New and unfamiliar situations tend to make us feel anxious. The tense part of a business deal just before the pens come out. The exposed vulnerability of doing something for the first time, or doing something that could easily go sideways unless all the pieces fall exactly the right way. Anxiety is the brain’s natural reaction to these experiences. It activates a fear response that’s meant to shield us from risking our well being.
The first thing most of us do is look to others to confirm or disaffirm our perception of the facts. Is anyone else sweating this like I am? What we expect to find is that everyone else is as hesitant and unsure as we are, but what we’re really looking for is that person who will make us feel like everything is going to be OK.
I don’t mean OK in the sense that everything will turn out perfectly, or even good. I mean OK in the sense that a person gives you a feeling that everything that can be done has been done. You’re prepared, you’ve used whatever wisdom and insight you can summon forth to make the best choice about moving forward.
There are people who embody this characteristic, and one of the easiest ways to spot them is that you keep seeing them, again and again. There’s something about the way they make you feel that is familiar, even if you don’t know them outside of the situation that you’re in.
Some people are very attuned to spotting these individuals. They have a sensitive antenna for recognizing people that drive things forward. We can develop this skill by listening, by drawing back when necessary, by soaking in information rather than drowning out the nervous silence with our own guesses and conjectures.
If you want to develop the skill of identifying the ‘good’ people that help us know how to feel about a situation, stop looking at individuals and start watching for patterns. Is there someone in the room that has a way of behaving that is consistent, and which usually leads to predictable results?
Those results may not necessarily manifest as success, as defined in an arbitrary outward way, such as wealth or notoriety or prestige. The results that we’re looking for are the kind you get when you accomplish what you are trying to accomplish. When these people want to be loved, they are loved. When they want to thrive at work, they do. When they want to make an impact, they make a big one. When they want to be understood, they always are.
What you will discover when you develop the skill of identifying these patterns is that they are present in people in all areas of your life where you need counsel, advice and reassurance.
But first, before you can find them. You have to listen, and you have to watch. They are sometimes easy to miss. They are not always the obvious leaders. They are not always outspoken. They are not always looking to be noticed. They are often quietly succeeding at whatever it is that they are working at.
The qualities that these individuals possess are not the result of some intrinsic goodness, skill or talent -- though they may have all of those things too. They are the result of developing a way of being that ‘just works’. Look at them and you will discover that they come from a huge variety of backgrounds, education levels, professional circumstances, life philosophies and any other categorical identifier that you could come up with in trying to locate them more accurately.
That is why they are most easily identified by their patterns and their results. Look for the people whose patterns get the results that they want.