It’s normal for us to make friends with people who are “alike”. However, a psychologist has revealed that having five different types of friendships will be even more fulfilling.
“It’s second nature to gravitate toward those who share the same passions and interests. We tend to click with people who are like us”, says psychology professor, Kristen Howerton.
However, making friends with people who are all very similar means that our friendships may only develop to a certain extent. When it comes to relationships, variety is the spice of life it seems!
“The best friendships are birthed from a desire to engage at a deeper level”, explains Professor Howerton. “To challenge one another, to grow individually and collectively, and to be willing to learn from one another”.
Here are the 5 friendships that psychologists say we could each develop. How many friends like this do you have? Can you add other friendships to this list?
1. Someone who is older and wiser
It’s enriching to make friends with older people who have accomplished health and happiness, display strength of character or have many tales to share.
Having an older friend means that we can gain a “role model”, no matter what our own age is. “This is not a friend you idolise or envy”, explains Professor Howerton.
“Rather, it’s someone who is one or two life stages ahead of you and can call back to you tips for the journey… Mentor friends, like no one else, can help you set your own bar higher”.
2. Someone who is younger
Being a mentor to someone younger can be very rewarding for both people involved. Young people help us maintain a sense of perspective, but also give us the ability to “pass on” life lessons.
“When a friend is looking to you as a living example, you will be challenged to live better”, explains Professor Howerton. “That is, to live a life that is worthy of imitation”.
3. Someone with different political opinions
They often say “don’t talk politics or religion” with friends, but in some cases it can be helpful to consider opposing views.
“We naturally develop friendships with others who affirm our convictions”, says Professor Howerton. “Whether in terms of religion, politics, moral ethics or any other thought arenas”.
“But when you only surround ourselves with a chorus of people who nod and Amen at every turn of the conversation, you begin to lose touch with people from other walks of life”, she explains.
Having at least one friend who has a different political perspective from yourself, will challenge your views and also make you more open to a diversity of opinions.
4. Someone from a different culture or country
Making friends with someone from another country or culture helps broaden our horizons. We quickly realise that not everybody “looks at the world” as we do.
“Cross-cultural friendships stretch us outside our limited vantage point as we seek to understand someone else’s unique customs, values and traditions”, explains Professor Howerton.
At the same time, you may be able to help a friend from another country adjust into Australian culture. They will lean on you for support, and you can learn lots about their background too!
5. Someone just like you
Being friends with someone who grew up the same way, lives in the same community, or has similar family values is very important for each of us.
This commonality helps reinforce where we come from, where we’re heading and keeps our collective values going strong.