This is an analytical view of the growth process from acquaintance to friend. This is in most cases a subconscious and natural process, by defining it we might be able to understand some of our actions and attractions better, placing us in a better position to control our general social movements.
Throughout life we are forced to have superficial relationships, linked to each other to be functional whether it is to co-exist due to our physical proximity or bound together by professional or personal responsibilities. Although we sustain this out of necessity it is important to also make real connections where we form bonds with individuals going deeper than the required functional arrangements.
These connections usually start with a sincere spark of interest in the other person’s life. We can see this as the interest phase, although one party can fulfill the role of initiator both needs to move past the basic required connection, whether it is through small talk or sharing of light personal information.
Some pointers to check whether both parties share this interest phase:
- Recollection of information (Can they remember information from previous encounters)
- Sharing of personal information or opinions, not required by the original relationship scope
- General outward vibe while interacting (E.g. tone, speed of conversation and eye movement)
*These pointers show interest, but remember at this point is can be either sincere or pretentious. It is difficult on this level to pick up the difference in people with well-developed social skills.
It is important to understand that these connections are crafted by encounters, it should be allowed to grow naturally without being rushed, formed around shared interest and friendly debates on NON-sensitive topics. The interest phase is a bit like reeling in a fish, where both parties try to peek past the obvious and go back and forth trying to define/explore something unknown. It is important to differentiate between exposing personal traits and info and forming personal connection in this phase, until you are ready to move to friendship you should be able to go back to the original arrangement without damaging relations (E.g. coworker/relative/neighbor).
Once the connection is established and a basic understanding of one another is reached one can decide to proceed in deepening the connection to the purpose of becoming friends, this introduces risk to both parties and your previous relationship but also offers more potential for growth. This progression usually takes encounters outside the usual structures (E.g. social events) and each party exposes even more of their personal life. Don’t have any pipe dreams. At this point you should be ready to be exposed to the other person’s flaws and know they will see some of yours. It is good to be brutally honest about issues and differences, either accept them or move on but understand that partial acceptance is not an option (Unless both parties acknowledges this difference and don’t involve that portion – BUT NO SECRETS, this should be put on the table on the right time).
Some ideas while looking out for real connections in your life:
- Self-sacrifice from parties, acceptance and support in areas that you would not normally be involved in. Once again do not lie about your feelings on the matter but put the other person first
- A healthy balance of focus shifting, mutual beneficial support and interest. Be careful of manipulative relationships where one party uses the other for personal gain.
- From both parties a fair amount of understanding of the other person’s character, interest, and personality with a sincere consideration to their well-being.
- Consider the type of time, intensity of tasks and frequency of encounters; these define the type of relationship and the speed at which the relationship deepens. (E.g. living through one traumatic experience can morph a deep relationship on par with a slow exposure relationship that took years to form, it however will be much more volatile and as such less predictable)
There are many more in-between stages but they will vary on types of relationships, culture etc. This is just an overview to assist in the understanding of some of the basics of social dynamics for added insight and control over it. This vague skeleton needs to be personalized with your personality, moral code, responsibilities and plans for the future to make it truly applicable in your life, giving you more control over the growth connections and knowing which ones are real connections.
Learn to handle defeat and personal failures with grace. Most problems compound because of the individual’s lack of handling a challenging scenario, it is truly an important skill to master.
Revisit failed attempts to real connections, learn from mistakes but do not let them keep you back or forcefully try to fix them. Most connections have a limited depth (People’s compatibility differs, though these limits can be moved by self-sacrifice) so don’t take offense when this is reached. Don’t throw away relationships that have reached this point. Always try to sustain real connections in the maximum comfortable depth, you should then find yourself caring and being cared for by many people in varying depth. Do not measure them against each other but rather enjoy the uniqueness each brings.
The ultimate place for a relationship to be is to truly know someone and to be truly known to them.
To truly know someone you need to know their deepest fears, hidden desires and share most of their secrets. Be sure to be selective about which of your relationships you allow to grow this intimate.
*Important! This concept is gender agnostic but do not make the mistake of thinking they are the same, same sex or opposite sex connections introduce very different dynamics and must be considered as such.