“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is slow-ripening fruit.”
Aristotle, Greek Philosopher
Many of my friends tease me that I should run for mayor. They’re always amused that I seem to bump into other friends whenever we hang out. To be honest, I don’t socialize much and I prefer to be by myself most of the time. Although I’m introverted, I make myself open and accepting of people who will come my way. Being an extroverted introvert, I can socialize well in comfortable situations.
I love my friends and I’m very supportive of them. I try to journey with them in the capacity that we’re able to give and receive. Though I have many friends, there are select few whom I’ve let into my deepest levels. An inner circle that I can come home to.
These days, meaningful friendships are hard to come by. We have several friends on Facebook but I bet you only ever connect with a few of them in real life. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggested that there is a limit to the number of maintainable social relationships we can have, and that is 150. If this is so, how can we make sense of our circles?
Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, said that friendships can be classified into three. Let’s have a look!
The 3 Types of Friendships
Friendships of Utility
This is the kind of friendship that you might have with officemates, business partners, and study groups to name a few. Friendships like these are formed when both people in the relationship can benefit from each other. In the office setting, for example, one would befriend a person from another department because you can share valuable information to have leverage at work. Friendships like these end quickly, especially if the use of one person ends or doesn’t bring value anymore.
Friendly or user friendly? Friendships of utility are not necessarily bad. They just don’t have much quality and depth.
Friendships of Pleasure
This friendship satisfies our pursuit of enjoyment. We experience this kind of friendship in joining groups with shared interests or hanging out with a go-to person doing hobbies you both enjoy at the moment. School clubs, shopping buddies, and gym buddies are some examples that come to mind. These friendships can be short-lived as one’s interests and priorities may change and the connection would be lost.
For the first two kinds of friendship, the motivations to remain friends is not enough for it to last. They mainly focus on the benefit and pleasure the friendship brings. However, these two kinds have the potential to be nurtured and turn into the best kind of friendship we can have, which brings us to…
Friendship of the Good (Virtue)
True friendship. Also called the friendship of virtue is the most important and preferred kind of friendship to have of the three. It often lasts a long time, even until the end.
Friendships like these are between people who help each other in pursuit of the same goal of the good life and becoming better versions of themselves. It is a friendship where you value the person instead of what you can gain from them, and genuinely care for them. These are friends who does not let us fall into ruin by correcting us, and telling what we need to hear even if it stings. There is respect, and a strong desire for each other to grow more in virtue and goodness.
This shared “goodness” in friendship satisfies both affections received in friendships of utility and pleasure. Friendships like these are rare so if you happen to be in one, water it, nurture it, and take care of it.
This is the kind of friendship we should prefer, seek, and strive for.
Strive For Good Friendships
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
True friendships are not simply born by clicking a “Friend Request” button. Friendship, like all relationships, needs the commitment to grow deeper. For us to have good friends, we must be a good friend ourselves.
You might ask, “But I only have friendships of pleasure. Is there hope for me to have better friends?” Yes! I think it’s fine to only have friendships of pleasure or utility or both. Only having these types of friendships isn’t necessarily bad. Deep virtuous friendships can start from here if both risks being vulnerable with each other and work on the relationship for it to grow. Honor the friendship someone can give, trust but still be discerning of who you let into your inner circle.
Pure gold is tested by fire. Friendships are tested by shared challenges, conflict, and adversity. I’ve had my fair share of this and some of the friendships I’ve held close fell apart and some endured the test and blossomed. The ones who stick with you after being tried, you should keep forever!
Good relationships bear good fruit. For plants to bear good fruit, it needs to be watered, given enough sunlight, fed enough fertilizer, and sometimes go through needed pruning. In friendships, you get to experience life with another person, loving them for who they are, supporting them, and desiring the best for them. When you have good friends they’ll also want the same things for you. Friendships are one of the best gifts life can offer.
Comment what you think of Aristotle’s three kinds of friendships below! Do you struggle in growing your friendships? Are your friendships adding goodness to your life? What kind of friendships do you mostly have in your life right now?
Relationships require work. Hard work. Building a relationship with your family, friends, colleagues, and your special someone takes time and effort from both ends. You cannot expect true closeness and intimacy with someone you just met or kissed a few minutes ago (hello Sleeping Beauty!). Great relationships are developed over time of shared experiences.
I think one of the reasons why many people in this world are lonely right now is because they simply can’t make time for meaningful relationships. It can be that they’re either afraid of being rejected or they just can’t make themselves let go of their busyness. Relationships are treasures that we should take care of because we cannot fully live without them.
Let’s think about our own relationships for a while.
Have you ever gotten curious as to how deep your relationship is with a person or a group? I encountered the 5 Levels of Communicationwhile reading the bookEmbracing Change by Joseph F. Sica. In his book, Sica says that communication is the number one quality for keeping a healthy relationship growing better for it is the only way we can get to know each other inside and out.
