If someone asked you to think of your most trusted and valued friend, who would you think of? If they then asked you to think about how that happened – to create a timeline of your friendship from the day you met until today – what would it look like? I did exactly this as a starting point to build a framework for friendship that we can use to inform our work.
18 months ago I met someone who – unbeknownst to me at the time – would become one of my closest friends. She’s thoughtful, kind, sensitive, funny and she makes me feel extremely seen. We met through a mutual friend, and as soon as I met her I knew that I wanted her energy around me long term. Sometimes you just click with someone, and you instinctively want to keep them close. At first it was challenging to think of the timeline of our friendship – when you make friends with someone, you just do it; you don’t necessarily think about the steps you take from strangers to friends. However, upon reflection, I found that there were some really significant milestones in the friendship that got us to where we are. For me, the most important aspect is that when opportunities arose for us to show up for each other, we showed up for each other.
The Friendship Model takes its lead from how we make friends so we’ve developed a friendship framework to underpin all our work within the model.
The Friendship Framework:
- Gateway to the person – you are introduced to someone new by a person you already know. This person is the gateway.
- Opportunity to connect through gateway but independent of gateway – you have enjoyed each other’s company so much that you arrange to meet up again – because you got on so well, there is no need for the gateway to be present as you are taking steps to become friends in your own right.
- Spark identified – you meet up and discover a strong friendship connection. Perhaps you invite them to your party, or attend theirs? This in turn solidifies the bond that you have independent of the person who introduced you.
- Communication line opened and communication used to build on shared memory – By this point you have swapped numbers, you follow each other on all the socials and you have many funny stories and anecdotes to revisit and share from when the two of you spent good time together.
- Desire to see each other again identified – This person makes you feel seen, important and you have so much in common, so you absolutely want to hang out again, and soon.
- Opportunity to see each other again identified – An event pops up on Facebook that you just know your new friend would absolutely love. You also know that going with them would make the event even better, because you enjoy their company so much.
- Invitation made – you extend this invitation, perhaps you send them a link to the event followed by all the party emojis.
- Invitation accepted – they want to spend more time with you too, so they accept the invite and you both get excited.
- Opportunity to show person of high value (repeated at numerous points in the relationship) — this is a game changer that determines the deepening of the relationship – Your new friend needs some support. Perhaps they’re going through a breakup or having a hard time at work. Or maybe they have an important presentation that they’d really appreciate your input on. You show up for them – a listening ear, or a helping hand, and you go out of your way to help them out and show them that they are important to you. This brings you even closer, because you have established a level of trust.
- A need is met (repeated at numerous times throughout the timeline (repeated at numerous points in the relationship) — this is a game changer that determines the deepening of the relationship – You have a task to complete – perhaps you’re moving house and your friend comes to help you. They show up for you and show you that you are also important to them.
- Opportunities to hang out and get to know each other — conscious invitations are made – You both make a conscious effort to spend time together and socialise. When events pop up, you think of your friend and invite them to join, and they do the same for you.
- Displaying the person is in your thoughts and that you know and understand them – You know each other well now; you know their likes and dislikes, what makes them laugh and what gets under their skin. You’ve been showing up for each other, supporting each other and spending time together consistently. When times are hard you console each other, and when things are good you celebrate together. You call each other, you text, and ask how the person is feeling, what’s happening in their life; you invest time and energy into this person because they are a significant person in your life, and you in theirs.
- Wider group acknowledges the friendship – You introduce your new friend to your old friends – the family that you chose. Perhaps you throw a dinner party that they all attend, or maybe your new friend comes to stay with you and meets your family.
- Wider group encourages the friendship – Your friends and family really like this person, and they can see why you enjoy their company so much. They are open to meeting them again and they’re happy that you’ve formed a strong bond with such a lovely person.
- Friendship gets embedded in the wider group – The next time your old friends invite you out, they encourage you to bring your new friend along. They enjoy your new friend’s company just as much as you do, and your friendship circle is nourished by their presence.
- Friendship is tested at various points (repeated at numerous points in the relationship) — this is a game changer that determines the deepening of the relationship – Friendship isn’t all plain sailing. There are difficult times that you have to work through – perhaps your new friend moves away and the nature of your relationship changes because you’re mainly communicating through a screen now. Maybe they’re having a difficult time and are less responsive or willing to go out. At this point the level of effort you put in to continue this relationship and weather whatever storms you may face makes the relationship stronger and you gain a deeper connection with this person.
- Consistency in behaviour — showing up for each other – Showing up for our friends isn’t just about responding to invitations or listening to them when they are sad; it’s about being consistent – checking in, asking how they are without being prompted, and listening to understand, not to respond.
- Milestones (joint and personal) are acknowledged and effort spent – You celebrate each other’s birthdays, you send cards when they suffer a loss, you show up to support their charity run (and sponsor them). But you also acknowledge the milestones in your own friendship – you reminisce about the good times you’ve shared, send each other memes relating to your in-jokes.
- Friendship generates events (holidays etc.) – Friendship is essentially ‘doing life together’, and when you have a strong friendship with someone, you inevitably want to spend more time with them. At this point in the friendship, you know that you enjoy being with this person for extended periods of time, so you may decide to holiday together, go to a music festival or similar. This further solidifies the friendship that you have.
- Events grow in intimacy, length, stakes – You’re so close now that your friends and family know this person, and you may bring them with you to some of the most important events in your life, like a family member’s birthday party or traditional get together that you all have. The friendship is on the radar of those closest to you, and so they welcome your friend and embrace them as one of their own.
Kiki Brown is the Friendship Producer for Tiata Fahodzi. With a background that also encompasses acting and community theatre, she has co-run two small-scale theatre companies, is a drama facilitator and a singer/songwriter.