Relationships with our friends can be complex, complicated, and often confusing. There’s a sinking feeling when you realize someone you considered to be a good friend is actually only an acquaintance. While both people can bring value to our lives, knowing how to tell the difference between an acquaintance vs friend can help you decide where to invest time and energy appropriately. After all, acquaintances and friends need different levels of attention, maintenance, and support—and you don’t want to waste your valuable time on a one-sided relationship.
Sometimes, it’s easy to tell the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. For example, you might have met someone recently who seems to be interested in the same things you are, but you’re not sure if they’re best friend material or someone who you will only ever encounter in certain social contexts.
Here we’re going to discuss the main differences between friends and acquaintances and tips for figuring out which relationship is which. You’ll learn how to identify the signs that someone is a friend and what it takes to keep your friendships and acquaintanceships happy, healthy, and supportive.
Whether you’re looking to strengthen existing relationships or make new connections, understanding the differences between acquaintances and friends is a valuable tool for navigating life’s social landscape.
The Perfect Friend Date Adventure
Are you tired of doing the same old things with your friends? Want to mix it up with an active and hilarious outing? Then our Adventures From Scratch: Friends Edition is for you! This interactive book is designed to help you uncover fresh experiences, try new things, and have fun while doing it. The book contains dozens of ideas for adventures you can embark on with a friend, and many of them encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
Going on an adventure with a friend (or acquaintance you’re hoping to turn into a friend!) is a great way to strengthen your bond and create memories new memories. For even more fun, consider adding a bar crawl to your friend date for a little liquid courage when making new pals!
The Characteristics of an Acquaintance
An acquaintance is someone you know casually but not as well as a friend. Your interactions with acquaintances are usually limited to specific contexts, such as co-workers at the office, university colleagues, or friends of a friend you see at social gatherings.
Below are some of the typical traits that define an acquaintance:
There is limited knowledge of personal details.
You may know an acquaintance’s name and perhaps a few basic details about their life, but you are not involved in the details of their personal life. You might know a little bit about their favorite hobbies, but not much more than that.
You rarely spend time together outside of specific contexts.
Your interactions with an acquaintance are typically limited to times when you are both in the same place, such as at work or a social event. You don’t make plans to spend time together outside of these contexts. It isn’t that you don’t want to, it just isn’t a priority.
Surface-level conversations are typical.
When you do interact, your conversations are mostly about general topics, such as the weather, current events, follow-up on events they told you about at the last gathering, or perhaps some light common interests. You don’t expect to have deep, meaningful conversations about personal topics.
You don’t turn to them when you need support.
You don’t look to a mere acquaintance for emotional support, and similarle one they turn to for support. You both have more of a “friendly” relationship than an emotionally supportive one.
Of course, all friends start as acquaintances, so it’s certainly possible to deepen the acquaintanceship with time and effort on both sides.
The Attributes of a True Friend
Your relationship with close friends is generally stronger and deeper than an acquaintance. Real friends base their relationships on connection, mutual trust, and support. Additionally, friends typically share more of their lives with each other and try to stay in touch even beyond specific contexts or events.
Here are some of the main characteristics that define a friend:
Both of you know intimate details about each other’s lives.
Friends often know many of the details of each other’s personal lives, such as hobbies, interests, family, difficult periods of their life, dating history, and career goals.
You spend time together outside of organized events.
Friends enjoy spending time with each other and make plans to do things together outside of the context in which they first met (like going to the movies, going on a road trip, or trying out a new restaurant).
You regularly have deep, meaningful conversations.
Friends share deeper, more meaningful conversations than acquaintances. They talk about their fears, dreams, feelings, and aspirations.
Providing emotional support is expected.
Friends are there for each other during times of need and offer emotional support when one friend is going through a difficult time. Friends often listen, offer advice, and are willing to help each other with day-to-day tasks as well.
They restrain judgment.
