Imagine a map with miniature passport photos of your loved ones, tagging their geographic location. Where do your family and friends live? Hopefully, there is a cluster of connection near you. But you likely also have loved ones across the country or even the world.
What are your favorite ways to stay connected with your friends regardless of distance? Did you visit with family or friends this summer? Or maybe you stay in touch by phone, social media, videocalls or handwritten letters.
Now imagine your friendship geography using a completely different metric — emotional closeness. Picture several concentric circles. You are in the center circle, as home base. Now, imagine placing the photos of your family members and friends, locating them in the space around you in terms of the strength of your connection, regardless of their physical location. Your closest friends and family members are in the home circle, and your acquaintances are on the farthest circle.
The friend who lives across the country, who calls you every week and you trust completely, lives in the inner circle. But the coworker who you see regularly but leaves you feeling insecure should be kept on an outer ring.
We travel by car or airplane to close physical distance, whereas emotional distance is bridged through authentic sharing that is safely received. How someone responds when you take a risk to share something you’re scared about or proud of will determine whether that person moves closer or farther away on your friendship map.
Move people who are unkind to the outer reaches and share less. But if the outer rings of your emotional map are heavily populated, perhaps it feels scary to be emotionally vulnerable. Seek out people who are warm and who take emotional risks with you. Receive their expressions with attention and kindness and extend yourself by sharing something personal. If they respond in a trustworthy manner, this person has traveled inward on your friendship map.
The folks in your inner circle are your chosen family. Cherish these loved ones and tend to them with regular, authentic conversation. Regardless of how close or far away they live, these friends are the closest to your heart.