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Exploring our social circles

Exploring our social circles
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Before you begin, remember to:

• Be honest and open with yourself
• Treat yourself with kindness and respect
• Be present
• Enjoy!

Take note of what brought you to this self-study module, and take a moment to notice any emotions or feelings you are experiencing right now.
Why do we need social circles?

From our partners, family and friends, through to colleagues and neighbours, and even that same person you sit next to on the bus every day – they’re all considered to be in your social circle.

We all have social circles in our lives to varying degrees. Our social circles are the groups of people we communicate with.

Having a social circle is hugely important to our wellbeing.

Positive, regular and face-to-face contact with other people helps you to build a sense of belonging and self-worth. It gives you an opportunity to share positive experiences and provide emotional support, as well as to support others.

Communication isn't always easy.

Communication is fundamental to our wellbeing and quality of life, but it’s not always easy. Building and maintaining good relationships (both personal and professional) is something we have to work on our entire lives.

It’s important to reach out.

When we’re feeling down, anxious, stressed or depressed, it’s important to reach out, even when we aren’t motivated to do so. In this module, we’re going to identify:

• Who is in our social circle
• Our important relationships
• What a good relationship means.

Who is in my social circle?

Those included in our social circle are people we have contact with, for example, family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, tutors, neighbours, and health professionals (like counsellors and therapists). We can generally categorise our social circles into an inner social circle and an outer social circle, with ourselves at the centre – like a bull’s eye.

Friend or acquaintance?

We can sometimes struggle with telling the difference between an acquaintance and a friend but both are important connections.

We can understand the difference between acquaintances and friends by thinking about what we talk about and the way we communicate with each other.

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Think of someone you know.

To determine whether someone is a friend or acquaintance, ask yourself have you ever talked with this person about personal things? Asked them for advice? Had them come to you for help? If the answers are no, they’re probably an acquaintance. In friendships, we are more vulnerable and share more intimate parts of our lives.

Acquaintances can be a low-risk sounding board and source of advice. Try opening up to the right acquaintance, and you might make a new friend.

Your turn.

On a piece of paper draw a circle and write ‘me’ in the middle. Now draw a circle around that one – this is your inner social circle. Draw another circle around that one – this is your outer social circle. Think about the people you know and write their names in either the inner or outer social circle.

Remember - a close relationships doesn’t mean it’s positive. Some of our closest relationships are our most stressful ones, and these are exactly the relationships we want to explore in this session.

Just because someone is an immediate family member, it doesn’t mean they have to be in your inner circle.

Sometimes family members are on the periphery of our lives or not in our lives at all, and no one (including you) should make you feel guilty about that. It might be just the way you like it. If it’s not, we’ll figure out if it’s something you’d like to change.

Reflect on your social circle.

• Is there a good balance of people?
• Are there more people in the inner circle or outer circle?
• Are the right kind of people in the circle?
• Would you like more friends in your inner circle?
• Was there anyone who you couldn’t place in either circle?

Now, reflect on each relationship in detail, answering the questions in the next few slides.
The relationship status.

• How do we communicate (face-to-face, via phone, text, etc.)?
• How often do we see each other and who initiates contact?
• What activities do we do together?
• What do we usually talk about? And what don’t we talk about?
• How have things changed over time?
• How do you feel when you think about seeing that person?
• How do you feel after you’ve seen them?

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Positive aspects of the relationship.

Think about what works well and what you’d miss if you didn’t have that person in your life anymore. This can be hard to answer if your relationship is full of conflict or you’ve been really hurt or disappointed by this person in the past. Try to remember what made you connect in the first place.

Negative aspects of the relationship.

Think about when this relationship makes you feel sad, hurt, angry or disappointed. If you can’t come up with anything you don’t like, pay attention to this. Nobody’s perfect, so why the imbalanced view?

What could be different?

What would you like to be different about the relationship? Even if you don’t expect anything to change, think about what you would if you could to make the relationship more positive and beneficial for you. It might even be something small but you wish it bothered you less.

Positive relationships are fundamental to sustained wellbeing.

Write down the features a positive relationship has to you. Think about:

• Listening to each other
• Communicating without judgment
• Trusting and respecting each other
• Making time for each other
• Remembering details about each other’s lives
• Engaging in healthy activities together.

Are there any relationships from your social circle that go against these positive features? What could you do to change that?
Moving forward.

Now you have a more detailed overview of your relationships, you will be able to identify steps you can take to improve them if you wish to do so.

Don't be afraid to ask for support from the other person - relationships are two-way and making positive changes together can help strengthen your connection.

You have completed the self study module on social circles.

You may now wish to do the self-learning module on improving social skills and connections as a way to cement your learning.

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