendency to over-schedule ourselves these days, always rushing to the next meeting or errand. This makes it unlikely that we’ll have time for genuine interactions with anyone outside our usual sphere of work and home. You can change this by deliberately building in time around your activities so that you can meet and talk to people. Arrive early for appointments so that you have an opportunity to chat with someone in the waiting room. When you’re planning a trip to the gym or the grocery store, schedule some cushion time before and after so that you can start up a conversation if the chance arises.
Listen More, Talk Less
In a one-on-one conversation, it’s ideal to be talking about 40% of the time. This is the perfect ratio because it means you’re mostly listening, but you’re also doing enough sharing of your own that the other person can get to know you. If you find yourself talking more than this in a conversation with a new acquaintance, you can shift the balance by asking them a question.
Keep It Positive
Do as little complaining, criticizing, or arguing as you can. It’s also a good idea to keep sarcasm or dark humor to a minimum until you really get to know someone. (This is a place I often over do it!) Even when you do know someone, it’s wise to keep it balanced. Most people want to spend time with someone who is pleasant and positive overall. If you make someone uncomfortable by going too negative, they may avoid hanging out with you in the future.
Share Things Slowly
It’s great to find friends we can be honest with about things that are difficult. On the other hand, it’s tempting to dive in way too soon. Do share your troubles, but wait until you’ve developed some trust. Plan to share at first in small doses, and try to give the other person the chance to do the same with you. It should feel like an even exchange, and the amount of detail or heavy emotion you share is generally going to be comparable to the length of time you’ve known someone.
Pay Your Own Way
This is a simple one, but it’s one that many people overlook, and it’s powerful. In short, always pay your fair share at restaurants, parties, and so on. People will remember if you don’t. Along the same lines, it may feel awkward to new acquaintances if you offer to pick up the check, since the social norm is to stay on equal footing with people you don’t know well. The safest tactic is to expect that everyone will split the bill.
Check Your Skills
If you’re not sure whether your behavior may be a little off, ask for feedback about your social skills from people you know and trust. Tell them you’re looking for constructive criticism so that you can improve anything that might be scaring off new friends.
Remember that It’s Hard for Everyone
Sometimes socializing is just going to feel awkward. Those awkward moments don’t mean you’re doing it wrong; they just mean you’re human. It happens to everyone, even folks who are good at it.
If you think you might need more in-depth assistance with social skills or other friendship issues, give me a call to learn whether counseling or coaching at one of my Denver offices would be able to help. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy learning (sometimes the hard way) how we make and keep friends, and I’d love to share what I’ve learned with you. Contact me to arrange a free consultation and find out how I can help.
Denver counselor, therapist, and life coach, Gideon Killion, shares some thoughts about the ways our brains skew our thinking.
Like many people, on Friday I watched the inauguration of President Trump. And like many people, I am very much wondering what the next four years are going to be like.
Studying psychology and working as a counselor has changed the way I see politics, especially the way in which we, as a nation, seem to be so divided. (Actually, there is a good argument to be made that the US is made up of not one nation but several. If you’re curious, check out the book American Nations, by Colin Woodard.)
Our brains distort the way we perceive reality
Before, I would have blamed it purely on differences in issues and values, but now I believe that our divisions actually have a lot to do with something we all have in common — the fact that our brains distort the way we perceive reality.
These are called cognitive distortions, and we’re all susceptible to them. Here’s an example: once you form an opinion, your brain — without asking or telling you — starts looking for and emphasizing information that supports your position, and it starts discounting or ignoring evidence against it. This particular distortion is known as confirmation bias. Research shows that the more you care about an issue, the stronger this distortion is.
No-one is immune
We also all share an instinct for tribalism. We have a strong tendency to see the world in terms of us vs. them: to see the group with which we identify, whether it’s a political party, a religion, a nation, or a race, as good, and to see the others as bad.
When you combine tribalism with cognitive distortion, it’s no wonder that we so often and easily divide into Left and Right and wonder how the other side could possibly see the world so differently. And so we draw the conclusion that they must be stupid, misinformed, or ill-intentioned.
