Home
Have you ever wondered how someone crosses the line from being an acquaintance to a friend? Or more importantly, if you want to convert an acquaintance into a friend, what could you do that wouldn't come off as stalking?

I think you can define a friend with two criteria, both of which must be met. A friend is. . .

1. Someone you have told a secret.

2. Someone who has accepted a favor from you.


Notice that I have cleverly defined a friend in terms of things you give and not things you receive. If you are evaluating your potential friends in terms of what they can give you, or how they can entertain you, you probably don't have many friends.

I read somewhere that telling a secret makes the recipient of the secret automatically bond to you. It puts the giver of the secret in a vulnerable position and it changes the receiver into a protector. That's halfway to being friends.

The second rule is simple but powerful. We accept favors from strangers all the time, without any expectation of becoming friends. But we don't also share secrets with those strangers. It is the combination of the secret and the favor that nudges an acquaintance into a friend.

Most people are wired to reciprocate. So if you go first with your secret and your favor, the recipient will be primed to do the same. It is the willingness to reciprocate that matters.

Obviously you don't want to give a dangerous or important secret to an acquaintance in hopes it will lead to friendship. You want to hold back the good stuff and start with something small. For example, lets say you are both at a dinner party and your host served duck. At the dinner table you told the host the food was wonderful, but later and privately to your would-be friend you jokingly confess that you hate duck. That's a secret, but a tiny one. You don't want to start out with your deepest secrets. Work into that over time.

Likewise with the favors, keep them tiny at first. You might have some special knowledge to share that costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time. Or perhaps you had a conversation about a vacation spot and you forwarded an e-mail with a link that your potential friend might find useful. It's a tiny favor and will be accepted. You don't want to start right off offering to drive someone to the airport at 4 AM.

This partly explains why people who work together, or play sports together, naturally become friends. You have lots of opportunities to share small secrets and perform minor favors. And of course you have lots of things to talk about. That helps.

The secret and the favor are necessary but not sufficient for making a friend. You still need some basic chemistry and common interests. But chemistry and common interests aren't things you can easily change. So if you find a candidate for a friend with whom you have some chemistry and common interests, work on the secret and the favor. Those you can control.

 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +32
  • Print
  • Share

Comments

Sort By:
Feb 2, 2009
You have a very nice way of appreciating the essence of friendship. Thanks for the great post!!!!
 
 
Jan 16, 2009
Ben Franklin, smartest man ever, thought that a great way to gain friends was to ask someone to do a favor FOR you
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 14, 2009
Frined: someone I phone to (or someone who phone me) with no particular reason
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 13, 2009
Combining Scott's two criteria:

A friend is someone who has a shovel when I have the lime.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 13, 2009
I like Scott's definition, but I also bond spontaneously and covalently with people who are overwhelmingly honest. I see incredible beauty in them. They give me permission to be unrelentingly honest, too -- it's liberating. They are my closest friends. I am unconditionally loyal to them, and they reciprocate. The longer I know them, the more I find out about them; the more I find out about them, the closer we become. It's amazing ... and very cool.
 
 
Jan 12, 2009
To me to define a friend, it would start with 3 key ideals that truly acknowledge and satisfy what a truthful friendship is.
1. Free Food
2. Free Entertainment
3. And Some times rides(transportation)

These statements of truth illustrate and catergorize any aspect of friendship you can cogitate or delineate."
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 12, 2009
According to equity theory/dissonance theory, it's better if you ask for a favor and accept it if offered. Granting a favor is an equity negative (obligation), accepting a favor is an equity positive - the receiver does not want to walk from somebody who is obliged.
Either way, a friend is someone who does not trade in favors. That is an opportunist.
"Reciprocity of liking" as it is known in the psyc lit is powerful indeed. It's gotten me laid.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 12, 2009
I don't get why everyone talks about investments into a relationship. It's a friendship, not a trust fund! Even if anything one does or receives *could be* counted as an investment, it definitely *should not be* counted as an investment, it should go without saying.

(Quite interesting, incidentally, that there seems to be no exact translation for the german "selbstverständlich", which means "self-understanding" if translated strictly)
 
 
Jan 12, 2009
In Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, he explained that you have this exactly backwards.

The key is to get someone to do a favor for you. Then they have something invested in the relationship.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 12, 2009
Friendship is when silence between two people is not uncomfortable.
 
 
Jan 11, 2009
Nice attempt. Sorry to see so may of the commenter's don't have friends.

