Tag Archives: friends

7 Reasons it is Super Important that People Like You

Do people like you? Do you care if they don’t? Regardless of how you answer these questions I am guessing that you do not want to come across as someone that craves affection. It feels a little desperate. We often look down on those that we feel “need” to be liked. Somehow we feel that we should be above this. There are those that are openly hostile to those that make obvious efforts to make friends and expand their influence. Read on to find out why this kind of cynicism is ridiculous:

1) Being liked is more important that being right – OK, before you get all worked up, let me explain myself. Take a good look at the leaders you admire, the people that get things done. They are the people that others respect, not because of their title, their money or the sheer weight of their power, but because they simply impress others. Do you see them running around trying to convince people they are right about every issue under the sun? Or are they more likely to stress relationship over debate wins? Almost without exception, the greatest leaders have you liking them before you even know their stand on different issues.

2) Being liked covers a multitude of sins when you are in a new environment – The best thing you can do for yourself when traveling is to get straight to work creating friendship networks. This is huge. You are going to make all kinds of newbie mistakes when you land on the ground. You get a lot more grace if you focus on friends first. So be shameless about it – put yourself out there, win friends, influence people, your life will be better as a result.

3) If you don’t have the emotional intelligence to see the importance of being liked you will have already lost big – The biggest critics of those that are concerned with being liked are typically the “unliked”. Don’t be part of this stodgy, clueless underclass. You know the type that I am talking about – never without a critical word. They always have a sneer ready for anyone they think may be stealing the spotlight. Don’t listen to these losers and don’t slip into this destructive behavior, you will miserable, lonely and friendless.

4) Being liked is about so much more than sheer emotion. – Being liked is not about having people just smile at you. It is a general orientation towards you that gives you access, advantage and encouragement that money and power simply cannot replicate. Being liked is very enviable for this reason. There is nothing wrong with wanting people to feel this way about you. You should make this a priority.

5) Being liked cannot be explained rationally.Being liked is like charisma – it is really hard to explain. It is almost magical. It draws others to you. How do you explain the fact that some people are always surrounded by others and some people are not?

6) Being liked cannot be faked - You can often force people to obey you. You can dominate them with power. You can make them fear you. You can pay them to behave a certain way. But you cannot make them like you no matter what kind of power you wield. Being liked trumps everything.

7) Being liked connects you with the game changers – The people that get jobs, the people that make friends and the people that draw the attention of the movers and shakers all tend to have strong likability ratings. Sure, there are some people that force themselves into positions and exclusive circles using brute force, but these are the outliers and can often be safely ignored. If you want to make a difference through savvy, global do-gooding, then work on being likeable. It is not manipulative, it is smart.

How do you feel about the above list? Do you agree? Or do you hate it? Tell me where I am right or wrong and add to the list by leaving a comment.



Bjorn Karlman

Five Essential Friends (Working Abroad Part II)

Source: Uploaded by user via Tonya on Pinterest

I was joking around with an old family friend whom I’d known for years.  My family had first met him and his family in Hong Kong in the 80s when we lived there.  He was now living in a less-than-spectacular armpit of Southern California’s Inland Empire just east of Los Angeles.  It’s a crappy place to live, boasting most of what is wrong with LA (traffic, pollution, crime) and few of the ritzy perks of Hollywood.  He responded to my jab about where he was currently living and said, “Bjorn, you know as well as I that the people make the place.”  He was referring to the humble outposts that our respective families had lived in while in Asia and reminding me that there was little in the way of glamor back then.  Instead, we were surrounded by some of the most interesting people we would ever meet.

