|Leave it to a man to put a formula to friendship! LOL! But you know it's funny that for all the warm-and-fuzzy feelings associated with friendship, I do find myself appreciative of having a definition that works more across-the-board than simply by our own personal preferences and ongoing lists of qualities we like.|
Dr. Paul Dobransky insists that "friendship is consistent, mutual, shared positive emotions." The not-so-subtle implication is that if you don't have all four, then you don't have a friendship.
Basically C + M + S + PE = Friendship. You remove one, you don't have a friendship! You might have a great colleague, a friendly neighbor, a fun girls-night-out buddy or a fellow mom-- but they are just that. It doesn't minimize those relationships, but only serves to remind us that not everyone is to be counted among your healthy friendships.
I blogged on each of them last week, but I think the concept as a whole is worth a few notes. These are three applications for me after studying this definition.
1) Friendship is not the same as "people we're friendly with:" Our facebook pages are proof that we all have tons of contacts! Add to that everyone we know from work, where we used to live and the connections we've made in various life stages and we'd be tempted to think we have a lot of friends. But it might just mean you are networked; which is so not the same thing. Using this definition as a way to assess our relationships, we can be more honest about whether we truly have that circle of friends in our lives. It's so good for us to know if we need to expand our circle or better foster the relationships we already have.
2) Friendship is less about qualities of a person and more about actions in the relationship: Often I'm tempted to list qualities I admire in a friend, but it's helpful to have a definition that isn't dependent on variables. In other words, while I might think that certain personalities, interests, life stages, age or economic background is important-- that is more personal preference, not the definition of a good friendship. Facts be told, some of my closest friends are people I'm actually surprised that we're friends-- they aren't the people I would "choose." And I mean that in love! :) They just simply are very different from me, but because we consistently saw each other, gave mutually, shared and gave positive energy to each other-- our friendships grew despite the age gap, opposite stages of life or vast opinion differences. The definition therefore, doesn't tell us who we will connect with, but it does tell us how that relationship will become a friendship.
3) Friendship has boundaries set in place: Having a "formula" helps us define who is a friend, how to deepen those friends and, just as important, protect ourselves from those who aren't. What about the "friends" where we leave them feeling worse about ourselves? Or the "friends" where we feel used? Or the "friends" where it doesn't feel mutual? Friendships, if only having two or three qualities, need to be intentionally repaired, ended or simply acknowledged for what they are-- not friends. Friends don't treat each other this way. It doesn't matter how much we have in common-- that has less to do with whether it's a good friendship than whether these qualities are in place. A definition allows us to see what's missing. We can then decide what can be done, if anything to add that element. Furthermore, it empowers us to not keep putting up with behavior that is not enhancing of real friendship.
Anyhow, I'm definitely a "choose-my-friends-on-how-it-feels" kind of a girl. Not so much a formula or checklist person. But, that is not to say that having a framework won't help me better assess which of my contacts are friends, which ones I want to turn into friends and which one's I'm just better off leaving right where they are!
May all of us experience friends filled with consistency, mutuality, sharing and positive emotion!