Today I saw a post that said “normalize calling people their actual status in your life e.g. acquaintance, landlord, colleague etc cos not everybody is your friend”. And it hit me that we do have a habit of calling everybody that shares the slightest interest with us a “friend”.
Women in different stages of motherhood make friends with every other woman they meet who has an infant of the same age. Men make friends with people they meet at the beer parlour just cos they support the same football team. People who end up doing youth service in the same year or even something as fleeting as a reality show consider themselves friends. Friends, friends, friends. We have used the word so much it has lost meaning. Infact, men are even known to use the word friend when they are fighting the guy who hit their car in traffic e.g: My friend do you know who I am?
For whatever reason you decide to use the word, the truth is that your own brain uses the words to determine the response towards that person. The same you that calls one neighbour you like ‘friend’ insists on calling the other neighbour you do not like by the name of her child e.g. “Cynthia’s mother”…and that’s you being nice. Your brain therefore starts forming a smile on your lips when the neighbour you like approaches but pretends to be searching your bag for your house keys when the one who’s not your ‘friend’ is approaching.
This is why I kind of agree that you should use the word friend in the right context. It trains your brain to properly compartmentalize people. It sets the right expectation from those in your life, thereby reducing heartbreak when they dissapoint you. It can also make the difference between disgrace and self respect. Some people have crossed the line with colleagues at work because they actually treated them as personal friends when that should never have happened. If you properly categorized them as colleagues, your natural professional guard would be up at the christmas party so you don’t get drunk and grab their ass while dancing. You would also remember not to sniff their hair or comment on their scent when working at close range on the same computer. See? It can be a very important distinction.
And when you finally find the real friends, that deserve to be so called, don’t make it one sided. Do not lean on them till you break their back. Do not be the friend that always needs a favour or help. Try to balance the relationship and make sure to make friends with people you will not lose respect for because of the familiarity that comes with it. If you sense that coming, redefine the friendship. Infact do not be afraid to actively end it, friendships start one day and its okay for them to end one day too. Lastly, make sure in the group there is always one person doing better than you are, it helps you put yourself in context and not feel like emperor. You’ll find why that is useful as you grow older.
Let me know what you think and whether you have actual friends after labelling people in your life properly. I’ll be reading the comment section for your replies.