Emotionally Intelligent People Use 5 Simple Rules to Make More Friends and Build Stronger Relationships

To make true friends, you have to be a friend. Emotional intelligence can help.

By: Justin Bariso

How do I make more friends?

In a world where the word friend is associated by most people with superficial relationships formed on social media, true friendship is hard to come by. True friends are those who are there for you in good times and bad, who tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear, and who help you be the best version of yourself–all of which can prove invaluable to entrepreneurs and business owners.

So, actually, you don’t necessarily want more friends. Rather, you want “true” friends. But to have true friends, you first need to be a friend.

But to have true friends, you first need to be a friend. How do you do that?

Emotional intelligence can help. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions. This ability can help you not only understand others better but also strengthen your relationships with them.

Here are five simple rules of emotional intelligence that will help you make more and better friends, which can help you in business and life. (If you find value in these five rules, you might be interested in my free seven-day course, which delivers a rule to your inbox each day to teach you how to build emotional intelligence in yourself and your team.)

The Milk Carton Rule

Instead of dwelling on what you can’t change, focus on what you can.

The milk carton rule is based on a problem from a psychology textbook in which a husband repeatedly gets upset with his wife because she forgets to put the milk back in the fridge, leaving him with warm milk for his cereal. The man’s therapist helps him realize that the key to saving the relationship is not to continue trying to change his wife’s behavior, but rather to look for other solutions to the problem–like buying two cartons of milk.

This is helpful because no matter how good a relationship starts, it will reach the point where both parties’ habits start to get on the other person’s nerves.

Your natural response to this may be to demand that the other person change. But most people won’t change, at least not when you want them to. By using the milk carton rule to focus on what you can control (rather than trying to change the other person), you reduce frustration for both yourself and your partner and make for a better relationship.

Read more about the milk carton rule here.

Disagree and Commit

“Disagree and commit” actually started as a management principle, but it can also help build emotional intelligence: the ability to understand and manage emotions.

The point is to first encourage open discussion and healthy disagreement. In the end, though, once a decision is made, any who still disagree with the decision must “commit.” They should fully support that decision and try their best to make it work.

“Disagree and commit” helps strengthen both personal and business relationships because when you build a habit of going all in with people you trust, they’ll do the same for you.

Read more about the rule of disagree and commit here.

The Rule of Rethinking

The rule of rethinking is simple: When you’re presented with information that differs from what you believe, you resist the urge to simply dismiss it. Instead, you force yourself to listen and use any available evidence to reconsider the new idea.

The rule of rethinking is helpful because it’s easy to get emotionally attached to our beliefs. Additionally, we all hate to be wrong.

But we all are wrong–sometimes. And the bigger the thing we’re wrong about, the harder it is to accept. When you adopt the rule of rethinking, you keep your feelings in check, which helps you benefit from others’ knowledge and strengths. This not only helps you grow, it helps grow your friendships, too.

Read more about the rule of rethinking here.

Help First

The “help first” rule says that if you’re in a difficult situation and you notice someone else is too, try helping first. 

This is counterintuitive. When you’re facing a difficult situation, it’s natural to think: I’m the one who needs help. The last thing I can think about now is trying to help others.

But by helping first, you benefit from the power of empathy.

When you help first, you shift focus from your own problems to the problems of others. This builds an instant connection with the other person (or strengthens an already existing connection). As they see your efforts to help them, they will then be moved to help you.

When you help first, you break the cycle of self-absorption and misunderstanding. You defy expectations. You feel better about yourself, you get others to feel better about themselves, and you help create relationships that are characterized by trust and teamwork.

Read more about the help first rule here.

The Rule of the Chess Player

If you’ve ever watched chess players in the park (or played armchair quarterback on a Sunday afternoon), you might have shrunk back when you saw someone make a big mistake, so as to say:

How could they do such a thing?

The thing is, most of us would make similar mistakes if we were in the hot seat–because it’s easier to see potential mistakes when we’re not emotionally involved.

The rule of the chess player states: When you’re in an emotionally intense situation, your perspective will be drastically different than when you are not in that situation. The rule is based on a psychological principle known as the perspective gap, which says that we often misjudge how we’ll react (or even how we have reacted) when facing that intense situation.

Simply knowing this can help us show more empathy to the people in our lives. When we see them suffering, our default changes from “That’s not so bad; they just need to toughen up” to “How can I help?”

And with this change from judgmental to helpful, you build a bridge instead of a rift. This makes an emotional impact on the other person, building and strengthening your relationship.

Learn more about the rule of the chess player here.

Remember, if you want friends, you have to be a friend. Use these five rules, along with a little emotional intelligence, to be a friend others can count on, and they’ll do the same for you.