Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two Contrasting Approaches to Friendship

Something interesting happened in my reading world the other day. Two of the books I’m reading had little discussions about how different people approach friendship. The approaches presented were complete opposites. I thought it was funny that I happened to read them on the same day. Neither book is about friendship; the non-fiction one included the approach in order to explain a concept, the fiction one to develop a character.

In the first book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, the author describes a friend of his whom he’s identified as a connector. This person, Roger, thinks of every person he ever meets as a friend. If he can get your name, address, and birthday, he will send you a birthday card every year—just to let you know you’re important to him. He does this even if he only met you in the airport while waiting to catch a plane, spent just a few minutes with you, and will most likely never see you again! At the time the book was written, Roger had 1,600 people in his address book!

Roger knows these relationships aren’t deep (Gladwell calls them “weak-ties”), but Roger likes people and people like him. One of his greatest joys in life is introducing friends with similar interests to one another, so they can become friends, too. The term “connector” fits because Roger connects himself to other people and then to each other. The book was written before social media came to exist, so I can only imagine how many “friends” Roger has now. According to Gladwell, he values every one.

The second book, Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson, introduces us to Ann Silver. Ann knows that life is short and that she doesn’t have time to fully invest herself in the lives of every person on the planet. She enjoys meeting new people, but she's selective about which people she calls friends. People like and respect Ann. Those she chooses as her friends consider themselves privileged and like spending time with her. They trust her with the deepest details of their lives.

Ann values her privacy, so she protects the privacy of her friends. This means she doesn’t talk about one to another except in general and positive ways if one happens to come up in conversation. She never goes out of her way to introduce them to each other. If they happened to show up in the same room and the same time, she’ll happily make the introduction. Otherwise, it’s none of her business whether or not they ever meet. With Ann, once you’re a friend, you’re a friend for life—unless you betray her trust. If Ann were to use social media, and that would be unlikely, she would probably have very few friends—by choice.

  • Realizing that these are two extremes, which kind of friend do you tend to be?
  • Which kind of friend would you most appreciate?

Today I'm sharing this post with the linky party at A Little R & R.

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