Heading into a new presidential era, my hope for my country is that more and more people will become aware of how all of our brains distort our perception of the world, particularly the things we care most about. I hope more people — myself included — will make a habit of looking for and challenging these distortions in our own thinking, not just in those of the people we disagree with.
Of course, being rather cynical, I’m not holding my breath.
But if you want to learn more about our tendency for irrationality and skewed perceptions, I highly recommend the excellent website and blog, You Are Not So Smart.
I would also recommend reading any of the following great books:
- Thinking Fast and Slow, , by Daniel Kahneman
- How We Decide, by John Lehrer
- Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely
- Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert
Ariely has some great Ted talks, here: https://www.ted.com/talks?sort=newest&q=dan+ariely
… as does Gilbert, here: https://www.ted.com/talks?q=dan+gilbert&sort=newest
… and Kahneman, here: https://www.ted.com/talks?q=kahneman&sort=newest
I would love to know what you think about this topic!
Gideon Killion, a therapist, coach, and counselor in Denver, Colorado, offers some thoughts about New Year’s resolutions that work.
It’s natural to feel drawn toward change and growth at this time of year. For many people, the New Year offers an opportunity to turn the page and have a fresh start.
But with all the advice out there about forming new habits, setting “SMART goals,” and motivating yourself, it can be confusing to know how to begin. I’d like to share an insight about how to shift behavior patterns. It’s my belief that New Year’s resolutions usually fall flat, not because we fail to try hard enough, but because the goals we’ve set are lacking adequate support. It helps to have intent as a support framework.
Trying to force a new outcome can feel like an uphill battle, unless you determine a specific intention to support your goal. That’s because goals are set in the future, but what actually gets you to that finish line is the choice you make right now, in each moment. Intent helps you to identify which choices of today will help you reach your future goal.
Another way of looking at intent is that it allows you to clarify your values. Goals define “what” you want to accomplish; intent helps you understand “why” (the motivation for change). Goals are detail-focused, but intent provides the big-picture view of how your goals will get you where you want to go.
So here’s an example:
Goal: I will write one chapter of my novel by January 21st.
Intent: I am embracing a daily writing practice.
See the difference? The intent, which is focused in the present, provides the framework and mindset that supports the goal, which is placed in the future.
With this distinction in mind, here is my practical advice for creating real change in your life.
1. Recognize that goals require sacrifices, and make your goal proportional to your willingness to endure sacrifice.
One of the most common mistakes people make with New Year’s resolutions is trying to go from zero to 60. Moving from inaction to full-on commitment is usually unsustainable because it’s just too painful to make the personal sacrifice required.
Using intention as a framework can help. If your goal is to do a cardio workout twice a week but you hate gyms, the personal sacrifice of submitting to an unpleasant environment may be too painful over the long term. Reflecting on the intent behind your goal can help you find a way to adjust the pain meter so that a smaller sacrifice is required. If your intent is “choosing to move more and sit less,” you could reconsider whether enduring the gym is the only way to get a cardio workout. What about playing Ultimate Frisbee with friends on Saturdays and going for a run with a friend on Thursdays?
2. Consider making a series of small achievable changes that together add up to something bigger.
Checking in with your intent every day can spark small changes that add up, over time, to a significant behavioral shift. The key is to focus on things that are easily achievable—just one step removed from what you’re already doing. In the case of “choosing to move more and sit less,” you might set a few related small goals that get you moving just a little more than before. If you’re famous for finding the closest possible parking spot, try parking one row over. Always take the elevator to the 4th floor? Decide that you’ll take the stairs to the 2nd floor and ride up from there. It’s true that one tiny change by itself doesn’t make much of a dent in your activity level. But several tiny changes can easily become new habits, and you can continue shifting your behavior in small increments until one day you find that you’ve made a major shift.
3. Don’t try to change behaviors without adjusting the supporting context.
When you try to create change in an environment that doesn’t support change, it won’t stick. The best way to address this problem is to come up with a structure for success—a plan that’s big enough to handle the change you want to make. The most effective plan will be one that anticipates setbacks and includes rewards for progress. That’s because you’re human: you will make mistakes, and you will be more committed to a plan that gives you positive feedback in the form of small rewards.
