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The Stages of Friendship: Contact, Involvement & Close/Intimate

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  • 0:00 Friendship
  • 0:39 Contact
  • 3:02 Involvement
  • 4:00 Intimacy
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Like other relationships, friendships go through certain stages. In this lesson, we'll look at the three major stages of friendship while also learning how communication works in each.

Friendship

Cate just moved to a new town, and she wants to make new friends. She's met a couple of people who seem nice, but she hasn't really made many good friends yet. Still, there are some possibilities. She met a guy named Aaron who seems nice, and she thinks they could be good friends. But, for the time being, he's really more of an acquaintance.

Friendships, like relationships, go through several stages. To help Cate figure out how to make new friends, let's look closer at the three main stages of friendship: contact, involvement, and intimacy.

Contact

When Cate first moved to her new town, she didn't know anybody at all. Then, she met her neighbor Susan, and Susan introduced her to Aaron. Now Cate knows a couple of people in town.

Contact is the first stage of friendship and involves meeting someone and forming early impressions of him or her. The first contact with a person is important, as early impressions are hard to change.

For example, when Cate first met Susan, Susan was friendly and upbeat. She was carrying heavy groceries, but she still stopped to talk to Cate and welcome her to the building. Cate's first impression of Susan was that she was a nice, fun person. So what happens if Cate sees Susan one day, and Susan is grumpy and a little rude? Cate will probably chalk it up to the fact that Susan is having a bad day, because her first impression was that Cate was nice.

The flip side is also true, though. Around the same time that Cate met Susan, she also met Billy, another neighbor who was rude and yelled at Cate because she left an empty box in the hallway. Cate's first impression of Billy was that he was a big old meanie. But, what if Billy does something nice for Cate one day, like hold the door open as she's entering the building? She might be grateful, but she will probably believe it's because Billy just happened to be having a very good day. It probably won't change her first impression of him too much.

Early impressions are important in the contact stage of friendship, as is communication. At this stage, communication centers on basic exchanges. For example, when Cate first met Aaron, she asked him what he did for a living, and he told her that he was a teacher. He asked where she was from originally, and she said Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This back-and-forth, questions-and-answers type of conversation is common in the contact stage of friendship. At this point, people are really just trying to find out more about each other.

If the friendship does not progress past the contact stage, people usually stay acquaintances. Cate and Aaron are still acquaintances at this point because they are in the contact stage. But, as they get to know each other, they might become closer friends. On the other hand, if things keep going the way that they are, it's unlikely that Cate and Aaron will ever move past the contact stage and will, instead, remain acquaintances.

Involvement

Cate is still just acquaintances with Aaron, but she's moved beyond the contact stage with Susan. They've had tea together several times at Susan's place, and they went running together in the park one Saturday.

The involvement stage of friendship involves moving from acquaintances to friends. At this point, both parties are seeking more contact and hanging out together more and more. Take Susan and Cate; they are hanging out and working out together, so they've moved past just saying 'hi' in the hallway like acquaintances.

Communication in the involvement stage centers on deeper conversations and getting to know one another better. This is the time when people often reveal secrets about themselves and bond over shared understanding. For example, Cate told Susan about how her ex-boyfriend broke her heart when he dumped her, and Susan empathized and shared a story of how she'd been dumped, too. They were able to talk and share their feelings with one another.

Intimacy

Cate and Susan are friends, but if Cate was really in trouble, Susan wouldn't be the first person that she called. Instead, Cate would probably call her best friend Sophie, who lives back home.

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