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The ABCs of Friendship, and Why They’re REALLY Important


One of the first things I do when working with a client is ask them about their support group.  From friendship, family, spouse, co-workers, church members, and others, I want to know who around this client knows what’s going on with them, and will support them no matter what.

Usually, I’m met with a “deer-in-headlights” look.

Rarely do clients want to take their “therapy issue” to their support system.  Spouses may know an angry side of the problem, but that’s not REALLY knowing.  But who helps us keep balanced?

By REALLY knowing someone, I’m talking about the core of that person, we experience a bond that is unlike any other bond – a trust.

So, this begs the question:  What kind of friends do you have? (And likewise, what kind of friend are YOU?)

In my view, there are three types of friends.  There are A friends, B friends, and C friends.  It’s important to know these types of friends because in tough times as well as happy times, your friendships are what matter MOST.  Let me explain…

“A” Friends – These are your compadres, your possee, and your absolute CLOSEST group of pals.  No, they aren’t just “pals.”  Your “A” friends are your “go to” people.  When times are at their lowest and you feel like you’re losing your mind, these are the people you can turn to.  From embarrassing times, sad times, angry times, stressed times and downright horrific times, these are the friends you turn to when you just need them to BE there. This friend is like family (in fact, could even BE a family member). You won’t have many of them, but this friend is a friend for life.  They are invaluable because they allow you the space to be who you are, craziness and all! (And, they aren’t afraid to “call you on your stuff.”)

“B” Friends – These are your “close” friends.  Yes, “A” friends are close, but they are more than close  They know the inner-workings of your world and what makes you tick.  Your “B” friends are there for you, bring you family dinners during hard times, lend you their ear, and pick you up when you’re down.  Your “B” friends are invaluable, and we need them en masse.  These are the people you grab coffee with when you’re feeling a bit low so they can tell you how great you are – they give us balance.  While they don’t know the “craziness” you can sometimes feel when you’re an emotional basket case, they do understand frustrations, anger, sadness and they care that you feel better.

“C” Friends – These are your acquaintances.  From social parties, sporting events, work functions and just “hanging out,” your “C” friends are the ones you can call on to enhance your social life on an occasional basis.  These are merely social friends.  They add value to your life because they keep you connected to the world, to like-minded people with the same interests as you, and with those with commonalities like motherhood and career woes.  However, your “C” friends aren’t privy to the inner workings of your world. You may flippantly talk about how “frustrated” you were during a situation or how “embarrassing” it was to _____, but they couldn’t know how much one of those situations was truly life changing.

Most people who lack a sufficient support system have plenty of “C” friends, and the occasional “B” friend.  But they don’t have nearly enough “A” friends, if any at all.  Your “A” friends are absolutely ESSENTIAL.

All friendships are essential.

We need friends and family in our life because they help us feel connected, loved, and appreciated. However, without a sufficient amount of each type of friend, especially “A” friends, life can feel incredibly lonely.  Even with many acquaintances around, it’s lonely when you feel like there’s no one to call on and talk to about your deepest worries, woes and life challenges.

You won’t have many “A” friends, by my calculation.  They are a rare breed.  To be an “A” friend is exhausting at times, and let it be known, you exhaust your “A” friends. But that comes with the territory of that type of friendship. Nevertheless, if you’re going through life without sufficient “A” friends, seek them out.

Your “C” and “B” friends can become your “A” friends. There are qualities you’ll want to look for when you’re looking to move your friends up in rank:

  • You just have a “gut feeling” they are genuine, truthful, and honest, or you’ve experienced them as such
  • You’ve experienced them helping someone else in crisis, and when they talk about that person, it’s never in a condescending way
  • This person is full of values and morals that closely match yours
  • The integrity of this person is unlike most people you come in contact with
  • Somehow when you talk to this person, you feel at ease, “normal,” and like you can “be yourself” – in fact, this person helps you feel normal again!
  • This person doesn’t “jump on the bandwagon” with you when you’re in crisis mode.  In other words, they are WITH you during your pain, but they don’t JOIN you in your pain.
  • This person knows when to call “BS” and they aren’t afraid to confront you (lovingly) when you need it
  • There is no gossiping, judging, or “caddiness” with this friend – only pure acceptance and love!

If you haven’t found your “A” friend, seek her out!  This person is crucial.  And, once you have your “A” friends in place, don’t forget to nurture your “B” friends, and hang out with your “C” friends – they love and need you to.  AND, you never know when one of those friends is looking for their next “A” friendship!

About the Author:

Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer has spent over 12 years in private practice working with individuals, couples, and parents who are faced with kid-drama, mamma-drama, and family-drama, and she claims that although some stories make a grown woman cry, she loves it.


  1. cindy platt May 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

    This is so true. My A list is exclusive, small and tight. It is what I call I can count on one hand group. As a teacher I have a professional cadre of B list and many C list who seem to be the ones that stir up the most drama which requires me to go to my A list of people to vent and cope. Trust is an earned privilege.

    Check out cindy platt’s last blog post…You are a Writer

  2. cindy platt May 25, 2009 at 10:08 am

    P.S. Cindy Platt is also from NamasDaisy. Trust issues. When I started blogging I did not want to use my real name…..

    Check out cindy platt’s last blog post…You are a Writer

  3. Laurie June 12, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Wow! Good to see Cindy here too!

    I am so extremely fortunate. I have three A friends. I call them my “inner circle friends” What is funny is they don’t really know each other. These are my “truth in love” friends.
    We have been through hard times, being there to support, love, and ground the other. I wouldn’t have made it through the hell time in my life without them. We can call or text any time day or night (which we’ve done). What is funny is we totally understand each other, having very similar struggles in life. We get it and we get why we do the things we do. This makes it pretty easy to call the other one on it. But at the same time, we want the other to call us on whatever “it” is. We can tattle on ourself to the other knowing it’s safe. These friends are the best thing ever! I love them dearly and tell them so all the time!

  4. […] I read “The ABCs of Friendship” by Jennifer M. Ryan at IChooseChange, I realized that somehow, over time, my ‘A’ […]

  5. […] I read “The ABCs of Friendship” by Jennifer M. Ryan at IChooseChange, I realized that somehow, over time, my ‘A’ […]

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