Friendship Friendship: The Gist The Benefits of Friendship Friendship Myths Types of Friends Connection Reflection Looking Inward Nurture Exiting Friendships New Friendships Social Skills Understanding Community Building Community Friendship Practice and Exercises Friendship Resources

You’ve likely heard the saying “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  While social psychologists have varying degrees of buy-in to the theory, most will agree:

 The friends in our network serve different purposes and roles in our lives.

Where does your network stand? Are you surrounded by the same type of friend, lacking variety? Or is your network a rainbow of flavor? Do you have specific friends you would go to in different situations?

This page will explore the different roles different friends play in our lives. Examining the meaningful connections in our life is an important step in being able to grow those connections. Below, find examples of some different models. Pick a model or two that connect with you, print the template, and fill it out. Set an intention regarding friendships you may be looking to strengthen or gain, and celebrate and have gratitude for the connections you have in your life.

As stated on the Friendship Myths page, friendships are not one-size-fits-all. We can have a few friends we feel close to that can be called upon for different situations or in a time of need.

As adults, having only one person fulfill all of our friendship needs is not sustainable. Imagine a coloring book. If you colored every page entirely with your favorite crayon, the book would be boring, and the crayon would get worn down. We need to be able to reach into our crayon box of friends and pick the one that fits the situation best. While you still may rely on your favorite color more often, having the others there to fill in really helps create a beautiful picture.

Click the button below to take a thorough inventory of the friendships in your life and compare them on a scale against factors such as intimacy, support, and play:

What to Expect

Category

Model Name

Description

Value

Closeness

Friendship Intimacy This model compares consistency against vulnerability to assess the amount of intimacy within a friendship. In analyzing intimacy, we can see any intimacy gaps or find relationships that we can strengthen through vulnerability and consistency.
Circles of Friendship This model uses concentric rings to outline closeness of the people around us. Analyzing where people stand in our network can help lay out what kind of friends (if any) we are looking to make.
Tree of Connections This model uses branches of a tree to show strength and closeness of relationships. Pulling in family in addition to friends, this model gives a full picture of our deep (and weak) connections.
Must/Trust/Just/Rust This model explores the roles friends have in our lives over time. Some withstand the test of time and some rust with age. Looking at how friendships last overtime can be helpful as our social circle shifts every seven years.

Personality

Taxonomies This model explores different roles friends can play and how they may show up in times of need to support. Understanding the role our close friends play in our life can help build those connections by being able to call upon certain friends in certain situations and knowing they will respond.
Enneagrams as Friends This model uses the Enneagram personality test to highlight traits of each enneagram that will show up in a friendship. This model is helpful in highlighting that different people bring different things to the table and we may need more than one type of friend to get the full spread.
Flavors This model relates friends to flavors of ice cream. Taking a wider view on your friends as a whole can highlight variety (or lack thereof) in your connections.

Points to note when analyzing your connections by closeness:

  • Your oldest friends may not be your closest friends if vulnerability didn’t build at a similar rate to consistency.
  • Some relationships may never get above the “acquaintances” or even the “pretty good friends” level, and that is perfectly fine.
  • There is value in having folks at all levels because varying levels of intimacy are needed to fill out our social networks.
  • The closest friends category isn’t the goal for all your relationships, as having more than 3-5 people in your inner circle wouldn’t be sustainable.

Points to note when analyzing your connections by personality:

  • While personality tests can be comforting lenses into understanding ourselves, having a few succinct boxes that the whole world can fit into overgeneralizes personality traits.
  • Most personality tests are pseudoscience. They are not rooted in scientific theory and should not be analyzed as so.
    Some friends may play multiple roles in your life.
  • If you do not think you have a friend who plays a specific role in your life and you do not feel like you are missing out on anything without that role, it could mean you are getting support elsewhere such as from family or a partner/spouse.
  • Some friends can shift roles over time.

Who would you call?

Carlsberg Puts Friends to the Test
A commercial for Carlsberg, a Danish beer, asks people to call their friends because they are in trouble, then rewards the friends with beer when they show up.

Friendship Intimacy

On the Friendship: the Gist page, we introduced friendship expert Shasta Nelson’s Frientimacy triangle.1 Starting with a positive base, friendship intimacy then grows as consistency and vulnerability build. Intimacy in a friendship relates to how close and comfortable we feel around the other person. Intimacy allows for vulnerability, reciprocity, affirmation, and support that is not found in weaker, surface-level connections.

