The Four Kinds of Friends We All Need

Show me who your friends are and I will show you what you are.

Vladimir Lenin

A friend is a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection and it is typically one exclusive of sexual or direct family relations.

Friends come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Friends are not just people who we hang out with but in many ways, they become part of our sense of identity. Whether we like it or not, we invariably share some of the traits, habits, skills, talents, values and preferences with those we call friends.

Yet, Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram mock the very idea of friendship and make it into a commodity that is available at a throwaway price if one wishes to buy or accumulate. Social media platforms definitely do not go to places to either make or keep old friends.

From our cradle to our grave, we make many friends and acquaintances.  But many of us believe that like many other things, friends are like collectables. We must endlessly acquire, maintain and showcase them. As a result, our social media profiles keep brimming with friends from across the globe. Some of us end up having hundreds of friends on our network and still feel wanting for more. This need not be so. In fact, it is stressful and takes the life out of friendships.

I believe we should have but a handful of friends at any point in time. But before we talk about that let us look at the type of friends.

I came across this interesting book by Geoffrey Greif called ‘Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships. In this book,  he categorizes friendships into four types and I think it’s a very helpful way to box our friends. Here they are :

1. Must friends: These are the ones most of us would call best friends. They are very close to you and your family, almost like family and close confidantes you can count on at any point in life. The must friends are with us in every significant event/celebration/setback of our lives,  and support you unconditionally. These are the kind of friends with who you would like to raise your children on their own if both parents were to die in a crash. This could probably be the criteria to qualify them as one!

2. Trust friends: They are friends whom you can trust by sharing your fears and concerns and who you think can understand and guide you best. They may not be part of your inner circle but you are comfortable sharing your challenges with them. You would like to get closer to them given there was a suitable opportunity or time.

3. Rust friends: This is a friend that you’ve known for a very long time and you know very well – at least you don’t believe that you can know any better even if you tried. They are typically friends you have known since your younger days, cousins or even your spouse, eventually.

4. Just friends: These are friends who are good company at specific occasions and places like your next cabin coworker, someone who walks the dog with you, or goes to the same yoga class as you. This friendship is limited to the occasion or place and you don’t desire to socialize or interact with such a person outside the occasion or place. You don’t even try to get to know the person outside the context of the occasion or place.

The four types of friends

I hope this gives you a good understanding of the types of friends and can help you look at your own friends in a better way. You can also think of what kinds you have more or less of at present and that can serve as a pointer for having more or less of some kind of friends. A good balance of friends of each type can help one get the most happiness out of friendships.

Also, there can be overlaps between the types in case of some friends and it is also possible that over time a just friend can become a trust fried or a must friend becomes a rusted friend.

Though this book is about male friendships, I think it applies to women as well. However, Greif points out that the big difference between male abs and female friendships is that women have face-to-face relationships while men have shoulder-to-shoulder relationships. That is women can share real intimacy while men prefer sharing an activity- like a project, sport, philosophy- where it is not necessary to open up about their feelings.

Man or woman, boy or girl- everyone needs friends. The quality of our lives and that of our happiness is greatly influenced by the quality of our friendships.

Having said so I also believe we have to be very picky about who we enlist as our friends. After picking our spouse, this is where we need to be most picky. Why? Because the personality traits, preferences, idiosyncrasies and habits of our friends do rub off on us. Here I give only one suggestion. Make friends of good character and keep away from anyone of questionable character. It is said:

When the character of the man is not clear to you, look at his friends.

Japanese proverb

Friendships that do not have integrity and share similar values do not last and they do more harm. A handful of friends of each type are enough- 4/5 of each type. We don’t need more. Trim down your list if need be, to a level that you can manage. By manage I mean, you can give your friends a fair amount of your time and mind space.

The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.

Hubert H. Humphrey

I believe life has given me great friends of each type and I will be ever grateful for it. I think I have earned their friendships as much as they have earned mine. I encourage my daughter too who is just nine to make new friends and keep good friends. With this post and my own example, I wish this wisdom passes on to her.

What about you? How balanced is your friendship quadrant?

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