You spend all day with the same group of kids. You have the same teachers, play on the same teams, and shop at the same stores. It stands to reason that these people would be your friends, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. You can share a lot with other people and still not feel totally comfortable with them. This is why friendship is so unique. A good friend is someone you can be completely yourself with and they can do the same. In both situations, you have a set of good people, but in the first example they are acquaintances. In the second they are a friend. So how do you separate the friends from the acquaintances? In a word, it is how reliable and supportive the person is. As shown in the diagram, we can see that there are many things that can define who is a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance. Sometimes people move between these groups as your relationship gets closer, or moves father apart. With relationships that are ever changing there are some clues that help us understand whether someone is a friend, or just an acquaintance.
- Friends are reliable – When you call a friend for a favor or to hang out they will find a way to make you a priority. Friends will come to your concert even when they don’t play an instrument. An acquaintance will hang out with you after the band concert but probably won’t go out of their way to make plans otherwise. A friend will bail you out in a pinch. An acquaintance will ask for a favor, but might not be available when you ask one in return.
- Friends are non-judgmental – We don’t have to agree with each other to be friends, but we do have to respect each other’s beliefs and opinions. With a friend, you can share a different belief about topics such as politics, religion, family, or sexual orientation and they will respect your opinion. An acquaintance might not associate with you based on those beliefs.
- Friends look out for your best interests- Friends don’t have to agree with you, but they do need to want the best for you. A friend may tell you when they feel you are making a bad choice. An acquaintance might agree with you because it is easier than causing an argument. A friend will stick with you even when you have made a bad choice. An acquaintance will cut ties with you rather than risk being associated with your mistake.
- Friends value you – Even after years of not seeing each other true friends can pick up like no time has passed. This is because a true friend values all the things that make you, you. An acquaintance values how you make them feel about themselves. In this way, it makes it easy for them to move on to a new friend to make them feel good, while your good friends could never find someone with all the unique qualities that make you special.
Just because someone is an acquaintance and not a friend does not mean they are a bad person. In fact, sometimes our best friends start out as acquaintances. So, take the time and be a good friend to those around you. When someone returns your honesty, generosity and make you feel like a happier person then celebrate, because you found a new friend.