Why Your Inner Circle Should Stay Small, and How to Shrink It
Some people pride themselves on having many friends. They believe this means that they are more popular, they have a higher number of opportunities open to them, and they have a wider circle of people to call on in times of trouble.
Sometimes, however, it is much better to have a smaller circle of friends and people you can trust instead of a large one.
This is because when it comes to relationships with people, quantity does always not translate to quality. It is not about how many people you know, but rather how close you are to the people you know.
How many of your friends are loyal to you? How many can you trust?
This applies to professional networks too. We go to networking events and try to make as many new contacts as possible.
As a result, we end up having a lot of superficial acquaintanceships instead of genuine friendships.
Without strong connections with the people we consider our inner circle, we really don’t have an inner circle.
If you have watched the movie 300, you definitely remember how King Leonidas of Sparta famously faced thousands of Persian soldiers with just 300 carefully selected men.
This is because he knew that having a small army of brave soldiers is better than having a large army of cowardly soldiers.
The same applies to the people around you.
It is better to have a small circle of the right people, people you can trust and rely on, than a huge circle of hangers on.
THE BENEFITS OF KEEPING YOUR INNER CIRCLE SMALL
A smaller inner circle means you can invest time in the relationships you have with each of your close friends.
For instance, if you have two close friends, you can easily make time to see them at least once each week.
However, if you have 15 close friends, it is inevitable that you will go for longer periods of time without seeing some of them.
Of course, the more you spend time with someone, the closer you become, and the easier it is to build deeper levels of trust and affection.
In almost everything in life, quality is a product of time and effort.
The more effort you put into something over a longer period of time, the higher the quality of your product will be. In this case, we are talking about friendship.
The more time and effort you invest in a relationship, the deeper it grows, the stronger the bond.
One of the great tragedies of the internet era is that we all have large networks, but precious few true friends.
Our social media pages give us the illusion that we know a huge number of people, that we have hundreds or thousands of “friends”. In the real sense, however, few or none of our social media friends would lift a finger to help us in our hour of need.
Our real friends are the few who we have bonded with and spent enough time together to see the good, bad, and ugly side of each other.
This is why the childhood friendships that survive into adulthood become our strongest friendships – because we have spent so much time with these people, we know everything about them, we have formed very strong bonds over time.
A friendship that survives for years, in spite of life’s curveballs, is one we should treasure.
Such are the friends we can’t do without in our inner circle. If your inner circle does not have such friends, it means you have too many weak ties in your inner circle: you should shrink it and put in more time with those you retain.
Few People Will Support You During Your Low Moments
When you are going through a rough time in life, there are not many people who can help you out.
Sure, you might have hundreds of friends, but only a handful of them will be willing to do anything to help you get through the tough time.
This is when you learn who your true friends are. Most will scatter and leave you to handle your troubles on your own.
So, what is the point of having so many friends if you cannot rely on them during your moment of need?
The more people you have in your inner circle, the weaker your ties with them get, as we have seen from the previous point.
On the other hand, a smaller inner circle means stronger bonds. That is because you have more time to invest in this relationships.
Due to the strong bonds you have with this tight circle, they are less likely to abandon you in your time of need, because they care strongly about you and know that you would go out of your way to help them in their time of need as well.
Of course it’s not always possible for your friends to help you. Sometimes, they might also be going through their own problems.
This does not mean that you should ditch your friends if they don’t come through for you.
However, if you notice that someone is always giving you excuses whenever you need their help, they probably shouldn’t be a part of your inner circle.
When you have a small circle, there are less activities going on, so you have more control over what you focus on.
Fear of missing out can seriously ruin your enjoyment of life. It brings you anxiety as you think of all the interesting or exciting activities and opportunities that you are missing.
You think of all the fun or the progress your friends could be having without you and it drives you crazy.
The closer the person inviting you for an opportunity, project, or activity, the higher your FOMO.
When you have a large inner circle, your FOMO is super high because each of the people in your inner circle has opportunities or fun activities they want you to join in on. As a result, you end up taking on too many activities and projects because you are afraid of missing out on something great.
However, this is the wrong approach to life and business or career.
You have to narrow things down to what matters most. If you engage in everything that comes your way, you will end up having no time for the things you care about most.
One good way to reduce FOMO is to shrink your inner circle. Having a smaller circle means that there are less people inviting you to various activities that you might be afraid of missing out on.
