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There are different levels of closeness in friendships. Some people become friends because circumstances bring them together. Perhaps you worked with someone and had lunch together quite often, but when one of you left the job, the friendship did not survive. Or you were good friends with a neighbor who moved out and contact with him ended.

You probably know what it’s like to meet a close friend you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s like they’ve never been apart. Your connection is based on many shared experiences, values, and feelings, and it remains strong. Casual friendships don’t provide the same kind of bond, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable.

Chances are when you enter a new environment, you’ll meet people you enjoy, but don’t feel a deep connection with. These friendships are like pleasant conveniences, where both parties benefit from the contact, but neither has an interest in continuing the friendship. The relationship may seem vaguely awkward or wrong, as if there is something “fake” about it.

You can enjoy having lunch with colleagues at work, chatting with them about work problems and gossip, and you can even meet some of them before class for a workout. But when you change jobs, most of those friendships are replaced by connections with colleagues in the new office.

There’s no need to feel guilty if one or more of your friendships feels circumstantial. It is very helpful for both of you to have each other at this time; you can enjoy what you share and move on when it’s over. Chances are, your friend has similar benign friendship feelings toward you, and the breakup is nothing more than a little sad for either of you. Do not deprive yourself of this pleasant contact because it does not meet any expectations, and do not try to force it to be more than it is. There is no reason to walk away from a temporary and pleasant connection.

circles of friends

Every friendship is different and you deserve to have a full spectrum of friends in your life. You can imagine your friendships as a series of concentric circles, one inside the other. In the outermost circle are people you like but haven’t gotten to know well: people you’ve met at work, church, or other groups; friends of friends and other nice acquaintances. Some of these people will never be closer to you than they are now. Some of them, however, get closer to you and move on to the next circle. These are people you see quite often and like quite a bit. They may be circumstantial friends who are significant to you at the time, but who don’t stick around. Or they may be members of a group you spend time with, but not special friends of yours. If you’re especially into a casual friend, it’s worth making an effort to get closer. Let an acquaintance know you’d like a more personal touch by inviting them out for coffee after a meeting or a party at their home.

Perhaps your relationship will go to the third circle: developing friends. Both will take the opportunity to get to know each other better and learn if they have a lot in common. With some effort and some luck, the friendship can eventually move into the fourth circle: close friends. It usually takes some time for a relationship to develop to this point, but when it does, the two of you will share a long-term connection.

Nothing enriches life like friendships. You probably remember the old adage: “Make new friends, but keep old ones. One is silver and one is gold.” As your life unfolds, you learn how true this is. With many friends around you, you can be sure to get all your satisfaction, support and company.

different strokes

We all have different categories of people in our lives. There are family, friends, co-workers, colleagues and acquaintances. And within each of these categories, there are levels of closeness. In your family, for example, you may feel closer and more comfortable with one sister or cousin than another. However, in your circle of friends, some can be much more trustworthy and warm than others. Even in business, some colleagues can be true friends, while others are more distant. The differences in these relationships determine how much distance or closeness will work for them. Knowing how to differentiate between levels of friendship will make a big difference.

Circles of Closeness

To create a mental picture of how the various types of intimacy exist in your life, you can imagine your relationships arranged in a series of concentric circles, with yourself at the center of them all.

The Center Circle: Intimacy: The people you consider most important to you, who are your closest friends and family, fill the central circle, the smallest. The circle is small because relatively few people are eligible to enter the “inner circle.” It is reserved for those who are special: your closest friends, your spouse or partner, and your family.

The second circle: Warm friendship.: The circle just outside of that, the second circle, is for warm friends and family that you like, but maybe don’t know enough to fully trust, or who have some characteristics that make it impossible to get closer. This can be true for people you like very much, but who are far away, or who can’t be trusted to keep commitments or respond when you need them.

Third Circle: Friendly Connections: This circle is for people you know and like, but don’t know enough to consider them good friends yet. These people may be friends of your friends or family, or other people you like and enjoy spending time with, but have not yet established an individual connection with. Some of these acquaintances may very well move on to your second circle after some time and experience, others may drift away.

Fourth circle: Circumstantial friends: These people could be neighbors, co-workers, other parents at your child’s preschool, or people who are fun to talk to while working out at the gym, but aren’t much closer in their personal lives. These people are friendly and convenient to do certain things with (for example, a co-worker you have lunch with) but if circumstances change (change jobs or move), friendships don’t last. From time to time, a circumstantial friend becomes a personal friend and moves to the third circle, or even closer.

Fifth Circle: Acquaintances: This last circle is for people you’ve met recently and haven’t had a chance to search in more intimate circles, or friends of friends, or other people you barely know, but consider friendly. You may get to know some of these people better as time goes on.

be selective

Each of these circles requires a different level of privacy. If you’ve carefully considered who to allow into your innermost circle, for example, you’ll include the people you feel most comfortable being intimate with. These are the people with whom you share your personal thoughts, your secrets, your sexuality, and your living space (how close you become depends on your personal preferences and how considerate and caring they are).

With each successive circle, the level of intimacy and sharing of your private self decreases. A new co-worker in the innermost circle, for example, will probably only know general information about you and very little about your personal life.

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