Did you know that Aristotle is considered the father of friendship? He believed that true friendship was essential to a well lived life. Friendship really IS important for all of us, having important ties to our social support, our physical health and our emotional well being. Research on friendship is less common than on romantic relationships but it does exist. Recent research even showed that 95% of people studied believed their friendships were reciprocal but only 50% of the time was that true!
The fact that nearly half of the time people we might think of as friends don’t also see us as friends was striking to me. In diffing deeper, of course the biggest reason is that there are levels of relationship so someone might call something a friendship where another might say they are acquaintances. Going back to Aristotle, he determined that true friends care for each other for the OTHER person’s well being.
Researcher Bill Rawlins reported that 5 things must be true for friendship to be true. First, friendship must be voluntary–you cannot make someone be your friend. True friendship is also mutual and affectionate. Friends must like each other and friendship must be personal where both people are equal in some way.
There are many benefits of friendship including helping people to have better habits such as eating well and exercising. When we even just think about our good friends, people have a tendency to see an obstacle as less daunting and to have more motivation to take on their own bad habits. We also tend to like ourselves better when we are with our friends.
Among other benefits of friendship are decreased depression, decreased stress, and decreased risks of death! Friendship brings us a sense of belonging & purpose, increases self esteem and happiness. Self confidence increases with friendship and people are better able to manage life’s challenges and traumas when they have friends. Indeed, when researchers look at reasons ultimately given for homelessness and why marriages fail, lack of friendship and feeling alone and outcast featured prominently.
To be fully human, we all need to have connections, as we are all created as social beings. We need to have someone with whom to share memorable experiences, to call on for comfort when times are rough. Friends give us that. They connect us to community and help protect us from the negative effects of being excluded by others.
Without a doubt, Aristotle was correct when he believed friendship was essential to a well lived life. In a time of less in person contact and distraction, it’s important to nurture your friendship connections old school style. Put down your devices, meet your friend for lunch or coffee and TALK face to face. Do not pick up your phone unless it’s to take a selfie with your friend for later! Really listen to your friends and make time for them; that’s how you became friends in the first place you know. Be trustworthy and dependable. That also means be on time and don’t cancel at the last minute. Don’t give away your friends’ secrets unless their own well being depends on you doing that. Show interest in all parts of your friends’ lives and allow yourself to share your own life in return. Closest friends like each other for who they ARE not what they can deliver to each other. Ask yourself….do your friendships need more attention?