It’s easy to agree: meaningful friendships are one of the essential ingredients to a happy life. One study actually found a connection between the quality of your friendships and your life satisfaction. The study found that there’s a relationship between having friends and the qualities you perceive in those friends, and happiness, well being, meaning and personal growth.
In other words, friends are a source of fun, pleasure, social connection, support and they add meaning to your life.
But while it might be easy to perceive how this is true for best/close friends, more casual friendships are also essential for a fulfilling social life. Different types of friendships bring out different sides of us and enrich our lives in different ways.
Read on to understand more about the essence of socializing and making friends, and why we need both close and casual friendships.
The importance of deep friendships
You can be fully yourself with your close friends
We put on a lot of different faces depending on where we are and who we are with. This is totally normal and it has nothing to do with how “genuine” someone is.
Different people bring out different sides of you. It makes sense to talk about different things, engage in different activities, and you feel more comfortable disclosing different aspects of yourself, depending on who you’re with. You wouldn’t act the same around a partner and around a work manager, right?
With close friends, though, we can pull off all kinds of faces and portray many different sides of ourselves. Good close friends allow you to fully be yourself without worrying about being judged.
Shakespeare said “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”
Deep friendship fuels personal development
Whether trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, start a new business, or take a new job, friends can be a big help as you go through different personal development goals and stages. Close friendships can significantly impact your personal development and general well-being because they provide understanding, support and encouragement.
If you’re dealing with the fear and pressure of starting a new business, or just decided to improve your physical health and start hitting the gym, or even chose to dedicate yourself to a brand new hobby… Close friends know you well enough to both allow you to express the concerns and hesitancies you might be having and know how to best encourage you to face them.
Your best friends act as accountability partners, they boost your confidence, and they push you towards your goals, while looking out for your wellbeing.
Close friends are an important source of emotional support
There is nothing sweeter than knowing that you have someone you can rely on when the need arises.
Think about your saddest or happiest days and then think about going through such days alone. Crazy, right?
Life is not a straight road. We go through different sets of emotions, challenges, opportunities, achievements… and having a friend to walk alongside us through those episodes in life is essential.
Just like feelings, emotional support from friends comes in many shapes and sizes: just listening, validating your feelings, cheering you up when you’re down, celebrating your victories with you, or just simply being present. Small or big, these gestures are key to feeling loved, supported and part of something bigger than just you.
The importance of casual socializing and acquaintances
Unlike close friends we see often and know well, casual friends are the type of friends we see from time to time, the ones we might meet irregularly for drinks or at networking events.
These are probably not the friends you plan vacations with, ask to watch over your apartment or pets when you’re away, or who you visit without notice. However, that doesn’t mean these connections are not valuable and shouldn’t have a place in your life - quite the contrary! Below are some benefits of these casual friendships.
Casual friendships expand your horizons
Close friends know you for who you are - and that’s incredible!
But people are in constant development and change and, sometimes, we want to expand our own idea of who we are, try new things and behave in new ways.
In these situations, casual friendships might offer the opportunity to explore a new side of you, without previous expectations, almost like having a “fresh start”. Because they don’t know you as much, they will accept whichever version of yourself you bring to the table, giving you space and opportunity to explore your own identity.
This freedom is a great canvas for exploring new ways of acting, talking or socializing, in general.
Casual friends enrich your life with a new perspective
Many times, a big reason for being so tight with your close friend(s) is that you share a lot of things in common. You might share similar opinions, ideas, and even thoughts.
A big part of personal growth is being exposed to different people, points of view and experiences. Experts note that sharing everything with the same people exempts us from experiencing the novelty and innovative ideas we would gain from interacting with someone less familiar.
Casual friends can offer radical insights that help us see things differently. Opening up to new friends and acquaintances, with different backgrounds and values, can help you grow, explore and develop your own personality, as well as enrich your social (and, most likely, personal) life.
Find your next big opportunity
Another great advantage of socializing is that it connects you with a larger circle of people, which can be a great avenue for and business opportunities and just general networking.
Casual friends can introduce you to your next employer, your next client, or even your life partner. Even if the relationship you have with them is more “casual”, they have the potential to introduce you to the best friends you’ll ever have. This happens for the simple fact that people know people, and when you’re meeting new friends or more casual friendships, there’s big potential they also introduce you to other friends and acquaintances of their own.
Jobs, business opportunities, advice, other friendships, romantic relationships, or life-changing experiences - these are all things that, even if you wouldn’t expect it, come as a result of casual and “loose” friendships, all the time.
I, for example, have been at the receiving end and the offering end of life-changing opportunities and connections, because of casual connections. Never underestimate the power of casual friends and acquaintances.
A casual friendship can turn into a close friendship
If you think about it, your relationship with your close friends began somewhere. Socializing with new people and establishing casual friendships is the first step to building deeper, stronger connections.
While it might start with going out once in a while for a couple of drinks, the more you invest into these new relationships, the more aspects of the other person you’ll get to see and the more you’ll show about yourself - and the more likely you are to discover there might actually be potential for true friendship.
In short: every connection is important
Whoever you ask, they’ll probably have their own definition of what they call a “friend”. Many will tell you that they only recognize very close friends as “friends”.
Close friends are the ones witnessing your biggest life moments, the ones you turn to, those who become like family and earn a special place in our hearts and lives. But you’d be wise not to underestimate casual friendships, as those are the very ones that will probably introduce you to some of the best friends, opportunities and experiences you’ll have.
Friendships and connections come in all shapes and sizes: see the value in each and every one of them.