It was a little humbling.  But he was right.  Friends really are what make the difference in life.  No where is this more true than when you are working abroad.  Friends at your side abroad are essential to having a good experience.  Not only is it important to have friends, it is important to have the right kinds of friends when you are working oversees.  Here is a list of people you need in your circle:

The Local

The minute you land in a foreign country you want to make finding the local your top priority.  This is the friend that makes all the difference.  This friend is the local resident who gets it and is happy to help you.  Fortunately, it is not hard to find local friends.  If you are the “new person”, chances are that you will be approached by a lot of really amazing local people that you can make friends with.  They want to know you because you are new and exotic and you want to know them because they are often a lot of fun and can help you navigate everything from local entertainment to negotiating apartment rentals and handling complaints.  DO NOT make the mistake of ignoring locals in favor of “easier” relationships with other expats just because there is less of a cultural barrier.  If you do this you may as well have stayed at home.  You will isolate yourself and look pathetic.

The Social Butterfly

This is the guy who knows everyone.  The gal who is on first name basis with the who’s who in town – the extravert that is the last one to leave every party and effortlessly flits from gathering to gathering.  Ignore this person at your peril.  Don’t assume that they are superficial just because they are masters of small talk.  They have honed their game over the years and they can help you forge some of the most important strategic relationships that you will need during your stay in the country.  Don’t be afraid to approach this person.  He or she is the kind that generally loves meeting anyone. 

The Diplomat

From time to time something delicate will come up while you abroad, especially since you are working in a cross-cultural setting.  Instead of getting all worked up and blowing off steam by giving people a piece of your mind, talk to the diplomat.  This person is a chess player – several moves ahead of everyone else.   He or she knows just the right words to say.  Diplomats are masters of Public Relations.  They are self-aware and sensitive to how communication is crafted.  Have a fire to put out?  Call your diplomat friend as if she were 911.

The Genius

You need the resident genius when you are abroad.  This friend is highly skilled, extremely knowledgeable and can help you with the detail work.  Are you in over your head?  Unsure how to write a grant proposal for a project you are working on?  Drowning in contractual legalese?  Having crazy-making technical problems?  The genius can help and if you have cultivated a friendship with him or her, chances are you will be helped before everyone else.

The Backer

Finally, everyone needs the backer.  This is the friend who would take a bullet for you.  He is loyal to a fault.  She is a cheerleader.  This person can talk you back up when you fall flat on your face and the world looks like a horrible place.  You need this kind of person at home.  You need the backer even more when you are abroad.  So much of your success in international work lies in cultivating the correct frame of mind – it is about staying motivated.  Your backer friend is there to encourage and give you a boost.  The backer is indispensable.

One last word.  As much as it is vital to have all of the five above friends, it is even more important to give before you receive.  Warmth, generosity, humor and some compassion go a long way when you are working abroad.  If you show that you are willing to be a great friend to those around you, chances are they will reciprocate.  Whatever your talents are, put them to use for your friends.  Be that buddy everyone wants to turn to in a time of need.  If you can do this you will have very little to worry about as you pursue savvy, global do-gooding.



Bjorn Karlman


Don’t Hang Out With Work People!

your posse?

On Sunday I posted about friends that need dumping.  Although today’s post title suggests yet another demographic to avoid, I want to go one step further and talk about the friends with which we should surround ourselves.  In our quest for savvy, global do-gooding one our biggest priorities has to be finding the right friends.

A good 80% of my job as a professional fundraiser involves networking and relationship building.  I have found that applying lessons of professional networking to my personal friendships pays off. Before you get too worked up, I am not preaching being fake or manipulative.  I am talking about being productive and being intentional.

As lifestyle guru Tim Ferriss says, “surround yourself with smiling, positive people who have absolutely nothing to do with work.”

Why Not to Pick Work People  - Where to find good friends?  For starters, a good general rule is that you should avoid the workplace.  Not that everyone you work with is a complete moron.  But you do need a break from reminders of work… even if they come in the form of cool colleagues.

Easier Said Than Done – The question of how to make good friends gets tougher when it is over-analyzed.  Letting it happen organically is the best way to go.  The catch is that, even if it needs to happen naturally, you DO have to make an almost unnatural effort if you want to connect with the right people.  Average efforts result in average networks.  Chemistry is a mystery but without lots of activity, chemistry won’t have a chance to do its magic.  So make the effort to go to where people are.  Meet, interact, connect over things held in common.  You’ll find some great people.

