What distinctions, if any, do you make between friends and family members. How does this affect the way you communicate with persons in each category?
I make several distinctions between friends and family. Friends provide me a sense of social belonging more than a family. Being a part of a family is important, but acceptance of friends is a general indication of how well society would accept me as an individual. Friends are voluntary, whereas a family is given at time of birth. The fact that friends choose to associate with me makes them uniquely valuable.
Friends also help provide emotional integration and stability. This is because I can self-disclose information to them that I cannot to my parents. There is a limit to what I can explain to my family members since I do not command the Cantonese language as well as I do the English language. For instance, the stress, obligations, and career planning of a college student are difficult issues for my parents to understand. While growing up, they dealt more with issues of survival. Therefore, I rely on friends to listen to such concerns. They facilitate reflection, which allows me to integrate my emotions into my self-concept, which then provides stability.
K.E. Davis from Psychology Today proposed a model of friendship. I use the acronym “E.A.T. C.R.U.M.S.” to remember the qualities that I like in friends:
Enjoyment – we have fun together
Acceptance – we accept each other as we are without the need to change each other
Trust – we trust each other to behave in the best interest of the other
Confide – we feel comfortable self-disclosing to each other
Respect – we agree with the decisions the other person has made in life
Understanding – we are not continually confused with the other person’s behavior
Mutual assistance – we can expect help from each other
Spontaneity – we do not feel like we have to play a role around the other person
I consider a person a friend if the relationship demonstrates any one of these qualities. Though, the more of these qualities that a relationship has, the better we are as friends.
Moreover, best friends are differentiated from good friends by two more attributes:
Advocate – we are the champions of the other person’s interests
Self-sacrifice – we are willing to help the other person even at our expense
Whereas best friends are as important as family members, I generally value family members more than friends. For family members, there is assured assistance without the expectation of reciprocity. In many ways, the support of family is unconditional. Moreover, family members have known me the longest. They know my weaknesses. They have watched me grow. As a result, they are the main figures that reassure my self-worth.
These distinctions between family and friends do not affect my communication with them. The distinctions, however, affect how much effort and time I put in the relationship. The way I communicate with people is generally dependent upon who I am talking to.