The levels in the model below represent the depth of intimacy we hold with a particular friend. When we first meet someone, they go into the acquaintances category, since we haven’t spent very much time with them there hasn’t been an opportunity for consistency and vulnerability to grow.

Everyone has acquaintances, friends, and closer friends, and the closer the friend is, the more intimacy we have with that person, and the more meaning they bring into our life. If we are looking to deepen and strengthen relationships and build more meaning in life through friendships, then building consistency and vulnerability with someone is a great place to start.

Friends

Sam and Emma are friends. They met at work and enjoy chatting at office events. They occasionally eat lunch together or get coffee. They haven’t spent much time together outside of work.

Pretty Good Friends

Brett and George are pretty good friends. They first met in college and have been friends for several years. They don’t live in the same city now, but whenever they get together they are able to pick up where they left off. They always have a good time when they hang out and they have plenty of shared interests to keep conversations flowing.

Closest Friends

Andrea and Sherri are best friends. They have known each other for years and know almost everything about each other. When Sherri broke up with her partner, it was Andrea she called for a place to stay. When Andrea’s father passed away, she knew she could rely on Sherri for a shoulder to cry on. They reciprocate each other’s actions and feelings and check in with each other frequently.

Some relationships may never get above the “acquaintances” or even the “pretty good friends” level, and that is perfectly fine. Try not to think of the top of the triangle as a “goal” for all your friendships. There is value in having folks at all levels because varying levels of intimacy are needed to fill out our social networks. Friendships towards the top of the triangle tend to take the most time to maintain, so having more than 3 – 5 friendships in the “closest friends” category isn’t sustainable — you would either have no time for other things or friends would end up dropping down to the “pretty good friends” category as you lose touch.

Think about it…

Before continuing, take a moment to jot down your own definitions of acquaintance, friend, good friend, and closest friend.

Then, list 2 – 5 people that would fall into each category.

Circles of Friendship

The Theory of Dunbar’s Number says we are only able to maintain about 150 relationships in our lives. Those 150 people are divided between our friendship circles. Within each of these circles, there is also a varying degree as to how close that particular person is to you. The chart below outlines some definitions of each circle and how close they are on a scale of 1 to 3 (with 3 being the closest to you within that circle).

3

2

1

Circle #1: Close Friends

Someone who is integrated into my life.
Someone who accepts me completely for who I am.
If I’m in trouble or going through a rough patch, they are there with me till the end.
Someone I would hop on a plane to help at a moment’s notice and vice versa.
Someone who knows my secrets, fears, and who tells me what I need to hear even if I don’t like it.
Someone I never feel like I need to entertain.
Someone I would discuss intimate details of my life with.
Someone I would go out of my way for, or ask a favor of, or hang out and really talk deeply with.
Someone I can tell my problems to without feeling ashamed.
Someone I can confide in, am comfortable being vulnerable with, and whose advice I seek.
Someone I make time to see regularly one on one.
Someone whose wellbeing I care deeply about and who I feel confident I can depend on.

Circle #2: Good Friends

Someone I see relatively often and tell the details of my life to, however, they are not someone I rely on when I am in trouble.
Someone I know well, We know each other’s life circumstances and how we got to be who we are.
Someone I feel safe and happy with, and that I wanna hang out more with.
Someone I don’t have to try hard to have a conversation with.
Someone I’ve formed a connection with, and that I’d be glad if they called/texted/invited me.

Circle #3: Friends

Someone I don’t see very often but genuinely enjoy when I do. If I throw a party, they’re on the list.
Someone I haven’t known very long but am getting to know more.
Someone in my friend group that I haven’t had 1 on 1 time with.
Co-workers I have connected with but we haven’t hung out beyond work.
Someone from a specific activity/group in my life (i.e. my friend from the gym)

Circle #4: Acquaintances

Someone I know basic details about.
Someone I can just have small talk with.
Someone I’ve met but have no deep emotional connection to.
Someone I’ve met in person a few times but who I wouldn’t contact to hang out.
Someone that I know in passing. I may say hi but will not go out of my way to meet up.
A limited, superficial relationship like a friend of a friend.

Beyond: Strangers

I know their face but they do not know me (i.e. my mail carrier) People who live in my city/town. Celebrities
Everyone else

Think about it:

What 3 – 5 people in your life fit into each circle?

Use our printable template to fill out your own circles!

Each of the people in our circles also has their own circles.

Sound complicated? It is!! Imagine all the circles! Drawing everyone’s own circles within your circles would end up looking like a very intricate venn-diagram. Circle #1 tends to be the most reciprocal circle. For example, if you list John in circle #1, he is likely to also list you in circle #1. However, the outer circles can have less reciprocity depending on everyone’s networks. If you list John in circle #2 and John has a large network of friends, you may be in his circle #3.

