The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between
Tues Psych Post ~ Who Are You Going to Hang Out With?, pt. 2

Tues Psych Post ~ Who Are You Going to Hang Out With?, pt. 2

In part one of “Who Are You Going To Hang Out With?” I talked about how being around your friends can polarize your opinions.  This simply means that middle of the road, logical thinking and the ability to see the benefits and detriments to a decision become skewed.  From that skewed vantage point you are more likely to go to the extremes of decision making.  In other words, this type of thinking underlies a lot of all or nothing thinking when it comes to working out and eating healthy.

The question, was “Who do you hang out with?”  Do you hang out with people that encourage you to live a healthier lifestyle by eating more nutritious foods and that enjoy exercising or do you hang out with people that are continually stifling your changes in habits?

This difference is pervasive throughout any type of change and is one of the most difficult to approach.  Why is it the most difficult to approach?  It’s difficult for 4 main reasons:
1 – You might not know how to have serious conversations with the acquaintances that may be unwittingly sabotaging your efforts for change.

2 – You might not be 100% committed to the change as it stands and so you want your friends to act as accomplices so that you can blame your faltering on them.

3 – You don’t have good role models for you to mirror.

4 – The people that might be unwittingly undermining your efforts can be the people closest to us.  They can be your best friends, spouses, parents, siblings or other family members.

In other words, this problem can be pervasive, throughout your life.  So how do you go about having these conversations and changing the pervasiveness of these issues?  That’s what the rest of this post will be about.

New Habits, New Friends?

Let’s discuss how to overcome each of the major problems listed above. Almost all of the information

1 – Having a serious conversation with an acquaintance about your new habit. 

This can be a touchy subject and before I get started I would say your best bet would be to purchase the book, Crucial Conversations and put the suggestions into action.

Are your "friends" a bad influence?

There’s a number of things to remember before having a conversation with an acquaintance.  The first and probably most important is to not accuse the person of wrong-doing, but stick to the facts of what you are looking for. Here’s some notes about from Crucial Conversations about how to have that conversation:

STATE: Tools for talking about sensitive topics
S hare your facts
T ell your story
A sk for others’ paths
T alk tentatively
E ncourage testing

S hare your facts:
We often start by sharing our conclusions, which are often ill founded, rather than the facts that led to our conclusions.

Facts are:
Less controversial than conclusions
More persuasive than conclusions
Less insulting than conclusions
“Facts form the foundation of belief” (p. 126).
“Our goal is not to persuade others that we are right. . . . We just want our meaning to get a fair hearing” (p. 126).
“If you do want to share your story, don’t start with it” (p. 127).

T ell your story:
“The facts alone are rarely worth mentioning. It’s the facts plus the conclusion that call for a face-to-face discussion” (p. 128).
When telling your story, remember:
It takes courage and confidence
Telling all our insulting conclusions and negative judgments doesn’t work
To keep a look out for safety problems

A sk for others’ paths
“We express our confidence by sharing our facts and stories clearly. We demonstrate our humility by then asking others to share their views” (p. 131).
What does the other person know, what are their facts?
What are the other person’s intentions?
What does the other person really want?

T alk tentatively
Tell your story as a story rather than as reality or as fact.
Observations can be incomplete, biased, and generally faulty.
Use of tentative language does not mean being wimpy.

E ncourage testing
“The only limit to how strongly you can express your opinion is your willingness to be equally vigorous in encouraging others to challenge it” (p. 134).

Remember to:
Invite opposing views when none are forthcoming
Make your invitation genuine
Play devil’s advocate – challenge your own thinking

To initiate STATE skills:
Turn your attention from the topic to yourself
Remember others have something to say, so listen
Catch yourself before pushing too hard
“Hold to your belief; merely soften your approach” (p. 140)

For example, if someone at your job keeps bringing snacks around and those snacks start a spiral of unhealthy eating, you should have a conversation.

Many people though will often either not have the conversation or say something to the effect of, “Can you stop bringing junk food around.  I’m on a diet.”

Instead, you should probably approach this situation by keeping to the facts while allowing the other person’s point of view to be respected.  Sample dialogue would be to include something such as, “Hey (name), I’ve just started this diet and I know how much you like sharing your treats with others.  In fact, they’re so good I can hardly resist them.  Because I can’t resist them and since I’m changing my eating habits, I was hoping you could stop bringing in snacks around me and if they are around, if you could keep them somewhat hidden from me.  During office celebrations, I’ll be sure to be prepared by bringing a piece of fruit and allow everyone else to enjoy your treats.

Remember, this is just the beginning of a conversation and you would need to establish a sense of openness, frankness and trust between you and the other person.  This can take some time or it can just consist of a simple conversation.  One thing’s for sure though – if you don’t speak up, the situation will most likely never resolve itself.

2 – You might not be 100% committed to the change as it stands and so you want your friends to act as accomplices so that you can blame your faltering on them.

Ahh, the old, let me blame my friend for tempting me to do something I already want to do.

The bottom line is that during almost any change we were to undertake, there would be some ambivalence about the change.  Therefore, if you want to eat healthy, you might miss the sweets that aren’t so healthy.  If you want to start working out, you might have to give up sleeping in during the week.  For every goal, there’s a reason why you want the goal and why you don’t want to take on the goal.

The way to overcome this is do something called mental contrasting to see if you think you would be able to stick to this goal.  This technique is the same thing as discussed in the Visualization post.

Heidi Grant Halverston sums up the technique in an exercise in her Book Succeed:
1. Grab your notebook or just a piece of paper, and write down a wish or concern you have currently.  This can be something you are thinking of doing or something you are already involved with doing (like…losing ten pounds).

2. Now, think about what a happy ending would look like for this wish or concern.  Write down one positive aspect of this happy ending…

3. Next, think about the obstacles that stand in the way between you and your happy ending (for example, my overfondness for cheese tends to stand in the way between me and the thinner me who lives in my weight-loss happy ending.)

4. Now list another positive aspect.

5. And another obstacle.

6. And another positive aspect.

7. And another obstacle.

Now, what do you think your chances for success are?  Should you pursue this goal?  By contrasting the things you have to gain with the obstacles standing in your way, you should now have a better sense of how likely you are to succeed, and how committed you are to that success.

In other words, find your why behind making the change and if you feel that you can’t overcome the obstacles or it’s not worth it, stop beating yourself up for it.  If on the other hand, you can do it, then find your why and re-commit when tempted.

In  next Tuesday’s Psych post I will discuss the last two methods for having your friends help you on your path towards a healthier lifestyle instead of limiting you.  If you have any questions, leave a comment below.

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