Internet Stranger: We're Not "Friends" Until These 7 Things Happen

I’m not your buddy, pal.

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We all have friends that we wouldn’t quite call friends. Maybe “acquaintance” is more accurate. People in our lives that we’re on friendly terms with, but haven’t carved out a permanent home in our heart.

They are a critical part of our lives and our social network, but it’s SUPER important to maintain the distinction between true friendship and people we just like.

Adam Grant, influential thinker best-selling author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, breaks down the seven key milestones that draw the line between friend and “friend” in his most recent super salient article on LinkedIn.


1. “You’ve actually met in person.”

Grant says, “If you’ve only connected by email or phone, even if they are a real person, there’s no substitute for the trust that can be developed from meeting face-to-face.”

In other words, your Instagram followers aren’t your friends. You can develop a rapport with someone online or over the phone, but until you’ve spent time together in the real world, you can never truly connect.

2. “You know embarrassing things about each other that don’t show up in a Google search.”

Friendship implies a shared history and experience. A friend knows things about you because THEY WERE THERE when those things happened.


Grant states in the article, “Studies consistently show that self-disclosure—opening up and making yourself vulnerable—is one of the strongest drivers of close relationships.”

And that includes all the messy, embarrassing events in your life, because that’s who you want by your side when the sh*t hits the fan.

Who else can you trust but a TRUE friend?

3. “You can call each other without scheduling a conversation.”

You want to know the difference between “work buddy” and true friend? It’s this point right here.

Real friendship means being there for the other person when they need you to be there for them, not when it fits your schedule.


Think about the people you could call at 3AM to pick you up from the bar when you’ve had too much to drink. Those are your friends.

4. “You never discuss the weather.”

What Grant means here is you don’t have “filler” conversation. You don’t just exchange pleasantries to pass the time and maintain social norms. This could be the weather or any number of other small talk topics.

Your friend is someone you care about and who cares about you, so you want to know all the juicy details of their life that you may have missed and vice versa. Someone who’s talking about the weather doesn’t really care to know the details of your life.

5. “You help each other without keeping score.”


Grant says, “We focus on what our friends need, not what we can get back from them.”

When you’re close enough to a person to consider them a friend, their happiness is YOUR happiness. If you hurt them by not letting them lean on you when they need it, you’re hurting yourself in kind.

Plus, friends have a mutual trust that the other person will be there for them.  So you don’t care about doing them a favor because you know they’d do the same for you in a heartbeat.

6. “You’ve had meaningful experiences together.”

That hilarious coworker that you go to happy hour with and always have a good time? Not your friend if that’s the only context you see her in. It’s more of a social arrangement, like a book club.


You may BECOME friends at some point, but until you experience moments that you’ll remember forever (not to mention all the other things on this list), you’re not much more than drinking buddies.

7. You give the critical feedback that we don’t want to hear, but need to hear.

Pop quiz? Who do you trust to tell you the BRUTAL truth when you need to hear it (but maybe don’t even want to).

Everyone you just thought of is a true friend.

Criticism can be tough to accept, even when it comes from our friends. But the reason we allow it from them (instead of saying f*ck the haters) is because we trust and value their opinion. What’s more, we know they have our best interest at heart.