Reviews | Why are friendships so powerful?

This is the key point. Your friends strongly influence the way you perceive reality. First, they strongly influence how you see yourself. It is very difficult to measure your own worth, your own competence, unless the people you admire and respect see you as worthy, see you as competent. Also, if your friends say, “We’re all smart, talented people,” you’ll start to see yourself that way, too.

Second, your friends shape your view of the world. A few decades ago, a theorist named James J. Gibson pioneered the theory of “affordances.” The basic idea is that what you see in a situation is shaped by what you are able to do in a situation. Dennis Proffitt of the University of Virginia demonstrated this theory in several ways: less fit people perceive hills to be steeper than fit people because they have a harder time climbing them. People with heavy backpacks perceive steeper hills than people without them.

The phenomenon also works on the socio-economic level. Kids who grew up with college-educated parents walk into the Princeton campus and see a different campus than kids who have never been to college. Without even thinking about it, better-off children might communicate to their less-well-off friends ways of seeing that make these places less foreign, less imposing, more accessible.

Third, our friends modify our desires. Desire is notoriously mimetic. We want what others want and tell us it is worth wanting. If you grow up with friends who naturally aspire to be doctors, accountants, and engineers, you’ll probably aspire to such things too.

Forming a friendship can be a life-changing act, and forming a friendship with someone different from you can transform your life. Philosopher Alexander Nehamas argues that when we enter into a friendship, we surrender to that relationship, in part because the friend can bring up parts of ourselves that don’t yet exist.

Writing in How magazine, David Henreckson observes that when you venture into a new friendship, you may end up having new interests, new pursuits, and even new enemies. It’s daunting: “If, at the start of a relationship, we knew all the ways a particularly close friendship would change us, how it could transfigure some of our core values, we’d be excused for being a little reluctant to jump in.” . ”


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