Social Norms: What are the right conditions for friendship?

Social Norms: What are the right conditions for friendship?

What are the right conditions for friendship?

How come more people fall into “love at first sight” than stumble into “friendship” at first sight? If you hang out with a new friend, does it have to follow some sort of etiquette timeline (like the 3-day waiting period to call after a first date)?

How much do you have to have in common to make a close friendship work? Do you have to have similar personalities? The same hobbies? Backgrounds? Voting habits? Religious ideas?

How many months or years have to pass before you can call someone a “dear” or “family” friend? At what point do you stop just hanging out every once in a while and start to maintain daily or weekly contact, integrating them into your normal family routines? What kind of tragedies have to occur before you break down enough that you tell someone how much they really mean to you?

You know what I think holds us back from some of the best possible friendships? Social norms.

Go ahead. Throw one or two out and see what opens up to you.




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  1. Mike Morrell says:

    I love this – and I think you’re right: social norms can be the death of flourishing friendships. Now, most of my friendships are perfectly cordial – I have hundreds, if not 1000+, of those. Some might call them “colleagues” or “contacts,” but in the wild-west freelance world where I live and work, I prefer to think of them as friends – I recognize them, they recognize me, when we see each other or interact, it’s great.

    Then there are close friends – the inner circle – and for me, that number is never more than 10, and often half that. And, excepting the ones I made before I was in my 20s, they all happened fast – “friendship at first sight” indeed! – and most of them break some rules. (F’r instance, at least half of them are women. Cross-gender friendships are still taboo in many sectors, sacred and secular.) These inner circle friends have tended to be similar socio-economical-religiously, and yet, I note, more diverse than my more general friends/colleagues/contacts. I think I tend to make “fast friends” aspirationally – I see some of my own gold within them, as well as who I wish to become. Mutual admiration draws us close, quickly.

    If you’re interested in exploring questions like these, Sarah, I highly recommend you join me at Bold Boundaries this April! Whaddaya say, friend? :)

  2. Sarah says:

    @andy Ahhh, Texas. The first time I showed up there (Dallas), it had the nerve to snow. :) But no doubt the people are friendlier than the weather.

    @Mike Thanks for offering your own experience here. I think we’re meant for more substantial relationships than what may be normalized in the modern, Western world…

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