Why are we friends? A look into how people build friendships.

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Webster’s definition of “Friend” is: A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard; a person who gives assistance; supporter. An evening that I had recently proved to me that friendship is much more than something as simple as affection. It is feeling completely comfortable with someone even if you haven’t seen them in a while, it’s side splitting laughter, it’s candidness, and teasing without hard feelings because, hey, we’re friends and we can take it and give it with nothing but love. True friendship is not just being a supporter, it’s knowing how to support. It’s knowing when to help and when to keep quiet. Most of all, friendship is acceptance and love that has no agenda and doesn’t have to follow the same “rules” of other relationships.

I’m sure by now you are thinking of the friends in your life, perhaps recalling time spent laughing, an issue you supported your friend through, or a bender you went on in Acapulco together. Have you ever wondered what makes you friends in the first place? I mean, I can be friendly with a lot of people, but there are few that I would share my feelings with at 11:00 at night while sitting in my pajamas, eating a pint of ice cream. So, why are we friends with our friends? Here are five factors that help us choose who we become friends with.

  1. Proximity: We tend to live near the people that we are friends with. I’m not sure how Skype or Facetime plays in to this, but for now I can understand how it’s easier to become and stay friends with people who you see more often.
  2. Association: We form opinions of other people based on how we currently feel. For example, if you hate your job, then you will associate those negative feelings with the people that you work with and will be less likely to form a friendly relationship with them.
  3. Similarity: Expanding on the example above, let’s say you are getting sloshed at a work party, because 1. You hate work parties and 2. Listening to your coworkers Karaoke is making you dislike them even more. An equally drunk colleague comes over and starts complaining about the very job that you hate. Bing Bang Boom, you have a new friend. The similar hatred of work and Karaoke, coupled with the dual appreciation of a good martini has forged a new friendship.
  4. Reciprocal liking: Twitter and Facebook capitalize on this rule. I’ll like you if you like me.
  5. Attractiveness: Don’t scoff at this one, you know, deep down inside that this has merit, as shallow as it seems. We tend to be friends with people who we think are attractive and who are close to how we see our own attractiveness. To makes you feel less superficial, attractiveness can be broken down into subcategories:
  • Physical Attractiveness
  • Sense of Humor
  • Education
  • Wealth

If education is more important to you then you will look for a friend that is as educated, if not more, than you are. Same goes for the rest. It’s all about what you assign importance to.

I ask you to think of your friends again. This time, try to remember how you became friends with them. Did you live down the street from your best friend? Did you meet at an art show? Did you take classes together in graduate school and you sat next to her because she was not only smart, but also pretty and funny? Now, what has made the friendship develop into more than just affection? Do you still live near each other? Do you both enjoy skeet shooting? Maybe it’s all of the laughs you have or even the tears you’ve shed? Here’s an exercise in understanding the basis of your friendship and what keeps it going. Share it with your friend as a friendship check in!

My friend is _________________________________________________________________________________

I met him/her _______________________________________________________________________________

I knew we would be friends when _________________________________________________________

We both like __________________________________________________________________________________

I appreciate my friend for ___________________________________________________________________

My friend has helped me____________________________________________________________________

We probably shouldn’t have ________________________________________________________________

We laughed the hardest when ______________________________________________________________

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One thought on “Why are we friends? A look into how people build friendships.

  1. What an appropriate blog for me, as one of my BFF’s and her husband just spent a weekend with us. Your grandma has a tendency to get a friend and hold onto them, as I have never been able to say good-bye when I have moved. Some of my friends date back to my first birthday party – some 72 years ago. Sarah got to be with my high school gang at one of our reunions and said it didn’t matter who of the 12 we were walking or sitting with, we were talking. I don’t think the physical attractiveness has ever been important, but perhaps it is something that has come with age. Also, I count it a blessing that my friendships cover a big age span. Whatever the cause, I count my friends as one of my biggest blessings with whom I have shared high points as well as tragedies – side splitting laughter, as well as tears. Thanks for reminding me of one of my richest gifts.

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