Circles of Friends

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September 19, 2019

Visualizing friend relationships as a set of concentric circles can help us see the bigger picture when it comes to beginning, building, and maintaining friendships. Friendships aren’t one size fits all - a close friendship is different than a situational friendship and relating to an acquaintance is different than relating to a stranger.  Each ‘circle’ of friends has its own set of unique assumptions and boundaries.  Being aware of these boundaries allows us to be aware of the ways in which friends move from circle to circle - how acquaintances turn into situational friendships, and how causal friends turn into best friends. Check out the following 5 ‘circles’ of friends: 

  1. Acquaintances: An acquaintance is someone you are casually familiar with, but is not considered a friend.  They are one step more familiar than a stranger - you might know their name, maybe a few of their friends, but not much else.  You know them more than a stranger, but not as a friend.  You might go to the same school or work in the same building, but you might not ever talk to them. You might say hi to them on a daily basis, but you don’t associate with them in depth.  

  1. Situational Friends: A situational friendship is typically structured around a specific environment.  You interact with situational friends in the environment in which you initially met - school, work, or a particular interest.  The specific interest or environment is what brings you together.  When the ‘situation’ changes, the friendship dissolves until the next time you see each other.  

  1. Casual Friends: A casual friend is someone who is more than a situational friend but not quite a close or ‘best’ friend.  You most likely share common interests with them, and you enjoy spending time with them.  You may see them from time to time or hang out together in a group based on your common interests or common friends.  They might be a new friend that you are just getting to know more personally.  You have fun together and are building trust and understanding based around your shared interests.

  1. Close Friends: Close or ‘best’ friendships are built around trust and honesty, and of course, common interests. They are built over time and require effort on both parties to maintain.  Close friendships are incredibly rewarding and provide us with a host of positive benefits. Close friendships can feel like family in the level of emotional intimacy that we can build with these individuals. But we don’t just automatically make close friends - it takes time and effort.  You may start as one of the above/ categories, and over time become best friends.

  1. Self: We might not initially think of ourselves as ‘friends,’ but in order to build friendships we need to know about ourselves. Our individual self is always at the center of the concentric friendship circles. What are our interests? What sparks joy in our lives? What are our strengths and challenges when it comes to relationships? How can we be a good friend to others? How do we express friendliness?  We are all humans who need social interaction.  Engaging in positive prosocial behavior is what keeps all of our individual friend circles spinning together.  A friendly smile goes a long way in promoting a prosocial attitude, and will give others the impression that you are friendly, and open to making friends.  

There is flexibility between these circles - acquaintances can become situational friends, and casual friends can become best friends. Circles of friends change and morph all the time, but changes in levels of friendship take: time, commitment, trust, honesty, and two people.  Friendship is a choice! And choosing friendships requires us to practice our perspective taking skills in order to determine if the other person wants to be friends with us.  While it can feel intimidating and seem like a lot of work, the benefits of having friends far outweighs the challenges that come along with building friendships. 


If creating, building, and maintaining friendships is a struggle for you, we’re here to help. Let’s chat today!

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