How Does An Acquaintance Become A Friend?

How does an acquaintance become a friend? Are there concrete steps you can take to accelerate the process, or do you just have to sit around and hope that over time you become friends?

While you certainly cannot “make” someone become your friend, you can try one or more of the following ideas to give the two of you the opportunity to discover whether the possibility of friendship exists:

  • Social media: I routinely send friend requests to/follow the social media accounts of acquaintances whom I think have the potential to become friends. (I call these individuals “pre-friends.”) Most of the time, they accept, giving each of us the ability to learn more about the other as we see and comment on the other person’s posts. On several occasions I have posted something like “Hey, Facebook friends, does anyone want to go to Event X with me?” and then been pleasantly surprised to get positive responses from people I’ve met only once or twice. I then get to have company at an event I already planned to attend anyway, along with a chance to get to know my pre-friend better.
  • Include them in a larger gathering: If you like to entertain, it’s relatively easy to add one more person to the mix. Just say something to your acquaintance like “Hey, I know we don’t know each other that well yet, but I’m having a few people over for tacos on Thursday and would love it if you could join us,” or “I remember that you mentioned that you like board games. Some friends and I are going to a game night at Bar X on Wednesday. Would you like to come with us?” The key, though, is to make sure that the other participants aren’t super tight with each other, making your pre-friend feel excluded.
  • Listen and follow up: As you’re getting to know someone, even early in the acquaintance stage, listen carefully to what the other person is telling you and follow up appropriately. If someone mentions that she’s worried about her mother’s upcoming surgery, then ask her how it went the next time you see her. Likewise, if you’re telling a pre-friend about an article you just read and the pre-friend seems genuinely interested, then send a link to the article once you’re back home.
  • Multitask: If you and your pre-friend both have crazy schedules, suggest teaming up for something you both need to accomplish, such as exercising or running errands. Chores and working out are a lot more fun with a buddy, and you get to kill two birds with one stone.

Think back in your own life about how acquaintances evolved into friends. In some cases prolonged exposure and shared experiences does the trick, but in other cases the path to friendship is more direct and immediate, often because of one or more of the above scenarios. What are other ways you have gotten to know people better?

4 thoughts on “How Does An Acquaintance Become A Friend?

  1. Love this post! I think of the people I meet in ever widening circles; the very outer circle are people I have met once or twice; then acquaintances (which also often include friends of friends), friends, close-friends, and finally the very inner circle who are the 3 o’clock in the morning besties–the people who when push comes to shove you can call at anytime, needing anything and they’ll drop everything to assist. Moving people from the outer towards the inner circles is super important as over a lifetime people will move from close-friends to friends and sometimes out of your friendship-obit altogether. I think we should always be refreshing and replenishing our friends as overtime our interests, abilities and often geography will change.

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  2. I may be a creep. I may be a weirdo. What the hell am I do… Oops. Got carried away musically. 😉 Seriously, though, I wonder if there are others like me, amongst your readers.
    There’s a linguistic phenomenon in Russian that appeals to me. The word for friend is друг (droog) for males and подруга (padrooga) for females. These words automatically imply something closer than Americans mean when they say “friend”. It’s more specific and closer to what we often call “besties” or “dear/close friend”. There’s another word for people from that next circle out. It’s знакомый (m.) or знакомая (f.) (znakomee/znakomaya) and derives from the verb “to know”. Most people with whom we work, play, or rub elbows in normal social contexts aren’t “droogs” and the American tendency to overuse that moniker is startling and unnerving to Russians. Acquaintances come and go, but if you’ve got a droog, that’s significant and most likely for life. Furthermore, most of us only have a limited group of those special relationships. Refreshing might bump or add an acquaintance or two, but friends (in the Russian sense) are pinned to the top of the list, so to speak.
    In pondering this notion today, I decided that it’s normal/okay to seek to bring people into the acquaintance circle, whom one has no particular desire to even attempt to bring into the inner circle. I might very well enjoy socializing with people whose perspective will challenge mine, but might also find that they aren’t desirable candidates for deeper, more meaningful connection.
    So, to get to your final question, it’s no surprise to me that I identify with the Russian mentality here. In younger years, I thought I had many very close friends only to find that I got refreshed out of their world with surprising ease. I often saw connections as more meaningful than others did. Consequently, before I ever learned to pronounce vodka properly, I got cozy with the notion that I have very few true friends, but nothing – not even sharp differences in political or religious belief – can shake those friendships. It takes little energy to maintain that kind of relationship. It often exhausts me to maintain or advance relationships that are in more distant orbits.

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    • I love the word “droog!” I find that Europeans in general are unnerved and/or confused by how casually most Americans toss around the word “friend,” and I don’t blame them. At the same time, though, I sometimes catch myself introducing someone as “my friend so-and-so” when in fact I’m just getting to know the person. Darn my Southern upbringing! And yes, I’m perfectly happy to keep some acquaintances firmly in that outer circle — my post was designed specifically for people who want to get to know someone better to see if they belong in a closer circle, but who don’t quite know how to do so. The “how do I do that” question is one I get frequently, so I thought I’d address it here.

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