Do You Care What You Call People, Whether it is a Friend/Acquaintance?
November 20, 2010 10:57 AM   Subscribe

How do you define acquaintance, friendly acquaintance, friend and best friend? What are the signs/traits of fair weather friends, friends of convenience, friends out of pity?

Another friendship related question. Some people are just so confusing.

My situation:

This person that I hang out with really sends mixed signals, so I don't know whether she's a friend or a friendly acquaintance.

We hang out very frequently after class off campus, sometimes even twice a day. On average, twice per week, but only on the days we both have the same classes together. She does the asking, and I go along. Whenever I do the asking (which is once in a blue moon), I ask to hang out on the weekend and usually going to local events and with bigger gathering, instead of between (her) classes, she is always too busy. Once, she even agreed and bailed out two days later. Sometimes, I casually ask her what she's up to, she thinks I plan to invite her to whatsoever event and says she has no time. I don't understand. What does this say about our situation?
posted by easilyconfused to Human Relations (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It means she doesn't want to hang out with you. She likes seeing you between classes and wants to leave it at that. You have to decide now if you're ok with that.
posted by amethysts at 11:03 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

To me, it would say that you're a friend of convenience. She likes you well enough to hang out with you when it's convenient and she doesn't have the option of hanging out with her close friends, but will choose her other friends over you if given the option. It doesn't mean she she secretly doesn't like you (like that askme a few days ago, eek), just that she has other, closer, friends. I suspect you'll never have a more serious friendship, and you just have to ask yourself whether you're cool with that.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 11:07 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is this the same person you asked about here? You seem really intense and overly analytical about your relationships - try to relax. She probably senses it and is a little freaked out.
posted by amro at 11:12 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are the student equivalent of Work Friends. These are people who are friends at work, but do not have a social relationship outside the workplace. It's common!
posted by DarlingBri at 11:18 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Honestly? It's impossible to say without knowing more about her or the situation(s). While I lean toward "friend of convenience/work friend" as others have said, it could be anything from that to she just doesn't want to seem too eager to hang out, to she has a problem socializing when it's something she's not doing spur-of-the-moment (which is pretty much like me), to just you having really bad timing inviting her to things when she is legitimately busy.
posted by Stormfeather at 11:20 AM on November 20, 2010

You're school friends. Cf. work friend. It doesn't seem to me like she's sending mixed signals; she likes hanging out with you in these situations, and she doesn't want to make a point to hang out with you in other situations.

Sometimes outside-class or outside-work friendships develop; sometimes they don't. You just have to give it time and not worry about it.

Question: are you a boy or a girl? Is there a chance she thinks you're trying to date her, and she's brushing you off because she's not interested in that, but she otherwise enjoys hanging out with you?
posted by J. Wilson at 11:26 AM on November 20, 2010

Response by poster: J. Wilson, she's taken, and I'm a girl and I have my situations. We are both dead certain no one is interested in one another, so it is not a question of someone is freaking out and backing off. XD It's been quite consistent like this for months.
posted by easilyconfused at 11:38 AM on November 20, 2010

She wants you as a casual, convenient social acquaintance, but on her terms. Not yours. This is not friendship. It could be fun, but you need to decide whether you find it so.
posted by Decani at 11:40 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: BTW, can someone please answer the original question?
posted by easilyconfused at 11:41 AM on November 20, 2010

Best answer: Ok I'll give it a shot:

Acquaintance: Someone you've seen around town, bumped into in classes. You've seen each other enough to acknowledge each other's presence -- usually a smile or a wave or a hi.

Friendly acquaintance: You've had at least one conversation -- nothing earth-shattering. For instance, I once had a friendly conversation with a couple waiting in line for a book sale. If I saw that couple again, I would probably go up and say hi and make a little conversation. But we're not really "friends."

Friend: You don't just bump into each other, but actively make time to meet the other person, whether in a group or one on one. This doesn't necessarily preclude this friendship being primarily based on meeting after a class, say.

Close friend: Before going all the way to best friend I'd put in this category. People whom you often talk to one on one, about things going on in your life. You make time in your schedules to grab dinner or coffee and if you don't see the other person for a while you miss their presence.

Best friend: I don't necessarily have a best friend at all times (in fact I feel like the last time I had one was at least 6 years ago), but when I do they tend to be someone who I feel confident sharing most of my secrets with and whom I trust to take my side in almost any situation .
posted by peacheater at 11:53 AM on November 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

As I read it, the original question is, "What does this say about our situation?" Everyone has been answering it.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:53 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

How do you define acquaintance, friendly acquaintance, friend and best friend?

