From the Docs

Understanding Who is in Your Relationship Circle

After working two shifts straight, your close friend calls and instantly starts to talk about his marriage and work. This is the third time this week he has called, but he never seems to answer your call promptly when you need an ear. Not only does he vent about his problems, but he also asks you to grab a drink with him. Despite feeling stretched thin at work and probably needing to rest before a family gathering the next day, you can sense that he is desperate for your help, and the rescuer nature in you does not hesitate to respond. You do not want to disappoint him, so you go and offer help. But the thing is, after meeting him, you go home feeling exhausted and irritable about what you heard. The situation left you with no energy to attend to your self-care and family. After that night, you remind yourself not to do this again, but you find yourself in the same situation time and time again.

We can probably all identify with this individual — feeling good about providing care for those in need, while feeling burnt out for giving far beyond ourselves. In my many years of clinical practice as a law enforcement psychologist, relationship issues seem to remain a consistent reason among our employees for seeking counseling. Oftentimes, it is not necessary that their job causes them stress; rather, it is certain types of personal relationships that cause them to feel exhausted, taken advantage of or burned out. There is no doubt that the solution for these relationship issues would be to set healthy boundaries. However, before we enforce healthy boundaries, it is vital to gain insight into our relationship patterns by asking who is in our social circle and what relationships do we spend most of our time and energy on.

In Dr. John Townsend’s book People Fuel, he introduces a model of the different types of relationships called the Seven “C’s.” This model will help you recognize what relationship you invest most of your time/energy in and to determine which category of the Seven “C’s” you would need more or less of:

1. Coaches are individuals who we seek guidance, direction or mentorship from. They are the most knowledgeable on the topic for which we seek their guidance, direction or mentorship. They know how to coach and focus the time you spend with them on you. They do not need you to be a mutual friend or buddy in order to coach you.

2. Comrades are individuals or groups who know the most about you and accept the way that you are. You also have mutual understanding of them and accept them as they are. You help each other to grow and want mutual improvement for each other.
3. Casuals are individuals who are good positive people who you share casual positive experiences that are mainly in the moment. Eventually, they may one day become comrades.

4. Colleagues are individuals who you work with. You usually do not have a choice about who you work with, but it is good to try to work with competent, relationally oriented and teamwork-focused colleagues.

5. Care are those individuals who you help in times of need and you are the one able to provide support. This can be volunteering to coach a youth baseball team. You want to be mindful of not spending too much time/energy in too many care relationships.

6. Chronics are individuals who are generally good, but tend to have a lot of problems that rarely go away. They do not learn from their experience to correct the problems; therefore, they tend to want to spend time with you seeking the same advice time after time. They seek your time mainly due to your caring and supportive nature, rather than them wanting to apply your advice.

7. Contaminants are individuals who tend to have bad motives. They are envious and have a desire to divide and damage others.

From time to time, we can all benefit from using the Seven “C’s” model to categorize the type of people in our social circle, especially during times of feeling exhausted or burned out. Using the Seven “C’s” model in your social circle will help you find and engage with the right relationships. Having a social circle with mainly coaches, comrades and casuals will improve your self-worth and well-being.

If you would like to learn additional resources to manage stress and enhance your relationships, please contact Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500 to schedule a confidential appointment. You can also connect with a trained peer supporter or chaplain for confidential support by calling PSB and asking to be referred to one of these supportive resources.