Finding People Who Help You Grow

trusted people


A wise person once said that you are starting to think, behave and even feel like the five people you surround yourself with the most. This can be good or bad – depending on the company you keep!
Take a moment and reflect on the five closest people that you spend the most time with.

Are they supportive and kind?

Are they giving you the freedom to grow and explore new horizons?

Are they open-minded to your ideas and will they allow you to change?

Are they challenging you positively or do they lower your self-esteem?

Do they communicate respectfully or biased from their own point of view?

Do they have your best interest in mind or feel threatened by your growth or change?

Are they a positive or negative influence on you?
As humans, we tend to stick around people who make us feel good, until they don’t. Too many times we hang onto well-worn relationships that are non-supportive or even emotionally abusive, just to avoid the inconvenience of change, based on our primordial belief that “the devil we know is better than the one we don’t”.
Sticking around unsupportive people can lead to sabotaging our own wellbeing on every level, and in addition, can stunt our personal growth and dim our willingness to become more or do better for ourselves.
This doesn’t mean we should only seek the company of yes-sayers or those that don’t offer us any resistance. The important key is how this resistance or challenge is offered!

A person who has accomplished in their life what you would like for yours could be a good mentor and challenge you enough to pull out your own mental stops and extend your boundaries. It’s nice to have people who “accept you just the way you are”, but that won’t necessarily help you reach new goals. The same is true in reverse, for those people who want you to “be just like them” when your preferred path is completely different.
A good friend, trusted person or mentor can be a close relative or a total stranger alike, as long as it’s someone with integrity who can listen well and has your best interest at heart.

Oftentimes, family members can come with baggage in form of their own expectations from you and what they know about you, which doesn’t always bode well if you want to make a drastic life change. 
Widening your circle can help you surround yourself with trusted people who don’t come with pre-conceived notions of what you can and cannot do.
In this article I want to guide you towards finding the people who can help you grow, while also showing you how you can gently disengage from those who hold you back.
Here’s to you finding new lightning beacons on your own growth path!
Ina Mohan
Founder and President of Health, Healing & Happiness LLC

contortion acrobats

Who are your five closest people and do they help you grow?

When this question comes up it’s often inconvenient to truly shine a light on how your closest people, those you spend the most time with, fare in regard to helping you grow. Probably not each of them has mentor qualities, but take a moment to look through the questions below and be very honest on how you would rate your relationship with them:

  • Are they supportive, kind and uplifting?
  • Are they giving you the freedom to grow and explore different things?
  • Are they open-minded to your ideas and trying to understand what drives you?
  • Are they challenging you positively or negatively?
  • Do they raise or lower your self-esteem?
  • Do they communicate respectfully or biased from their own point of view?
  • Do they have your best interest in mind or feel threatened by your growth or change?
  • Can they relate to your quest through similar experiences?

Once you have an answer to these points in your mind, you may already get an idea who you should spend more or less time with.


The characteristics of people who will help you grow

Someone who can help you reach beyond your current (self-imposed) boundaries often comes with a set of characteristics that underline their ability to provide positive guidance to you:

  1. They have great listening skills – this means they intently listen to and comprehend what you are telling them. And if not, they ask you for clarity. A good way to find out if someone is a good listener is to gauge this: do they only wait for you to finish so they can speak again? Do they keep eye contact with you? Is their body language supportive or defensive?  When you express your innermost and deepest thoughts to someone, you want to know that you have their attention!
  2. They offer encouragement – even if they may not understand where you’re coming from or don’t quite agree with it, they will never simply shut you down. Rather, they will always find something positive to say, even while offering constructive criticism. Also, their opinion of what you can and should do is always much broader and bigger than what you think of yourself! They may also offer alternative or even contrary views, if you haven’t considered them, but always in a kind and respectful manner. They are capable of seeing a “future you” where you may even dare to see yourself!
  3. They show you another side of the story – while you may look at a situation one way, they may guide you to look at other angles, pros and cons; and objectively point out opportunities or obstacles where your own emotional involvement may not see them at the time.  
  4. They show empathy – this means they can feel with you and not just for you (that would be sympathy). When you are in a bad space, they show that they truly care about you and that they try to see things from your perspective, rather than just using any number of cliché phrases to make you feel better.
  5. They are loyal – are they available for you in good as well as in challenging times?  Or do they just come out when you are throwing a party? A person you confide in should be someone who cares to be with you and listen no matter how good or bad it gets.
trusted friends


How do you find people who can help you grow?