I don't classify my friendships in this manner. There are people that I know whom I think are cool and like to hang out with. With some I do specific activities, with some I do general activities, with some I talk about my relationship, with some I talk about photography. I do not try to classify each and every person with a label.

If I feel like I am putting more effort into a friendship than the other person, I tone down my efforts.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:55 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that some people just like their alone time on the weekends and in the evenings, especially if they're around people all the time during the day. I'm like this, and I often tell people I'm "busy" when I'm actually just planning to do stuff on my own. If I say that I have another obligation, I avoid seeming as though I just don't like the other person enough to want to hang out. It's possible that your friend is like me and wants to have time to herself without offending you.

For what it's worth, in college, I had a friendship which was a lot like the one you describe. We hung out on campus a lot after classes we had together, and we'd do homework together, but we didn't really hang out on weekends much. It actually worked out well, because I don't like spending too much time around people, and she is an Orthodox Jew, so she wasn't available much on weekends. I really appreciated the lack of social pressure. Even though we didn't do a lot of weekend socializing, I still consider her a friend.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 12:00 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Okay, I will answer the original question.

How do you define:

1. acquaintance - someone you know.

2. friendly acquaintance - someone you know, and like.

3. friend - someone you know, personally, and like, and they like you. Enough to hang out with as a fairly regular thing.

4. best friend - as for friend, except you really, really like each other, trust each other and can rely on each other in a crisis.

5. fair weather friends - you have a crisis and suddenly they are not there for you.

6. friends of convenience - they're only there when you can see that they're getting some personal benefit out of being there.

7. friends out of pity - they weren't there when you were okay. Then shit happened to you and they were there, for a while. Then, as you recovered, they weren't there again.
posted by Decani at 12:01 PM on November 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

How do you define acquaintance, friendly acquaintance, friend and best friend? What are the signs/traits of fair weather friends, friends of convenience, friends out of pity?

Acquaintance - someone you know

Friendly acquaintance - someone you know and enjoy talking with

Friend - someone you like and spend time with

Best friend - someone you like, make a point of seeing, talk to frequently, and have intimate conversations with

Fair weather friend - a friend who bails when things aren't going well for you

Friend of convenience - I've never heard this one before, but it sounds like a work friend... except that in a way nearly all friends are friends of convenience

Friend out of pity - someone who pities you and talks with you and maybe hangs out some because they feel bad for you

But honestly, who cares? Labels are empty, no one goes around saying "I'm a fair weather friend" or "you're just a friendly acquaintance." Arbitrary designations by the hive mind aren't going to help you understand your relationship with your friend/classmate here.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:36 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Whatever label you want to use for the relationship, it is what it is. I think the gist of your question is: should you invest more into this relationship and hopefully get a better return, i.e. if I spend more time to plan and care for this relationship, will she return the favor and bring me satisfaction. I suspect you already know the answer to that: she isn't interested in growing this relationship above what level you two are at. You may continue trying, and she may turn around... who knows. But I'd find another friend to try it with.

Relationship between two people needs a meeting of mind. It requires nurture and commitment from both parties. I commend you for taking the initiative, to risk rejection and take step to grow the relationship. However, for each step of the way, don't try more than twice, and take turns initiating the next stage. I think you should strive for a relationship of equals; that means both sides must take turn maintaining it AND take turn in growing it. Think of it this way: You two take turn putting money into the pot. You put in 1 cent, she should put in 1 cent. If she put in 5 cent, that means she want to move to the 5 cent level, so you should put in 5 cent. Repeat this until you reach the level that both of you are comfortable. Don't ever keep putting in money when the other doesn't; and don't always be the one to escalate to the next level. As you get more experience in life, you will quickly find out who like to put in a lot and who you want to play with. At this time, just follow the quid-pro-quo (ie. tit for tat) rule and you will be fine. That way, you won't be taken advantage of, or risk getting hurt... or inadvertently hurt others.

The reason why I discourage you from trying more than twice growing a relationship is that when you escalate, you have control and expectation. Say: you want to invite her to a big event. You have control because you get to pick what you want to do. Furthermore, if you invite her, you'll expect that she will go and enjoy the event with you. Even if she reject your offer, your expectation remains. You will expect some sort of payback for the sunk cost you put into planning and inviting her. She, however, will think that she doesn't owe you anything. Do this often and you will deplete your resources (time and energy) AND end up resenting her. She, however, will be completely bewildered and wonder why you are mad at her because she has always pay her way and "it didn't cost you anything if I don't go". It seems your relationship is at this impasse now.

