Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson starts by exploring who is a friend; what is friendship to you; how to better think about friendship; and asks, “do you want more, better, deeper friendships; then goes on to tell you the good news about friendship and five not so usual ways you can do to move from the ‘like’ category into a“ ‘real love’ category of healthful, enriched, deep, abundant friendship; it ends with the most important thing to take away from this mini-love-lesson.
Who Is a Friend?
“I know a lot of people and we call each other friends but are we really?” Avery asked this as he contemplated his life. He went on to say, “I have work friends, old school friends, club friends, casual friends and now Internet friends – a surprising lot of them. But are any of them true friends, deep friends or really close, personal friends who really love me and who I really love? I must confess I don’t think I have any of that type and I think I really need some of those. I know others who have friends they really love but I don’t think I do. How do I make that happen?” According to many behavioral health researchers Avery had a common, growing and surprisingly important problem. He had lots of friends at the ‘like’ level but none at the ‘love’ level.
Having friends at the ‘like’ level simply means you like them and probably they like you, or at least they like something about you. You enjoy their company and they yours. That is pleasurable and usually quite good for you. Having friends at the ‘love’ level is far more significant. It can literally mean the difference between a shorter life and longer life, as well as a so-so life and a deeply enriched life.
What’s Friendship to You?
I once heard a car salesman say “Hello good friend, what’s your name?” To him I guess the word friend meant about the same thing as the word stranger. In my travels around the world researching love and love relationships, I have encountered people who explained to me that they would not use the word friend, as translated in their language, unless they had known a person at the very minimum for two years, and even then not unless it referred to someone very close and highly valued. For others, they reserve the word and the concept ‘friend’ for only those most dear to them. In one large survey I read, 92% of the people surveyed thought friendship was, or could become, a type of real love. But there are those who think of ‘friend’ mostly as just another word for acquaintance.
How to Think Better about Friendship?
Our thinking can be limited if our language doesn’t give us sufficient categories to think with. The usual continuum of categories in English are: friend, acquaintance, stranger and enemy. Some languages have several categories and terms just for ‘friend’. You may be able to think better about friendship using a few more categories like: best friend, close friend, dear friend, good friend, distant friend and friendly acquaintance. As a ‘thinking experiment’ you might want to make your own list of categories and divide up the people you ‘like’ into those categories and see what it tells you about your own important interpersonal world of friendships.
Also there is understanding your friendships by way of qualities. The category list can include: loyal friend, bad friend, warm friend, special friend, so-so friend, long-term friend, new friend, friends I truly love, ‘frenemy’, and don’t forget ‘friend with benefits’. Here too, you can make up your own categories and see who belongs in which kind of grouping.
With all that in mind, you might want to ask yourself this question. How do you use the words friend and friendship and what do both really mean to you?
Do You Want More Friends, Real Friends, Better Friends, Deeper Friends?
In some parts of the world friendships are the most important of all relationships. There they are cherished and prodigiously protected. In other parts of the world it is thought that deep and real friendships are becoming rarer and almost impossible. Often this is attributed to the highly mobile, fast-paced, rapidly changing world many modern people live in. Others think that the Internet, especially Facebook’s use of “friend” and “de- friend” is making friendship an increasingly shallow and superficial concept. The perfunctory misuse of words like friendly, friend and friendship in many businesses and corporate cultures lead one wag to say, “Watch out for any use of the word ‘friend’ because it may signify the next person targeted for sacrifice”. It can be quite important not to just consider the number of friends but rather the quality of the friendships in your life.
The Growing Good News about Friendship
Good, healthy, deep, loving friendships can save your life, increase your health, add greatly to your sense of joy and your sense of safety, help you live longer, provide you with beneficial opportunities and in just about every way enrich your life. That is the conclusion of a host of researchers in cultural anthropology, social psychology, sociology, sociometry, mental health and even in animal comparative psychology where ape and monkey friendships have been studied. The friendships which grow into authentic, genuine, healthy, real love relationships can make an enormous difference in the world for those who want to live well. Even light, mild and short term friendships can do you a lot of good. Of course, friendship at the love level can be of far more and enormous benefit to all concerned.
How to Go from ‘Like’ to ‘Love’ in Friendship
When you meet a stranger and they become an acquaintance you have started on a path that might actually lead all the way to a real friendship-type of deeply enriching love. It also could lead to the romantic-type relationship because that happens too. After meeting a person it becomes an issue of ‘do you like them and do they like you’. To start on a path that could lead from the ‘like’ level all the way to the ‘love’ level of friendship here are 5 not so usual items you might want to consider:
1. Act like a buyer not a beggar. This means if you go into an encounter with a person, or a group of people, and you act like a beggar with a mindset of “Oh please, please like me, accept me, want me, include me; I’m desperate” things likely are not going to go so well. If you go with confidence that you have quality to offer and, therefore, deserve quality in return, your short-term and long-term results are likely to be far better. If your attitude is that of a careful buyer, or chooser selecting for a good fit for your personal, unique self your chances will be much improved. That is because the best people with the most real love to give, tend to gravitate toward the healthy self-loving.
2. If you like somebody help them to like themselves more. This is done by first looking for what you truly can appreciate in another instead of worrying about what are they thinking of you. You will have to study them, ask questions and really notice how they go about being themself. After you see what you truly can appreciate, follow it with brief authentic praise, genuine compliments and honest thank you statements. Don’t fake it. Keep doing that over time.
3. Brag briefly. When you make brief comments relating something about your own accomplishments, victories and other positive factors, you show you believe in yourself and your qualities and you have good things to offer. Of course, being arrogant, narcissistic and bragging too much is a ‘big no-no’, but no bragging just ‘hides your light under a bushel’. It also makes it hard and slow for anyone to get to know the best of you, and the rest of you and, therefore, impedes actually getting to love you, if that is where the friendship is heading.
4. Risk short, intimate self-disclosures. Love is much more likely to happen with emotional closeness. Closeness happens faster and better with intimate self-disclosure. When you say something that is more personal, growing a more personal relationship becomes more probable. It also shows you are sufficiently okay with your human, imperfect self, therefore, another can be the same with you.
5. Talk expressionally positive and constantly – while you quietly listen a lot. What you are saying with your facial expressions, tonal expressions when you do say something or make a sound, convey emotions by gestures, posture changes, physical touch and proximity actions (moving, standing or sitting closer than usual, etc.), almost always are more important than the words you say. Avoid attitudes and expressional language which would come across as disapproving, judgmental, condemning, disinterested, bored, superior or inferior, etc..
It is very important that you be loyal, truthful, sometimes fun, sometimes serious, be there for your friends when they need you, and a host of things like that which you can learn from other sources that tell you how to be a real loving friend.
Are You Studying Love and Applying What You Learn in Friendship?
It often has been said that to have a friend, be one. If you ask “How do I do that” I suggest that to have a friendship that grows into a deep, close, love filled friendship, study how love is conveyed and use what you learn with the people you like. It is likely that at least some of your ‘like’ friendships will grow into real ‘love’ friendships.
The most important thing you can do is to really apply yourself to learning all you can about showing, demonstrating and conveying healthy, real love. Remember, love, like food, grows naturally in the world but both love and food take a lot of skilled actions to get it to where they consistently can nourish and energize you, me and everybody else. Have love to give (?), then when it is delivered skillfully in your friendships, it is fairly likely the love bonds will grow and you will have friends who truly love you as well as you love them.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
♥ Love Success Question
So, just how skilled are you at doing actions which convey friendship love toward those you would have as deep and true friends?