You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, motivational speaker John Rohn once said. If you’re not happy with your current situation at work, you may want to take a closer look at your inner circle.
“We have to be really good at [deciding] who we allow into our life,” says Ivan Misner, author of Who’s In Your Room: The Secret to Creating Your Best Life and founder of the global business network BNI. “Imagine your life is one room and the room had one door. The door could only let people enter, and once they’re in the room, they’re there forever.”
It’s a scary metaphor, but it’s true, says Misner. “Think about a person you let into your life and then had to let out because they were toxic, difficult, or angry,” he says. “If you can remember the emotions and what they did, they’re still in your head. If they’re in your head, they’re still in your room.”
For this reason, it’s important to surround yourself with the right people from the start—or they’ll be in your “room” for the rest of your life.
“When you realize that this happens, you can get better at screening out people before they get in and dealing with the ones you already let in,” says Misner.
LETTING PEOPLE IN
Opening the door to the right people means getting clear with your values. “If you don’t know your values, you don’t know where to start,” says Misner.
Start with deal breakers—behaviors that you hate, such as dishonesty or drama. Look for people who demonstrate these behaviours, and don’t let them into your social circle.
“Pretend your mind has a doorman or bouncer,” says Misner. “Train your doorman—your subconscious and conscious mind—to identify people with these behaviors. By understanding your deal breakers, you’ll be better able to start understanding your values.”
A common mistake people make when letting others in is weighing too quickly “what’s in it for me” and disregarding the things that go against their values. When we make decisions based on short-sighted gains, we also choose values that don’t resonate with who we are.
“In physics, resonance is a powerful thing,” says Misner. “It’s a phenomenon that occurs when an extra force drives something to oscillate at a specific frequency.”
To understand how it works, imagine two pianos sitting side by side in a room. “If you hit the middle C key on one piano while someone presses the sustain pedal on the other one, the middle C of the other one will vibrate on that second piano, without [it] being touched,” says Misner. “That’s resonance. People are like that.”
When you make a decision based on what you think we can get instead of your values, you invite values that don’t align with yours to resonate in your life.
“Be mindful about creating relationships with resonance and get your values down,” says Misner. “Companies often recognise the importance of knowing your values, but people don’t always think about them. Values should be at the foundation of everything you do. Otherwise, you’ll create the wrong room.”
DEALING WITH PEOPLE YOU’VE ALREADY LET IN
If you have people in your circle that are creating a bad environment, decide if they have to be there or if you can exit the relationship. If they must be there, it’s time to draw a line in sand.
“Evaluating your social circle means recognising that someone may be in your life but their baggage needs to stay out,” says Misner. “Draw a line in the sand by saying that you’re not letting their behaviour continue around you.”
For example, if you have a coworker who demonstrates toxic behaviour such as frequent gossiping or complaining, establish boundaries. Say, “Starting now, if you start talking badly, I will walk away. I respect you and will talk to you again, but only if you can have a mature adult conversation.” Then follow through. It may take a while for the person to understand the new boundaries and rules, but once you draw the line in the sand, you can eliminate the toxicity from your circle.
“Stand firm,” says Misner. “Part of that is learning how to say ‘no.’”
The people you bring into your life and allow to stay in your head can make or break your own success. Once you understand the importance of relationships, you can start to surround yourself with the right people.
Article originally appeared on fastcompany.com.