What is the difference between a friend and an acquaintance or associate?
It’s a question that has come up on my social media timeline several times, so I felt it may be of value to write a bit more about this subject.
Understanding the answer to this question will help free you. It may take some time for you to adjust and accept the reality that not everyone you call a friend actually falls into this category.
I have dozens of associates and acquaintances from high school to college and on up. A few people who I consider close relatives, and one or two people who I would currently identify as friends. Those proportions aren’t unusual in this day and age. Take a moment to consider how many people to put in each category.
So, let’s get right to it. There are different types of people in this world—some who are empaths, some who completely lack empathy, and some who fall somewhere in the middle. Most people are brought up with various values, morals, and “ways” that may or may not be favorable. It’s important for you to distinguish these people (the ones in your life), for your own well-being and peace.
Your Reliable Family Members
You’ve probably heard the term “blood is thicker than water,” but there are cases when some of your blood relations are people you cannot count on (or even trust in some instances). Your reliable family members are the ones who pick up the phone when you call, check in on you regularly, and come through for you when something comes up. Of course, it’s fine to love all of your relatives and be there for them in times of need, but just understand that there are some who are going to be closer to you than others.
Who would you put in this category (reliable family members)?
Note that I did not put “your” in front of this classification of people in your life. That is because these people are not “yours” — they are more strangers than friends. These are the people who you may know mostly in a professional capacity, such as from networking events, work activities, and such. They aren’t necessarily negative influences in your life, but you should not assume that they will be there for you when it really means a lot. These people sometimes will contact you out of the blue when they want to invite you to a life event, like a baby shower, wedding, or speaking event, but mainly because they want something from you (like a gift, donation, or just general attention). I don’t think it’s wise to expect much more from these social relationships as you will likely be disappointed in one way or another.
Who would you put in this category (associates)?
The same thing goes for acquaintances as far as putting the word “your” in front of the classification. Because they are not yours. They are just people who you have met along the way of life. That may be college classmates or roommates, sorority sisters, party partners, people who your friends know, ex-boyfriends, or even distant relatives. They aren’t necessarily out to get you, or wanting to hurt you, but they are not likely to be there for you if you’re going through something. Again, it’s good to understand this so you don’t feel disappointed or let down. A few might surprise you from time to time. I don’t think that you should ever put an acquaintance before a friend, close family, or anything that you have going on in your life that is important. Put yourself and those who are closest to you first.
Who would you put in this category (acquaintances)?
It’s unfortunate that there is this category of people that you will come across in your life, but it needs to be mentioned for your own protection and peace of mind. There are some people out there who will just not like you for whatever reason and there is nothing you can do about it. I will call them adversaries, to be as mild as possible. These are the people who will go out of their way to try to sabotage things for you, talk bad about you behind your back, and discredit you in any way possible in an attempt to bring you down (socially, personally, professionally). They can even be your relatives at times. Avoid these people at all costs if you want to experience lasting peace and progress in your life.
Who would you put in this category (adversaries)?
Your friends are the people who are down for you, there for you, and supportive of you no matter what. If you find yourself in an unexpected situation, they will come out and help you or at the very least get someone else to help you. When you find a funny meme online or have an interesting story to tell, they are the ones who will laugh with you about it. If you are going through something personally, they will check in on you regularly (at least once or twice a week) or come visit you. A friend will not hesitate to respond if you text or call them. They won’t “leave you on read” for days. They will get back to you as soon as possible because they know you and they LOVE you. Friends are hard to find, so when you have one, be one.
Who would you put in this category (true friends)?
This year I finally made the decision to change the phone number that I’ve had for over 20 years. Only the people I put in the “your” categories will have the new one. Then I’ll have a backup number for a few people who I don’t want to completely cut off communication with, but they fall into the associates or acquaintances categories. It’s a short and tidy list, and it’s a number I just won’t really monitor often. This second group of people are usually folks who only contact me when they need or want something.
I already feel more relaxed having made this decision. I would suggest that you might want to sort out your own categories (reliable family, friends, acquaintances, associates, adversaries), and do what works for you. Remember: self-care.
Lynn Gilliard is the author of a popular relationship guide entitled Let Him Chase YOU. Her latest book Sing While You’re Single offers advice to women who want to remain single for the time being while still maintaining their belief in the power and possibility of love.