Meeting Friends of Friends
It is a sign of closeness and being comfortable in a relationship to playfully insult a person. Best friends often speak to one another as if they were the worst of enemies, but betraying their true intent with a mischievous grin and playful tone, they laugh about it in unison a few seconds later.
When one person is friends with two others, but those two are not acquainted with each other, there is an interesting psychological response that comes with their interactions. When the two meet, they tend to deride the mutual friend. It is as if they’re making displays of their familiarity and level of comfort with the individual facilitating their meeting, as a means of highlighting the preexisting connection they share — that is, a relationship with that person now made an object of derision.
There is a second factor in it, which serves as a force for social cohesion in all groups of people. To quickly make an enemy, or put one on the outs, fosters companionship in all those united in opposition to that enemy. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Countries, political parties, religious groups, and individuals, have all banned together, despite nil actual alikeness or agreement, for the sake of overcoming a common foe or aversion. To be mutually opposed to a thing is a symptom of teamwork. In cases such as these, we tend to instinctually try and bring about the feeling of camaraderie that stems from shared opposition. There is an implication that the two now meeting, though strangers to one another, should become friends, and so we act as best we know how to facilitate that. Without meaning to, playing at pretend friend and pretend foe is often how we achieve this.
Perhaps it is such an automatic response to make a play antagonist of the mutual friend because the underlying facts are exactly opposite. Each of the persons unknown to one another is initially in a position of indifference to the other, and their friend they have in common is, of course, aligned with each of them. If anyone is truly antagonistic, or at least nearer to it, it is the parties that have no bond to speak of. It might, then, be an act of compensation, which people are so readily given to.
Often when a person introduces two friends, and this is their response, the person making the introduction finds their mood sinking, as they are made the butt of jokes or made to temporarily play the part of outcast. A fear can quickly creep in that the two being introduced will become more tightly bonded than either of them are to the one making the introduction. Moreover, this dynamic can continue to play out for as long as the two continue to have a comfortable intimacy with the mutual friend but not with one another, which can endure indefinitely. We should remind ourselves that this is simply how people get on. And if we’re the one being introduced to a new acquaintance by a mutual friend, we should be careful not to be too hard on our real friend, and instead comfort them, for they have likely been put in a surprisingly fragile emotional state.
Martin Vidal is the author of The Ambition Handbook: A Guide for Ambitious Persons