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Friendship is a type of relationship between two people who care about each other. But such a
dry definition doesn't do the concept of friendship justice. Consider these examples: A friend is
the first person you want to call when you hear good news. A friend remembers that you don't
like pickles on your sandwich. A friend will accompany you on the most boring of errands and
make them seem fun.

In other words, friendship is wonderful, and much ink has been spilled in citing the virtues of
having friends. That's not to say friendship is easy, though. It demands time and effort, and it
requires that people put someone other than themselves first sometimes. But in exchange for that
work, a friend can provide an immense amount of support and comfort in good times and in bad.

Many qualities are necessary for a good friendship, including honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty
and unconditional acceptance. A friendship should make both people in the relationship happy;
both people should have fun when they spend time together. To be perfectly frank, that's a tall
order. Human beings can clash very easily, which is why it's hard for some people to maintain
many friendships. It's possible that friendship can exist between two people at one stage of life,
but life changes and personal growth may make friendship impossible at another stage. It can be
hard to meet the people who would make the perfect friend. A 2006 study found that people
living in the United States had fewer friends than ever, with 1 in 4 Americans claiming they had
no one to confide in [source: Kornblum].

Pop culture often reflects what our society thinks about friends. In recent years, the concept of
bromance, or a close friendship between two men, has taken center stage in films such as "I Love
You, Man," and television series such as "Scrubs." Male friendships, if these examples are any
indication, include everything from playing video games to listening to music to talking about
girls. "Sex and the City" is often cited for its influence on female friendships. The long-running
television show and subsequent movies depict female friends shopping, drinking and gossiping

Opposite-sex friendship, or friendship between a male and a female, is a bit trickier for our
society; thanks largely to the film "When Harry Met Sally," people tend to think that sex will
elevate a friendship to a romance. For that reason, opposite-sex friendship is usually depicted on-
screen between a heterosexual woman and a gay man, such as on the show "Will & Grace."
Because sex is off the table, people will buy in to the idea that these two people can be there for
one another as friends.
For now, though, here are 15 reasons to appreciate your friends:

1. Friendfluence affects you in more ways than you realize. Flora made up the word
"friendfluence" to capture the effect that friends have on our lives: “Friendfluence is the
powerful and often unappreciated role that friends—past and present—play in determining our
sense of self and the direction of our lives” (p. 6). Whether you realize it or not, your friends
have shaped who you are today. You are even the product of the friends who are no longer
your friends.
2. Friends can give you vital life skills. Friendfluence gives you vital life skills; “the very abilities
one generally needs to be successful in life” (p. 6). There are many perks of friendship include
sharpening your mind, making you generally happier, knowing yourself better, becoming
inspired to reach your goals, advancing your career, helping you meet romantic partners, and
living a longer and healthier life.
3. Childhood friendships start your learning process. Early friendships play a vital role because
they occur while key developmental changes are taking place. They help teach us some of
those important life skills but also shape our life “narrative.” Flora advocates for parents and
teachers to give kids unstructured time to work out their own social relationships rather than to
over-program them into restrictive activities.
4. Teen friendships shape your later romantic bonds. Though parents spend much of their time
worrying about who their teenage kids are with, these relationships are a training ground for
the later long-term bonds that will evolve through adulthood. Flora advises parents to
recognize that peers will “trump” them every time, and so instead of fighting with your kids
about spending too much time with their friends, or who their friends are, you can help your
children more by inviting their friends over to your home.
5. Friends can help you define your priorities. People tend to pick friends who are similar to
them. This fact falls under the general proximity rule of close relationships, in that like tends
to attract like. Because we fall prey so easily into this similarity trap, it is important to try to
stretch yourself to learn from some of those opposites. Flora points out the many ways in
which “Birds, feather, flock.” Knowing this can help you grow by expanding your range of
friends and trying out some new points of view.
6. Having friends can help you get more friends. People tend to like others who have a reputation
for being nice and helpful, and they like people who like them. If you want to be the type of
person who attracts new friends, these qualities will help get you on your way toward building
your social group. Once you have more friends, you’ll be able to enjoy some of those perks of
7. Close friends support you through thick and thin. To take the most advantage of friendfluence,
put effort into your closest friendships. Although being friendly can get you more friends, you
don’t need hundreds to help you through life. You may have to prune your friendship tree as
you get older to be sure that you give enough attention to the ones who will really matter for
your well-being.
8. Friends can make you miserable too. There is a dark side to friendship. The people who know
you the best are also the ones who have the most power to betray you, should the relationship
sour. Friends can also get you into trouble. If your friends are doing something bad or
harmful, you tend to be more likely to do so as well, a fact to which many drinking buddies
can certainly attest. Friends can also cause you stresswhen they get in the way of other
important goals or relationships. Be ready to say no to friends who disappoint, betray, or stress
you and you’ll be more likely to get the full friendfluence effect.
9. You’re less lonely when you have friends. The worst kind of friendfluence, according to Flora,
is a complete lack of friends. Loneliness is painful, especially when you are living with
loneliness for a prolonged period of time. This is yet another reason to put time, energy, and
attention into finding and cultivating a close circle of friends.
10. Your online friends can steer your thoughts and behaviors. Although online friends are
qualitatively different than your in-person friends, they shape you nevertheless. They can also
be your source of life support. Flora shows us how Toni Bernhard, author of How to be
Sick(link is external), and confined to her home, has maintained a lifeline to the outside world
through her closest online friends. Of course, your online friends can also make you miserable
too, especially if you get caught in the “friendship paradox” (the fact that most people
on Facebook have fewer friends than the average number). If you can avoid having Facebook
envy dominate your life, you’ll have more rewarding connections with your extended
friendship community.
11. Friends matter to you, regardless of gender. Although much is made of the difference
between male friends, female friends, and male-female friend pairs, all share the qualities of
having the potential to influence your life. If you restrict yourself to one certain type of
friendship, you may be missing out on bonds that transcend gender boundaries.
12. Couple friendships can help your own relationship. People experiencing similar life
events can often provide the most valuable support to each other. Unfortunately, some couples
withdraw from their friendships when their relationship turns serious. You can benefit both
from maintaining your separate friendships, but also from sharing with the couples who are
experiencing transitions such as becoming parents, raising teenagers, and helping older family
members. Friends can also help you alleviate your work-related stress. Even though you may
be stretched to the limit time-wise, the investment you make in these friendships will be worth
the psychological benefits.
13. Friends can give you a reality check. Who but your closest friends will tell you that your
new outfit is ridiculously garish? What person you meet on the street will let you know that
your latest romantic interest is going to bring you heartbreak? Because friends know us so
well, they are able to see things that we can’t, and aren’t afraid to share their dose of reality
with you. Of course, as we saw earlier, friends can also make you miserable. However, the
ones who care about you have a perspective on your behavior that no one else can completely
see. As Flora points out: “friends are better at describing our behavioral traits than we are” (p.

