Your Inner Circle: Advocates or Subtle Adversaries?

Life changes are a critical time for supportive relationships. Maybe you’re engaged in a new job search, pending promotion, or raise. Perhaps you’re taking a leap of faith into entrepreneurship, a new career, or even a new relationship. Regardless of the shift, surrounding yourself with those who truly want to tip the scales in your favor is critical. Conversely, naysayers who subtly or not so subtly project their fears or jealousies can sap your energy away from the dreams you can otherwise see so vividly.

Having strong advocates who are in your corner, versus “covert adversaries,” can mean the difference between wild success and a mediocre outcome. The good news is you’re in control of all of this—and can decide who you let in the gate.

In my Psychology Today article Your Inner Circle: Advocates or Subtle Adversaries? I explain how to distinguish helpful friends from covert adversaries by examining your inner-circle relationships.

Signs of an Advocate:

  1. Their very nature is positive; they’re not judgmental.
  2. You’re doing most of the talking; they’re good listeners.
  3. They encourage you to take risksbut also will show you all sides of a decision.
  4. When you need them the most, they find a way to be available.
  5. They help you take emotion out of the equation.
  6. Your ideas and thoughts garner their respect.
  7. They’re confident in their own success; envyis not in their DNA.
  8. They speak highly of other successful people when talking to you.
  9. You generally look forward to your next conversation with them.
  10. After being around them, you feel happier and more self-confident.
  11. They don’t take themselves too seriously and have a healthy sense of humor.
  12. There’s a feeling of trust, amplified by mutual strong eye contact and positive body language.

Signs of a Subtle Adversary:

  1. They’re in an overly protective mode, and you’re being encouraged to stick with the status quo.
  2. Worry and feardefine their argument and drive their own decisions (not yours).
  3. They feel so close to your success that your biggest achievements make them more distant and seemingly jealous.
  4. It seems they’re more upbeat when you’re struggling.
  5. Their interest and time availability is inconsistent and intermittent, suggesting passive-aggressive behavior.
  6. Their confidencelevel in you is not as high as yours (or at least that’s the appearance), and they may put you down jokingly.
  7. They seem resentful of the success of others.
  8. When they dolisten, they ask you questions that seem nosy or make you uncomfortable, unwittingly or not.
  9. At times you feel uneasy about sharing personal information, as there is a gut feeling of mistrust.
  10. You sometimes feel worse about yourself after being around them.
  11. Sarcasm feels like it is on overdrive.
  12. Body languagesays they’re shutting you out; they are not 100 percent engaged.

For more in-depth insight into how to recognize friends versus foes read Your Inner Circle: Advocates or Subtle Adversaries?