Understanding the psychology of friendship

Some friendships begin easily, especially when people are thrown together in social or professional spheres.

But are those the kinds of friends you can rely on in times of need?

Dr Schomer says the most important thing in friendship is the ability to keep confidence. Loyalty, support, affection and warmth, honesty and frankness are also important factors.

He identifies the four layers of friendship:

  • The nucleus - a tight core group

  • The inner circle - these are the go-to people for fun, advice, support and empowerment

  • The peripheral group - these are friends you see in one particular setting, such as religious services, school or at work

  • The acquaintances - people you know in a friendly way but who are not your actual friends.

We need to understand that the transition from acquaintanceship to friendship is typically characterised by an increase in both the breadth and depth of self disclosure

Dr Helgo Schomer, resident psychologist

Dr Schomer says the maintenance of friendship is very important as we go through the different phases in life. He says who are the friends who will stick by you through big life events like death, marriage, parenthood and divorce.

The willingness of both parties to confide in each other usually determines how close the friendship is. 'If I tell you something private about my life, will you trust me with yours?'

The central part of our friendship are the friends that support our social identity

Dr Helgo Schomer, resident psychologist

Listen to the full conversation below:


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