Scott Adams, the guy who created Dilbert, suggests that goals don’t produce changes, but rather systems do. For any goal he’s wanted to reach, he has put in place a system that is calculated to produce that result. I think “system” is an extension of intent—a thought-out plan for manifesting an intention on a consistent and in-the-moment basis.
And here’s the best part: when your resolution is based on a framework of intent, it’s more likely to produce beneficial and healthy changes even if you don’t reach the specific goal.
If you’re looking to create big or small changes in your life but aren’t sure how to take the next step, you might need a coach or counselor to walk you through it. Give me a call today, ask for a consult at one of my Denver locations, and learn more about how I can help.
I just found this great Tedx video, featuring Al Switzler, about how to actually make changes in life successfully.
Denver counselor and coach Gideon Killion shares some ideas about loneliness and what to do about it.
These days, a lot of people — particularly men — struggle with feeling lonely and disconnected. Sometimes loneliness can be a motivator to connect with new people, as when we change jobs or move to a new city. But for many people, loneliness is a chronic problem. We want close friends and meaningful relationships, but we don’t know how to go about finding and building them.
Aside from being a really uncomfortable emotional experience, loneliness also has negative health repercussions. A lack of close friends can contribute to both mental and physical health problems. One study of senior citizens found a tie between loneliness and the likelihood of developing dementia. Chronic feelings of loneliness have also been linked to heart disease and other serious health issues.
Almost everyone experiences periods of loneliness, but it’s helpful to identify the main factors in your particular situation. Which of these statements describe you?
- You have tons of friends, but you still feel lonely or like you don’t truly belong anywhere.
It’s common nowadays to have lots of superficial connections that we call “friends” and yet still be lonely. These friendships lack closeness. They are people who will do stuff with us, but not ones who actually care enough to ask how we’re doing. In the end, it’s the quality of friendships that matters most for your health, not quantity. Without close and meaningful friendships, we are emotionally isolated.
- You had devoted and emotional friendships as a kid, but your adult friendships aren’t as deep.
In the book “Deep Secrets,” Niobe Way explores the emotional intimacy that young boys often experience with peers—a connection we tend to lose in adulthood in favor of friendships that are activity-based but not emotionally significant. Much like the phenomenon of “work friends” that don’t remain friends after changing jobs, these activity-centered friendships tend to fade out when the shared activity is no longer a priority for both men.
- You have several close friends, but none of them are friends with each other.
Most people find that they have lots of one-to-one relationships with people who are not connected to each other. When our key friendships all happen independently, we are more likely to feel lonely. In contrast, when some or most of our closest friends are also friends with each other, we have a greater sense of belonging due to being part of a like-minded group.
- Most of your social interactions happen through social media—online, not in person.
The ubiquitous presence of smartphones in our lives means that we constantly have texts, email, Twitter, and Facebook at our fingertips, giving us the illusion of connection with others but in a very superficial way. We may feel as if we’re “connected” 24/7, but there may not be much substantial connection really happening. Meanwhile, we’re missing out on potential real-world connections all the time by never looking up from our phones.
- You’ve had successful romantic relationships, but you have no idea how to connect emotionally with male friends.
Our culture is incredibly focused on finding a mate, to the point that all of our energy goes into finding and keeping romantic or intimate relationships. This has taught us not to prioritize finding and keeping friends in the same way, so we haven’t really developed the skills it takes to maintain platonic friendships. Our culture has also made this more difficult by offering a limited notion of what it means to be a man. Many men constrain their expression of emotions with other men out of fear that they may be perceived as “unmanly” or gay. Unfortunately, this keeps us from being able to experience significant friendships in which we can support our male friends on an emotional level and receive that support from them in return. (This narrow understanding of manhood or manliness has many other negative effects both on men, whether gay or straight, and on society in general.)
These are some of the factors in modern life that can lead men to feel lonely. Some men are able to get unstuck from this pattern of aloneness on their own. But sometimes a long-term sense of loneliness can only be untangled with the help of a therapist or life coach as a trusted companion on the journey. Click here to learn about counseling and coaching for men in Denver, or here to learn more about all the services LifeCraft Counseling & Coaching offers men and women in Denver.