A friend is one who will be with you even in your hardest moments. Even when you do not have the ability to give him anything back.


 
 
Jan 11, 2009
I think a lot of people are missing the point of this post. It's about how to MAKE friends; not how to measure how close a friendship is.

Making a new friend can be as easy as a secret and a favor. Keeping a friend, or making a friendship better, is far more complicated.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 11, 2009
Toonmonitor:

I doubt you need friends. You seem to have discovered the *exact* mix of pills and alcohol for a happy existence.

Cheers.

 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 11, 2009
Friendship is a relationship between two people based upon each person's feeling of superiority over the other.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 10, 2009
Scott, I'm quite sure you won't see it this way, but to me the difference between friends and acquaintances is as simple as the difference between dogs and cats. Namely, a dog would starve whereas a cat would eat you.

Dog = man's best friend
Cat = fair weather friend / acquaintance

PH1
 
 
Jan 10, 2009
@Aski

your definition of sharing a secret is probably very poor. if you are surviving in a postnuclear armeggedon situation, simply allowing your neighbors to know of your existence is a revelation.

unless you are a reptile, your mental health would plummet without social interaction. even leaving footprints in the sand is sharing a secret. willfully revealing yourself to others by verbal expression is unnecessary.

its unnecessary to tell about the time you kissed your cousin to make friends too. full disclosure was not scott's criteria. logically, its impossible anyway.

imo, any non-begrudging selfrevelation should count as sharing 'secrets'. that would include bragging about your suit and turning around to show others.

knowledge is power. while putting forth a good face is not vulnerable revelation, it still gives away some power. it takes trust, even if done against better judgment. the subconscious forces you to trust them to fight cognitive dissonance. in my view, secrets don't need to be damaging to you. it is a much greater trust to give others damaging info about yourself tho.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 10, 2009
I had to think some more about this, and carried together some quotes which underline my perspective:

"A friend is one who walks in when others walk out"
-Walter Winchell

"Have no friends not equal to yourself."
- Confucious (551 - 497 BC) Chinese philosopher.

"A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It is more shameful to distrust one's friends than to be deceived by them."
- Duc de la Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680) French writer.

"It is not so much our friends' help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us."
- Epicurus (341 - 270 BC) Greek philosopher.

"One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives."
- Euripides, Greek playwrite

"Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together"
- Woodrow Wilson

"Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend's success."
- Oscar Wilde

"Friendship is love without his wings"
- Lord Byron

"Never injure a friend, even in jest."
- Cicero

"A true friend stabs you in the front."
- Oscar Wilde

"The best mirror is an old friend."
- George Herbert

"The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?"
- Henry David Thoreau

"Friendship without self interest is one of the rare and beautiful things in life."
- James Francis Byrnes

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious, it is the true sourse of art, science, and friendship."
- Albert Einstien

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller

"A friend to all is a friend to none."
- Aristotle

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
- Martin Luther King Jr.

"It takes a long time to grow an old friend."
- by John Leonard

"I might give my life for my friend, but he had better not ask me to do up a parcel."
- Logan Pearsall Smith

"It's the friends you can call up at 4am that matter."
- Marlene Dietrich
 
 
Jan 10, 2009
I strongly disagree. Friendship cannot be measured in favors or secrets. My bank accountant, my tax attorney or my doctor are not my friends, just because they know some secrets. Also, someone who I gave up my seat for on the underground is not automatically a friend of mine. Even if there may be bonding which eventually even might lead to a lifelong friendship or even a "happily ever after"-marriage, at this level there can be no talk of friendship.

I personally reckon as friends people I have known for ages and would put my life in danger for without thinking, or people who would do that for me. People I would give a kidney for. And of course, these friendship feelings aren't always mutual: Would the friend I risked my life for do the selfsame for me? Don't count on it. And don't look to hard, you might end up without real friends.

To most Europeans like me, true friendship can only grow after years and years. You can't be friends after just a few weeks together, maybe on a vacation or job or whatever. Friendship has to be strong enough to stay through the worst of times, therefore it has to grow slowly, like wood.

Somehow the American definition of friendship seems to be completely different than what we Europeans think.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 10, 2009
I have a different criterion:

1. Someone who keeps that secret.
2. Someone who scratches your back.
 
 
Jan 10, 2009
When I am an expert, and can give an advice to someone, and that someone at least listens to it, that someone is my friend for sure.

When he tries the same thing back on me, someone becomes a competition!
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog