During my Healing and, even today, I use “The Circle of Trust” as both a teaching tool and for my own resource to evaluate and determine the levels of Trust, Intimacy, and how Boundary Setting is most effective when utilized properly.
Too many people are not taught how to set Boundaries, but many of my clients have expressed a desire for clarity.
Others mistake “Levels of Trust” as levels of Boundaries that are “supposed” to diminish as a partner gets closer, which is never the case.
When should I use a Boundary?
This is one of my favorite questions! Look at the Emotion “Discomfort.”
Under NO circumstances should you EVER feel discomfort without your consent. If you did not consciously put yourself in “The Growth Zone,” then you should never feel Discomfort. This is when you should speak up to say, “Excuse me, but I am not comfortable with that question,” or “I am not comfortable with that [action].” If you struggle with people pleasing, pause, step back, reset yourself and try something simple. “No thank. I would be more comfortable with X.”
Believe it or not, but most people are actually very happy that you communicate your boundaries. Psst… Only Narcissists and toxic people will lash out at your boundary setting. Some people will warmly and kindly thank you for speaking up and setting your boundary! Watch for how other people set their boundaries. Thank them for setting boundaries. If you’re comfortable, acknowledge that you appreciate their communication so you know how best to honor them.
Strangers. This is where everyone starts out. The people should remained “Undefined” or “Unknown” and without labels or prejudice. We should (ideally) reserve all judgement, exercise all caution, until more is learned about these individuals. Assume everyone here is “dangerous,” but keep an open mind and proceed with caution.
My favorite exercise is to use a reason to say, “No,” and watch how they respond. Don’t listen to what they say, but how they respond.
An over-apology means they are most likely insecure and need to do some mental work. They may be Enablers and People Pleasers. Be mindful of friending people in this because, some people may expect you to “save” them while others may attach themselves too quickly to you.
An apology or amiable submission is the only right response. This displays a secure attachment style with a mindfulness toward your boundaries. These are the people who I elevate to Level #3 for further evaluation.
Ignoring you is passive aggression and is a type of Narcissism. These are the people who tend to bulldoze, manipulate, guilt you into servitude, while also displaying weakness and vulnerability. We see this a lot in 2nd Perspective Older Ladies with Narcissism as much as the passive mother who seems to be looking out for you while also walking all over you. It is Vulnerable Narcissism in disguise.
Arguing, Mocking, Negotiating, Attacking you, and/or Defending their behavior is a huge red flag. These are Narcissists, cut and dry. Boundary up and get away. Be glad you spotted it before you elevated them to “Level #3.”
Be on the look out for “small favors” or “tasks” that seem easy and simple to follow like “Down load this App on your phone.” This is a scripted and strategic practice that Predators online use to see how “Obedient” you are. Use this “request” to say “No” and watch them argue, negotiate, or attack you with name calling.
I hypothesize that “Innocent until proven guilty” often is a default setting in people’s minds and replaces “Untrustworthy until proven Trustworthy.” We have lost “Stranger Danger” due to the “Intimacy and Love” Scarcity many people experience.
In an ideal situation, tests should be used to determine if a Stranger can “graduate” to Level #3 to be evaluated for Friendships.
“The Premature Friend”
It is common today to hear a Stranger declare that they are your “friend.” Beware. This is what I call a red flag and is only often used by Narcissists who seek to lower your defenses so they can access your Resources. Only you can determine who is your friend. Do not allow the words and forced Names of others under-prioritize your own ability to assess HOW they make you feel, HOW they align to your Ethics and Values, and HOW they make you behave… also HOW they behave around you.
“Colleague” or “Acquaintances”
Colleagues is neither Friendship nor Strangers, but it still is an intimacy level of a Stranger. I like to distinguish between this because this is where a lot of people confuse “Friendships” with Acquaintances and Colleagues. You could see the same person for years and never learn more about them beyond their name, their job, their dream boat, and their kid’s names, and you still won’t have enough information to determine if they qualify for friendships.
Many people confuse “Colleague” with Friendship Level #2, not realizing they have not made the appropriate evaluations for Friendship. Likewise, many of us have known Co-Workers for years, feeling like they are more than Strangers, but also not Friends.
Apply the same rules for this category as “Strangers.” Give them the same treatment as “Strangers.”
Level #3 is not yet Friendship. This is where I put “people who are in Evaluation” for Friendships. People here are the people who I know for 3 months to 2 years. They receive Level #3 Vulnerabilities to determine if they “pass” the tests to move on to Level #2. I have the added requirement of only evaluating people who are referred by others. “Friends of Friends.”
