An Eclectic Human
A newsletter about design, community, and being a human

1.09 Friendship

What is your motivation behind having empathy? Why is it important? Here are a few great ideas from Rachael:

Human connection is transformative

We are not the same after connecting with someone else (and the same is true for that other person)—especially when that connection is deep and genuine like empathy is. I benefit from truly understanding other people. I grow and learn from them and my interactions with them. There are some people from whom I’ve learned invaluable life lessons. I would never want to go back and undo those parts of my life. I love who I am today more because of how I grew with these particularly influential people. I love life more. I love those people more. I love learning more. And I had only limited contact with a few of these mentors. It was my ability to perceive the depth of their human experience that made my fleeting moments with them into lifetime lessons.

I can think of many people who have made my life richer and deeper as I tried to understand and relate to them. Not every friendship has been that way, but even the unhealthy ones have taught me much about myself and about how to help others.

Empathy makes us more resilient

When we have negative interactions with others, empathy allows us to see beyond our own view and into the other person’s experience. This enables us to see burdens they may be carrying and possible motives for their behavior. We are less likely to take their rude behavior personally if we perceive that they are having a bad day, for example. When we know the true motive of their rudeness was not inspired by ourselves, we can make peace with the situation more easily and avoid the pitfall of internalizing inaccurate information about ourselves.

This reminds me of the steel man. Trying to understand things from another person’s point of view, or trying to bolster their arguments, makes it easier to relate to them and be patient with them.

Empathy is indispensable for a moral society

I’ve read research arguing that empathy is the basis for moral development—and I agree. As a social creature, I cannot live a healthy, happy life without others. But I need to connect with them, understand them, and form a sense of community with them in order to learn appropriate modes of conduct that will allow us to mutually benefit from our society with each other. Society could very well fall apart without empathy.

Empathy is about building stable communities, fruitful friendships, and improved selves.

• • •

This week I did a lot of reading about friendship, and I’d like to share the four most interesting things I found.

10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re Probably Part Of

This article talks about how we make friends and why we keep them (or don’t) as we get older. Tim Urban describes a “life mountain” with three tiers of friends, ranging from your closest buddies at the top to mere acquaintances at the bottom.

Whatever your particular mountain looks like, eventually the blur of your youth is behind you, the dust has settled, and there you are living your life—when one day, usually around your mid or late 20s, it hits you:

It’s not that easy to make friends anymore.

I especially liked the “Does This Friendship Make Sense” graph, which describes friendship along the axes of enjoyability and health. It’s a long article, but quite insightful. (There is a bit of language, so beware if that offends you.)

Breaking Up With Friends

This and the next one are from the great Human Parts collection on Medium.

This story is about surrounding ourselves with the right people. We can have thousands if not tens of thousands of connections on social networks, but as busy professionals and/or business owners, we each have a very finite number of deep relationships we are able to truly handle at any given time in our lives. Those relationships should be making us the best person we can be.

Love at First Sight Is a Lie

This one is more about romantic love, but it also applies to friendship in general.

Love is slow and long-suffering; lethargically dallying its way to the pit of your chest. It’s in the pit of your chest that love sits, weaving in and out of itself with every fear shared and secret whispered and story exchanged.

A Common Habit That Costs Us Friends

David Cain writes about something he discovered recently of which I think I’m also guilty:

What had felt like social abundance was actually the growth of a dangerous habit: depending on others to create my social life for me.

In every relationship there’s a certain amount of initiative that must be taken, by someone, in order to make sure you still see each other. It’s reasonable to assume we have a moral responsibility to do at least 50% of this work. We ought to be extending an invitation for every one we receive, roughly, if we value it when people do it for us.

• • •

What is an important lesson you have learned about friendship? I’d love to hear your story.

—Steve

Older article
1.08 Empathy