Words have a meaning
Although in English we use only one word ‘friend,’ in many other languages there are more than one ways to refer to close or vague friends. A friend can be a person to whom we are linked to by mutual affection, rather than just a workmate we get on well with. The nuance is subtle; here are some concrete examples and telltale signs that reveal the difference.
Who are your real friends?
- Childhood friends: From the death of your hamster to your first kiss, she was there for you at every stage in life - and even if your paths have gone in different directions, you know that you can call each other up and pick up just where you left off.
- Loyal friends: You don’t hide anything from her and are not afraid to confide your darkest secrets to her. She doesn't judge you and will cover your mistakes, but her loyalty doesn't mean she isn't honest and she'll give you a serious shake if you're doing something wrong. Your arguments can be tough but you know that they're for your own good!
- Discreet friends: You don’t see her every week and you don’t spend hours on the phone, yet she understands how you feel. She's a rock you can lean on when you have a serious problem, and you're there for her as much as she is for you. She doesn't know all your history and that’s why her opinion isn't biased, but objective and useful.
- Guiding friends: She’s more experienced and more daring then you. She guides and encourages you, acts as a role model and helps you be a better person. She's there when you've got the blues as well as when you're happy, as you are for her.
- Inspirational friends: You set the world to rights, talk for hours about serious topics as well as futile ones, compare ideas and learn a lot from each other. You reflect long and hard about what you discuss with her and always look forward to seeing her again.
The best friend should be all of the above!
Who are just good friends?
- The fashion victim: You hit the shops with her, swap clothes and let her tell you about the latest trend she's onto. And although you appreciate her fashion kudos, you don't have that much to say to each other when you're not talking style.
- Little Miss Perfect: Beautiful, intelligent, funny and really nice, this kind of friend has it all. She probably has a gorgeous, intelligent, funny boyfriend too, and you feel a part of an élite club when you're with her. But you never invite her round when your other half is there. Are you worried she'll come onto him? No, you're not jealous...just distrustful.
- The workmate: Her sense of humour and hilarious gags at the office make you roar with laughter and you love gossiping with her at the coffee machine, but when you organise a dinner with friends, you don’t think she’ll enjoy it. Maybe you're even a bit ashamed of her?
- The Siamese twin: You go to salsa together, watch Desperate Housewives and share an impossible love for Daniel Craig, yet you can’t speak of her as a best friend. You have lots in common but no real complicity.
- The wife/girlfriend of: She’s the wife or girlfriend of your OH's best friend. She's nice and you often end up spending time together (at brunches, weekends away, weddings etc) but you never call her up just to chat. In fact, you never talk about personal things and apart from your men you don’t have much in common, even if you have fun when you see each other.
Test of time
TIme is not a reliable indicator of true friendship (you can see people out of habit rather than real affection). We often say that we know who our real friends are when times get rough, which is true and not true. You can rely on someone you barely know for support at times. People who are very close to us are sometimes overcome by what happens to us or too affected by it to be a comfort. We do know who our friends are when they can be happy for us. But who among your friends would ask you to carry the dead body of someone you had murdered? This is a bit extreme, but food for thought!