Friends understand the complications of situations. As a result, true friendship means being confident that you can share your truest thoughts and feelings without the other person abandoning you.
Reaching the “true friend” stage is great. However, your relationships need to continue to be nurtured. While all friends start as acquaintances, friendships can return to that stage if they are not properly maintained.
How To Tell If They Are Friends or Acquaintances
There are a few main differences between how an acquaintance vs friends might respond to specific scenarios.
Let’s break down some everyday situations that will highlight the different levels of friendship that can reveal if a person is a friend or an acquaintance based on how they would respond.
1. How they react when you share personal information.
If you share private information with someone, it’s a good sign that they are a friend. An acquaintance might listen politely, but they may not be as invested in your well-being.
Example: You tell someone about a difficult family situation like a divorce or death
Acquaintance response: “Oh wow, I’m sorry to hear that. That must be tough.”
Friend response: “I’m here for you. Do you want to talk about it more? Is there anything I can do to help?”
2. What they say when you invite them to hang out outside of work or school.
If you spend a lot of free time with someone, you’re probably more than casual friends. Acquaintances might only engage with you in specific social settings.
Example: You invite someone to meet for dinner and drinks
Acquaintance response: “I’ll have to check my schedule and get back to you. Things are pretty crazy right now.”
Friend response: “Absolutely! I can’t wait to see you. What day works for you?”
3. How they respond to a request for help.
If someone is willing to help and support you, it’s a sign that they are a friend. On the other hand, acquaintances might not be as invested in your success or well-being.
Example: You need help moving some furniture
Acquaintance response: “I’m not sure if I can help this weekend, but I’ll let you know.”
Friend response: “Absolutely! When do you need me? I can bring over some boxes and help load up the truck.”
By paying attention to these factors, you can determine whether someone is a friend or an acquaintance. Remember, it’s okay to have both types of relationships in your life.
4. How often do they communicate with you?
If someone regularly communicates with you outside of social settings, it could be a sign that your relationship is on a deeper level. Acquaintances may only reach out to you in certain contexts like responding to social media posts.
Example: You receive a text or call from someone you know
Acquaintance response: “Hey, it was great seeing you at the party last night. See you next time!
Friend response: “Hey, how are you? I was just thinking about you and wanted to catch up. Do you have some time to chat?”
5. What vulnerability looks like between the two of you.
If someone shows vulnerability around you, such as admitting to mistakes or sharing their feelings, it could be a sign that they trust you and consider you a friend. Acquaintances may not be comfortable sharing personal details and want to keep conversations to small talk.
Example: Someone admits they made a mistake at work
Acquaintance response: “Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
Friend response: “I know how hard you’ve been working on that project. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Common Examples of People Who Tend to Be Friends and Acquaintances
While every relationship is unique, there are certain types of people who tend to fall into the categories of friends or acquaintances. Here are some examples:
People who tend to be friends:
- Childhood friends or family members like cousins who grew up together and had a long history of shared experiences.
- People who participate in hobbies or activities together and have built a communian acquaintance can becomels who have been through challenging or life-changing experiences together.
People who tend to be acquaintances:
- Colleagues or co-workers who only see each other at work and do not have personal relationships outside of the office.
- Neighbors who live near each other or attend social events together but don’t keep up outside of those interactions.
- People who regularly chat on social media or online forums but do not regularly interact in person.
Of course, every individual is different, and it’s possible for an acquaintance to become a friend or vice versa
How to Maintain Both Relationships
It’s perfectly normal to have both friends and acquaintances in your life. Whether you are looking for deeper relationships or casual social contacts, it is important to be mindful of how you manage each type of relationship. Here are some tips for maintaining good friendships and cordial acquaintances:
1. Respect boundaries: Friends should be comfortable with sharing and being vulnerable, but acquaintances may need more space. Respect the other person’s boundaries when communicating and keep conversations appropriate for the type of relationship.