Look for Gossiping. Give them a story about you (something that won’t hurt you), but watch. Does it get back to you from someone else? Do they trash-talk other people? Do they do things that make you feel uncomfortable? When you tell them you are uncomfortable, do they apologize? Or do they argue, ignore, or negotiate? All of these things are excellent clues to tell you what you can expect from them.
If they gossip about other friends, they will gossip about you.
What is a Level #3 Vulnerability?
This is a small Vulnerability that will not harm you, but give it to them and see what they do with it. Confide in them, but don’t hand them the whole book about you. Instead, give them something small about you. This could be something simple like sharing your favorite song with them and see how they respond. Do they call you stupid? Do they mock you? Do they make fun of you? Are they handling your Vulnerability with care?
Many good people will acknowledge your vulnerability and will thank you for sharing. Even better, when they assure you that they will respect your trust. Look for Reciprocity. Do they share a vulnerability with you in turn? These are all good signs that they are healthy.
Level #2 – Friendship Begins
Level #2 is the first level of Friendship. This is where I finally start calling people “Friends.” They have been there for me. They are Givers. They are reliable. They never violate my Boundaries. If they ever did, when I set my Boundary, they politely apologize and back off the boundary. We are compatible and share like interests.
A lot of people ask me, “How do I know if I should let them into Level #2?”
“Do you want them to join your Circle of Trust?”
“Does it feel Right? Does it feel Good? Does it give you Joy?”
Level #1 – Privilege Begins
This is where “Privilege” Begins. There are certain “Privileges” that we grant to our closest of Friends, Families, Lovers, and Partners like calling after 9 PM, making exceptions for, sharing resources with. These are our resources that we reserve for those who have earned the best of us.
Level #1 is for the Oldest and/or the Closest and Bestest of Friends. This is where Trust-Worthy Family and Children could also be placed. For me, these are the people who I have known 2+ Years. They receive Level #1 Vulnerabilities, and they handle information about me with care.
This space is for the Partner(s). Our closest most, intimate Partner(s) or Spouse goes here. For me, I must know them for 2+ years because only after 2 years do you really start to know a person well enough to determine if they are someone who is compatible with me.
“The Buffer Zone.”
The Buffer Zone is where the Boundaries or the “Bubble Wrap” should go. Most people new to boundaries think that the Boundaries should go around the Body of the Individual, As if they are wrapping their bodies in Bubble Wrap. But, in this example, if a boundary is violated, the body of the individual would be harmed. By putting the Boundaries around the “Buffer Zone,” this provides adequate safe space for the boundaries to take preventative action and also to allow for safety to the Individual.
Don’t wait for the “pain” to set a boundary. Set it sooner.
A lot of people mistake “The levels of Trust” with Boundaries thinking that Boundaries diminish as Intimacy and Trust increases. No! Not at all. The Boundaries are YOUR rules. Level #2 and Level #1 Friends and “Intimacy” People have NEVER… or ALMOST NEVER violated your Boundaries. The Boundaries are simply YOUR rules for YOU to follow.
If you are setting your Rules for others to follow, this is actually Projecting your rules onto others.
“You cannot talk to me like that,” is not the same thing as “If you talk to me like that, then I will have to end the phone call.”
“I cannot hear about animal abuse,” is good boundary.
“You cannot talk about animal Abuse,” is a Projection that controls.
“I cannot hear about animal abuse, and if you continue to talk about animal abuse, then I am going to have to leave,” is good.
A properly set boundary is an “If/And” Statement that clearly states YOUR enforced Action if they insist on making the choices they make.
“I cannot be around gossip, mum,” is great. “You cannot gossip, mum,” is a projection aimed to control others.
“You” or “The Genie Bottle”
Beginning in the center of the Circle is “You.” This is where many people make the mistake of allowing their Partner into this circle. This “You” Space” is where an Individual needs to go to administer Self-Care. This is where we go to “Recalibrate” and Center ourselves. Letting a Partner in this space is a sign of Co-Dependency. It indicates that the Couple has no boundaries to separate them, resulting in an “absorbing” of the other and a complete lack of Self-Identity. We see this in Enablers who have no identity, and in Narcissists who don’t allow for Individuality or Autonomy in their Partner.
In a healthy Couple setting, Both Individuals allow for the Individuality and when/if Healing is required, it prevents an Emotional Prosthetic from developing between the couple.
This is just a guideline and over time, as you learn more and more about boundary setting and trust, you will (and should) adjust this guide to your own preferences. Ultimately, trust yourself. Listen to your “gut” and follow your instinct. You know more than you know. And, as you practice, boundary setting does get easier, and you will become a pro at navigating social situations with ease.