Humans are social beings, which is why we need to feel we’re part of a group that values us, with different types of friends. Studies have shown that having friends helps us cope better with stress and anxiety. We also know that loneliness can be dangerous, as it’s been linked to emotional discomfort, depression, sleep disorders and substance abuse.
We may be more or less sociable, introverted or extroverted, but we all need friendship. Unfortunately, some people have friends and still feel that something’s missing. For example, a while ago I started studying psychological astrology. I was very excited about what I was learning, but I was surprised by how my friends reacted to my new passion. They were just not interested. Did I need new friends? No, but their disinterest suggested that maybe I need different types of friends.
One of the most common misconceptions about friendship is that our friends come in a one-size-fits-all format; that they serve all purposes, interests and situations. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, we all need different types of friends.
Psychologists say that there are three main friendship types. First, there’s historical or lifelong friends. Then we have common-interest friends (or people we call friends because we have certain things in common). Lastly, intimate friendships involve types of friends with whom we share an especially strong bond.
This is a general overview of the different types of friend we all need. It can be expanded to include other friend types, based on what we can share with them and what we can learn from them. Here are eight examples of alternative friendship types that could make your life fuller and richer.
Friends are supposed to have our best interests in mind. Actually, we’re supposed to have our best interests in mind ourselves, but we don’t always realise when we veer off course because we’re too enmeshed in whatever situation we are facing.
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Indeed, there are times when we venture in the wrong direction and everyone can see it but us. However, not everyone is willing to call us out on our mistakes. But an honest and caring friend will, even if the truth hurts, which is why brutally honest people should be one of the types of friends you have.
Great friends tell it like it really is shutterstock/Prostock-studio
They say that opposites attract. But how can we develop a close friendship with someone who’s very different from us?
Researchers have explored how this works mainly in romantic relationships. Sometimes we fall for someone who is the opposite of us in ideas, habits or upbringing, simply because we feel that their characteristics can complement what we don’t have.
Obviously, you need to have something in common with friends. But think about this: if all our friends are exactly like us, we can end up having a very limited vision of life. It’s likely that our conversations will revolve around the same topics and that there’ll be little disagreement, but also very little healthy debate.
On the other hand, a type of friend who is a polar opposite can make us break out of our comfort zone and open our eyes to other ways of being, thinking and doing.
Wanting to fit into a group or find your tribe is in human nature. However, the need for acceptance can be harmful to our mental health and development if we don’t know how to establish boundaries. Constantly seeking validation from friends and relatives can interfere with our personal growth and push us to mask our real selves.
“A type of friend who is a polar opposite can make us break out of our comfort zone and open our eyes to other ways of being, thinking and doing.”
But have you noticed how some people are who they are, no matter what? They’re often labelled as “the weird ones”, and they’re some of the most interesting types of friends you can have. We can learn a lot from people who aren’t afraid of setting boundaries and letting their personality bloom into a one-of-a-king being.
We tend to choose friends in our age range because that way we can share our experiences as we move through the same life stages. But that can also be an issue if you’re all stuck in a problematic life stage and don’t know what to make of it.
Older and wiser people are one of the types of friends you should have, simply because of the wider perspective they can bring. Of course, older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser, but if you’re selective, you will find that more mature friends have usually been where you are now, and they may have valuable insights to offer.
Sometimes – a lot of the time – life can get monotonous and if we’re too conservative with the types of friends we choose, we can stay stuck in the dullness for a long time.
However, there are people out there with a wild desire to live and experience everything around them. These are the types of friends who are always up for an unplanned trip, ready to book a rock climbing class, or to do that exact same thing you’ve said you’ll never do!
What’s more, they can easily convince you of why this is a good idea because their enthusiasm is contagious. We all need a daring adventure-seeker friend in our lives to challenge us and make us appreciate the richness of life.
Adventurous buddies are essential shutterstock/NDAB Creativity
Since we spend so much time at work, it makes sense to have someone we can turn to when we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or having a bad day at work. So, the different types of friend you should have include a workplace buddy. This could be the person who trained you or someone you run into every day, as long as you feel comfortable talking to them and the feeling is mutual.
Work or career friends don’t necessarily have to be people you work with. They can also be people you’ve met at a conference or at a business meeting. It can be anyone you’ve met who has similar career goals or ways of working, so you can can support each other in this area of life.
You may feel you can’t share absolutely everything with work friends, as their interests and personal lives may be very different from yours. That’s OK! Different types of friends offer support with different areas of experience.
7. The “close-by” friend
I’ve always lived in big cities, where neighbours are usually people you avoid (nobody likes the awkward interactions, especially not in the UK!). But, over the years, I’ve travelled to countries where the norm was to have a rather close and very cordial relationship with neighbours.
“There are people with a wild desire to live. We all need an adventure-seeker type of friend to challenge us and make us appreciate the richness of life.”
And it makes sense: knowing that there’s someone you can reach out to only a few steps away is invaluable. According to this survey, one of the main reasons why people don’t bother talking to their neighbours is because they think they’ll have nothing in common. Isn’t that a big assumption? The truth is that you never know what neighbours are like until you actually spend time talking to them.
There are thoughts and feelings that we only feel comfortable sharing with very specific people, usually because we fear others will judge us or they won’t understand us. There is nothing more discouraging than opening up to the wrong person!
Close confidants are one of the types of friend we should all have, because we all need unconditional and non-judgemental support at some point of our lives. These types of friends appreciate you for who you are and they understand that humans are a sum of good and not-so-good characteristics. With a close confidant, you never have to pretend you’re someone different, or hold back in any way.
The beauty about friendship is that we have a wide range of options out there. We always have the chance to make new friends, no matter what our age. And there are different types of friend who can enrich our lives, each in unique ways. •
Looking at our list of the eight friends we all need, what type of friend do you think you are? Do you recognize any of these friendship types in your life? Are you missing any of these types of friends in your buddy circle? Let us know in the comments or head over to our friendship forum.
A social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
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