2. Listen attentively: Show that you are engaged in conversation by listening carefully and responding thoughtfully.
3. Show appreciation: Let your friends and acquaintances know how much you appreciate them. Expressing gratitude will make both your friendship and acquaintanceship stronger.
4. Be consistent: Be consistent with how often you reach out or hang out with each type of relationship. For example, if a friend doesn’t hear from you for weeks at a time, they may start to feel neglected. On the other hand, if you reach out too often to an acquaintance, they may become overwhelmed and back away.
5. Stay in touch: Whether through text messages or commenting on their recent Instagram post, make sure to stay in touch with your friends and acquaintances regularly. It is likely more appropriate to engage on social media with your good friends, while keeping up with an acquaintance may be best done via email, call, or text message.
When to Reconsider the Relationship
While it’s important to understand the difference between friends and acquaintances, unfortunately, there are times when it’s necessary to end a relationship altogether.
Toxic or damaging relationships can hurt our mental health, and it’s important to recognize the signs that it’s time to end a friendship.
Some signs that it may be time to end a toxic friendship include:
- Consistently feeling drained or exhausted after spending time with the person
- Feeling like you are always the one putting in the effort to maintain the friendship
- The person is constantly negative or brings you down
- The relationship is emotionally or verbally abusive
- The person consistently behaves in ways that are hurtful or disrespectful to you or others
If you identify with any of these situations, it may be time to reconsider the relationship. While ending a friendship can be difficult, remember that your well-being is just as important. It’s okay to prioritize your own mental health and to seek out healthier relationships.
It’s important to note that ending a friendship does not have to be a dramatic or confrontational event. You can distance yourself gradually and politely or have an open and honest conversation with the person.
Tips for Making New Friends
Are you new to town and struggling to make connections? It can be hard to make friends after high school and college. As we said, all friends begin as acquaintances, and here are some tips for making new friends:
1. Get social: Attend local events or join a club to meet people in your area. Socializing is the best way to expand your network and make meaningful connections.
2. Be yourself: When meeting someone new, don’t try too hard to impress them—just try to open up and be yourself. Doing so will help the other person to get to know you and your true personality instead of a false image you’re trying to project.
3. Be open: Ask questions and be open to talking about yourself. People often like to share their stories, so it’s important that you also share yours to make a genuine connection.
4. Follow up: After meeting someone, follow up with them and see if they’d like to chat or hang out again. This will demonstrate your interest in getting to know the person better and developing a friendship.
5. Be patient: Making an emotional connection with new friends takes a varying amount of time, so don’t expect instant results. Instead, be patient and give the relationship a chance to grow over time.
Get Out There and Make New Memories
Understanding the differences between who is a real friend and who is just an acquaintance will enhance many areas of your life. Plus, recognizing when it’s time to distance yourself from toxic friendships is important to maintaining any healthy relationship.
But why stop there? With an Adventure from Scratch book in hand, you can take your relationships to the next level. Embark on new adventures, try new activities, and create memories that will last a lifetime. And who knows? Maybe that acquaintance will turn into a friend after your next wild and crazy adventure together!
Be bold and take a chance to step outside of your comfort zone. You never know what kind of bond you might form with someone new. Remember, life is an adventure, and by understanding those little differences between friends and acquaintances, you can find your chosen family members in no time.
Have you recently moved to a new city? Take a look at this guide to making new pals after a move.
Frequently Asked Questions
There is no inherent preference between an acquaintance and a friend. It all depends on the level of closeness and support needed in the particular relationship.
The main difference between an acquaintance and a friend is the level of emotional connection present. Friends have a deeper bond because they share more meaningful conversations and experiences.
You know you’ve elevated your relationship when you feel comfortable confiding in each other and enjoy spending quality time and playing friendship-focused games with one another.
An acquaintance vs friend can be distinguished by the level of emotional connection present. Friends also have a deeper bond than acquaintances because they are able to confide in each other.