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The Exhausted Woman
with Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

How to Keep Dangerous People from Becoming too Close

Hailey was mortified by what happened at the last party. She watched as a “friend” flirted with her boyfriend and then made a pass at him right in front of her. Worst yet, her boyfriend returned the kiss and then left with her shortly afterward. Embarrassed and ashamed, Hailey was furious at both her boyfriend and friend.

When she told the story to another friend, they were not surprised and instead asked Hailey why she even trusted either person in the first place. That was the moment that Hailey decided she needed to be more careful about who she allowed into her life. No longer would she just trust someone because they seemed like a nice person.

But how does this work? How can you keep from getting close to the wrong person? Using the Circle of Influence chart above, Hailey made a list of everyone she knew: friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, and even people she no longer wanted to know. Then she worked through this process:

  1. Define Relationship. One of the many ways a person can be dangerous is by crossing over from being colleagues into friendship or from the extended family into the inner family circle too quickly. Looking at the diagram, Hailey decided the ideal place for each person in her life based on her comfort level, not theirs. This can change over time as the relationship improves or deteriorates.
  2. Set Boundaries. The inner circle of influence should have people who have the most access to information and are safe for vulnerability. These people should be tested to ensure that they belong so close. Each circle outside of the inner one should have decreasing levels of intimacy. This simple boundary setting limits on a person’s influence. Hailey began by placing two close friends in her inner circle and then worked her way out.
  3. Limit Expectations. Accordingly, expectations for a person within the inner circle should be greater than one outside of the circle. The two people Hailey chose for her inner circle were dependable, loyal, and trustworthy. Once a person has violated a standard such as fidelity or trustworthiness, they should be moved from one level into an outer one or to the unsafe category.
  4. Self-protect. A heart is something to be treasured and protected. It should not be giving away to anyone who asks for it. Hailey made this mistake frequently in the past. She was too willing to give her heart to others without testing a person for trustworthiness. The temptation when a person is hurt is to banish everyone from their life. These circles help to maintain a healthy protective shell without cutting off everyone for one person’s mistake.
  5. Test Status. Before a person is moved from an outer circle to an inner one, they should be tested. This could be as simple as giving them a bit of information to see if they gossip about it with colleagues. Or it could be checking out a person on social media to see if they are a safe person. Each layer should have a more serious test to see if a person passes before, they can enter a more intimate circle.
  6. Go Slow. In an age of instant gratification and immediate social media friendships, the concept of entering a new relationship with hesitation and caution is lost. But there are huge benefits to observing a person in a variety of environments for a period before entering a relationship. Hailey began this practice by setting a time limits that she needs to know a person before they are moved to a more intimate circle.
  7. Have Cut-offs. There should be some set of absolute rules that apply to all relationships across the board. For instance, abusive behavior will not be tolerated. If a person engages in such behavior, they are warned one time and then the second time is cut-off. There are no second or third chances with abuse. For Hailey, betrayal was added to that list as well.

After Hailey placed the names of people in the chart, she was able to better evaluate her current relationships. Then she drew arrows by the names indicating where they would be better placed. This can be modified as time goes on and trust is reestablished. It is a good idea to review this chart at least once a year to keep dangerous people from infiltrating into the inner circles.

How to Keep Dangerous People from Becoming too Close

 


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APA Reference
Hammond, C. (2019). How to Keep Dangerous People from Becoming too Close. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 21, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2019/01/how-to-keep-dangerous-people-from-becoming-too-close/