One of the reasons for the difference may be an intimacy gap for one or both people. An intimacy gap is when what we are wanting or expecting from a relationship is not the same as our experience. John may also have more friends that he has known longer and is able to be more vulnerable with, so he would rank them in closer circles over you.

Analyzing the type of friend you are and where you fit in other people’s circles will help you become more aware in your relationships and lead to the strengthening of those relationships. If you think John might list you in circle #3 while you list him in circle #2, then that can be an indicator that you may need to put more into your relationship with John.

Would the people you listed put you in the same circle you have them in?

How do you know which circle you are in from your friend’s perspective?

How would you go about moving yourself into a more central circle?

Instead of trying to connect all the circles and venn diagrams within the circles of friendship model, Sociograms (most commonly used in classrooms or groups of children to see social dynamics) can provide an interesting exercise to see the intricacies of social networks within a group. If you have a close friend group, creating a sociogram for the group may help you visualize where you fit and who is most connected to you.

Below is an example of a sociogram of a few main characters from Harry Potter. Harry is very popular. If the majority of the characters made a friendship circle map, Harry would be listed somewhere on there. Since Harry has a large network compared to the other characters, there likely wouldn’t be reciprocity between where he lists his friends and where his friends list him.

Color Code:

Neutral
Controversial (Some people like them, some people do not like them)
Rejected (They were not listed as a first choice by anyone)
Neglected (Very few people like them)

Harry Potter Sociogram Example

Here is an online tool for creating a sociogram (click on “HELP” for instructions).

Dunbar’s Number

Where did Dunbar’s 150 come from?

Dunbar studied the social group size of different primates and made a correlation between the size of the social group to the size of the neocortex of the primate, the part of the brain responsible for thoughts. Using the correlation, Dunbar was able to theorize the average cap for human social groups based on the size of the human neocortex. In short, 150 is the “magic” number because cognitively, that is how much information our brains can store.2

Check out Dunbar’s new book, Friends.

Resources

Dunbar’s Number And Other Evolutionary Quirks | Robin Dunbar 

 In “How Many Friends Does One Person Need?” Robin Dunbar explains the evolution of behavior with support from his experiments and data. He explains why 150 is the magic number for relationships and the science behind other quirks given to us by evolution.

The Invention of Friends (Dunbar’s Number) | Vsauce2

Kevin Lieber explains the science behind Dunbar’s number and the research involved in landing on 150.

Dunbar’s Number Debunked | The New York Times

Can you have more than 150 friends?
A study in May 2021 at Stockholm University criticized Dunbar’s research, arguing that the human brain can be trained to memorize 1000 digits of Pi, so limiting the number of people we know to 150 doesn’t add up.

Why Having Friends At Work Is Important Article | Jeff Fermin

We found some incredible statistics that prove that having a good group of friends at work is not only a nice-to-have, but it can make everyone work better.

Internet Friends

What about friends I only know over the internet? Which circle/level/taxonomy do they fit in?? I feel like they know me, maybe more than my real-life friends do, yet we’ve never hung out in person or even met each other.

In a post-pandemic world, how we make and keep friends has shifted to online more than ever.

One Dutch study in 2012 concluded that “offline” friendships tended to be of higher quality than “online” friendships, however “Mixed-mode” friendships (i.e. those with online and in-person meetings/communication) ranked similarly to offline friendships.3 Even if we met friends online, adding that in-person element may has the ability to up the quality of the relationship.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0069841

https://psyche.co/ideas/our-need-for-true-connection-is-giving-rise-to-phone-free-spaces

A few studies on online friendships to ponder:

  • Study 1 compares loneliness and motives for going online. The original hypothesis stated that the internist attracts lonely people. The results showed that people of varying degrees of loneliness go online for various motives, not necessarily to find friends (sometimes to find romantic partners instead).4
  • Study 2 uses Aristotle’s definition of friendship to prove online friends are “real”.5
  • Study 3  by Cigna in 2019 found that “social media, when used so much that it infringes on face-to-face quality time, was tied to greater loneliness, while having meaningful in-person interactions, reporting high levels of social support and being in a committed relationship were associated with less loneliness.”6

It is important to point out that most studies regarding online friendships are largely outdated at this point, especially after the changes and shift to virtual communication due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. It is now easier than ever to video chat, share content, and communicate online. The boundaries between “online” and “offline” are completely blurred, as most people connect both online and off.