So, instead, take a step back and let her take the initiative to grow the relationship the way she likes for a change. You should both have the opportunity to lead the relationship; to shape it into something that is created and treasured by both of you. Don't monopolize the driver seat; instead, understand that everything you do is a trade-off. Grow = risk + control; Going along = security + a chance that you may not get what you want. Of course, if she is willing to delegate the planning to you completely, then you should go ahead and plan. But, it's most likely that she will want input and control of the relationship, so you two should negotiate.

I wish you well in your relationship. Having a great relationship is hard... it takes some luck, effort, commitment and certain amount of skill. That's why it's rare. However, diversify yourself, open your eyes and learn, take risk and trust people, but be patient with yourself and be satisfied with where you are at. With those attitude, you will succeed in finding the relationship of your life.
posted by curiousZ at 12:37 PM on November 20, 2010

BTW, can someone please answer the original question?

Is that the question in your title (do you care what you call people), the first thing you asked (how do you define...), or the final question (what does this say about our situation)?

1) No

2) I don't define all these- just acquaintance (person I know) friend (person I like that have shared some degree of personal time with). Labels imply a structure that just doesn't exist in concrete terms as far as the nitty-gritty of what goes on in relationships. I will call friends good or close or long-term when it applies, but I don't define the term "good friends" to indicate a specific set of parameters.

3)This person is not sending mixed signals. They are not available to hang out on the weekends. If you want to hang out with them, keep it to casual weekday stuff.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:40 PM on November 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

I don't think friendship can be put in a box like this. I don't think there's a moment when your Friendly Acquaintance becomes a Friend, so now you can expect them to engage in some specific set of Friend Behaviours.

People are just individuals. Sometimes they behave in a friendly manner and sometimes not. Often it's not nearly as much to do with you as you think it is.

Maybe this person likes you, but finds that hanging out with you takes a lot of energy, so she is trying to keep the frequency down.

Maybe she likes you but thinks you won't get on with the rest of her friends at all.

Maybe the whole of her time outside school is consumed by other things and she doesn't socialise with anyone outside school.

Maybe she has such incredibly poor house cleaning habits that she is terrified that increased socialising will lead to you coming round to her house for some reason and being so horrified that you never speak to her again.

You just can't really tell: all you can do is work out whether the situation as it stands is something you're comfortable with.
posted by emilyw at 12:44 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Refer to above - work friend. You are a school friend. Fun to see at school, not so much in 'real life' because she probably has other friends and hobbies and various responsibities. I would just remain school friends, and don't stress it so much. Just take it as an indicator that you need to find some other non-school friends- like 'bowling team friends' or 'volunteering at dog shelter friends'. With enough time and interactions some of these friends will become close 'real-life' friends. It's tough meeting people but if you keep trying different things, being nice and making an effort, then of course you will make good friends in the long run. Hope this is not too off topic.
posted by bquarters at 1:38 PM on November 20, 2010

There really aren't fixed hierarchies of the sort you're suggesting. I mean, I have my own idiosyncratic terminology, but it's not going to be any use to you. Friendship isn't a game of parcheesi where you work through stages to get to the home square of being BFF.

"Fair weather friend" isn't a category of friendship, though; it's a term of opprobrium for people who were happy to hang out when things were going well and who vanish when you need help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:11 PM on November 20, 2010

This is pretty much situational friending (yes, that covers both "work friend" and "school friend.") Person you see in one location and are friends with them then, but it would never occur to them to say, invite you to a party they are throwing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:24 PM on November 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you every one for being so kind to take the time and put the effort into answering my question(s). Much appreciated for all different perspectives and understandings of the situation.
posted by easilyconfused at 5:25 PM on November 20, 2010

Best answer: Fair-weather friends are basically fun friends--they are there for the fun stuff, not so much the other stuff. If very, very few people came to your birthday party, they'd be out the door and making excuses.

Every other kind of friend has some sort of tolerance for un-fun parts of being friends.

Best friend would help you with the stomach flu or pick you up from surgery.

Friend would maybe help you move (or at least feel bad for not helping).

Acquaintance would be puzzled if you asked them for help moving, and absolutely shocked if you asked them for help while you had stomach flu. They would probably deal gracefully with a request to hold a seat for you or something like that.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:43 AM on November 21, 2010

"Friends help you move. Best friends help you move bodies."
posted by Jacqueline at 3:55 AM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

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