There are those whom I meet once in months, go out for coffee with, touch base with, laugh till giddy, share many things but not everything, have fun and then disappear again for months.
Then there are those whom I can't do without. I don't mind if they see me on a bad hair day in crumpled clothes. It doesn't bother me if they see my kitchen trash bin full of garbage. They'll stick by me even if I am cranky and unreasonable. I will call them on unglamourous occasions like when I have to go the doc to get my cast removed after a fracture, and will tell them to make their own tea when they come to my house. I can tell them almost everything. Surprisingly, people in all of three categories, to me, are friends.
In his article “Acquaintances, Friends & Close Friends” (www.asiawisconzine.com), Paul Kasuda says My differentiation among the people I know falls into three categories. Acquaintances are those with whom I've come into contact with from time to time but whose names I either don't know or don't remember. Friends are those I've known usually for a long time, I like them, enjoy their company and look forward to talking with them about all kinds of things. Close friends are those I've come to trust with everything I have. I'd have no trouble lending them our car, giving them our key to the house, or even making decisions (if needed) as to whether I should or should not be resuscitated if I were in a moribund state.”
Does knowing the difference between which friend falls into which category make a difference? Brian Fons, President, Corporate Creations Chicago LLC, says in 'The Three Circles of Networking', “Effective networking requires an awareness of how you fit into a conversation, situation, or relationship. For example, when speaking to someone you just met, it may not seem appropriate to ask overly personal questions.
Conversely, if you see someone on a regular basis and know them well, you can skip many of the pleasantries that you normally exchange with someone new.” Fons finds that any network of people tends to form three circles. The outermost circle consists of the people you barely know or are just meeting for the first time. The middle circle of people consists of the people you have seen several times or on a regular basis. The inner circle of your network consists of people who actively try to help you. They can be close friends, family, or business acquaintances who have made an effort to get to know you better. “While you will usually find it easier and more enjoyable to spend time with people in the inner circle,” says Fons, “it is critical that you go out and meet people to keep the outer circle full.” This is where social networking comes in, which is why some of us can have hundreds of people in our Facebook list of “friends”, and at times we end up “de-friending” them because they are not actually in our close inner circle.
Sadaf Farooqi, free lance writer and blogger, has clear criteria about friends. “Real close friends are those who will not talk about me in a negative way nor divulge my secrets to anyone. Friends are those whom I probably know well because of a shared background (college/childhood etc.), but who cannot be completely trusted to confide personal matters to. Acquaintances are everyone else I know and talk to politely or am on good terms with, but do not know well at all. Out of all these, I'd say 1% are close friends, 63% friends and 36% acquaintances.”
Sherezade Khan, a Fashion Editor, says, “Sometimes you need to get away from family and friends and talk to complete strangers...people who don't know you inside out. This gets you opinions without the feeling that 'they are out to get you' or have a hidden agenda. Every now and then, one should evaluate their circle of friends and the people they've let into their lives. Why are they there, and are they still as good a friend as they were a month, or a year ago? If not, you may need them more than they need you, and when that balance goes off, the power shifts, and you could end up getting hurt.”
Dr. Sarwat Imran, a dentist, feels that “the difficulty lies in identifying who goes where.” This is why in today's era of specialisation, we have different friends for different occasions. I might choose a different friend when I am in the mood to reminisce about school or college days and laugh myself silly, but the same friend cannot necessarily be the one who will counsel me regarding a problem I have with my maid. Not every friend will be the one I can confide in about my inner fears, regrets or desires. If I want to cry on someone's shoulder, I may not choose my 'bestie' because may be she'll start crying with me instead of diverting my attention to me feel better. When I know I have made a faux pas, I know which friend will talk sense into me. For advice regarding handling work politics, my marriage or my teenage daughter....well, I think mostly I have a separate friend for each occasion. Yes, there are those rare few in my list who are for every occasion. Those are the ones that are so hard to find. Those are the ones you should hang on to.