Who Is A Friend?

How do you define the word friend?

For me, the foundation of pretty much all friendships is communication and discussion. Words and talking are hugely important to me. Friends are the people to whom I turn when I’m excited about something and when I’m upset about something. Friends are the people with whom I have ridiculous conversations about everything and nothing, the people with whom I can have serious and pseudo-serious debates (for example, finding the balance between following one’s passions and needing to support oneself, or whether there is precedent for a companion from the U.S. on Doctor Who). 

Friends share their excitements, their fears, their lives. Friends are comfortable around each other — they don’t have to constantly police their actions, judge what to tell each other and what to withhold, or avoid important subjects in order to keep the peace. Not all friendships are the same, of course, and I’ve had many friendships that were based on spending time together, especially through being in an organization together. However, conversation is important in nearly all of the friendships that have remained strong after we left those organizations and went our separate ways.

I was recently thinking about this subject — what it really means to be friends with someone and how different that can be to different people. It made me think of something I’d read long ago about how people place values on different things in a relationship. With a bit of searching (I do love the internet), I found an article that sounded familiar about Gary Chapman’s 1995 book The Five Languages of Love.

Chapman now has a website with several assessment tests — I took the assessment for single people (by the way, the couples ones are really heterocentric: I looked at one, just to see what it was, and it was massively awkward — for me, at least). The assessment for singles, at least, was about all relationships (friendships included), which I think is important. I scored highest on “Words of Affirmation,” which, according to the test, means

Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important — hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

As much as I think “Love Language” is bit ridiculous a term, and as much as I generally don’t think much of online assessments, this one is spot on. I trust words in a way that I don’t necessarily trust actions, and they stick in my head for a long, long time, whether the words are positive or negative.

My next highest scoring “language” was “Physical Touch,” about which I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, given how important hugs are to me. It makes sort of perfect sense, actually.

Just the other day, I was out with a few guys who are . . . freer with physical contact than most of the people with whom I’m currently spending time, in a completely platonic kind of way. A hand on the shoulder in moral support, a touch to the arm during a conversation, a hand on the upper back as he was passing behind me in a bar (seriously, though, all in a fraternal way) — I’d forgotten how much that meant to me. I feel sort of starved for touch, even though I’m (finally!) back in a crowd that gives hugs when they see each other and when they say goodbye (I was in high school, and it was fantastic, and I wasn’t in college so much, and it was something I missed tremendously). There’s just something about human contact, and casual touch as a form of affection and support, that means so much to me.

Aside from confirming what I already knew about myself, the assessment was important for showing me the ways that other people use to communicate love: “Quality Time,” “Receiving Gifts,” and “Acts of Service.” It’s good to be reminded that people communicate in ways different from how I communicate and that we may place very different values on different methods of communication.

I think we could all have stronger relationships if we kept this is mind, and if we knew how the people in our lives communicate and understand love and affection. I think that sometimes, we hurt each other through miscommunication, not through intent. If one person values words over actions, and the other values actions over words, there’s bound to be conflict and tension, even if that isn’t either’s intention. Perhaps, though, if they were both aware of their differing values and methods of communication (languages of love, if you must), they could work through that conflict.

At the very least, I think it’s worth a try. See if it can help you. And loved ones of mine,  you now know what my “language” is. Go find yours, and let me know. Maybe it will help us to strengthen our relationships.

3 responses to “Who Is A Friend?

  1. Pingback: How to Apologize | Beyond Bryn Mawr

  2. Pingback: How We Apologize | Beyond Bryn Mawr

  3. Pingback: How We Apologize | Beyond Bryn Mawr

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