How to Attract Them – There is something about positive energy that attracts more of the same.  Fun people don’t hang out with downers and vice versa.  If you want smiling, happy friends, then develop a spring in your step.  There is something irresistible about positivity.  Regardless of your culture or nationality, positive energy transcends barriers and multiplies.

The Difference Between Energy and Cheese – There’s a little caveat that I would like to add to my last point, however.  As this is CultureMutt I do want to point out that it is important to study a culture before trying to win friends in it.  As an example, I am going to pick on Americans.  American warmth and “excitement” often looks like unmitigated, goofy cheese when it is taken abroad.  Tone it right down.  Be yourself minus a few notches.  A little homework on how to convey your energy goes a long way.

How do you attract the people that you want in your inner circle?  Let me know in the comments….



Bjorn Karlman


You: The Average of the People You Associate With the Most

Photo Courtesy of Peniel Eya

One of the friends that I am in touch with from childhood is Peniel Eya, a Cameroonian that I met when we were both about seven, growing up in a rural corner of the Philippines, about an hour from Manila.  In the picture opposite, we respectively make up the back left and right.  We were as close as early grade schoolers could get and shared a lot of experiences in school, sports and overall rabble rousing. As Peniel was one of my first close friends I remember being extra bummed when his family left the Philippines after a few years to go back to Cameroon.  Friendship, even back then, was a huge deal to me.

International Posse

I’ve made a lot of other close friends in the years since but I am really glad that Peniel and I are still in touch (and that he posts good pics on Facebook so I can illustrate my posts:)).  Being able to look back at the 20+ years that we have been friends I like to reflect on how friends impact me.  Peniel gave me insight into his Cameroonian/Francaphone culture and I learned a lot from this exposure.  Other closest friends were Filipino, Korean, Ghanian and Singaporian.  Although this kind of international exposure didn’t exactly solidify anything about my Swedish identity, I feel like it gave me a good start in becoming more of a world citizen.

Your Influencers

Several months ago I wrote a post titled Choose Your Friends Carefully… Building Your International Think Tank.  In it I made a case for having a strong accountability group of positive friends who push you towards becoming a better person.  I want to develop on that.  I really believe that, whether or not it is immediately obvious, we more often than not end up being the average of the handful of people that we hang around the most.  I mean this in the broader sense of environment – both online and day-to-day in-person interaction. Because this is reality, it makes a lot of sense to be proactive about the kinds of friendships you create.

Choose Friends that are Different

Does your network bring out the best in you?  Do your friends make you a generous world citizen?  Do they exert positive peer pressure on you?  Do they make you want to give of yourself more, to be more open-minded?  I have often found that developing friendships with people from vastly different backgrounds from me can really help me grow.  For example, moving up to to Northern California I was initially very nervous about the transition from ultra urban LA living and the accompanying lifestyle and political norms, to the exact opposite up north. For non-Californian CultureMutt readers, Northern and Southern California may as well be two different states.  There is no love lost between the two parts of the state.  “You’ll stick out like a sore thumb”, I was warned as I announced I was leaving LA for a little Norcal mountain town.  And I did.  But more than three years later I am really grateful for my friends up here that have helped me grow.

The Challenge

As we start another week, let’s pause and be grateful for the friendships we do have.  Let’s also give some thought to how we can grow our circles to become more open-minded, better rounded and more generous.



Bjorn Karlman

Top 10 Ways to Lose Friends and Alienate People Abroad

There’s nothing more miserable than feeling lonely and friendless while traveling or working abroad.  The tragic thing is that we often lose friends when abroad because we break some fundamental rules, often without meaning to.  Complete alienation is a sad, sad state and is to be avoided if at all possible.  To do so it helps to remember just how people lose friends.  Here’s a handy Top 10 List:

1)  Keep talking about how amazing it is back home – This one drives locals bonkers.  “Why did you come here if you were just going to talk about your amazing country all the time?”  It’s a valid question.  Blabbering on about your home country is insecure and discourteous.  Enjoy your host country for what it brings.  Wisconsin can be fully enjoyed in all its cheesy glory upon your return.

