Building communication networks and supportive and collaborative networks among friends is essential to having an adequate and balanced development.
Medical Advisor: Santiago Pérez Echeverri, Psychologist.
As it is often said, friends are the family you choose. Friends offer unconditional support, are a solid source of happiness and are good people to learn from.
As humans, we grow from the different spheres we inhabit: institutional spheres, social spheres and family. Interacting with others is part of our nature. Cooperating with each other, working as a team and living as a community are situations we adapt to in order to enjoy our lives and find meaning.
Our social circle refers to the network of friends we have and our ability to relate to them and it is based on the principles and characteristics we share in these spaces.
Personality differences also contribute to part of the characteristics of this emotional support network, they play a role in how conflicts are resolved and determine people’s perspectives on life.
“Our friend networks strongly influence us in both directions, as they help shape people, while simultaneously affecting them and the friends in their network,” states psychologist Santiago Pérez Echeverri.
Many people’s behaviors are influenced by others who leave a mark on the person or bring out certain behaviors in them. Having a friend that you can trust is therefore important; it is someone that shares your perspective on life and provides understanding, company and support. In vulnerable situations or during a crisis, these people provide you with skills to resolve and deal with challenges.
Friends are also important because they give you the mobility and flexibility to preserve your mental health. A friendship allows for the people involved in it to get used to each other little by little so that each friend can feel stronger, at ease and confident.
“To have good mental health is to be flexible. It’s not about believing that someone is healthy because they do exercise or something like that. It’s about being able to maneuver in different contexts and environments, being able to interact with others without a problem, doing different things and your personality not being a barrier to interacting with someone or being at a certain place. It’s about being aware of your limits and of the freedoms of others,” Pérez explains.
Friends are also the foundation for being able to build relationships based on understanding and stability. While occasionally they can unconsciously influence our behavior, friends are conduits for learning about how to listen, understand others, and show sympathy and support.
“Some studies show that our communication networks can have an influence on physical problems such as obesity. Friends are perhaps the strongest force in these networks as their influence involves different perspectives,” Pérez states.
It is just as important to have friends as it is to be a good friend. It is a two-way relationship, where communication and understanding must be overarching components of the friendship. This comes from experiencing different things together. There are no hierarchies or levels of importance, just equality and dedication to one another.
It is important to develop a sense of friendship when we are young, as it helps strengthen our ability to interact with others and recognize the importance and role of people in life.
Humans get to know themselves better through the relationships they have with others. This is how they identify what they like, what their principles are and how they understand the world. This also helps them to set limits and establish who they can get along with and who they wish to remain distant from.
The etymology of the word “friendship,” whose origin cannot be specifically determined, comes from the Old English word frēondscipe (friend + ship). The suffix -ship is related to an Older Germanic word meaning “to create.”
They shape our world
Sociologist and psychologist Nicholas Christakis has studied how social networks can unconsciously influence a person, and where anything from happiness to even obesity is contagious among them.
Based on analysis from personal experiences and the experiences of others close to him, and through the application of statistical studies and research, Christakis establishes a theory that friends are greatly responsible for a person’s development, as they can be what determine different physical and emotional characteristics. “Our experience of the world depends on the actual structure of the networks we are in and the type of things that emerge from and rotate through the network. I believe in this because for me, humans unite together and form a sort of ‘super organism’ species,” he states.
The 30th of July is the International Day of Friendship. This was declared by the UN General Assembly in 2011 to promote world peace.