Recently, I’ve been pondering over a tough question: What people will matter to me in 5–10 years? And even more importantly: how can I notice them early on to invest my time and energy adequately?
We’ve all heard the saying: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Even if you do not agree, you can’t deny that your subconscious picks up on details. So there is a primitive argument to be made: if you are hanging out with friends who mostly party, you will get a different range of inspiration than if you would hang out with people who mostly build a business or engage in creative hobbies.
Time to get personal. Connecting with lots of different people never came easy to me. I’ve struggled with being outgoing and oftentimes fall into my introverted self-isolating nature. My social batteries drain quickly if I cannot get inspired or intellectually animated by what others have to say. I’ve come to understand it’s not that these people are lesser than me, it’s that they’re not my people. They are not the kindred spirits that make me feel like I belong to a tribe of like minds. And that is totally fine — they are someone else’s people with another group to belong to. Suffice to say: anyone should be given the chance to find a place in your life.
This detailed collection of 10 questions will explore a rational lens you can apply to an emotional world of varying depths of connection.
The intention? Help you identify people with psychologically healthy behaviors that align with what you need now, next, and later.
The desired outcome? Define the type of individual who fulfills 5 or more questions — they belong in your life long-term.
Ready? Let’s find your people in 10 questions.
Good connections grow together. They apply a loose process that moves through feedback → reflection → acceptance almost seamlessly. These type of people in our inner circle communicate their honest thoughts without fearing a potential conflict. Avoid people who coddle your ways of being and seek those who challenge you. Giving it straight with caring honesty is the equivalent of encouraging you to grow into a better version of yourself.
Why should you make an effort to keep someone around who drains your energy, leaves you tired, or makes you feel less worthy than them? Listen closely and keep those close who leave you with a lifted spirit to do and be more, rather than a colorless existence in their shadow. Inspiration comes in many forms, so find out what other people say and do that nudge your brain to think at an exceeding pace. Inspiration catalyzes momentum.
We all need a small group of people who aren’t just seasonal but truly care to stick around. Any form of human connection is based on a certain level of reciprocity. This does not mean both parties need to equally carry their weight at all times, but it does imply a give-and-take both parties feel comfortable with. The throughline is setting noticeable actions to signal they want you in their lives. This is usually shown via initiative effort.
One of the greatest acknowledgments is receiving respect for how you live your principles or standards of behavior on a daily basis. But more often than not, people will not fully agree with how you operate. In that case, they can either accept you for who you are or move on without you. I would argue that those who surround themselves with more people they accept than respect are usually the most mature. Be respected or accepted. Either way, your communicated boundaries should matter to others.
A big red flag: people who love to hear themselves speak. There is a certain level of unhealthy ego involved with speaking more than 80% of the time in a 1:1 conversation that should involve the exchange between 2 people. Interestingly, listening more than speaking only shows someone’s level of regard for who you are as a person. Do they ask you many good questions and wait for you to finish a deeper point? People like this lean forward, listen intently and focus on every detail of your physical & vocal expression — without interruption. A rare trait these days.
What a person says and what a person does are usually two separate pairs of shoes. When both are aligned, you are onto a connection worth respecting in the long run. Misalignment will lead to crumbling respect and in the worst cases deteriorating trust. Respect is all about holding another person in the highest regard. Once you notice this natural tendency, watch whether their words match their actions in all areas of life: career, love, friendships, materialism, lifestyle… Define what qualities you truly respect by uncovering the values you stand for.
As individuals just as in groups, psychological safety is the number one determining factor for healthy and deep connections to unfold. Reliance means being able to depend on someone with full confidence — a basis that evolves through years of vulnerability. In an ideal world, reliance breeds trust and as a result unquestionable loyalty, grown through many ups and downs. Try to also answer this question: Is this person there for me, even if it inconveniences them? Clarity will find you.
Just like pledging allegiance to a flag, loyalty is devoting yourself to the continuous existence of another person in your life. A selfless act should leave no room for doubt — meaning they act towards you without needing to second guess why or what they are doing. If someone shows you real loyalty, they act predictably and avoid making excuses for behaviors that make you feel disregarded. Loyalty knows no hesitation.
Everyone makes mistakes. And everyone has a line you and the people in your life should not cross. Intro forgiveness: the surrender of resentment or anger towards another person. Interacting truthfully with someone in spite of how deeply hurt they are is a sign of strength. It shows they are in touch with reality being messy, and far from perfection. If you take accountability and sincerely apologize for any wrongdoing, they should give you another chance — and you should return the courtesy.
Conflicts bring together two types of people: fixers and avoiders. However, healthy connections are determined by how fast two people can resolve an issue and return to baseline. Avoiding is only helpful if little time is needed to gain mental clarity. Otherwise, conflict elongates uncomfortable situations and allows negative emotions the necessary room to grow. Whatever your style, find people who stay to fix things, no matter who is at fault. People who run away or ghost you are meant to stay absent.
If you want to use this list to curate a close circle of long-term valuable people, ask if you are that person for others. If you are not, then be the list first. You can only expect a standard from others if you are authentically living one yourself. That standard is completely up to how you want to live.
It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself. — Eleanor Roosevelt
Uncovering mental models that stand true to myself and others gives me joy. I tested and evolved these questions with different (groups) of people. My hope is that by answering them, you can view forming connections through a lens that will help you weed through the emotional noise attached to being a social creature. It’s no secret we need others. Oftentimes much more than we allow ourselves to realize.
Take time to reflect. Ponder over these questions alone and with others. The conversational insights will move you in unexpected ways.
And if you can bravely share: why not tell that person all of the answers you have identified from this list? Then observe as you grow closer.
Life is an energy distribution game. So optimize where you put your attention and you will be rewarded with more energy to give.
Want to connect? Visit @itsjulianpaul on X.
Until next time.