The Psychology of Friendship

On the three levels of friendship and understanding social personality patterns according to friendship styles.

With social networking the very crux of modern virtual living, it is simply not possible to avoid a psychology of friendship. But friendship may not be as simple as it seems as it has got several layers and complexities and friendship can be of many types. Yet friendship like love depends on the single factor of attraction and in this case, it is more of a mental and emotional rather than physical attraction. So when romantic love begins with physical attraction, friendship is more mental, emotional or psychological.

Among maybe thousands of students we meet in school or a few hundred we meet at the workplace, we finally become close and attain a level of friendship with very few or limited people. So like love, friendship also goes through our internal filter and as we choose our lovers unconsciously, even our friends are chosen unconsciously as we intuitively understand who could be our true friends.

Apart from the fact that there is this unconscious and intuitive filter which we exercise when we choose our friends or lovers, we also do get consciously attracted to people with whom we develop long lasting relationships and friendships. This attraction could be sexual but most likely we are attracted to the personality, to someone whose personal style, mannerisms and attitudes seem fascinating, intriguing or simply similar. There could be a narcissistic theory to this as we choose friends who may look, talk or think like we do and usually there is this mental rapport from the very beginning. Just as love could happen at first sight, friendship could also begin with ‘like’ at first sight.

Now this liking could have several gradations and in some cases you would simply like to remain as contact as in social networking. You simply follow a person on twitter or add someone as friend on face book because there is this basic or unconscious liking or at least a realization that there could be some gain from the virtual relationship. However this is the first superficial layer of friendship just as you would smile at or share a piece of news with a complete stranger in a train without ever keeping in touch or meeting again. This sort of friendship is the ‘random friendship’ variety.

Most of your social network friends who you do not know would be such random friends and strangers who you meet once and share a random conversation in a flight or a train or a bus would also be such random friends. This is the first layer or stage of friendship and in most cases we do not go beyond this stage. Most people we meet in our lives would be such random friends. This is a friendship of no expectations on both sides. This sort of friendship fulfils our basic social interaction and communication needs. Say for example, you give a speech at a conference and some people ask you questions and you answer them, to you these are your listeners but in this basic interaction there is a sense of rapport and almost an initial level of friendship. These, your listeners who choose to communicate with you are your random friends and they fulfil your interaction and communication needs.

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