We live in a constant state of opportunities to improve our lives through our interactions with other people. While the major relationships that impact us in terms of time are romance, business, and family, a fourth category – friends – occupies a unique and important niche.
Friends are easier to find than romantic partners, but a good friend is harder to find than almost anything else. Our natural craving for friends runs deep – incorporated within a need to be included in a group.
This need for so-called “pack membership” has been a central force in human nature for several million years, and although we no longer literally need the pack for defense from predators, we still feel that ancient call when we are “pack-deficient”. Just as we feel thirsty when short on fluids, or hungry when short of food, we feel lonely when we are short of group membership. This craving for friends is designed into us by biological processes to make sure we take advantage of the huge benefits of human friendships.
In fact, the advantages of human friendships are so great, relative to their costs, that friendship instincts are a major reason that humans have become the most effective large species in earth’s history. Our ancestors used the insurance and informative aspects of friendship to improve their survival and reproductive odds, paving the way to our current successes.
As people helped each other, they earned their own “insurance” in the village, demonstrating their willingness and ability to help a friend, and solidifying their claim to future help if they ever needed it. And…. in most cases, people inevitably do need their friends at some point.
Thus, human beings essentially invented the insurance policy, and we call the carriers of those policies “friends.” We are the great friendship makers of our world, and in doing so we have improved our own biological position with the group in which we live.
Our friendships, like those in ancient times, operate according to the principles of Esteem Dynamics. We do things to help others, in part consciously, to solidify our standing within the group. A good group member is a safer group member. A person without a coalition – without friends – is flying solo and potentially in danger. Loneliness is the signal of that danger.
No friendships are without costs as well as benefits, and when we understand the principles of Esteem Dynamics, we are able to gain much more clarity on just where that balance lies.
As an example, we may begin to feel that a certain friendship is out of balance – that the benefits are not outweighing the costs – and we feel a need to take some sort of corrective action: criticism, renegotiating parameters, or even terminating a relationship. Here with Esteem Dynamics we explore the underlying forces of friendship, including strategies for managing existing relationships most effectively, as well as how to find and develop new members we’d like to have join our groups as our friends. These understandings are among the most important insights we can have as we pursue the satisfactions and security we derive from a great circle of friends.