Can the Internet Buy You More Friends? | TEDxObserver
Robin Dunbar

Dunbar’s number (explained above) was opposed when first theorized because of the difference between online and real-life friends. If we can only have 150 friends, how can we have 1000 friends on Facebook? Dunbar counteracts this opposition and explains why the internet can’t buy you more friends.

So, are online friends “real?”

Like all friendships, the quality/level your online friends hold depends on the work that goes into them.

The Tree of Connections

You may recognize this model from the introduction video for this site:

The Tree of Connections model helps visualize the strength of connections (and therefore the meaningfulness and intimacy those people bring to our lives). Relationships frame our existence and provide nourishment for meaning in life.

The thickness of the branches relates to the depth of the connection. Your family may be more trunk-like, while a workmate may be more of a small branch. The fruit or the flowers on the branches, or connections, represent the nourishment and sweet air positive relationships provide. The deeper/thicker a branch/connection is, the more meaning they foster in our lives.

Every part of the tree works together to send energy to a specific branch to create fruit. Likewise, the connections you have, big and small, all contribute to meaning in your life. Having a network of small branch connections can be just as important as your big trunk connections because, without the small branches, the tree would never flower.

Print a template to fill out your own tree:

Another Way of Looking at it

The Life Mountain 

This model comes from WaitButWhy.com and organizes friends into tiers.7

Tier 1: Your closest friends. You have the most level of intimacy with these friends and they bring the most meaning to your life. You have likely known them for a long time and share many memories. They would give a speech at your wedding.

Tier 2: Your pretty good friends. You see these friends every so often, and they are not your

“go-to” person. You likely live near to them and if you moved away there wouldn’t be very much contact long distance.

Tier 3: Not really friends. They may be a part of your friend group or a co-worker that you haven’t spent very much time with yet. You like each other’s posts on Facebook but there is no real intimacy there.

Acquaintances: Tier 3 blends into acquaintances as the connection gets more distant and that blends into strangers. There may not be a defined line between tier 3 and acquaintances.

Strangers: Potential mountain climbers! You may not know them yet, and all of them have the potential to climb up the mountain — the mountain never closes.

Try This…

Draw a mountain sectioned into four tiers. Start at the top, and start listing friends until you have 2-5 (or more) in each tier. 

Where is your mountain sparse or overpopulated?

Must, Trust, Rust, and Just Friends

In Geoffrey Greif’s book Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships, he identifies four categories of friendships.8

  • Must friend: a best friend, a member of your inner circle, a person you count on when something big happens in your life
  • Trust friend: a friend who shows integrity, someone you feel comfortable with, that you’re always glad to see, but not in your inmost circle; perhaps someone you’d like to be closer to if you had the time or opportunity
  • Rust friend: a person you’ve known for a long, long time; you’re probably not going to get any closer to that person, unless something changes, but a part of your life.
  • Just friends: a person you see — at a weekly poker game, at your child’s school — who is enjoyable company, but you have no desire to socialize outside a specific context or to get to know that person better.

Analyze your own must, trust, rust, and just friends by pressing the button below to see an easy template:

Taxonomies

An animation of 6 different types of friends that may come into your life and the purpose they serve. The social butterfly, the fearless adventurer, the secret keeper, the mother figure, the older sibling, and the loyal best friend.

According to Tom Rath, author of Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, there are 8 different types of “vital friends”. They are: Builder, Champion, Collaborator, Companion, Connector, Energizer, Mind Opener, and Navigator. 9

While some friends may play multiple of these roles in your life, many of us do not have all of these friends in our network.  Missing some of these roles may lead to us feeling disappointed at times or like we have a gap between what we need and what we are getting.10

Let’s Meet the Eight

1. Brett The Builder

Brett is like a personal trainer for your life. Brett encourages you to go for the things you want, builds up your confidence, and offers advice and encouragement for you. When you have a problem, Brett is the one to call to help you with solutions. Builders use your strengths to help you succeed. They may push you or nag you if you slack, all with your best interest in mind. Builders are great friends to start a new diet/workout routine with, ask for dating advice, or listen to you.

How Builders show up:

Socially (in groups):

  • Has deep conversations with everyone
  • Helps come up with a plan that works for everyone

1-on-1:

  • Listens well and gives great advice
  • Affirms you and celebrates successes

At Work:

  • Likely holds a leadership role or is a leader on their team
  • Helps brainstorm solutions

Playtime:

  • Makes sure everyone gets home safe
  • Lets loose every once in a while but is mostly composed

2. Chelsea The Champion

Chelsea is like Brett in that she builds you up and helps motivate you to be your best self. Where the Builder is like a coach, the Champion is like the cheerleader. Pepping you up even when you are losing. She may not have all the solutions to your problems, but she will cheer you on every step of the way. Chelsea will compliment you on your lowest days and help brighten your time together. Chelsea has your back and you know she will still like you when you tell them something vulnerable (and praise you for it). Chelsea is the “yas gurl-you got this-I believe in you” wingman that always helps you see the best in you.

