Friends are an incredibly important part of our lives. They love us, give us support, and offer encouragement and practical assistance when we need it. They value us despite our flaws and we value them despite theirs. No one doubts the value of solid friendships. Acquaintances are people we know because we share a work situation, an interest or interact with them on a periodic basis in business or everyday settings. Acquaintances form the bread and butter of our social connectedness. Friends are the strawberry rhubarb jam.
Most of us have many acquaintances and relatively few actual friends. The depth and nature of our friendships vary—some friendships are born out of shared interests and the connection deepens to a personal level, but only encompasses a certain range of sharing. Other friendships include a wide range of activities and conversations. We share our emotions and many personal aspects of our lives. And then there are those very few people with whom we become extremely close emotionally. These friendships transcend time and distance and even if they end, those friendships are never forgotten. They change us and they change our lives.
Meaningful friendships may last a few years or a lifetime. Acquaintances may be in our lives for hours, days, years or the rest of our lives. Friendships usually blossom from our connections with acquaintances. Even a friendship that is born of a one-time chance meeting takes time to develop into something real. Patterns of friendship vary, and the nature, quantity, and quality of our friendships change a great deal over our lifetime. There may be times when we have many acquaintances and friends. This often happens in our youth—through our school and early adult years. It seems harder to make connections and cultivate new friendships as we become older. We become immersed in our individual and family lives and our social circles frequently become narrower.
Cultivating friendships from our circle of acquaintances requires time, energy and courage. Interpersonal risk-taking always carries with it the possibility of rejection and loss. However, the benefits of taking those risks are rich indeed when friendship blossoms. Let’s discuss the role of acquaintances and friends in our lives and share ideas for sustaining existing friendships and making new friends as we move into our older decades.
- How do you define the difference between someone who is an acquaintance and someone who is an actual friend?
- How have the presence of friendships in your life waxed and waned over the years?
- Do you feel that you currently have a level of social connectedness that sustains you? Such connectedness may consist of acquaintances, friends, a partner/spouse or all of these.
- Talk about one of the meaningful friendships you have had and what made it special.
- If you are seeking to form and cultivate new friendships in your life, what advice would you give yourself? What advice might you offer others?