Looking at my relationships through the 5 levels was revolutionary for me. It guided me in sorting out which relationships I would want to develop more, keep the way it is, and ones to treasure forever. Allow your relationships come to mind as we go through each level. Here are Joseph F. Sica’s 5 Levels of Communication with some of my insights.
The 5 Levels of Communication
Level One: Could Care Less (Superficial Small Talk)
It’s these kinds of conversations “How are you? How’s the weather today? I know I asked, but I only did it to state the obvious and fill the silence as I talk to you alone. I don’t want to hear anything else. Only normal acceptable politeness.”
I don’t know if you could call that a true conversation because it only stays on the surface. There is no desire for connection and being involved with the other person. We usually hear and do this while lining up at the counter, waiting for the bus, and talking to people at parties. We do this just to be social.
Level Two: Keep It Simple (Facts and Information)
We usually engage in this level of communication at work. Often transactional. Just the facts are shared and there’s no room for disclosing personal information and open communication just like the first level.
Here, boundaries are set making people know that this is how far you’d go with them. This is convenient when living a fast-paced life where you need to hop from one idea to the next. “Hey boss, here’s the report on just the facts – nothing more, nothing less.”
On a daily basis, we may find that we usually go between Level One and Level Two. Superficial – only hitting the tip of the iceberg. Being in these levels is fine since we need them to interact with strangers. With your significant other and friends, you need to dive deeper .
Level Three: Tell Me More (Ideas and Opinions)
This is where things get more exciting. You’re beginning to test the waters with another person. In this level, expressing ideas and opinions about certain topics is encouraged. We’re sharing a bit of who we are, our likes and dislikes, and keeping communication open. “Where do you want to go on vacation?” “Where do you want to eat?” “What’s your opinion on pineapples on pizza?”
On level three, it may seem like you’re already deep in conversation with a person but you would still leave parts of you guarded. If the person you’re exchanging ideas with doesn’t agree about something, you may go back to level one or level two and build things up again.
Level Four: Going Deeper (Feelings and Emotions)
“Our feelings tell us we are alive. They aren’t either right or wrong, they simply are.”
Joseph F. Sica
After testing the waters, and deemed it safe – we add our feelings to our thoughts in the conversation! On this level, we express what’s going on inside us to the other person.
We expose our ideas, convictions, dreams, values, and feelings about experiences and situations. We share what’s important to us. When reciprocated by the other person, you get to know more about each other’s character and it will be an enriching experience for both of you.
When a friend asks, “You look stressed, are you OK?” they’re engaging in level four communication. Expressing how we feel paves the way for real connection. However, sharing what we feel with another person can be frightening because if we are not taken seriously, we end up getting hurt and retreat to level one. The response and reaction of the other person determine if we would want to tell them more about ourselves.
I’m lucky to have relationships that communicate on level three and level four. It’s a blessing to be able to talk about my deepest thoughts, worries, and joys without fear of being laughed at. They even listen to things that I have left unsaid. The feeling of being understood and safe abounds these relationships.
Level Five: Right On (Intimacy and Transparency)
Here, we have gone deep and really see into the person and let them see us. We give the person space to authentically be themselves, space where they can be free, a space that they can trust. We reach this communication level when we can be truly honest and open with the other person. You share the parts of you that you’ve been hiding, parts that you’re scared of, parts that are not easy to tell – becoming transparent. What’s beautiful about it is that the same openness is being returned and encouraged to go deeper.
Relationships take time to grow
Communication goes both ways. When someone speaks, we give our undivided attention to listen. Some relationships (family, friendships, marriages) fail because they either did not express themselves enough to be understood or didn’t listen enough with their hearts.
Building relationships take time. Observing my own relationships, some went through the five levels by stage and there were special ones that skipped two levels. I myself tend to go straight to level three or four with people. You can treat the five levels as phases or as a guide to what communication level you want to work on with another person.
It’s okay if you have relationships where your communication levels do not meet. You may have a desire in communicating on level four but the other person can only go with you on level two. This is normal. You may have to adjust with the level of communication you’re receiving or express your need for a higher level with the other person. Discernment and acceptance plays a role in determining if it’s a relationship worth keeping, let go of, or keep as it is and let it grow at its own time.
Relationships require work. Hard work. But the work is worth it because you get to see the beauty hidden in each person and allow yourself to be seen too!
I hope you learned something new by reading this article. Put your thoughts on the comments below. Which level of communication do you want to achieve in your relationships? Do you have relationships on level five? Are you struggling with a relationship that you want to go deeper into?
Joseph F Sica, Embracing Change: 10 Ways to Grow Spiritually and Emotionally. Pasay City, Philippines: Paulines, 2015
Many people would not believe me if I told them that I’m an introvert. If I didn’t know myself well enough I wouldn’t believe it either! Haha! How is that dude who can speak energetically on stage, strike random conversations with strangers, and sing with total abandon be an introvert? I know, I’m surprised myself!
