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Who’s in your Tier 1?

Updated: Jan 20

My favorite definition of friend comes from the Urban Dictionary:

“A friend is someone who not only doesn’t care if you’re ugly or boring, but doesn’t even think about it; someone who forgives you no matter what you do, and someone who tries to help you even when they don’t know how. A friend is someone who tells you if you’re being stupid, but who doesn’t make you feel stupid.” Urban Dictionary

The wording in this definition makes me smile every time I read it. It makes me think of the friends I have who fit this definition.

For example, there was the time I was focused on getting healthier. I had picked “health” as my word for the year and was committing to make better decisions.

About three weeks in (to a 52-week goal), I noticed that all I could think of was the things I “couldn’t” have because they didn’t fit my goal. But I still wanted them. Not having them was making me cranky. I was feeling SO DEPRIVED. But I also wanted to change. This was harder than I thought it would be. UGH. I called a friend.

After about 10 minutes of listening to me whine, she simply said, “Girl, you did this to yourself. Only you can get yourself out of it. It’s your choice.”

Those words were exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time. It completely flipped my mindset from victim (“Why oh why can’t I have this? It’s not fair!”) to victor (“I possess the power to make choices that will get me closer to – or farther from- my goal. What will I choose for me?“)

She could have taken my side. She could have suggested we discuss it more over chips and queso. Instead, she spoke truth into me and I listened. And my behavior changed as a result.

Tier 1, Tier 2

Recently, I was going through a hard time and had come to the point of needing to make a decision to move forward or stay “stuck.” This was the kind of stuck that, over time, built up as feelings of heaviness and anger. Anger covered the fear in knowing I wasn’t in control, but I desperately tried to control the situation anyway.

Once again, I found myself talking to others about my situation. Some would take my side, some would give me new insights, but I really wasn’t listening. Listening would mean changing my mindset and letting go of control. I just wasn’t ready.

Then the heavy feelings would return and I’d avoid taking action to move forward.


In one of my conversations, a woman I worked with at the time asked me if I had any Tier 1 friends I could consult with. I said I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know the definition of a Tier 1 friend. (My general definition of “friend” matched the one at the beginning of this post.)

Then she said:

  1. Tier 1 friends are those you allow to influence you.

  2. Tier 2 friends are everyone else.

Influence: The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

In other words, Tier 1 friends are those you seek out to get a different perspective, then you consciously trust and allow them to influence you.

In my health example above, the day I called my friend to whine, I was also ready to listen. When my friend “gave it to me straight,” I trusted and allowed her words to influence me and change my behavior. She was my Tier 1 friend in that situation.

As I considered who my Tier 1 friends would be in this situation, it led to some deeper realizations:

  1. I had trust/control issues. This included trusting myself.

  2. I rarely showed anyone my true self. I showed them the self that I wanted them to see. Therefore, they could only be friends with the side I showed them, and could only engage with me from this level.

  3. I feared that if I now asked for their perspectives on my situation, I’d have to be much more transparent.

  4. That level of vulnerability was terrifying. Staying stuck, while painful, was still easier. It’s the devil you know.

Expanding the Definition

I’ve always been a reader. Thanks to technology, I can now listen to books on Audible and also listen to podcasts that update regularly.

During this difficult time, I found myself drawn to a few key books/authors. I realized that, though we had never met – and likely wouldn’t ever meet in person – each was speaking truth into my situation in a way I was allowing them to influence me. My initial Tier 1 friends in this situation were actually published authors and podcasters that helped shift my perspective and offered truthful insights.

A few books that influenced me the most during this time include:

By Brene Brown, Ph. D., LMSW:

By Cy Wakeman:

Related to the Enneagram:

(Like I said, I like to read. You may not and that’s ok! I just needed a safe place to consider different perspectives while I processed what I was taking in. Books/podcasts served as that safe place during this difficult time.)

Over time, I found people who were familiar with the authors/topics above. Knowing that we shared this connection, I was more able to be transparent about my situation. They listened and offered their insights. They became someone who tells you if you’re being stupid, but who doesn’t make you feel stupid.

In return, I listened to their perspectives And slowly, I changed my behaviors. I got “unstuck.”

What’s interesting is that many of these individuals weren’t originally in my “friend” network, based on my original definition. Some didn’t even live near me or work with me, nor had we shared life experiences previously. However, they they were exactly what I needed to get a fresh perspective, consciously trust, and allow them to influence.

I realized that “friends” and “Tier 1 friends” can be different, depending on the situation. It’s important to make this distinction and be open to expanding your friend network. It can make all the difference in staying stuck or moving forward.

For those of you who also like to read and listen to podcasts, check out these links to see even more resources that influenced me to shift my perspective.

I’m so very grateful to my coworker who originally asked who my Tier 1 friends were. My journey has been better because of it.

Your Tier 1

Think of where in your life you currently feel “stuck.” Who have you been talking to about it? What perspectives have they provided? Based on the definitions above, would you consider them “friends” or “Tier 1 friends”? How are you allowing your Tier 1 friends to influence you? Where could you expand your network to include more Tier 1 friends?

As in my situation, it helped to talk to others outside of my original friend network to gain new insights and perspectives.

Schedule a free, 30-minute consultation to determine the right amount of support for you.


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