Denver counselor and coach Gideon Killion shares some ideas about what to do when you don’t like your job.
Are most people happy at work? The answer depends on who you ask. According to one 2016 study, about 88% of Americans surveyed felt satisfied in their jobs. On the other hand, a different survey in the same year found that only 49% reported satisfaction with their work situation.
In my Denver counseling practice, I meet a lot of people who are unhappy in their professional life. Some of them are not sure they are in the right career, while others believe they’re on the right general path but feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled in the day-to-day experience of their current job.
If you’re unhappy at work, you may not have the option of immediately leaving to find something better. But there are concrete steps that you can take to increase your sense of fulfillment.
Identify Your Purpose
One of the most important factors in job satisfaction is having a sense of purpose. It can be helpful to deliberately reflect on the ways that your daily job tasks benefit other people—including specific clients/customers, your co-workers, and society at large. Take a few minutes to think through this in writing, or discuss it with a friend. In addition to thinking about how your work benefits others, consider the ways in which it is personally meaningful to you. Then, see if you can distill all of these thoughts into one or two sentences, like a personal mission statement. You might choose to write these sentences on an index card and place it in your work area where you can see it each day as you arrive to begin your workday.
In his book “Drive,” Daniel Pink identifies purpose and mastery as two of the three key motivators in human behavior. Mastery, or becoming more skilled over time in a specific task, can be a significant influence on work satisfaction. What skills have you developed in your professional life that contribute to your sense of purpose at work? Consider how you might complete this sentence: “I am skilled at [significant job task], which helps others by…”
Improve the Big Picture by Tweaking Small Things
Sometimes, seemingly insignificant aspects of our work life can become obstacles to fulfillment. When we find a way to make even a small shift in these areas, there can be an exponential improvement in overall happiness in the work environment.
Consider these ideas for improving your work experience:
- Think of the co-workers you enjoy the most. Look for small ways to connect with them, whether it’s a simple compliment or inviting them to have lunch together. Now, notice which co-workers you enjoy the least. For each one, decide whether it feels best to minimize your interactions with that person—which can be a healthy choice at times—or to actively reach out with a peace offering of some kind.
- Set boundaries between your work life and your personal time. Commit to devoting your attention to work during your designated work hours, and then let go of work concerns as you transition from work to home. If your job allows, don’t bring work home or check any messages from work during your personal time.
- If you’re allowed to customize your workspace, go crazy with it. Make yourself at home in your work environment as much as possible. On the other hand, if your employer has rules against personal items on the job, look for subtle or even secret ways to bring your personal life into your workspace. For example, if you play guitar on the weekend, you could keep a guitar pick in your pocket.
- Build humor and a playful attitude into your workday. What about pulling up Spotify on your break and challenging the person in the next cubicle to a lip-sync contest? If your corporate culture doesn’t welcome outward expressions of humor, try finding subtle ways to remind yourself to lighten up—like wearing goofy socks, or using the reminder function on your phone to send yourself a funny message several times a day.
What do these suggestions have in common? They all focus on finding small ways to take control of your experience at work.
Create a Transition Plan
When the only thing that will significantly improve your experience at work is the vision of a future elsewhere, it’s time to make a plan. Identifying the steps toward finding a better job will provide a sense of hope for the future as you transition to a different employer that fits your current career needs.
One key to a successful transition plan is to consider how your current job can act as a bridge to something better. What skills in your work today can transfer to a different and more satisfying position later? What learning opportunities in today’s job can start you on the path to tomorrow’s new career?
Consider whether it might help to enlist a guide who can support you as you plan for the transition. Here at LifeCraft Counseling & Coaching in Denver, I help men and women find satisfying and fulfilling work that gives them a feeling of purpose every day. Request a free consult to find out more!
Many men have a feeling that something is missing, or have a longing for something more. Some may even have a sense of what is missing, but feel trapped by commitments, responsibilities, or practical realities. For others, though, the dissatisfaction, unfulfillment, or stuckness shows up in symptoms like anger, depression, anxiety, or addictions.