How Champions show up:

Socially (in groups):

  • Always down to hang out
  • Excited to see you when you show up to group gatherings

1-on-1:

  • Offers many affirmations
  • Helps you choose the best option for you

At Work:

  • Gives you shoutouts or public affirmations
  • Works hard and still has time for others
  • Confident

Playtime:

  • Isn’t afraid to make a fool of herself
  • Helps you make a fool of yourself

3. Caleb The Collaborator

Caleb is the person you call in the middle of the night when you get a crazy idea to buy a food truck and sell dessert pizza. Two minutes into the call, and he is already on board to be your 50/50 partner. Caleb likes the same things you do and you can talk for hours with him about things you are interested in. A collaborator is someone who you can bounce ideas around with and enter a creative space. The Collaborator may be a colleague you always brainstorm projects with or a friend who shares your love of music. Since common interests are a great foundation on which to build a relationship, once you find your collaborator, they will likely stick around for a while.

How Champions show up:

Socially (in groups):

  • Builds rapport with everyone
  • Finds conversation easy

1-on-1:

  • Conversation is easy since they are so many commonalities
  • Recommends new things for you to try and you trust they will be good

At Work:

  • Always ready to bounce ideas
  • Builds on your ideas rather than shutting them down

Playtime:

  • Gets creative with free time
  • Probably doing the same thing as you this weekend

4. Courtney The Companion

Courtney is the friend you call when you need her, no matter the time of day. She’ll pick you up when your car breaks down and help you move the giant couch you bought into your apartment. Companions provide a shoulder to cry on and help coax things out of you when you are quiet. Your relationship is very reciprocal, and Courtney calls you when she needs help too. It is likely you are also Courtney’s companion in terms of the role you serve as her friend. She always supports you and will drop everything to help.

How Champions show up:

Socially (in groups):

  • May prefers 1 on 1 to large gatherings
  • Kind and pleasant to be around

1-on-1:

  • Asks how you are and remembers things going on in your life
  • Offers solicited advice or simply listens

At Work:

  • Always willing to offer extra help
  • Will listen and support when you are struggling

Playtime:

  • Tries new hobbies and invites you to try too

5. Connor The Connector

Connor is the “mutual” friend. If you have a friend group, Connor is likely the one everyone knew first. Connectors know everyone and love introducing people. If you are looking to expand your network, call up Connor and he will likely have someone in mind for you. Connor makes friends everywhere he goes, is outgoing, and usually in a great mood, which rubs off on those around him. A master of social skills, Connor breaks the ice for you so there is no need for awkwardness around strangers. He’s everyone’s best friend.

How Champions show up:

Socially (in groups):

  • He is at the center of the group.
  • He is a master of social skills

1-on-1:

  • Will keep the conversation going even if there are not many commonalities
  • May seem ingenuine since he is everyone’s best friend

At Work:

  • Climbs the ranks quickly and has a large network
  • Probably works in sales or another client-facing career

Playtime:

  • Offers to take the party back to his place
  • If out somewhere, chances are he knows at least one random there

6. Ellie The Energizer

Ellie is the one getting you up off the couch to go for a hike, try a new restaurant, or hit the club. When Ellie is around, you feel happy and full of energy because you feed off her positivity and upbeat attitude. You have fun with energizers, and they can figure out ways to get you out of your shell easily. Ellie doesn’t take anything too seriously, and always has a joke or witty expression to lighten the mood. Ellie is the one to call if you are feeling down or unmotivated — she will make even the most boring chores feel like a game, and she would be happy to help.

How Energizers show up:

Socially (in groups):

  • Refilling drinks
  • Breaks any tension
  • Defaults to humor

1-on-1:

  • Makes you laugh
  • Keeps the conversation flowing
  • Gets you to try new things

At Work:

  • Offers affirmations
  • Doesn’t take anything too seriously
  • Brings energy to meetings and projects

Playtime:

  • Initiates the playtime
  • Turns up the music for a dance party
  • Brings the party wherever she goes

7. Matthew The Mind-Opener

Matthew is the friend who is always thinking about life and sharing wisdom, ideas, and stories with you. Matthew has probably traveled to cool places to experience different cultures and genuinely enjoys discussing harder topics in a way that broadens horizons. Matthew likely prefers 1 on 1 interaction to large group gatherings, and in social situations, he will probably find one or two people to talk with and spend hours with them. Matthew isn’t judgmental, rather he is educational, and wants to hear about others’ opinions too. Besides having a worldly view, Matthew looks at things from different perspectives, making him a good friend to go to if you are having trouble making a choice. He will weigh all the options for you and help you make an informed choice.

