Why it is important to have friends who are different from you

By: J.S. von Dacre

My best friend and I have an interesting dynamic. On the surface, we are both people who would have never ordinarily been friends. In many ways, we are friends who are different – from our views to our life choices.

Yet, our bond goes beyond that of sisters; a few people have said that our friendship is somewhat unorthodox with how impossibly close we are. We still have sleepovers (even when we live in the same city); we know what the other person is thinking without having to say a word; and we engulf each other in bundles of incessant hugs whenever we see each other.

We recently took a trip abroad together. Our excitement was rife as we explored the city’s ancient, winding street and became immediately enchanted with all the wondrous sites. But as customary with most of our trips, it was also filled with mild bickering, or what we tend to call our “debates”, which could range from anything between politics, societal dynamics, or human psychology. Yet, it is perhaps these differences, which have inadvertently made us so close.

 

The importance of friendship

People who are related to you are predisposed to bond with you because you share DNA. And in the spate of modern romances, “happily ever after” is becoming less common. So, apart from your relationship with yourself, the one with a best friend may be one of the most important relationships you might experience with another human.

Interestingly, a study has revealed that as you age, friendship is more important than family. It identified that we tend to keep the friends who make us feel positive and whom we like, and we discard the rest as we get older. Furthermore, friends provide a support system for those who are single or who may not turn to family in times of need.

“If a friendship has survived the test of time, you know it must be a good one – a person you turn to for help and advice often and a person you wanted in your life,” said researcher, William Chopik, who is an assistant professor of psychology.

“There are now a few studies starting to show just how important friendships can be for older adults,’ he went on to explain.

“Summaries of these studies show that friendships predict day-to-day happiness more and ultimately how long we’ll live, more so than spousal and family relationships.”

What you will learn from friends who are different

Another perspective

Friends who are different will offer an alternative viewpoint that may change your rationale, forcing you to see things from an angle you would have previously not explored. Getting advice from them will put another spin on things.

It is, however, essential that the person knows you well enough to offer advice that would be relevant to you. Most people tend to give advice based on what they would do in a situation, instead of what may be in tune with the sort of person you are. But hopefully, if your friendship is solid enough, a real friend can differentiate between both.

 

Comfort zone

It is good to have someone who pushes you out of your comfort zone and gets you to do something that you would not, otherwise, ordinarily do. It opens up your world to an abundance of new experiences.

I have talked my best friend into an array of things: being part of a flash-mob silent disco in the middle of the city; a glitzy party where we were served drinks by waiters dressed in fox costumes; and spontaneously booking last-minute flights to go hunting for deserted beaches.

While my best friend, who is a foodie, has gotten me to try all sorts of foods that I would never have eaten. Her biggest triumph was convincing me to drive for over an hour, in search of vegan red velvet cupcakes. I am not a fan of sweets or deserts, but I found myself wanting to go back for those pesky cakes more than once.

 

No competition

If there is a lot of common ground, people may instinctively get into peculiar pseudo-competitions with you. Perhaps you could be in a similar industry, or are even attracted to the same sort of people.

Having friends who are different means that you can minimise the unnecessary bitchiness that can accompany those friends who seem to often be trying to compete with you.

 

Open-mindedness

You will get to befriend individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, or social standings. This will help to develop a more positive attitude and understanding to different groups of people, and thereby, eliminate certain misconceptions, stereotypes, or prejudices.

 

Ying and yang

With friends who are different, you may discover that you are the ying to their yang. Perhaps one of you is more highly strung and the other is more laid back, or maybe one person is more “go with the flow” while the other is more “take control”.

In those ways, you may complement your friend’s weaknesses and flaws, and vice versa; your partnership will be much stronger if you are not battling exactly the same demons.

Relationships such as these will challenge you in a way that will cause you to evolve and grow. You will learn a bit more about yourself and your place in the world. After all, life would be remarkably dull and uninspired if you are exactly the same person in twenty years time, having learnt nothing new.

Ultimately, the more important thing is to ask yourself how that person makes you feel. Do you laugh until your stomach hurts when you are together? Can you count on them for certain – whether the times are good or bad? Are they a good friend to you as you are to them?

You owe it to yourself to find friendships that will inspire you to be the best that you can be.

CREDITS

ABOUT THE WRITER: J.S. von Dacre is a writer/journalist, advocate, and wanderluster. To find out more about her work, go to jsvondacre.com.

HEADER PHOTO: Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

 

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