People who can propel you forward come into your life in different ways, and you don’t need to limit yourself by looking only at your current contacts and relationships!
A good way to look for the right person is to approach it like seeking a mentor. Filter through your relationships and highlight people that have some (or all) of the following qualities:

  • Good listener/sounding board
  • Flexible
  • Value diversity of perspectives
  • Knowledgeable
  • Nonjudgmental
  • Able to give constructive feedback
  • Honest and candid
  • Able to network and find resources
  • Successful in their career / life or in what you want to achieve
  • Willing/able to devote time to developing others
  • Curious and eager to grow and learn themselves

If you are approaching someone outside your current circle, be open, humble and honest. Know who you are talking to and point out what you value and admire about them and why you are seeking them out. Be absolutely clear what you want yourself, so you don’t waste their time. Be courageous and go for the ask!
Most people will respond kindly to a genuine request for insight / opinion / feedback on something they are successful at and that they care about themselves – as long as you set boundaries to not use up a lot of their time! Time is very valuable for people, so be clear that you will not eat-up their time or try to “steal their secrets of success”.
Offer your person of choice something that they value in return for giving you some guidance.

say no


How to disengage from people who don’t support you

Saying no to someone can be hard, as we don’t want to disappoint a person close to us or hurt their feelings. After all, we are herd animals who like to accommodate other people and retain good relationships. On the other hand, always caving in when you absolutely don’t feel like it or spending time with people who put a dampener on your mood or self-esteem is hurting your ability to grow!
It’s all about how we tell someone off who isn’t used to hear NO from us.
If you struggle with saying no in any situation, remember the self-preservation in play here. Saying no can be the best form of self-care we can engage in! It supports us in:

  • creating space in our schedules and to relax or unwind
  • engaging in activities that align with our current goals
  • setting boundaries with people who may take more of us than they should

If you keep that in mind, it helps you to create a more fulfilling, meaningful life on your own terms.
How do you turn down someone gently?

  • Be nice and positive about it – the tone makes the music!
  • Be very clear and not wishy-washy, so there is no room for misinterpretation. Offer an explanation if needed
  • Offer an alternative suggestion that suits you better if there is one
  • Express genuine gratitude or appreciation for their request of you
  • Determine if it’s truly NO or simply NOT NOW what you want to say and make that clear

Here are some helpful beliefs that make saying no easier:
Consider these beliefs if you've experienced unhelpful ones that are holding you back from declining requests:

  • By saying "no" I'm declining the request and not rejecting the person
  • When I say "yes" to one thing, I'm actually saying "no" to something else
  • I have the right to share my opinions even if they differ from others'
  • The other person is unlikely to take it badly and they'll most likely understand
  • If people have the right to request, I have the right to decline

Six ways of saying no:
The psychologist Trevor Powell describes six ways of saying no - you choose which one to use depending on the situation:
1. The direct "no"
When you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do or can’t do, you just say "no" e.g. "I can’t do that." The aim is to say "no" without feeling that you have to apologize. It’s the other person’s responsibility so don’t feel like you have to take responsibility for it.
2. The reflecting "no"
This is when you acknowledge the content and sentiments of the request and then assertively refuse at the end.
"I understand that you want me to be there but I can’t attend."
3, The reasoned "no"
This is where you provide a brief but honest reason for your answer.
"I can’t attend the meeting because I have lots of deadlines this week, so I have no time."
4. The raincheck "no"
This is not an absolute "no" - it’s a way of saying no to the request currently but means you can say yes in the future. You should only use this if you want to genuinely meet the request. "I don’t have time today but I could make sometime next week."
5. The enquiring "no"
This is again not an absolute "no". In this technique you open up the request to see if there is an alternative.
"My schedule is full for today, maybe there’s someone else that could help?"
6. The broken record "no"
If the person initially does not accept your "No", then keep repeating yourself. It can be used in a wide range of situations and it is especially useful for persistent requests.
Requester: "Could you please take my place today?"
You: "Unfortunately I can’t attend because I’ve got lots of work to get through today, perhaps there’s someone else you can ask."
Requester: "I’ve asked a few people already, maybe you could just go for the first half an hour?"
You: "I know that it’s important but I won’t be able to go this time as I really need to finish this work today and I don’t have any spare time."
Requester: "Not even for 15 minutes?"
You: "I need all my time to focus on this work."

Remember that you have the right to voice your opinions and if you really struggle to say "no" it’s likely that you’re overestimating the difficulty the other person will have in accepting your refusal.


As the great Dr. Wayne Dyer would say:
“The only limits you have are the limits you believe.”

Now go and reach for the stars!