How Mind Openers show up:

Socially (in groups):

  • Brings a quiet energy to any group
  • Offers wisdom when needed

1-on-1:

  • Shares wisdom
  • Considers different perspectives and shares them in an inviting way
  • Sends articles/resources to you specifically because they thought of you when they saw it

At Work:

  • Creative problem solving or a more worldly view
  • When social justice issues arise, leadership look to him for advice

Playtime:

  • Interested in more off the wall hobbies
  • Prefers intimate gatherings over large parties

8. Nancy The Navigator

Nancy helps you read the compass of life. Without bias, Nancy will help you make informed decisions about where to go next and point you towards that path. Nancy has a large amount of life experience and she will use that to help you find what is best. Navigators are more like guides for when you are lost. Call Nancy when you feel lost or like you have hit a wall, and she will help guide you past the obstacle.

How Navigators show up:

Socially (in groups):

  • The “mom” of the group

1-on-1:

  • Always there to guide
  • May offer unsolicited advice

Work:

  • May be your boss or your HR rep. They bring their life experience everywhere they go and enjoy helping others

Playtime:

  • Likely keeps to themself or goes on a solo adventure. You would be welcome to join but they aren’t the one making group plans

Some friends may play multiple roles in your life.

Since taxonomies and personality tests are not one size fits all, some friends may fit into multiple roles. And, roles can shift over time. Your social circle changes drastically every seven years, which means the people filling these roles will come and go. As certain people also move up in level of intimacy with you, they may also shift into another role. For example, a Champion who gets closer to you may start feeling more comfortable giving you more advice and moving into more of a Builder role.

Think about it:

List the name of the friend that fills each taxonomy’s role in your life, and on a scale of 1-5, the degree to which they “fill” the role. Then, also note what “level” or “circle” that friend is in for you (close friend, pretty good friend, friend, acquaintance) Find the printable template here:

Reflection

Who/what role is missing? Why do you think that is?
10 years ago, how was the above chart different?
What would you like the chart to look like 5 years in the future?
What role do YOU serve as a friend to other people in your life?
How does the role you play change based on each of your friends?
Is one role more desirable for you / Which role do you want to be in your friends’ lives?
What can you do to change the role you serve?

Enneagrams as Friends

The Enneagram test is a personality test that categorizes into nine personality types and measures an individual’s habits of attention and other patterns of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The results of the test show how well you fit into each of the 9 types, with most people ending up with one main type and two or three secondary types. The test is free and can be taken here.

Disclaimer: the Enneagram test is pseudoscience. Like horoscopes, while elements of the descriptions of each type may ring true for some people, the test has shortcomings and overgeneralizes personality traits. People can tend to over-rely on personality types, which can be limiting to experiencing meaning in life.

The enneagrams as Friends model is offered as another way of looking at your network and understanding who you may turn to in certain situations. As you analyze your network using this model, instead of thinking: “Oh, I just need to find an enneagram type 3 to fill my intimacy gaps!”, think: “Hmmm… it would seem I can’t name someone in my life who is my ‘pep talker’ and I am interested in making a new connection who is energetic, optimistic, and motivational.

