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From the time I started my business 23 years ago, I have been richly blessed with a collection of beautiful, talented and good-hearted people: customers who turn into friends, colleagues who transformed into confidants.
Connected, supportive relationships form the foundation of an amazing life.
Sometimes people tell me they’ve been badly burned in relationships, had their hearts broken, and struggle to know who to trust. I can honestly say that I could count on one hand the relationships in my life that have gone sour. In fact, it wouldn’t even take all the fingers on that hand.
Those troubled connections were formed before I learned important lessons about relationships.
The Relationship Model
Napoleon Hill talked about how we have levels of relationships extending like concentric circles around us. A good understanding of this model helps you keep relationships healthy. Here’s how it works.
Acquaintances: The people in the outer circle are acquaintances. You’re nice to them, but you don’t open up as much of your heart with them. They don’t get as much of your time or energy.
Colleagues & Customers: The next closest circle is people who have earned their way into a closer relationship with you. They get a little bit more of your energy and time.
Friends: Your friends and associates are next. They get a bit more of your heart, energy and time.
Close Friends: In the next circle, you have those who are your closest friends, loved ones and confidants. You share the most with these people and they have more of your heart, time and energy.
You and God: Finally the innermost circle is just you and God. Nobody else goes inside that circle. There are things that you don’t share with anyone but God. You keep this space sacred.
The biggest place I see people mess up is giving outer circle people, inner circle privileges. In other words, we’re giving people greater access to our hearts, time and energy than they have yet earned.
But how do you decide who to let into your inner circle? First of all, they earn their way in in some way. But even then, the fact is two perfectly good people can make a mess when they’re together.
The biggest lesson I learned was to delineate the people I click with versus those I’m probably going to clash with. By identifying the difference early, I can keep the potential clash relationships in my outer circle. Through time and trust-building, I bring the people I resonate with into my inner circle.
Trust any warning bells that go off in your mind. If something tells you a relationship feels off, there is a problem. Either address it and work it through, or take the signal as a clue not to pursue that relationship at a deeper level. Keep the individual in an outer circle, be nice to them, but give them less of your time, heart and energy.
By learning to identify the people with whom you resonate and building relationships of trust with them, you can forge a strong circle of close confidants who support you through any challenge.
Jane Austen described so well the way I feel about my inner circle of friends:
There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” (Northanger Abbey).
I’m so grateful for the amazing people God continually sends my way… especially those who have impacted me so significantly that my life pivots around their entrance into my life. Whether we still stay in contact a lot, a little, or rarely, I love them still and always will.
I’ll be talking more about how to build your circle of supportive relationships in my next “How to Create Your Own Amazing Life” Workshop. Sign up by the end of today (Valentine’s Day) and you’ll also get 4 of my Southern romance novels just for fun! Click here for details.