Friendship dynamics are interesting. That is because friendships are a unique kind of relationship. Your friends are the people you choose to spend time with and care about. Friendships can last decades or more. Friendship is so important and so highly valued that friends are often referred to as our chosen family. Whether you are a child or an adult, a man or woman, an extravert or an introvert, certain dynamics come into play in all friendships. Knowing the different categories of friendships and the friendship dynamics that go along with them can be helpful in looking at your own friendships and better understanding our relationships.
Different Categories of Friendship
Everyone has multiple friends. It is often pretty clear when you look at your different friend relationships that all friendships are not created equal. Some friends you tell every single detail of your life. Other friends you only see or talk to every once in a while. There are those people you consider friends but really only hang out with when you are with a certain group of people. Then there are people you might consider as friends but you only interact with on social media or you have not spoken to in years because life has pulled you in different directions.
It is common to have friendships with very different friendship dynamics. That is because all friendships are not the same. There are five common categories of friendships that you can probably use to classify all of your friendships: colleagues, acquaintance, friend, close friend, and best friend.
Colleagues are easy: these are friendships with people you work with. But just because you work with someone does not mean you would consider yourself friends. Typically, the friendship dynamics you have with a colleague range from being friendly at work and saying hello, making general chit chat, and maybe even eating lunch together. You might find common interests and talk about those things when you have a few minutes like sports, tv shows and movies, or books.
Sometimes this can feel like more of a full-blown friendship. You might hang out after work sometimes. Maybe you share personal details about your life with them. If you even travel for work, you might make travel arrangements together and hang out between conference meetings. However, a lot of the time these friendships, even when they move into what feels like a close friendship, eventually fade if one of you moves on to another job. You might keep in touch for awhile but it is likely that you end up drifting apart. Maybe you follow each other on Facebook or Instagram and like or comment on each other’s posts occasionally, but that is probably it.
As sad as it can feel and as much as it seemed like you had in common, it comes down to the fact that colleague friendships exist because you were brought together because you worked together. Take that commonality out of the equation, and the friendship dynamics needed to sustain a relationship are not there. Is this to say that you cannot strike up a friendship with a colleague and have it turn into a long term close friend of best friend type of friendship? Absolutely not. It is just that typically speaking, and if we are categorizing the types of friendships, a colleague friendship is its own category.
The next type of friendship is the acquaintance. An acquaintance is someone you know slightly but you are not close to or do not know well. This could be someone who is a friend of a friend or another mom who has a child in the same class as your child or who is also on the PTA. It could be someone you regularly see at the gym and have made small talk with before and after exercise classes. These are those people who you would regularly see at parties or who would come along with your friend group in high school or college but they were not someone you ever invited or with whom you had a direct friendship.
A lot of friendships start out in the acquaintance category. You meet someone in one way or another and make conversation. Sometimes you find out that you have a lot in common and become better friends. Other times, someone stays steadfastly in the acquaintance category for as long as you know them.
A step up from acquaintances are people you consider friends. Friends are people you know pretty well and you enjoy spending time with them. This is your crowd. These are the people you socialize with regularly. In high school, this is the group you went to prom with. In college, they are the people you would hang out with from your dorm. These are the people who live on your cul-de-sac who you hang out with at the pool during the summer or who you sit around and drink wine with on a Saturday night while the kids run amok.
You like your friends. You want to do things with them. You would go out of your way to help one of them out if they needed it. Within this group of friends though, you will have some who you consider close friends and at least one who you consider your best friend. Yes, close friends are also friends, but the friendship dynamics of a close friend are more nuanced than that of your run-of-the-mill friend.
Close friends are the friends that you gravitate to. They are the ones you run to tell things when you find them out. A close friend is the one (or ones) with who you have a separate, secret group text chain where you judge the rest of your friends when they are doing something stupid. You know you do it.
You have a closer relationship with close friends than you do with your other friends. The dynamic is different in that you feel like you can talk to close friends about almost anything without judgment. These friends make you feel comfortable. These friends are always there for you. They are your chosen family. They are the people you are not related to and have no obligatory connection to, but you want them in your life because they make you happy.
And finally, there are best friends. These friends are distinctly different from any of the other friendship groups. A best friend is your closest friend. There are likely only one or two people that you would consider your best friend. A best friend is the person you tell absolutely everything to. They are always honest with you and you know they always have your back no matter what. Your best friend is the person who tells you what you need to hear, and not always what you want to hear.
The Importance of Friendships
It is important to have these different types of friendships in your life. While it is great to have a group of close friends or to have a best friend, it is also important to have acquaintances and colleagues you enjoy talking to and having interactions with. These different types of relationships and friendship dynamics are good for you because they provide a variety of interactions. It’s good to have light, brief conversations with people. It can help get you out of your comfort zone or keep you from becoming a total loner.
Friendships of all kinds help you from feeling isolated or alone. Even interactions with acquaintances help you feel a sense of community and belonging. Friendships that go deeper – friends, close friends, and best friends, help boost your happiness and lower stress levels. They help celebrate our successes and pick us up when we are feeling low.
Friendships are also important because they help motivate us. Whatever it is you are working towards, friends are there to cheer you on. Whether you are trying to lose weight, starting a new career, writing a book, or training for a half marathon, your friends are usually your biggest and loudest cheerleaders.
The dynamics of friendship are not set in stone. Some friends move back and forth between categories. Sometimes you have a family member or significant other who you would also consider a friend or your best friend. There are no hard and fast rules about how friendship has to work or who can be your friend. That is what is so powerful about friendships – we create them and maintain them the way we want and in a way that works best for us. So round up the crew and celebrate that you chose to be in each other’s lives for the awesome people that you are.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Mom Friends: The Constant Struggle To Find Adult Friendship As A Mom for more advice, tips, and tricks.
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