Do you still remember your friendship books? If so, you will primarily recall your first few years at school, when you exchanged books with your friends and answered questions about yourself. When you find a friendship book somewhere a long time later, it may bring forth nostalgic memories and enchant a smile onto your face at the same time. This book contains something that is a fundamental building block of our lives and that makes existence more colourful and more beautiful: friendship.
What is friendship?
Friendship is a type of interpersonal relationship that can be formed in a highly individual fashion. For example, there are friendships in which you see or contact each other every day, and others in which you may not see each other for months or even years. Factors such as time spent together, the regularity of contact or the number of years you have known each other, are actually secondary to the definition of friendship. It is much more important that friendship is based on reciprocity and that it always has a positive nature. You feel a strong emotional closeness to good friends, and a deep mutual understanding is formed. While many of us have a large number of acquaintances and colleagues, close friends can often be counted on the fingers of one hand. These are the people who support us during key moments in life and to whom we confide our doubts and concerns.
“A friend is someone with whom you dare to be yourself.”
Have friends and stay healthy
Psychologists, scientists and experts all agree: friendships are among the most important relationships in our lives. They do not just enrich our daily lives, but are also good for our health. People who live without friends or social connectedness have a similar mortality rate to people who smoke 15 cigarettes per day. The mortality rate is even higher than that associated with excessive alcohol consumption. By implication, people who have friendships, and who look after them, also live longer.
So, the more friends the better?
Good friendships are unquestionably lovely and enriching. But the number of friends a person needs is highly individual. The above-mentioned advantages of friendship are already noticeable in individual friendship alliances. The risk of becoming depressed is reduced, for example, if you have a good friend. Consequently, how many friends you have is not decisive. It is much more important to have friends at all.
Beyond your own horizon
In genuine friendships, we do not just experience moments of happiness, but rather they challenge us and help us to discover new aspects of ourselves. In this way, new perspectives may arise during heated discussions, or we learn the courage to stick to our opinions. Such conversations allow us to discover and influence our own personalities. For who would we be if we had nobody to exchange ideas and opinions with? Both friends and family influence our self-image. Friends also support us to make decisions that the family does not consider good. Or they encourage us to go travelling and experience adventure, something we would never have dared to do on our own.
Can men and women be friends?
It is actually true that the sexes have differing expectations of friendship; while women long for emotional closeness, for men it is more important to do activities together in the friendship. The cliché does have some basis in fact, although this statement is true of the average but not necessarily of isolated individuals.
When in life are friends particularly important?
Friendships are important at every stage of life. However, there are times in life when they have particular significance. When you are young, your friends are frequently the people you talk to most often, replacing parents in this role. Friendships formed during your school days can last into adulthood and shape your character. Good friendships are also essential during difficult times, be it a personal crisis, an illness or period of mourning, or a severe loss. In such situations, it is important that you receive support and don’t feel alone.
Would you like to know more about the subject of friendship? Then we recommend the article on SRF Kultur «Die Gesetze der Freundschaft».
“Friendship, that’s like home.”