From the time we are children, most of us are taught not to trust our “human radar system.” As kids, we are told to be polite and respectful to adults, no matter what. Babysitters, some of whom are complete strangers, arrive to care for us, and when we object, we are scolded by our parents. When we are forced to endure coaches, teachers, and other authority figures who do not feel good to us, we are told to keep our opinions to ourselves and not rock the boat.
It’s no wonder that by the time we are adults, many of us have lost touch with our ability to “feel people out.” We have been taught to ignore how other people make us feel, because we have little control over who we spend time with anyway. However, ignoring how people make us feel is tuning out one of our most important sources of information.
Moreover, the result of being conditioned to let people into our lives who do not necessarily feel quite right is that many of us end up in friendships and even romantic relationships that do not feel great.
Resilient people “feel people out.” They stack the deck in their favor, surrounding themselves with people who make them feel good and bring out their best qualities, while distancing themselves from people who make them feel bad, who drain their energies or bring out their worst qualities.
In short, they choose to spend time with people who feel good.
How do the people in your life make you feel?
Pay attention to your emotions as you interact with various people throughout your day. Then, consciously choose to spend more time with good-feeling people and consider minimizing time spent with people who do not feel good.
If you are a parent, talk to your children about “feeling people out,” as well. Remind them to seek friendships with people around whom they feel good, safe, and happy. Of course, kids are often required to spend time with people who might not feel great. It is a part of life to have to endure teachers, coaches, and peers we would rather avoid. However, allowing your kids to express their discomfort with these people to you privately validates their human radar system, which is a critical resiliency tool. This validation will support them in feeling people out and choosing—when possible—to spend time with people who feel good.
By reminding your children to pay attention to how they feel around other people, they will have experience choosing good-feeling relationships, which will stack the decks in their favor. Later, they will walk away from toxic relationships and, instead, seek positive, affirming relationships with people who lift them up.