How each type shows up…

Type Socially One-on-One At Work During Playtime
The Reformer – Reliable
– Authentic
– Perfectionist
– Controlled
– Honest
– Trustworthy
– Intentional
– Working to make the world better
– Hardworking and dedicated
– Perfectionist
– Fairness is important
– Has integrity
The Helper – Strong interpersonal skills
– Caring
– Grace and poise
– Compassionate
– Generous
– Invites deep conversation
– Nurturing and empathetic
– Always helping
– Caring and empathy for coworkers
– Loving
– May prioritize others over their own needs for self-care and play
The Achiever – Energetic
– Charismatic
– Optimistic
– Advice
– Pep talks
– Solution-oriented
– Success-oriented
– Efficient
– Leader
– Energetic
– Motivational
– Responsible
The Individualist – Compassionate
– Quiet
– Reserved
– Empathetic
– Thoughtful
– Great Listener
– Gentle
– Introspective
– Thoughtful
– Lone Wolf
– Rebellious
– Witty
The Investigator – Autonomous
– Reserved
– Open-Minded
– Trustworthy
– Private
– Kind
– Curious
– Responsible
– Intellectual
– Skips Drama
– Appreciates alone time
The Loyalist – Compassionate
– Dependable
– Honest
– Loyal
– Honest
– Trust is important
– Dependable
– Curious
– Practical
– Witty
– Go with the flow
– Reliable
The Enthusiast – Optimistic
– Charming
– Lighthearted
– Positive
– Spontaneous
– Talkative
– Optimistic
– Friendly
– Imaginative
– Energetic
– Fun Loving
– Adventurous
The Challenger – Loyal
– Independent
– Generous
– Protective
– Honest
– Strong/Leader
– Confident
– Decisive
– Confident
– Makes the decisions
The Peacemaker – Keeps peace
– Kind
– Accepting
– Open-Minded
– Supportive
– Empathetic
– Imaginative
– Wise
– Open-minded
– Wise
– Peaceful

Try It Out:

List the name of the friend that fills each type’s role in your life and the personality traits they have that match that type. Find the printable template below:

Reflection

What types/traits are missing? Why do you think that is?
What type(s)/traits do you identify with?
How do the friends listed add meaning to your life?

Pick Your Flavors

If you were the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, would you be the person you want to be?

While there are differing views among social psychologists regarding if you really are a combination of the five people you spend the most time with, most will agree having a variety of friends is important. We need different “flavors” of friends to fill different roles in our lives and to contribute to the overall meaningfulness of our social network.

You Are The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With | The Art of Improvement

The people we surround ourselves with are the biggest influence on our behavior, attitude, and results.

Are you surrounded by vanilla cones or is there a mix of something more exciting in your life?

Imagine an ice cream shop that only serves vanilla ice cream cones. While this may suit some people, the shop isn’t likely to do very well since people tend to have different tastes and preferences. The more variety of the friends in your life, the more well-rounded your support network.

Likewise, imagine an ice cream shop where you could get a mix of flavors, but you didn’t get to choose which flavors. While this would appeal to some people who like the mystery and game of randomized flavors, other people may want to steer clear of certain flavor combinations based on their tastes. We have the power to choose the friends we surround ourselves with, which can have a huge impact on the amount of meaning we find through friendships.

We need to be intentional about actively constructing our social environment into a flavor combination we gel with without relying on chance or proximity.

Take Inventory

Closely analyze your existing friendships and take stock of how they are serving you. Take a thorough inventory of the friendships in your life and compare them on a scale against factors such as intimacy, support, and play.

How positive are your friendships?
Do you feel safe being vulnerable?
How much do you prioritize these friends?
What could make your connections deeper?

Create a Wishlist

One way we can be intentional about the connections we are making is to create an actual wishlist for friendships we want to foster in our lives. Take the reflections and exercises from the models above and then fill out your own Friendship Wishlist to set your intentions and find meaning in your connections.

My Ideal friend is…* My ideal friend is not… Ways I strive to be a good friend…
Write down all the qualities you are looking for in a friend (or community).
Examples:
Sense of Humor
Active
Creative
Organized
Likes cats
Empathetic
Smart
Spontaneous
Qualities that are not for you or you think are bad.
Examples:
Very particular
Money/success Oriented
Pessimistic
Aggressive
Lacking ambition
Cliche
Drug user
Flaky
Think back to when you were Looking Inward. Be honest and think about how you want to show up. These may be qualities you don’t embody yet but wish to work towards.
Examples:
Good Listener
Open minded
Patient
Confident
I’m looking for a friend I can…
Have fun with
Be vulnerable with
Call when I have a problem
Collaborate with
Talk through things with
etc…

*Disclaimer* If you make a list of 50 ideal traits, expect a friend to meet about 10 of them. Holding the expectation that a magical friend will show up and be your 100% ideal may be disappointing and force you to have thicker blinders on when meeting new people.

Print your own wishlist template:

Next Steps

So you’ve used one or a few of the offered models to assess your existing network of friends, perhaps reflecting on those connections throughout…Now what?

Shift Your Mindset

The utility of these models is to be used as recognition of gaps in your network and to build an understanding of the different roles friends can play. In recognizing that you may be missing a connector/energizer/collaborator/etc… or that your “pretty good friends” level is slightly sparse, you can better guide your journey through friendship.