Incidentally, this is one reason why personality researchers ask for “other” reports to compare
to the self-ratings that participants themselves provide. These “other” reports can come closer
to the mark, especially for individuals whose personalities ironically make it hard for them to
see themselves in a realistic light.

14. Banding together with friends can help you effect social change. It’s difficult, if not
impossible, to fight for a cause, raise money for charity, or even just make a few small
improvements in your community on your own. Friends are the first step, Flora points out, to
building successful social movements. Facebook provides one way to enlist the support of
thousands of people. At a less grandiose level, people are more likely to engage in helping
and altruistic behavior at the urging of their close friends.
15. Being a friend helps your friends. Friendfluence works in two directions. Not only do you
benefit from its many perks, but by being a good friend you are helping those closest to
you. “Being a friend is a great honor and responsibility, so treat your friends carefully” (p.
235). If you are aware of how you’re affecting your friends, you’ll work harder to stay close to
them which, in turn, will benefit you as well. Being a good friend also includes asking them
for help when you need it. Giving someone the gift of being influential can be one of the
greatest joys you pass on to your friends.
7 Traits of Friendship that Affirm a Conscientious Life:

1. Friends who are empathetic. Being empathetic is the ability to actively try and take yourself
out of your own shoes and put yourself in someone else’s. Too often we listen to a friend’s
struggle and immediately make it about ourselves by adding our own experiences. Sometimes,
the greatest thing friends can do is just actively listen to each other.

2. Friends who are selfless. Our friends who are the most happy and positive are the ones who
are grounded, who care, and who do not always think about themselves. They are able to
understand their own life experience but are not consumed by their own problems. Instead, they
take action to help solve the problems of others.

3. Friends who are trustworthy. Being trustworthy is a trait that is essential for understanding that
the deepest relationships are the ones in which we can confide in each other. Trustworthy friends
remind you that you are not alone and empower you to be a better person.

4. Friends with shared interests. Whether this pertains to hobbies, sports, goals, education,
values, or religion, we often prefer spending time with people who enjoy the same things as we
do. This allows for immediate connection and ultimately strengthens our relationships.

5. Friends with different perspectives and backgrounds. The time you can truly grow as a human
being, both professionally and personally, is when you have the opportunity to listen to people
who are different from you. Sometimes, you remain in a fixed mindset when you hang around
people who just agree with you or who do the same things as you.

