Navigating Relationships: Strive For Good Friendships

“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.”

Proverbs 18:24

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?

Link to first: Navigating Relationships: Level Up Your Communication

Sources:

Fr Michael Schmitz, “Don’t Have Any Friends?

Zat Rana, Aristotle’s Philosophy of Friendship Still Matters Today

Ian Tang, 3 Kinds of Friends You Meet In Life


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Navigating Relationships: Level Up Your Communication

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 Communication while reading the book Embracing 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?

Source:

Joseph F Sica, Embracing Change: 10 Ways to Grow Spiritually and Emotionally. Pasay City, Philippines: Paulines, 2015


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