One of my favorite Jim Rohn quotes is, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” It’s true. If you spend time with focused and driven people, you’ll become more focused and driven. If you spend time with negative people, you too will become more negative.
I wish I had learned this earlier in life. Having to figure this out on my own, I learned a really cool trick to get more positive and supportive people in your life. To attract more supportive people, you must become a supportive person.
One of the most important relationships to show support is in a marriage. While I wasn’t always intentional with the people I chose to surround myself with, I lucked out when it came to choosing a spouse. All of the big wins Jer and I have had, wouldn’t have been possible without each other’s support.
Most people have a crab mentality. As soon as it looks like you’re getting ahead, they try to pull you back down. This is especially true in some families. Rather than focusing on how something could work, they focus on why it’s a terrible idea and how you will fail. When you do win, they tell you how you just lucked out because of your circumstances.
Can you see why it’s important to have an advocate on your side? We have enough self-doubt, we don’t need the added negativity.
While the ideas I touch on come from my marriage, they can be applied to any relationship. You can use these tips to be a better friend, boss, or parent. I hope you find them useful.
7 Ways to Be More Supportive
1 – Encourage Them to Take Risks
When I came up with the idea for this post, I put my thoughts into Evernote, as I always do. That weekend, Jer told me that he wanted to look into a bike racing team. I said, “You should.” He went on to tell me how much he appreciates my supportive nature.
The reason I’m sharing this story is because, during that conversation, I told him that I had an idea for a blog post about being a supportive and I would like to interview him. He agreed and later we enjoyed a lengthy conversation about what being supportive means.
What’s interesting is that encouragement was the first thing I jotted down the day I made my notes. It’s also the first thing Jer mentioned when we sat down to discuss it. Encouragement is a big deal. But it’s not always easy. It’s scary to encourage your spouse to leave a toxic work environment and go down to one income. It’s expensive to encourage our spouse to study blacksmithing and metal sculpture. It’s uncomfortable to think about the sacrifices you’ll have to make to support their risky dreams.
Choosing to be an encourager can make or break the other person’s dreams. We all doubt ourselves enough. We need an encourager to help us take the leap.
2 – Be Honest (Sometimes The Voice of Reason)
It goes without saying that you should always be honest in your relationships. It’s difficult to build trust and so easy to lose.
Sometimes being honest will require that you’re the voice of reason. This doesn’t negate the first step but rather works with it. Both Jer and I want to do everything, all of the time, right now! It helps to have someone who understands your values and priorities to reign you in.
This doesn’t mean that you get to squash your partner’s hopes and dreams. Instead, you might ask, “I love those ideas, what’s the most important thing you want to work on right now?” Other questions could include, “that’s a great plan, how will that help you achieve x?” And, “I think you’d be really good at that, how will you fit it into your schedule?”
From there, an open and honest discussion will help you make the best decision for both of you.
3 – Ask How You Can Help
When I left the corporate world, we decided that it would be better for us as a team if I didn’t get a traditional job. I could take care of our household, giving us both the time to pursue other interests.
I mistakenly pictured a more leisurely life of sleeping in, enjoying coffee on the patio, reading and gardening. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I love my life. But it can be stressful sometimes. I find myself balancing two equally important priorities. Being a full-time homemaker which includes shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening, finances, volunteering, and more. At the same time, I’m trying to create an online community and business from scratch.
Things get crazy when we have additional projects. Sometimes I can’t do it all and in those moments, Jer asks, “how can I help?” Giving me an extra hour in my day by offering to make dinner is a huge help.
In most marriages today, both spouses work outside the home. If this is you, this tip is especially important. Helping each other fill in the gaps means more quality time together.
4 – Be Generous with Thanks, Acknowledgements, and Compliments
As adults, we don’t get nearly enough compliments. In fact, we’re so bad at it, I wrote a post on how to do it better.
You can’t control what the rest of the world does, but you can change what happens in your own home. I can’t tell you what it means when I get a sincere thank you for making dinner. Or when I remind Jer that I bought bananas as he’s heading out the door and he tells me what a great job I do as a wife. It’s just bananas, but it feels good to be acknowledged.
5 – ALWAYS be Positive
When I was interviewing Jer for this post, he spent a lot of time on this. He said, “You always focus on the positive aspect of things. Everyone in my family is so negative. They just talk about all of the reasons it won’t work. You always talk about how it will work.”
He continued to explain how my positivity helps nudge him toward positive action. One of the examples he used was his first 100-mile bike ride. Instead of telling him he was crazy and that it would suck, I helped him plan it and rode with him the last 65 miles.
6 – Embrace an Anything-Is-Possible Mindset
This was another point that Jer emphasized. As far back as I can remember, I’ve done things my way. If my parents told me something wouldn’t work, I knew I had to try it. I’ve always had big dreams. I often don’t know how it’s going to work, but I’ll be damned if I don’t figure it out.
Jer went on to explain how this mindset changed his life. He explained how when you grow up in poverty, you just assume that’s the way life is. You don’t really think that it’s possible to be a millionaire or to travel the world. You’ve been told that’s just for “those people” and you believe it to be true.
By marrying someone who likes to say, “screw it, I’m gonna do it anyway,” he was presented with new ideas and opportunities he otherwise wouldn’t have considered. He said that “it shifted his perspective” and he began to think that anything is possible too.
7 – Show Interest
Finally, Jer says to show interest in the other person’s interests. Or as my marriage mentor Joanne Miller says, “If it’s important to you, it’s important to me.”If it's important to you, it's important to me. - Joanne F. Miller Click To Tweet
During the Tour de France, Jer would give me a lengthy recap of each stage. I love riding my bike, but I really don’t care about professional cycling. But I listen because I love to see the joy in his face when I remember the names of the cyclists he talks about.
While you’re at it, why not engage in their passions with them? We have both done lots of things we had no interest in initially and ended up enjoying immensely, like fishing. It’s a fun way to learn and grow together.
I narrowed this list down to what I felt were the most important qualities. I bet you can think of many more. By learning to encourage, be honest, help, acknowledge, be positive, think big, and show interest, you’ll create a foundation to make both of your dreams a reality.