2)  Take it upon yourself to compare things to home – Here’s a related one that nevertheless needs to be emphasized.  NOBODY wants to know how big, small, cute, dirty or cramped the local transportation, monuments, stores or hotel rooms are compared to what you have at home.  Often these comparisons come across as patronizing and they are rarely appreciated.  Even if you are asked to compare something local to what you have at home, AVOID it, especially if there is any chance you will be perceived as looking down at the local scene.

3)  Be too eager – Don’t worry, if you have just arrived somewhere new you will eventually meet people and make friends.  Don’t be a desperate loser.  Over-eager types are avoided like the plague because they get exhausting on the trail.  Don’t be that person who pounces on locals or fellow travelers with a torrent of questions and over-enthusiastic talk about everything.

4)  Be a clingy life sap – Similarly, don’t be a leech.  Give your new friends some space.  You do not need to hang out with them 24/7.  Show some independence.  Go exploring on your own.  You don’t want to lose friends because you tire them out and never give them a break.

5)  Refuse to learn the language  - Nobody is saying you have to be fluent.  But don’t be so scared off by the local tongue that you don’t try to learn and use some of it.  By trying to speak the language you automatically endear yourself to locals.  You may think that you are going to embarrass yourself learning the new language.  You will.  But the damage of this is far less than if you refuse to learn and run the risk of looking elitist. 

6)  Only hang out with your kind – Abandon your comfort zone.  Do not hang out with only people from your country or only people that speak English.  This may be comfortable but by playing it safe you are shooting yourself in the foot.  You will ignore a ton of opportunities to interact with the amazing locals.

7)  Be a lifeless, unadventurous bore – This speaks for itself.  Take some risks, be adventurous.  Enjoy the unknown and try new things.  People will love you for it.

8)  Think you are a celebrity  - You may be lucky enough to get a lot of attention as the new arrivalDon’t get a big head about it.  Be gracious.  Don’t take the attention for granted.  Use it to reach out to as many people as possible but don’t gloat about being the exotic new foreigner.  This gets old QUICK.  Make the best first impression possible.

9)  Don’t eat the local food – This happens with tourists all the time… they crowd around American fast food chains, pizza joints and Subway restaurants.  This is lame and is an apparent rejection of local cuisine.

10)  Get offended really easily – If you are an American or if you come from another major world power, get used to the fact that people are going to have a problem with some of your politicians and their policies.  Don’t let this get to you.  Expect it and learn to move on.  No point getting all bent out of shape.

How about you?  Lost any friends on the trail?  Let me know how in the comment section.



Bjorn Karlman

Choose Your Friends Carefully… Building Your International Think Tank

Do your friends enable you to live a life of savvy, global do-gooding? Do they inspire you? Do they hold you accountable? Are they worth the investment of your time and energy? Do they expand your vision? We are the average of the friends that we keep in our closest circle so these are questions well worth seriously considering.

At the end of college some friends and I started what we loosely called the “Think Tank”. We had all gone to college in Michigan and for a variety of reasons, about 10 of us ended up in Southern California. We would meet once a month or so and talk over problems that we were dealing with – our points of greatest religious faith and doubt, our plans for the future and our life philosophies. The conversations were something you could literally feed off of. They were absolutely superb. I left them feeling like I could tackle anything. I remember one session lasted from 3 PM to 3 AM – with 7-10 of us sitting in the same living room for the entire conversation. It was spontaneous, high energy and enthusiastic.

Since those early post college days I have moved up to Northern California but at the wedding of one of the think tank members in Newport Beach a few weeks ago, talk of the think tank resumed. Without exception, all of the original members of the think thank are still highly motivated to do oversees service of some kind and to expand their experience of the “other”.

