Are We Friends?

Are We Friends?

What makes someone a friend? According to it’s “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.” I think the key word in that is “affection,” a gentle feeling of liking.

Follow this because there is a point for you to consider:

Do you think the coworkers are your friends per the definition? You might like a few of them because shared work activities create a bond between all of you. Work misery can be a bond as well depending on the corporate culture. Does either example make them friends?

What about clients or customers? Would you label them as friends, acquaintances, or is there no relationship beyond business?

Is a person who communicates through social media a friend, comrade, or acquaintance?

My examples and questions centered on interpersonal connections. Let’s be like scientists who love to categorize everything to show the universe works. We can do the same as a guide for relationships by understanding the tiers in our circle of influence.

We give a high level of trust, time, and consideration to family, SOs, best friends, and mentors. They have the most influence on our decisions and choices. Distance or frequency of interaction are irrelevant factors because they’re as important to you as you are to them.

Coworkers, teachers, and others who have a routine shared interest fall into the next tier. You appreciate their perspective, but the relationship isn’t as strong as your primary circle.

The third tier are people you interact with on routine tasks. The convenience store clerk, bank teller, or the little old lady who reads her book at the café where you have your nomadic office. Yeah, that’s happening as I write this – LOL! You’ll exchange pleasantries or share small talk, but few, if any, serious discussions.

Everybody else is, well, everybody else. They’re the extras, the NPCs, the background players completing the scene. Some have an influence on you, such as the driver you cut you off in traffic or the nice person holding the door open for you. You might never encounter them again, but they had a brief impact on your life.

Tier status is fluid because relationships change when people change. Casual conversation (third tier) turns to friendship (second tier) that becomes love and marriage (first tier). Breakups, divorce, and a coworker changing jobs are examples of how relationship move to the lower tiers.

You might be as much an influence on them as they are on you. When a coworker leaves the job, you have the power to keep the relationship going. Getting a divorce? Some people become friends as they were before marriage. Starting a conversation with the cute barista will alter the relationship.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” The same maxim applies to all levels of influence. It’s in your power to have acquaintances, friends, or something extra special.

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