From grade school going to high school I was well-known for being that gentle, quiet, and sometimes quirky kid in the corner. It was the perfect place where I wouldn’t draw attention to myself. Speaking in front of the class terrified me so much that I would involuntarily shake in my seat (It’s a miracle I didn’t pee my pants!). I only have select friends growing up so when they’re off to somewhere else I’m left with my rich inner world to keep me company. Being alone does not bother me much. My weekend activities would usually rotate around reading books, playing video games, and building amazing chair forts. Being alone is great because you can just be yourself around yourself without worry.
“Aww, you’re so shy! Do you want cake?” or “Vin, meet Mark, you can be friends with him!” were some of the things that the friends and colleagues of my parents would say to me when I was a kid to get me out of my shell. Did I get some of that cake? OH YES, I DID! – Was I able to make friends with Mark? Only for a while.
Getting to know myself was easier for me than letting my walls down and giving others an opportunity to get to know me. I craved something deeper. I didn’t realize back then that the more I kept to myself, the more isolated I became, and loneliness would get to me as I am always stuck in my head. My teachers warned my parents that my behavior could be an early sign of depression. I didn’t know how to make sense of that back then. Connecting with others was a real struggle for me.
Life loses its meaning without other people.
As human beings, we are not only rational beings but emotional ones as well. We become fully alive when we have shared experiences with each other and being able to experience feelings such as pain, joy, sadness, grief, hope, and love are some of life’s greatest gifts. Death could mean being void of all these things.
Connection is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. True connection with others will not happen if you want to remain hidden. Coming out of your hiding place can be terrifying because it makes you vulnerable to whatever you’re hiding from and telling them the truth of where you are – “I’m here! I’m scared but I’m here! I’m here!”
Vulnerability is not a weakness. Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly says “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness… Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.” The more we share, the more we connect, in reverse, the more we withhold ourselves from others, the more we disconnect.
The journey of unhiding was difficult for me. To let other people in and at the same time giving them a part of yourself, being vulnerable in sharing my story. The most challenging part about it was finding the right safe people to share it with. The path of vulnerability led me to find a home in a community whose members has the capacity to be patient with me when I’m in hiding, meet me where I am and even run after me when I’ve gone away, accept my flaws as they are, and love me fully especially at times when I don’t feel worthy of love.
They would listen not only to the perfect version of my story that I have carefully crafted to hide behind but also to the unedited, raw, and messy story of my struggle. I was provided with a free space where I can recreate myself, make mistakes, and breathe until I can finally stand on my own. It took many years of hard work but whatever disconnect I was in, turned into multiple lines of connection I didn’t expect to have.
Create a Space
I was at a wedding reception when my phone rang in my pocket. I immediately went outside the banquet hall to receive a call that would shake up my life.
“Hello Kalvin, the leaders have been discerning this at length” ate Kathy (we dearly call her “ate” /ah-te/ – older sister) said, “We’d like to invite you to be part of the core as the Connect Ministry Head.”
“What? Connect Ministry? Me? Are you serious?” I replied in disbelief, thinking it was a joke as I heard her laugh at my reaction at the other end of the line. After getting over the initial moment of shock, I told her I needed to think about it.
I said yes. Even if I felt like I wasn’t the right fit, and even if I didn’t see myself functioning properly in that role, I went for it because I trusted the people who saw it in me. From being the disconnected one who found a safe place, a home; Now, I’m the one trying to bring people home, making a room for them, and creating a free space where they can nest in and grow.
Creating space can be hard work, it takes a sincere welcoming heart, an openness to change, and eyes that see beyond imperfection. Starting out can be a little uncomfortable as you allow others to become fully alive by being themselves even if it gets gross and stinky sometimes. Letting people take their garbage out by helping them tell their stories and share their experiences. Sharing your space is a great gift especially when you finally see them begin to stand on their own.
When you create a space for someone, oftentimes, they will create a space for you too. Sometimes people will just pass by and some special few will make a home there forever. The hardest but necessary thing when letting people in is to accept and know that there will come a time that you will have to let them go so they can grow. If we hold on for too long or too tight we end up imprisoning them rather than creating a free space for them to live. The same applies for you too.
We are all invited to create spaces for connection. The world we’re living in now is in so much disconnect even if there are so many advances in social media where the attempts at bridging gaps ends up building more gaps. There’s a current trend where many people are content to be in hiding afraid of wanting to be found or seen because they don’t want to be labelled soft, different, weak.
The world needs you, the real you. The world needs your story of struggle, joy, sadness, grief, hope, and love – this is what makes us human, this is what makes us strong and it binds us together. Are you in hiding? Are you searching for a safe space? Or are you the one leading people home? We are all invited to create spaces for connection so we can fully live.
For my first post, my heartfelt gratitude goes out to:
“Forest lady / editor / friend forever” for believing in me more than I believed in myself.
“Friend wearing a scratched silver watch” for giving me the right amount of nudge to get me started.