People are an important part of our lives. They broaden our minds, give us love and affection, and help us grow. But not everyone we meet is good for us. Some people seem to have little or no impact on our lives. And yet we continue to invest time in them. As a result, we veer away from our priorities. Why does this happen? It could be because we are lonely and crave attention. Or it could be an addiction. My theory is many of us are not clear about who deserves what degree of time investment in our lives. Hence we lose focus. And in the digital age where social media has entered the very fabric of our lives and total strangers become seemingly intimate very fast, it becomes all the more easier to lose focus about who is important and why.
Faced with an insane amount of people interactions, many of which I realize later are unwanted and draining, I decided to figure out a framework to ‘segment’ people so I could decide where to invest and how much. How can you segment people? How can you be so clinical? These are some of the questions that may be running through your head. But the amount of bombardment we receive from people through Whatsapp, social media and mail is disproportionate. And my theory is disproportionate situations call for new methods. So here is my method:
Before I decide to invest time in a person I ask myself two questions:
- Is this person’s value system compatible with mine? (high value / low value)
- How old is my relationship with this person? (significant / insignificant)
If I plot people along those two axes, I get some useful insights.
Segment 1: Value system compatible, significant time spent
These are the soul mates of my life, the people who understand me, invest in me, and help me grow over time. These are people I should passionately invest in. I should make an active effort to know about their life. I should be there for them when they need me. I should make sacrifices for these people. These people are usually one’s spouse or partner, best friend, a parent, a child, a very close colleague at work, etc.
Segment 2: Value system incompatible, significant time spent
If you’ve spent a significant amount of time with someone whose value system is not the same as yours, chances are you have no choice. This usually happens in the case of relatives or colleagues. Quite often, we have relationships with some of them that are purely circumstantial or need-based. The strategy in this case is to adopt a respectful distance. Check all the boxes. Don’t be rude. Don’t give them power over you. Lean in. Absorb. Check out.
Segment 3: Value system compatible, not significant time spent
These are people you meet online, at work, in social circles or hobby groups. There seems to be a sudden, almost heady, synchronicity in your values. You have the same taste in music and books. You share the same philosophy of life. You find yourself thinking, “This person is my soul mate. I am in love!” Now, my advice is to go slow. Sure, this person could be a future soul mate. But feelings can be transient and people can be fickle. So to avoid disappointment or spreading yourself thin, adopt a strategy of guarded curiosity. Invest time selectively. Don’t overdo things. Give it time. Let the person earn your respect and affection. Let them strive to get into your segment one where you reserve your best time and effort for the most important people. Quite often, when we get bored with people in segment one we tend to transfer the time and effort we usually reserve for them on people in segment three. This is a psychological phenomenon called transference; it is a projection of our loneliness on a new object because the old object is either unavailable or boring. Don’t get swayed so easily. Go back to segment one and see what’s missing too.
Segment 4: Value system incompatible, time insignificant
No prizes for guessing this one. Avoid these people. Neither your value system match nor are you compelled to spend time with them. These people need to be politely cut out of your life. No apologies or explanations. Just say no.
Follow this system for a month. It will help you understand who is important, who is not, and how to deal with them all. In the end you will feel more fulfilled, less lonely, less distracted, and more energetic. The right people can keep us anchored but the wrong people can make us feel drained. Careful who you choose and how much time you spend! Use your interpersonal energy wisely.
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a leadership & transformation coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.
Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, business coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.