This post comes from a series I wrote as part of a private Tumblr account, way back in 2012. I thought it would be cool to reproduce some of my amateur psychology here 🙂

Over the years I’ve been involved in many friendships and noticed they generally follow a pattern, or life-cycle, that can be separated into “phases”. I expect this is a similar progression to that experienced by couples in romantic relationships. By analysing friendships in terms of these phases it becomes easier to see where things are going and improve your approach and attitude and make the relationship better and more valuable for both parties.

I can see, looking back at this post, that it comes from the angle of wanting to make friends in order help a person better their lives, which is why I do it, you may have completely different motives! I understand that for most people friendship is not such a serious thing and isn’t so planned out as this. And I can see some bitterness in here from bad experiences with people (i.e. being used). But hey it’s my blog, and this is how i thought back in 2012 😛

Here are the stages as I’ve experienced them.

First Contact: You notice interesting qualities in a person you encounter in day-to-day life. Words, gestures, presentation… things that alert you to the fact that:

  • This person thinks differently
  • This person has something special – a talent or some aspect of potential, usually unrealised
  • This person would benefit from knowing you
  • You decide to encounter this person a few more times to see if it’s worth moving to the next phase. This takes maybe a few weeks at most.

Approach: When you first make one or more initial contacts. This is when you decide there is a “click”. You both get on. You often find out the person has amazing potential they can’t see in themselves. This usually takes from a few weeks to a couple of months.

Friendship Launch: You start exchanging stories and beliefs to see if you actually like the person. If you got the approach right then this is a no-brainer and a rapid and exciting phase. Often acts of generosity will fuel the process. This is where you each present a summarised version of yourself to the other. This phase can last a month or two.

Friendship Growth: Another exciting phase. All the groundwork has been done. This is where you hang out together a lot, do different things, and strengthen the relationship by sharing personal stories and growing trust. I also usually make a lot of effort during this phase – mentoring, gifts, life coaching – making the other person feel valuable and trying to help them discover themselves. This can last up to 6 months depending on how often you interact and how similar you are. It’s an exciting an challenging phase for the other person because they now have someone in their life who believes in them, and they start to see the options in their future. It can be challenging too, because you’re asking them to look into themselves and change, and this is scary for many people.

Friendship Plateau: Once the excitement of the previous phase has died down you enter a stable state of affairs. You set up routines for hanging out. This is where the actual friendship is tested and you find out whether they actually like you, or just what you’ve been able to provide. This is the most dangerous phase (for me) because this is where most people bail out, after about 6 months from first contact. The reasons they bail out include:

  • your usefulness has passed
  • they needed you for something specific and now they don’t
  • their life situation changes (new relationship etc)
  • they’re uncomfortable with the intensity of the relationship
  • the challenges they’ve had to face in their development are now too difficult

Stable Friendship: The friendship stabilizes and long-term goals become important – you help them change and grow as people and achieve life goals. This period can go on for many years. There may be a few changes as it proceeds – events that push you closer, or further apart.