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What’s the Difference Between Friends and Acquaintances?

Published: February 9, 2023 | Last Updated: February 9, 2023 By | Reply Continue Reading
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A reader asks about the difference between friends and acquaintances? What is the distinction?


What’s the difference between friends and acquaintances?


An acquaintance is someone you “know” because you share one or more commonalities in your lives—but with whom you have no emotional connection. 

These can be people you know through friends, coworkers, neighbors, those you see at worship services, the moms of your children’s classmates, folks who attend the same gym, etc. 

A friend is a person with whom you’ve developed an emotional bond, with whom you share a sense of connection, and someone with whom you have an unspoken agreement to share time and a part of your lives with each other.

Friendly acquaintances are in between friends and acquaintances. These might include neighbors you occasionally meet for lunch, your kids’ friend‘s mom whom you meet for coffee once in a while, a member of your book club, or someone you chat with at your yoga class. 

In the case of acquaintances, once the connection ends (your neighbor moves, your kid graduates, or the book club dissolves, etc.), you’ll likely lose contact. That’s because the ties that bind you are primarily situational.

How do acquaintances become friends? 

Friendships usually start as acquaintances. The transition from meeting someone to becoming friends is rarely instantaneous.

As acquaintances get to know each other better, they share more of their lives and inner thoughts and feelings. When emotional intimacy grows and develops over time, acquaintances can become friendships.

A benefit of developing friendships slowly over a period of time is the ability to notice signs of incompatibility and red flags that suggest a closer relationship wouldn’t be desirable. 

For example, a person who pushes your buttons and gets on your nerves or someone who brings out the worst in you wouldn’t likely make a good friend. Conversely, someone who brings out your best and leaves you feeling positive is someone who might potentially be a good friend. 

Also necessary for friendship is the desire of both individuals to become closer and spend more time together: Friendships need to be reciprocal. Both friends’ availability of time and emotional bandwidth need to be similar. 

If one person has a life full of people and the other doesn’t, the person with few emotional connections might be too needy to be compatible. One exception would be a person with few connections who is conscious and respectful of boundaries and doesn’t require or demand a chunk of the other person’s time and energy. 

When both people are without friends, they may become too enmeshed in each other’s lives too quickly, and the relationship will likely falter. 

In the end, it’s nice to have both friends and acquaintances.

Hope this is helpful.

Best, Amy Feld

Also on The Friendship Blog: Struggling with an Ambivalent Friendship

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