How many times have you heard someone refer to another person as their friend and wondered how close the two people really were? What makes someone a friend rather than a friendly acquaintance rather than just an acquaintance?
We all come into contact with a wide variety of people in the course of a regular routine. In my own case, I would say that I have many acquaintances, several friendly acquaintances, but only a handful of people that I would really consider friends. Of course, my definition and the requirements to be considered a friend may be somewhat stricter than many others. I consider someone a friend only if, over a period of time, they have shown that they really care about me and I really care about them. A friend doesn’t necessarily always agree with everything you do, but friendship means that two people can openly discuss the reason for disagreement. A friend is someone who is there for you when things are not going so well, as well as when they could be. A friend remains a friend regardless of whether you have “benefits” to offer, whether you have power or not, whether you are popular with others or not. Friendship is time-tested and remains regardless of how often you may be in contact with the other person.
On the other hand, a friendly acquaintance is someone you know and are on good terms with. They exchange jokes, occasionally they can do things together, but the kinship necessary to be considered a friend does not exist at the moment. However, it is quite possible that someone who is currently a friendly acquaintance will eventually become a true friend in the future.
However, the vast majority of the people we come in contact with are actually acquaintances. It is not simply a measure of how long you’ve known someone, or if you come into contact frequently, or even if you socialize in a group setting with the other individual. Occasionally, an acquaintance might, over a period of time, become your friend, but the friendship must be demonstrated.
It always amazes me when I go to a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah, and there are so many “friends” in the adventure. The reality is that guests at these types of social gatherings consist of family members, business contacts, obligations, acquaintances, friendly acquaintances, and “peer pressure guests.” Why do so many people think it is necessary to affirm and believe that they have so many good friends?
Most of us are fortunate to have true friends on our fingers and toes. Many of us don’t need to take off our shoes to count our friends. The reality is that it is better to have a handful of true good friends than numerous acquaintances. Unfortunately, most people don’t learn that until something bad happens in their life, and then they are able to witness which friend remains faithful and is “there for them,” almost unconditionally. I would rather have ten good friends than hundreds or even thousands of acquaintances. While in business, our sphere of influence and acquaintances can be helpful, in our personal life, friendship is much more important.