How many times have you heard someone refer to someone else as their friend, and wondered how close the two individuals really were? What makes someone a friend as opposed to a friendly acquaintance as opposed to simply an acquaintance?
We all come into contact with a wide variety of individuals 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 individuals that I would really consider friends. Of course, my definition of, and requirements for being considered a friend, may be somewhat stricter than many others. I consider someone a friend only if, over a period of time, they have demonstrated that they really care about me, and I genuinely care about them. A friend does not always necessary agree with everything that you do, but friendship means that two individuals can openly discuss the reason for the disagreement. A friend is someone who is there for you when things are not going so well, as well as when they might be. A friend remains a friend regardless of whether you have any “perks” 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 might actually be in contact with the other individual.
On the other hand, a friendly acquaintance is someone that you know and are on good terms with. You exchange pleasantries, you may occasionally do things together, but the necessary kinship to be considered a friend is not there at this time. It is, however, entirely possible, that someone who is presently a friendly acquaintance may sometime in the future become a real friend.
The vast majority of people we come into contact with, however, are actually acquaintances. It is not merely a measure of how long you know someone, or whether you come into contact often, 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 friendship needs to be demonstrated.
I am always amazed when I go to a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah, and there are so many “friends” at the affair. The reality is that the invitees to these types of social gatherings consist of relatives, business contacts, obligations, acquaintances, friendly acquaintances, and “peer pressure invitees.” Why do so many people think it’s necessary to claim and to believe that they have so many good friends.
Most of us are fortunate to be able to count true friends on our fingers and toes. Many of us do not need to take off our shoes to actually count our friends. The reality is that it is better to have a handful of true good friends than numerous acquaintances. Unfortunately, most people do not learn that until something bad happens in their life, and then they are able to witness which friend remains true and is “there for them,” nearly unconditionally. I would rather have ten good friends that hundreds, or even thousands of acquaintances. While, in business, our sphere of influence and acquaintances may be of assistance, in our personal lives, friendship is far more important.