Friends who offer new perspectives, ideas, experiences, and advice can help you learn more
about yourself and will help you grow as a more well rounded human being. Friends of diverse
backgrounds have the ability to transform a fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

6. Friends who are humorous. The best friends are simply the ones who know how to make you
laugh and who are full of life and spirit. They are the ones who bring you joy, hope, and comfort
even in the midst of life’s most difficult situations.

7. Friends who are a team player. A trait we learned as children but one in which we often forget.
Being a team player and putting the needs of others before ourselves for a shared goal is what
friendship is all about. Communicating, collaborating, and active listening are all essential traits
that make the most successful teams unstoppable forces

Developmental psychology

Childhood friends
The understanding of friendship in children tends to be more heavily focused on areas such as
common activities, physical proximity, and shared expectations. These friendships provide
opportunity for playing and practicing self-regulation. Most children tend to describe friendship
in terms of things like sharing, and children are more likely to share with someone they consider
to be a friend. As children mature, they become less individualized and are more aware of others.
They gain the ability to empathize with their friends, and enjoy playing in groups. They also
experience peer rejection as they move through the middle childhood years. Establishing good
friendships at a young age helps a child to be better acclimated in society later on in their life.
Based upon the reports of teachers and mothers, 75% of preschool children had at least one
friend. This figure rose to 78% through the fifth grade, as measured by co-nomination as friends,
and 55% had a mutual best friend. About 15% of children were found to be chronically
friendless, reporting periods without mutual friends at least six months.
Potential benefits of friendship include the opportunity to learn about empathy and problem
solving. Coaching from parents can be useful in helping children to make friends. Eileen
Kennedy-Moore describes three key ingredients of children's friendship formation:
(1) openness, (2) similarity, and (3) shared fun. Parents can also help children understand social
guidelines they haven't learned on their own. Drawing from research by Robert Selman and
others, Kennedy-Moore outlines developmental stages in children's friendship, reflecting an
increasing capacity to understand others' perspectives: "I Want It My Way", "What's In It For
Me?", "By the Rules", "Caring and Sharing", and "Friends Through Thick and Thin.


Two friends in Bhutan

In adolescence, friendships become "more giving, sharing, frank, supportive, and spontaneous."
Adolescents tend to seek out peers who can provide such qualities in a reciprocal relationship,
and to avoid peers whose problematic behavior suggest they may not be able to satisfy these
needs Relationships begin to maintain a focus on shared values, loyalty, and common interests,
rather than physical concerns like proximity and access to play things that more characterize
A study performed at the University of Texas at Austin examined over 9,000 American
adolescents to determine how their engagement in problematic behavior (such as stealing,
fighting, and truancy) was related to their friendships. Findings indicated that adolescents were
less likely to engage in problem behavior when their friends did well in school, participated in
school activities, avoided drinking, and had good mental health. The opposite was found
regarding adolescents who did engage in problematic behavior. Whether adolescents were
influenced by their friends to engage in problem behavior depended on how much they were
exposed to those friends, and whether they and their friendship groups "fit in" at school.
A study by researchers from Purdue University found that friendships formed during post-
secondary education last longer than friendships formed earlier.

Friendships in adulthood
Friendship in adulthood provides companionship, affection, as well as emotional support, and
contributes positively to mental well-being and improved physical health.
Adults may find it particularly difficult to maintain meaningful friendships in the workplace.
"The workplace can crackle with competition, so people learn to hide vulnerabilities and quirks
from colleagues. Work friendships often take on a transactional feel; it is difficult to say where
networking ends and real friendship begins. Most adults value the financial security of their jobs
more than friendship with coworkers
The majority of adults have an average of two close friends. Numerous studies with adults
suggest that friendships and other supportive relationships do enhance self-esteem.

Older adults
Older adults continue to report high levels of personal satisfaction in their friendships as they
age, and even as the overall number of friends tends to decline. This satisfaction is associated
with an increased ability to accomplish activities of daily living, as well as a reduced decline
in cognitive abilities, decreased instances of hospitalization, and better outcomes related
to rehabilitation. The overall number of reported friends in later life may be mediated by
increased lucidity, better speech and vision, and marital status.
As on review phrased it:
Research within the past four decades has now consistently found that older adults reporting the
highest levels of happiness and general well being also report strong, close ties to numerous
As family responsibilities and vocational pressures lessen, friendships become more important.
Among the elderly, friendships can provide links to the larger community, serve as a protective
factor against depression and loneliness, and compensate for potential losses in social support
previously given by family members. Especially for people who cannot go out as often,
interactions with friends allow for continued societal interaction. Additionally, older adults in
declining health who remain in contact with friends show improved psychological well-being.