Deepening Friendships: More Is Not Always Better
“Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.” —Ed Cunningham
In our last lesson, we talked about what makes a solid friend and what constitutes an unreliable friend. In this lesson, we will examine the three tiers of friendship: acquaintances, casual friends, and close friends.
You Only Need a Few Close Friends
A close friendship is a wonderful thing. It’s comforting, motivating, and even exciting to be with people you’ve bonded with, people that you know and like really well.
It’s also a significant investment. As we discussed in previous lessons, time, proximity, thoughtfulness, and effort all nourish friendships. In truth, most of us can only manage to invest significant resources like that with a few people at a time.
In fact, most people are fortunate to have one really close, lasting friendship! Trying to deeply cultivate too many friendships can cause you to overextend yourself. It can make you feel tired and disillusioned with the friends you do have. Ultimately, you may end up disappointing friends needlessly because you simply could not keep up.
As the nucleus of a cell, the most complex and personal tier of friendship is also the smallest: close friends. The next tier can be significantly larger and includes “casual friends.”
You Can Have Many Casual Friends
What is a casual friend? Without getting too dogmatic, casual friends are people you know and spend time with on a fairly regular basis, but they are not people you would necessarily call for a long conversation, ask for personal advice, or show up for when they’re in trouble.
Casual friends might be office co-workers that you pal around with at work, but don’t necessarily make an effort to see outside of the office. Friends-of-friends that you see at parties and have lunch with now and then are casual friends. Casual friends can also be family members, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins, that you may not see often, but enjoy spending time with when you can.
Casual friends don’t offer or require the same level of support as close friends. This is actually a positive thing! Casual friendships can enrich our lives with minimal effort and investment. They can also allow us to access and offer great networking opportunities.
Casual friendships may also prove to be gold mines of information. While the internet is an amazing informational repository, it’s often easier and more helpful to reach out to someone you know who has personal expertise in starting Crossfit, getting through nursing school, choosing a daycare provider, or whatever you would like to know more about.
Moving from Acquaintance to Friend
Acquaintances are the third tier of friends. Acquaintances encompass a sort of “pre-friendship” social circle: people you see fairly regularly but don’t really know, like your bank teller, a neighbor down the street, or a fellow student from last semester. You probably know their names and have had a conversation or two, but you are not exactly friends.
For better or worse, some very important people in your life may be in this tier. Your manager, professor, doctor, and degree advisor may all be mere acquaintances: you know their names and you see them regularly (or even often), but you know little about their lives, personalities, convictions, and goals.
Keep in mind that it is very possible for an acquaintance to become a friend. All it takes is time, proximity, and a certain amount of vulnerability on both sides. But be careful about initiating and managing this process! While transitioning from acquaintance to casual friend, and even to close friend, can be easy, it’s not so easy to transition in the opposite direction!
Reflect on the three levels of friendship in your journal and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are there people in your life you would describe as close friends? Choose one, and fill out a Friend Profile for that person.
2. What about casual friends? Choose one, and fill out a Friend Profile for that person.
3. Finally, fill out a Friend Profile for an acquaintance of yours.
Thanks for joining us! Our next lesson will be about navigating the early days of a friendship, and helpful ways you can develop it.
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