I Sort My Friends Into Groups And You Should Too

Juley Le

March 21, 2024

written by:


Here’s why it’s game changing

After a string of mentally draining days, I couldn’t wait to dump it all on my therapist about everything that had shaken me: the ongoing genocide in Gaza, my mid-life millennial crisis, and, more recently, a bit about an individual who drained my energy after our last encounter.

She asked me frankly, “Have we discussed tiered friendships?” 

After working on this subject for the better half of my thirties and declaring myself healed from the friendships of my twenties, I said sure we have, knowing full well that was a lie to avoid unsolicited advice. She proceeded anyway.

“There are tiers to friendships. Tier 1 includes 1 to 3 people you actively commit your time and energy to. These friendships are healthy, mutual, and are your ‘ride-or-die’. They fill your cup and energize your spirit. They don’t include significant others or siblings (she didn’t dive much into that but made this distinction). Because these friendships require just as much nurturing and ‘dating’ as your significant other, you can’t feasibly have more than a few of these Tier 1 friends. So, if the people consuming your energy aren’t in your Tier 1, they are Tier 2.” 

Confused, I asked her to explain.

“Would you consider this person Tier 1?”

“No, but I do care.”

“Then, we leave them alone. With their dramas, their energies, and their issues. And, we temper our expectations. We love them for who they are, but we don’t need to engage with them more than necessary as it takes away the little time you have and the energy from the friendships that deserve being in your Tier 1.”

My jaw sat on the floor. The idea of tiers in friendships never occurred to me. Throughout my life, I showered Tier 2 friends with Tier 1 affection and care, only to be prioritized as a Tier 3 or 2 at best. It’s as if there’s a hidden handbook that many people seem to intuitively understand, but I lacked.

It didn’t take long to decide I didn’t want to spend the remaining 30 minutes (read $50) of my session on a Tier 2 issue. 

I can’t tell you how hard it is for me, a Type-A Capricorn, Ox in the Lunar Calendar and empath to not want to do it all and to not care about everything. Then, it hit me. This simple tier classification could be applied to almost everything on my plate as a mother, a friend, a partner, a dreamer, and someone who deeply cares about social issues. We can’t do it all, but we could feel as if we’ve done enough for what’s most important to us if we prioritize appropriately.

Speaking up for a Free Palestine? Without a doubt. I have a responsibility to my kids and the privilege to speak up. Quarreling with the person tailing my car this morning? That’s an easy no.

Perhaps you resonate with this struggle. If so, I hope this “tiered” approach helps you prioritize the people who fill your cup, and gently release the issues and people who don’t. It’s not about cold indifference. It’s a conscious choice to invest in the right relationships and causes.

Our energy is a precious resource and being intentional with where (and with whom) we allocate it is a necessity for the balanced life we all want to live.

A product designer with over a decade of experience in branding, digital products, and small businesses, Juley oversees the visual identity, marketing, and production for Femme Next Door. She can be found in Seattle chasing her two young kids and ushering in her second act.

Juley Le


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