If you struggle with some of these things, it may be a sign that you have an unacknowledged and unmet need. By identifying what is missing or needed, and figuring out how to find it, you may end up resolving other issues.
Sometimes we hesitate to ask for help on problems like this. I get it—I’ve been in that place of not wanting to admit vulnerability or struggle. I thought I should be able to handle it on my own. What I came to realize is that there are so many other areas of life where we enlist help to get us where we want to be, from finances to fitness. It just makes sense to save time and frustration on personal struggles, too, by collaborating with someone who can provide a better toolkit for getting what you want.
I know what it’s like to feel stuck, and to know that change is needed but not know what direction to move in. That personal experience is part of what led me to begin providing therapy for men in Denver. I’ve taken on a personal quest of sorts—to figure out not only what I needed, but what most men need in order to be happy and fulfilled.
This is not to say that we can or even should get exactly what we want. But, to borrow an idea from the Rolling Stones, we can usually get what we need. Yes, each of us is unique, and we don’t all want the same things. But most of our desires are representative of deeper, more basic and fundamental needs that all humans share.
In fact, I’ve created a list of 10 fulfillment factors to summarize those fundamental needs. This list is distilled from significant influences that have shaped my approach to counseling for men, including Sebastian Junger, “Tribe”; William Glasser’s “Choice Theory”; Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”; and the work of Tony Robbins.
The 10 Fulfillment Factors:
- Belonging (to be part of a group)
- Purpose (bigger than yourself; or meaning)
- Significance (to know you matter)
- Identity (to know who you are)
- Mastery (or competence)
- Control (or autonomy, power, freedom)
- Stability (or certainty, safety)
- Variety (or uncertainty, fun)
- Love (to be someone’s priority)
- Hope (that the future is as good or better than the present)
Once these basic needs are understood, it is much easier to figure out how to meet them. You could get there on your own with years of work. Or you can take the direct route to a fulfilled and purposeful life by enlisting a professional helper.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Do you find yourself fantasizing about a different career, or even a different life?
- Do you feel trapped or held back by some part of your life?
- Are you disappointed in how life turned out?
- Do you feel like you were made for more than this?
- Do you sometimes wonder what the point of your life is, or whether you matter?
- Do you wonder why you aren’t as happy as other people seem to be?
If you’re not satisfied with your life, and you aren’t sure why (or what to do about it), or if it’s something you’ve tried to change and haven’t been able to, then it may be time to let someone help you. Click here to learn more about counseling or life coaching for men in Denver.
I’ve been a follower of the web-zine BoingBoing.net for a long time. They’ve turned me on to a lot of cool things, one of which is another blog and recurring podcast, You Are Not So Smart. Back in October, YANSS did an episode on Mindfulness, interviewing author and meditation expert Michael Taft. After an intro that explains how this practice made its way from Eastern religion into American mainstream culture, Taft describes how mindfulness meditation can change our brains for the better, improving our ability to process difficult emotions, handle stress, focus on important tasks, and relate to other people, to name just a few benefits. (Despite the photo, the risks associated with meditating in the middle of a road probably outweigh most of the potential benefits.) Taft has a special interest in explaining meditation and mindfulness in terms of neuroscience, rather than eastern religion, philosophy, and mysticism.
Personally, I have practiced mindfulness meditation only sporadically over the past two years. Yet I can say that I have experienced some of the benefits noted above. I am more aware of the thoughts and emotions passing through my brain, but I also find that I am more able to quiet them, when I need to. After hearing this podcast, I went out and picked up a copy of Taft’s book, called The Mindful Geek, and made a decision to meditate more often and more consistently this year. I am still working on building the habit — never an easy task. I find it difficult to stop in the middle of a busy day — with all sorts of pressing tasks waiting to be completed — in order to just … sit … for 15 minutes. But I am going to keep trying, because I know it helps. If you have any meditation experiences, I would love to hear about them. Please share!
I think a lot of people wonder from time to time whether they need counseling. But there are a lot of barriers — cost, time, fear, shame — that keep them from giving the question the attention it deserves. I thought it would be a good topic to write about for peoplehouse.org, where I have been guest blogging since July.
Take a look and let me know what you think. I have been told it’s pretty funny.