Four categories of people in your life

In life we will meet many people. Some people are brought into our life to love and support us, while others can be a distraction and a hinderance to our growth and development. It’s necessary to figure out which role people play in your life.

Many of us struggle with wanting to be liked by people and often find ourselves being overly ingratiating. We allocate all of our time and energy into our relationships and hope for the best, but often find that some people, no matter what we do, just don’t seem to like us. However, we sometimes continue to seek their friendship. It may be hard to believe, but there are some people who will never like you, regardless of how great you are.

In Social Psychology we teach that there are essentially four categories of people. Let’s use an arbitrary percentage of 100%. That means that everyone you meet falls into one of the following categories:

Category 1: Will never like you
These people have no interest in supporting anything you do. They may be distantly cordial but they really want nothing to do with you. You may find yourself fruitlessly investing your time and energy to “win” them over.

Category 2: Do not like you but could be talked into liking you
This group of people don’t like you but for some reason they change their mind and they start to be friendly. Their relationship with you is still tentative and could easily swing back towards not liking you.

Category 3: Like you but could be talked out of liking you
These friends are the ones who are not willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. There may be a misunderstanding and they quickly turn away from you. They either gossip about you or punish you for how they perceive you to be. Be forewarned, if you do reconcile with them, this will happen again.

Category4: Unconditionally like you
These people love, nurture, and support your endeavors. You may make mistakes or even have misunderstandings but they are willing to forgive.  They will support you in your highs and lows of life no matter what. Surround yourself with these people.

It may surprise you, but your family members fit into these categories as well. There are times when we, earnestly, seek the approval of our family members and it’s either partially given to us (categories 2 and 3) or it’s completely withheld (category 1).

Conversely, you are in one of those categories in other peoples’ lives. If you find that you are wanting to like someone but you don’t, it’s ok. You do not have to maintain a friendship or even spend time with them. Not everyone we meet should be in our life. It doesn’t mean they are bad people, just not right for you.

If you find that you equally invest your energy with all four categories, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Behaviors don’t lie. I would challenge you to review each of the interactions with the people in your life. If you find that the relationship is unhealthily balanced, then they are probably in the first 3 categories. We must always invest our time and energy into the fourth category, that is where you will find true happiness and acceptance.

Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated.

James Miller is a licensed psychotherapist who is known for James Miller | Lifeology where he gives daily advice, weekly iTunes podcasts and teaches virtual classes for successful people to simplify and transform their lives. For consultation or for more information, visit: