|Awhile back, as a father who wants his daughters to develop healthy friendships, I would find myself asking the question, when I heard of a new friend/associate entering their orbit . . .
“What category is this person in—1, 2, or 3?”
It became a way for them to stop and consider who they were connecting to, and do an evaluation, based on the info they had at the time.
Sometimes it provided an opportunity for discussion.
We all have to learn how to make wise decisions about friends, and who we choose to associate with. Many adults haven’t figured this out yet, sadly. It's never too late!
Here were (are) my definitions:
->Category #1: people who regularly move you towards “thriving” in some way, and increase your quality of life. They nudge you forward in growth. They “pull” you up to a higher level.
They probably don’t realize they have this affect, and usually aren’t trying to do so. But they’re healthy, “safe” people who are growing and thriving themselves, more or less.
->Category #2: people who are “neutral”—they don’t really add much to our lives, but they don't really take away much, either. The most they may add is a fun time. Not to minimize this—having fun is very important (healthy fun:).
They may be good people, nice people, and they might be pleasant to hang out with now and then, but they don’t really move us forward on the “thriving trajectory”. There’s not much “nutrition”--kind of like eating cotton candy. Or, a lot of froth, but not much substance.
->Category #3: people who are toxic, and will move us backwards, AWAY from thriving. They will decrease the quality of our lives, in small, incremental ways, or in bigger ways. People who are manipulative, abusive, play games, unnecessarily hurtful, overly critical, mean-spirited, etc. They will take us down.
What about you? Who have you allowed into your life? Who have you made intentional efforts to get close to?
Remember, it’s a privilege, not a right, for someone to have access to you. Don’t give that “ticket” to just anyone!
You may have some Category #3 people in your life, that you’ve pulled way too close. They’re toxifying (poisoning) your life in some way. Where do they need to be—inside the fence or outside the fence? I think you know the answer.
You may have some nice, cordial Category #2 people in your life. That’s fine. A lot of them may be family. Category #2 people won’t harm you (other than eating up too much of your time). They just won’t really move you forward and help you grow.
Keep them around if you like, to a degree, but consider how much of yourself (e.g., your time, your heart) you’re giving to them. I don’t want to be so cold, but there is a place to ask ourselves, “what’s my ROI—my return on investment—as I invest my time and energy in this friendship?”
Now, you actually may NOT have many Category #1 people in your life. Most people don’t, because Category #1 people are in the minority in the general population (my opinion--am I too jaded?).
The good news is that you don’t need a ton of them in your life, because a little can go a long way. But this is the category for all of us to build and increase. Let’s pull these people closer to us.
Final application question: what kind of person are YOU to others? How would people describe YOU?
In your friendships, in your personal connections, in your family relationships, strive to be a Category #1 person.
Life’s too short to do it any other way, and people are way to precious for us to not be a “force for good” in their lives.
Now then, go be a blessing to others, and help them thrive. Be that high-quality person who makes a positive impact on others, so that they say that their lives are definitely better, having known you.
-Sean Cox, Chicago
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I’m Sean Cox,
I write these articles to provoke you to look at your life–to consider where you currently are and where you could be in the future. I want you to break free from the status quo, pursue your potential, and become a razor-sharp asset.