I love this. I can’t say how important it is for me in my life to have friends that encourage the best in me. Friends like these are almost impossible to come across and when you have them they are worth keeping.

Do your natural habits and rhythms lend themselves to maintaining these kinds of relationships? If you are a world traveler, are you allowing time zones and physical distance to come between you and your maintaining these kinds of friendships? I often am guilty of this.

As a Third Culture Kid, I am used to meeting people in some corner of the world, enjoying mutually fun times and then moving on, realizing that international relationships are hard to maintain. While this is true, it does not need to define how we live our lives.

Here’s what I suggest: a regularly held accountability session with multiple close friends. I am experimenting with this in my conversations with five people: my wife, my sister, two college buddies and a designer friend. My conversations are more than just fun (or painful when it comes to admitting that I’ve slacked in some area). They keep me on track. The accountability checks are forcing me to stay on task and to maintain an open mind and a huge appetite for more than the mundane reality strewn around in everyday life.

Another tip – don’t make it too difficulty to keep your accountability commitment with friends. And also, be easy on yourself. Adherence to super strict guidelines for conversation frequency and content tends to start off strong and then crash. Don’t make the mistake of falling into that… it’s immensely demotivating and best avoided

With that said I wish you the best of luck as you build your international network of friends and fellow adventurers. There is little than cannot be accomplished if you have the right kind of support.



Bjorn Karlman

Pulling the plug on (communication with) grandma

love in any language
love in any language

This summer ultra right-wing spin masters crisscrossed the US, spouting sensationalist garbage about Obama’s healthcare plan and organizing America’s lunatic fringe for circus-style mayhem at Town Hall meetings. One of the more charming claims made was that somehow healthcare reform was going to allow the government to “pull the plug on grandma.” Sen. Chuck Grassley, who first made the comment regarding the government’s potential future role in end-of-life decisions, later retracted it. But like Joe the Plumber, the expression stuck around. The mention of grandparents struck an emotional cord with people. We want them around. But as much as we value older family members it seems that most of us do precious little in the way of communicating with them. What’s to blame? Busy schedules? Misaligned priorities? Or is the real evil… social media?

I typed in one simple question into my Facebook status today: “Are your parents on Facebook?” Comments ranged from “my parents are old school eastern Euros…they type with one finger…so your answer is no” to “Mum is a super user… AND my 80 yr old grandmother!” I got 23 comments total.

The general trend was surprising to me: Most of my friends had at least one parent that was on Facebook even if they were subscribed, as one person put it, “only as a lurker.” Keep in mind that most of the respondents were in their late 20s or 30s and had parents that are or are pushing, grandma age.

Facebook reported this year that the fastest growing demographic of users was over 35 (http://bit.ly/7CMGd). Even more significantly, the fastest growing subset of this larger group of people over 35 is women over 55 (http://bit.ly/173ReU). That’s right, grandma has invaded Facebook. Trends such as these may be part of the reason one of my friends’ responses was, “My dad is (on Facebook) and he keeps trying to friend my friends. I will not friend him. You have to draw the line somewhere!”

LifeTips blogger Jamison Cush said, “Conventional teen wisdom: once your parents embrace something, it is no longer cool. So, inspired by a recent Facebook friend request from my mother, I am boldly declaring on this blog that Facebook is so over.” This kind of logic may be indulged for comic effect, but there is truth to it. As much as I want to stay in touch with my retirement-age parents, I don’t want them sifting through my Vegas pictures. And I will think twice about social media that allows them to do so.

Is it just time to admit that cross-generational communication is a touchier area than we give it credit for? Trying to do what we’ve failed to do in face-to-face communication across an age gap isn’t going to get easier because grandma now knows how to post bingo pictures and, very disturbingly, friends your online buds that she finds attractive. You could try to remedy the issue through heart-to-hearts over hot chocolate.

Or maybe just beef up your privacy settings.


Bjorn Karlman