What Are Your Friendship Tiers — Who is a Close Friend vs. an Acquaintance?

friendship tiersI know we just discussed the effect friends have on your life a few weeks ago, but I thought friendship tiers and theories would make a really interesting discussion: How do you define tiers of friendship? What is the difference (to you) between a close friend and an acquaintance, and how has that changed for you over your life?

Recently I saw an interesting article in Vox about “why 30 is the decade that friends disappear, and this is what you can do about it” — and it contained one woman’s friendship tiers:

First come acquaintances, people I can recognize and say hi to at yoga class, cookouts, church, that kind of thing. Then I start to connect with some casual friends, people I can do coffee dates and see movies with. Once we reach a point where we don’t have to make plans in advance — where we’re comfortable enough to do nothing together and I can just text that I’m on my way — that’s when I’ve made a close friend.

I immediately texted Kate to note that I disagreed with that “just text that I’m on my way” level — as an introvert, I haaaate when people CALL without a specific purpose (or, frankly, without us having agreed to have a call at X time — because I am crazy). If a good friend were to just show up at my door, I would be like, “Hi! Are you in dire need of a bathroom? Are you injured? Can I help you in some way? No? OK nice seeing you let’s get together soon!” But again, I’m kind of an extreme introvert. It’s particularly interesting to me because some of the people I consider my best, closest, soul-sister type of friends aren’t necessarily people who are in my orbit on a regular basis — they’re those people I maybe haven’t seen in nine months (or longer) but we talk for four hours straight without stopping when we do see each other. So for me, my friendship tiers look more like this:

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The Effect Close Friends Have on Your Life (And: How to Choose Your Friends)

There’s a famous quote about how you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. As I get older, I definitely have noticed this, both in good and bad ways. From a simple fashion perspective, if all your friends are buying $1,500 purses, you feel like you’re the thrifty one if your bag is only $500. Meanwhile, if your friends are all using bags they paid $20 for at Target a few years ago, spending more than $100 on a bag feels insane. From a business/career perspective, people whose friends are all coming up with ideas for businesses seem much more inclined to go out and pitch VCs and angel investors and then immediately spend the 5, 6, or 7 figures they get, making tons of hires and leasing office space. On the flip side, if all your friends are choosing to stay home to raise their kids, that choice starts to look much more realistic and doable. This even makes a difference from a health perspective — if your closest friends eat and drink to excess, odds are really high that you will as well. (There was even a study about how your friends and family influence your weight!)the effect close friends have on your life - and how to choose friends wisely

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Should Your Work Friends Include Your Assistant?

Should Your Work Friends Include Your Assistant? 2018 Update: Administrative Professionals’ Day is April 24, 2019. You can check out our most recent thread on what we’re getting for our assistants on Administrative Professionals’ Day here

Do you socialize with your assistant or secretary? Do you consider him or her to be among your work friends? Or do you keep your relationship with staffers friendly but avoid turning it into an actual friendship? If the relationship has swung too far towards “friendship,” how do you bring it back to “collegial”? Reader N wonders…

How do you reformalize a working relationship with your secretary? I work in law and I have been cognizant about not talking down to my secretary, who is also a young female. I have noticed recently she has interpreted this to mean we are “friends,” which is fine. Recently, she has seemed to step up her attitude, and does not make requests of me politely. I don’t want my niceness mistaken for passiveness or that she does not need to respect me the way she does others who were not as nice.

Hmmmn… tough question, Reader N! With Administrative Professionals Day observed this Wednesday it’s a good time to revisit the issue. In general, I think it’s fine to be friendly with staffers and other subordinates, but the closer the relationship gets, the more complicated it gets. One reader wrote to us a while ago where she was the only female lawyer, and the group of female secretaries was being very welcoming — in that case, where she already had an uphill battle to be/feel accepted with the other lawyers, I think she was right to keep her distance.  Outside of that circumstance, friendship with subordinates can also be complicated because if the assistant screws up, needs redirection or criticism, or just generally needs firmer deadlines and oversight, all of that is easier to do with an arm’s length, professional relationship, without adding more intense emotions of doubt and betrayal (“but I thought we were friends” / “why is my friend betraying me”). (We had a great discussion on whether a boss should be respected vs. liked just last year.)

As to reader N’s question, how can you bring an office friendship with an assistant back to a collegial relationship? I’m curious to hear what the readers say here, but I think the answer is “very carefully.” My $.02 tips:

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10 Ways to Make Time for Friends When You Work a Lot

How to Make Time for Friends When You Work a Lot | CorporetteIt’s tough to find enough time for friends if you have a demanding job — when you have a really busy schedule, making sure you socialize and maintain relationships requires some creative problem-solving and planning. While we’ve discussed how to fit in basic things like planning meals and cooking, doing household chores, scheduling appointments, and working out, we haven’t talked about how to fit a social calendar into a busy life in a while. Let’s chat about it today!

We’ve rounded up several suggestions from Corporette readers on making time for friends when your schedule is tight:

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Should You Ever Hire a Friend?

hiring-friendsHiring friends: yea or nay?  Does your answer vary if you’re hiring a friend to be a colleague/equal versus hiring an assistant?  We’ve talked about interviewing with friends, but not the reverse situation, hiring a friend. Reader M wonders…

I work at a small law firm. I’m pretty junior, but I have a considerable amount of input on decisions about the business. We don’t have an HR department or a formal hiring process. We’re getting pretty busy and I think it’s time to hire a new assistant to help us handle the work. A friend’s girlfriend recently moved to our city and has experience working as an assistant in a professional environment. I’m thinking of asking her if she’d be interested in the job – I know how hard it can be to find a good job in a new city and I know she’s qualified, so I’d be happy to help her and add some one likeable and competent to our staff in the process. Is it always a bad idea to hire a friend?

Interesting question, M.  There are two things that concern me about this situation.  First: she’s your friend’s girlfriend — not your friend.  You don’t know if/how things will end between them, or how awkward it’s going to be if you have to choose sides.  The second thing is that she’ll be an assistant — and being friends with staffers can get kind of murky, particularly for women.  In this situation there are two considerations here — first, if you and she are pals around the office, your superiors might start viewing you as “one of the girls,” which isn’t going to be good for your career.  Second, if you know this person enough to let your hair down around her, socially, it’s going to be a bit awkward giving her assignments and acting like a boss with her. (After all, you need to be respected, not liked.)  There needs to be some separation between work and life — and to me this is way too little space.

Readers, what are your thoughts — would you ever encourage a friend to apply to an administrative/secretarial position at your workplace?

Psst: we’ve talked before about using friends to network, as well as competing with friends for jobs.

Pictured: New Best Bitches set of friendship necklaces, available from Etsy seller guiltyeocrc for $4.50. 

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Gift Guide: For the BFF


2017 Update: We still think these are some fun gift ideas for your best friend, but you may also want to check out our latest gift ideas for professionals.

The best friend: another hard-to-gift person. This one will vary widely based on how “big” a gift you guys typically exchange — but here are some things that I would consider. Ladies, what are you getting for your best friend’s gift this year?

We’ve previously covered gifts for moms, MILs, and mom-like mentors (with the “live” Pinterest board here), as well as gifts for guys like husbands, fathers, brothers, and friends (with the live Pinterest board here).

Full details on the suggestions, below the jump… note that as with other guides we’ll keep updating the Pinterest board for best friend gift ideas if we find anything else on point or readers suggest something awesome.

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