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Being a social being, we all do know many people; people from different places, cultures, social classes, so on and so forth. Depends on the type of people, we all share different relations with them; some are friends, some are acquaintances, some are colleagues, some are family, some are just unknowns, and the list goes on depending on how well you categorize the relations with them. Now, a natural question arises why we should define different types of relationships and put people in boxes accordingly. Is that really needed? Yes, it is required because it would be effortless to manage the people around you if you clearly know what kind of relationship you have with them. For instance, what if you accidentally share one of your secrets to someone whom you thought was a close friend, but was actually an acquaintance who never cared about your feelings? That could be disastrous. Therefore, it is always a good idea to choose people and tag them flexibly. In this article, I am making a humble attempt to help you to check whether someone you know is actually your friend or just an acquaintance (or a colleague or an un-harmful stranger) using the table below.
What you all have to do is to imagine one of your friends (named ‘Y’), and see which category (FRIEND and ACQUAINTANCE) your actions (as listed in the below table) towards Y belong to. Some people may satisfy points from both categories, in that case, you may the category with more points. Be honest with yourself in categorising your actions.
|Honesty and trust are guaranteed.|
You say things honestly irrespective of what Y thinks because Y is trustworthy.
|Honesty and trust are not guaranteed.|
You only say ‘nice’ things as you are afraid of what Y thinks. You don’t trust Y in general.
|You help Y because, |
(i) you genuinely care about the well-being of Y.
|You help Y because, |
(i) you know Y will be helpful later,
(ii) it’s nice to be considered as a helpful character in front of Y,
(iii) society likes ‘good’ people, and you want to be acknowledged by society,
(iii) you just have time to help.
|You have feelings or a bond towards Y.|
You don’t like losing Y because Y seems to be irreplaceable.
|No feelings or bond towards Y.|
You never mind losing Y as someone else can replace Y sooner or later.
|You give priority to Y among many people you know.||Y is generally not your priority. Y becomes your priority only when others are strangers.|
|Personal likes and dislikes are shared with Y.||You generally don’t share your personal likes and dislikes with Y (or only shared when you are asked explicitly by Y).|
|You spend time with Y not only when you need Y but also for a comfortable, relaxing conversation. |
You feel no effort in contacting Y because you simply like it.
|You spend time with Y because|
(i) you need Y,
(ii) it is mandatory to ‘keep’ the relation,
(iii) you want to be perceived as ‘friendly’ and ‘decent’ although you are not usually comfortable doing it.
Every time you contact or spend time with Y, you feel like putting deliberate effort to do so.
|You never interfere with Y’s freedom or choices, although you say your opinions. In general, you like Y in the way he/she is.||You never interfere with Y’s freedom or choices because you don’t care what Y does. You neither like nor hate Y in the way she/he is.|
|You restrict Y from doing specific actions by explaining the reasons.||You don’t restrict Y from doing anything at all, because it’s her/his life and her/his fate. You don’t bother about it.|
|You have many common interests and feelings with Y. |
(A rare case: you have a few common interests with Y but you are still emotionally connected to Y; you find Y just compatible with you)
|No or a few common interests with Y.|
|You have a perfect balance between emotional and logical senses towards Y.||Your relation is only based on social and logical values. No emotion is usually involved.|
|Physical contact such as friendly hugging is common and not considered as uncomfortable.||Physical contact is not common and never anticipated.|
|You wish to know more about Y because you like to create a better bond with Y.||Not interested in personal or other aspects of the life of Y except what is needed for you.|
|Minimum or no ego.|
No problem in contacting each other after a fight.
Ice-breaking is effortful and uncomfortable.
|You never mind explaining about a situation that happened between you both because|
(i) you find yourself comfortable explaining your side,
(ii) it clarifies things; therefore, you get back your friend (provided that Y understands what you say with an open mind).
(ii) your friendship overweighs your effort or ‘frustration of explaining things’,
(iv) you empathize with Y.
|You feel frustrated explaining things although if you explain it for the first time because |
(i) you don’t value the relation worth explaining,
(ii) you don’t care of losing Y,
(iii) your relation is shallow compared to your ‘frustration of explaining things’,
(iv) you don’t empathize with Y.
(But you might not explicitly show your frustration often because it’s not decent).
|Over time, Y might become an acquaintance if you loose the emotional bond.||Over time, Y might become your best friend if you connect with Y differently here onwards.|
Friendship is a two-way connection, even if you find someone very close friend of you, he/she doesn’t need to see you that way. This’s a fragile ‘friendship’ that will dissolve when you realize that you are just one among many for the other person.
After writing this, I was personally disappointed because many people that are thought as my friends are actually just acquaintances or statistically biased to the acquaintance category. The saddest fact is that I am just an acquaintance for many people too! That’s liberating and upsetting at the same time. However, I am counting them all on the last point in column two of the table. The fact is that there is nothing wrong to be an acquaintance, it’s just normal. Because you don’t need to have many friends, only a handful is enough for a lifetime. Also, I hope that there is always enough room for converting an acquaintance to a friend if both parties (it works only if it’s a two-way commitment) are ready to shift-up the level. And a final note, people can also satisfy some points from category one and some from category two. These people are like hanging pots, they tend to fall into one of these categories over time, or they just might stay hanging forever; you know people are way complex to simply put into boxes. However, in all cases, the table provides you with a general idea about how you treat people.
Okay, now tell me, how many ‘friends’ do you have? 😉
Baron, R.A., and D. Byrne. (1987).Social Psychology: Understanding Human Interaction. Newton, MA: Allyn and Bacon, Inc.
Berscheid, E. (1983). “Emotion.” In H. Kelley and Associates (eds.),Close Relationships. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.