It can also be helpful to analyze the role you play in your friends’ lives and how you may be interested in shifting that to build better connections. For example, if you find your friend group doesn’t do very exciting things, it may be time for YOU to be the one to shake things up and become the energizer. Or, for you to collaborate with another friend and create something together. Build stronger connections and change your own mindset about the friends already around you.

Find a Derek/ Be a Derek

Meet Derek. He is an extroverted adventurer who always seems to make friends wherever he goes. When he hangs out with his close friends, they enjoy his ability to chat up strangers and enhance the experience for everyone. Derek encourages the group to try new things and cheers everyone on the whole way.

Recently, Derek got a new job and moved across the country away from his close friends. A few months after he left, his friend group got together and each person wondered to themselves why the group didn’t seem to have such a great time anymore. They stopped trying new things, went to their same old spots, and they didn’t meet as many strangers as they used to.

With the realization that they had a “Derek Gap” the friends set about meeting someone new that could fill the gap. While plenty of “Dereks” certainly exist, finding a new “Derek” they could absorb into their close-knit friend group seemed impossible. So, the friends shifted their mindsets. Instead of thinking “man, we sure are boring without Derek” they shifted to “how can I contribute to making this experience more fun?” They each brought a little piece to fill the “Derek Gap”.

While their experiences will never look the same as when Derek was around, they have the understanding and appreciation for what Derek brought to the group and they each strive to embody that energy for the group.

Strengthen Existing Friendships

How do I build a deeper connection with my collaborator friend?
How do I bring a friend from the “Just Friend” stage to the “Must Friend”?
How can I fill the gaps I am noticing?
How can I build platonic intimacy within my existing relationships?

The simple answer for deepening and strengthening any existing relationship is to follow the Frientimacy triangle and to gradually build up consistency and vulnerability in one on one settings. Of course, friendships aren’t always simple. Explore the Existing Friends page for tools, exercise, and tips on strengthening existing relationships with friends.

Make New Friends

Where can I find a collaborator? Or Energizer?

How can I fill up my sparse circles?

Being open to new experiences and meeting people can certainly be a meaningful way to explore gaps and enjoy new things. Being intentional when you are meeting people can help fill out your social network in a more flavorful way.

Find tons of tips and tools for making new friends on the New Friends (and How to Meet Them) page.

Summary

  • We can categorize our types of friends by closeness or by personality.
  • Generally, we are able to have about 150 connections of varying levels of closeness.
  • We need friends at varying levels to fill out our social circle, the goal isn’t to get every single friendship to the closest level.
  • Certain friends will fill multiple roles in our lives and their roles can shift over time.
  • Relationships frame our existence and influence our behavior and experiences.
  • We need to be intentional about the connections we are making to get to the network we are looking to find.
  • Shifting mindsets regarding what types of friends we are looking for can help open up new opportunities for making friends.

Friendship Friendship: The Gist The Benefits of Friendship Friendship Myths Types of Friends Connection Reflection Looking Inward Nurture Exiting Friendships New Friendships Social Skills Understanding Community Building Community Friendship Practice and Exercises Friendship Resources

References

  1. Nelson, S. (2016). Committing to Closing Our Intimacy Gaps. In Frientimacy: How to deepen friendships for lifelong health and happiness (pp. 13-28). Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.
  2. Dunbar, R. (2010). How many friends does one person need?: Dunbar’s number and other evolutionary quirks. Faber and Faber.
  3. Antheunis, M. L., Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2012). The quality of online, offline, and mixed-mode friendships among users of a social networking site. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 6(3), Article 6. https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2012-3-6
  4. Hood, M., Creed, P. A., & Mills, B. J. (2017, March 27). Loneliness and online friendships in emerging adults. Personality and Individual Differences. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886917302155.
  5. Darius K.-S. Chan, G. H.-L. C. (2004). A comparison of offline and online friendship qualities at different stages of relationship development – Darius K.-S. chan, Grand H.-L. Cheng, 2004. SAGE Journals. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0265407504042834.
  6. Ducharme, J. (2019, June 25). Why time with friends is so good for your health. Time. Retrieved October 31, 2021, from https://time.com/5609508/social-support-health-benefits/.
  7. Urban View all posts by Tim Urban →, T. (2017, June 08). 10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re Probably Part Of. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/12/10-types-odd-friendships-youre-probably-part.html
  8. Greif, G. L. (2009). Buddy system: Understanding male friendships. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  9. Rath, T. (2006). Vital friends: The people you can’t afford to live without. New York, NY: Gallup Press.
  10. Barker, E. (2017, November 19). These Are The 8 Friends You Need To Be Happy In Life. Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2017/11/friends-you-need/