In addition, when invited to such activities by someone who is not in your inner circle, you feel less driven by emotions when they invite you for something.
In other words, the FOMO will be lower. You are more likely to think logically and judge the opportunity on its merits rather than on the fact that it’s your good friend suggesting it.
You Can’t Trust Everyone With Your Secrets
We have all watched enough movies to know that not everyone who calls themselves your friend is a real friend.
I’m willing to bet that most of us have had an incident where we were betrayed by someone we considered to be a good friend.
This is why you should be very careful about the people you allow into your inner circle of friends.
Your inner circle are people who will see a side of you that most people aren’t privy to.
These are people you can be vulnerable with.
They are the people you talk to about your problems. They know things about you that you might not want to be known by just anyone.
We all need people we can talk to. Modern life is stressful: work, bills, debts, high cost of living, a world that is rapidly changing, you name it. We can’t be islands.
We often need to pour out our problems to a listening ear to help us cope with these stresses.
Sure, a therapist can help in such situations, but a therapist is a professional paid to listen to you.
Sometimes you just want someone who knows you well and cares about you to listen non-judgmentally and support you through your hard time.
If you allow just anyone into your inner circle, you could be sharing your secrets and troubles with people who might not want the best for you, people that might use your secrets against you or who might share your secrets with others.
To ensure you are sharing your secrets with the right people, you need a tight inner circle of carefully selected friends, people you know you can trust and who want the best for you.
Of course, it is much easier to have a smaller circle of people you can trust.
The more this circle expands, the harder it becomes to maintain the same level of trust.
It Frees Up More of Your Time
Maintaining friendships requires time. You have to make time to see your friends and engage in some activities together.
The more close friends you have, the more time you need to maintain these friendships.
Sometimes, you might even realize that you hardly have enough time for you own projects and activities because you are attending to your friends.
We also talked about the FOMO that comes with a large inner circle. You say yes to so many activities, projects, or opportunities that you spread yourself thin.
You scarcely have time to do your own things because you are always opening up your calendar for whatever one of your friends is up to.
When you shrink your inner circle, you free up more time for yourself. This is time you can spend with your family, work on things that matter to you, and so on.
Whatever your goal is, having a smaller inner circle means you have more time to invest on your goals.
Helps You Reclaim Your Ability to Say No to Requests for Favors
The world is built on favors. That’s how it works in most relationships, whether professional or personal. It’s a give and take. You do something for someone today, the next day they return the favor, and so on.
We ask for favors from the people closest to us because they are the least likely to say no.
Sometimes our friends can take advantage of our friendship and ask outrageous things of us, or ask for too many favors.
Since they are our close friends, it might be a bit challenging to say no to them, so we keep doing things that we really did not want to do.
We feel guilty because of a sense of obligation we feel towards our closest friends.
The guilt also results from us putting ourselves in their shoes and imagining what it would feel like if they said no to our request.
This sense of guilt and obligation comes from the perceived strength of our bonds with our friends.
The larger your inner circle, the more the number of people who might ask you for favors, which you will be obligated to oblige because they are people close to you.
On the other hand, with a smaller circle, there is only a handful of people who will need to come to you for favors. For those not part of your circle, you can easily deny the requests without the sense of guilt.
If you want to reduce that sense of obligation and reclaim your ability to say no to requests you are not comfortable with, you should think about shrinking your inner circle. With few people in your inner circle, you can say no more often and not feel guilty.
HOW TO SHRINK YOUR INNER CIRCLE
Having seen why it is advisable to maintain a small inner circle, let’s take a look at some tips on how to shrink your inner circle.
Don’t go ahead and start cutting off people right away just because you have learnt that it is advisable to have a small inner circle.
That decision should come as a result of a thorough assessment of yourself and the people close to you.
Take a look at the people in your life.
Do you have so many people that are close to you, or is your circle just the right size?
If there is no problem and your inner circle has just the right amount of people in it, then there is no point of fixing what is not broken.
In fact, in these days of social media, there are many who should focus on increasing rather than decreasing their circle.
Aside from asking yourself if you have so many people in your circle, take a look at the quality of your relationships with these people. Ask yourself if you are in control of your relationships.
Are you overwhelmed? Are you ceding control to others? Are you stretching yourself thin getting involved in too many of your friends’ projects, opportunities, activities, or problems, that you have no time for your own activities? Does interacting with these people leave you feeling energized or drained?
The first thing you should do once you realize that you need to shrink your inner circle is take back control.
Begin by reducing the amount of time you invest in people or activities which are in the habit of making unrewarding demands on your time.
Do this gradually, spending less and less time with this person or engaging in their activities, until you can eventually fully withdraw from them.
It’s up to you whether you want to keep them as a friend (but not inner circle), acquaintance, or drop them altogether.
Assess Habits and Activities
As we saw earlier, one of the main arguments for shrinking your inner circle is to reclaim your time.
Too much time gets lost on activities and habits that are not really necessary.
You do things that don’t add value to your growth or your future for the sake of your friends, and this takes a toll on the rest of your life.
Instead of focusing on your career, family, side hustle, business, hobby, spirituality, you spend too much time pursuing goals that benefit your friends and not you.
You have to be a bit selfish and choose yourself.
Spend more time on the things that matter to you.
Furthermore, spending time with some of your friends may be directly harmful to your life because of the habits they bring with them.
For instance, if you have a close friend whose only hobby is drinking and watching TV, it’s highly likely you will adopt the same habits because of spending too much time with them.
If this is the case, you have the option of helping them change, and if they don’t want to, you should slowly withdraw, for your own good.
Assess the People in Your Circle of Friends
As I make this point, I must point out that you should not have a transactional view of relationships. Don’t interact with people only because of what you think they can do for you. Friendship is more than that.
Shrink your inner circle to include only your truest and best friends. It should not be about what they can do for you.
It’s about who you care about and who cares about you. It’s about who you can trust. It’s about dropping friends who are using you for their own benefit, but not being good friends to you in return.
It’s about dropping toxic friends who make you feel bad about yourself, or are a bad influence because of their bad habits. It’s about deepening your bonds with your closest friends.
It’s about building mutually-beneficial relationships that yield long-term value for all parties.
Naturally, you don’t need to tell people that you are dropping them from your inner circle.
You never even talk about an inner circle in the first place.
That means there won’t be any awkward moments when you start shrinking your circle. It’s not like a job where they have to tell you they are firing you, or a breakup with a lover.
All you have to do is start setting boundaries.
For instance, if your friend expects you to drop everything and run to them anytime they call you, it’s up to you to burst that bubble.
Just let them know that you have other things to do. They will gradually realize that your time is valuable to you and will learn to respect your need for space.
The more you set boundaries with your friends, the more confident you will get.
You will have less guilt about saying no to your friends, and in so doing reclaim your time, space, and peace of mind.
As a result, you will feel better about yourself and may even become more benevolent in the true sense (you do things for your friends out of compassion) rather than in the coerced sense (where you do things for your friends out of guilt).
Prioritize Mentors, Motivators and Fellow Travelers
To reach your goals in life, you need to have your friends in your corner, supporting you.
Imagine a boxer who has a coach or friend in his corner, but instead of encouraging him, the coach tells him something like, “That guy is really beating you up, and I don’t think you can win this. Just quit now.” As the boxer, you would probably fire this coach, because he or she is not helping you win.
Surprisingly, some people have such people in their circle of friends.
Why do you keep such friends in your corner? Friends who badmouth your abilities or your qualities, and actively discourage you from following your goals?
Choose positivity at all times.
No matter how close your friend is to you, or how long you have been friends for, if they are not supporting you, then they are not a very good friend.
To get to the next level, you need next level thinking, and you can’t have anyone dampening that. You need to focus. Your friends should help you focus, not distract you or discourage you.
After motivators, the next best people to have in your circle are friends who are on the same journey as you.
These are people who understand intimately the things you are going through because they are going through the same things themselves. You can share notes and motivate each other.
Perhaps most important of all are mentors. If you are lucky enough to have a mentor that you can trust, don’t squander that opportunity.
Invest time and effort to build your bond with your mentor. It will certainly yield great value in terms of good advice or assistance.
A lot of people assume that when it comes to the people in our lives, the more, the better.
They assume that having more people in your inner circle means greater access to opportunities, potential mentors, more people to turn to in times of trouble, and so on.
In reality, however, it is far much better to build a small inner circle.
This is because quantity does not always translate to quality.
By opting for a larger circle, you are less likely to have strong bonds with these people, which in turn means that these people are going to have a smaller impact on your life.
Therefore, instead of wearing yourself thin trying to maintain a huge network of friends, you should instead focus on creating a small but carefully curated group of people around you, people that you can count on all the time.
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