David Morin

Is it bad to spend too much time with a friend?

I had a friend who I used to hang out with almost every day. Problem was, as the time passed by, I started to get more and more annoyed with him.

Why?

Well, he tended to talk a lot and wasn’t a very good listener. Over time, I started prioritizing other friends. Finally, it came to the point where I stopped returning his calls. (I still feel bad because of that, and I know that I should have tried to bring the issue up with him first.)

In either case, this must mean that hanging out with a friend every day is bad for the friendship, right?

Well, fast forward to the co-living place I live in now. There’s a guy here who I’ve hung out with every single day for 10 months. Seeing each other every day has had the opposite effect from my previous example: Spending all this time together has turned us into really good friends.

Why?

Behavioral science gives us the answer.

For a friendship to develop, two people need to spend a lot of time together. This explains why most of our friends are those we’ve at some point spent a lot of time with. Classmates, work colleagues, and so on.

But there’s another factor that comes into play: RAPPORT.

My friendship with the guy who was a bad listener deteriorated as we spent time together because we didn’t have rapport.

My friendship with the guy in the co-living grew stronger the more we were exposed to each other because we had great rapport. And this leads us to the friendship-time principle:

TIME x RAPPORT = FRIENDSHIP

This equation tells us that as long as our rapport is positive, our friendship improves over time. However, if our rapport is negative, our friendship deteriorates over time.

Most people think that rapport is just about mirroring someone’s body language. That’s just a tiny fraction of what it’s about. Here’s an excellent explanation of rapport, written by SocialPro’s own B. Sc of Human Development Amanda Haworth.

Do you have friendships that have improved over time, and do you have friendships that have deteriorated? I’m interested to hear your story in the comments!

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Comments (10)

  1. Tristan

    Well, this is my first time to comment on your email. Seriously, I think that your essays are perfect and I should have read team early. And I benifit from them so much and I determine to make some changes to improve myself and capacity to make acquaintance with others. I and my friend both like playing basketball which means we do have great rapport. But I am still confused about making friends with girls. Maybe I think chatting with them for nothing can be werid. So would please give me some tips? Thank you for your listening.

    • David Morin

      Try to see girls as just another one of your friends. How would you approach a guy you wanted to get to know? How would you talk with them? You can pretty much do the exact same thing with a girl. It only gets weird when we start treating girls like some weird alien species, they’re just human like all of us.

  2. Soren

    One thing that I feel helps me be more empathetic to others is having that sudden realization when surrounded by a group of people that each one of us has our own little narrative running in our minds — we are the main characters of our own stories, each of us. What matters to one may not even occur in another’s story. To that end, it’s important to keep perspective and recognize that even though someone may seem invincible, even their narrative has struggles and obstacles that must be overcome. No human story is perfect of course because we are imperfect creatures, and we make mistakes. Recognizing that has really helped me relate to people better, though of course my empathy skills are a definite work-in-progress.

  3. Ingrid Sjögren

    I can relate to your first story in many ways even the avoiding part. Friends that always end up talking about themselfes, sometimes I felt like I was just a garbagebin.

    I now find me in a very odd relationship with a coworker I really don´t know what to do about. She only started to work at my place about a year ago. She had a hard time at first, learning everything and I tried to support her (as I do with anyone having a hard time). She did´nt seem to have many friends so a few times we went for a coffe or a afterwork together. We just talked like people do, not knowing each other. Or, rather I did! She immediately confied me a lot of heavy personal stuff I really was´nt ready to hear… In my mind it was/is quite obvious that we don´t have much in common.
    Now she calles me on the phone, text me, talkes to me in terms of “best friend” and I feel like a trapped animal in a cage,. I would say the PAPPORT is invisible! She even make plannes for things we are to do together without asking, being angry when I can´t fullfill her plannes!
    The problem is, like in your story, one really don´t feel so good about yorself not beeing honest telling how you feel about it. Taking the backdoor out instead, not returning calls etc. But how in heavens name do you tell a person that you´re not interested in such a close friendship??

    // Ingrid

    • David Morin

      Oh wow, so sorry to hear about that Ingrid. I WISH there was a way to perfectly solve situations like that, but I’m afraid it might be almost impossible to avoid hurting your friend in that situation. I think you have to set some clear limits on what behavior you expect from the other person, it probably won’t be pretty, but hopefully, you will both grow from it in the long run.

      • Ingrid

        Thanks for your support. It´s so hard to deal with but just knowing someone else also recognize the situation as probematic actually helps.

  4. Raphy

    This makes so much sense. I’ve had the same two kinds of experiences.
    Over time, my friendships with 2 friends deteriorated. The first weakened because I didn’t hv much in common with that friend. The more time spent made me more aware of that gap. The 2nd one because I got fed up of listening to the same kinds of things my friend used to say, though he wasn’t a bad listener either.
    However, I strongly believe in the Biblical idea that meeting a ‘neighbour’ too often can lower your value. Hence, I’m usually careful now to avoid meeting someone excessively; lest I or they lose interest.
    My friendships with two other friends have strengthened over time because I meet regularly, but intermittently, with them. Also, with those, I have more in common, so maybe it’s more about the Rapport again.

    • David Morin

      Interesting observation Raphy. Having things in common is an important part of rapport as you seem to have noticed. Personally, I think seeing each other often is great, as long as your rapport is equally great. But when the rapport isn’t as good, you may have a point that it can be wise to not see each other too frequently.

  5. Jean

    Time X Rapport = Friendship. All right, that’s a clear equation.

    So what if one is no longer in school and doesn’t work outside the home or live in a co-op situation to see the same people frequently? How would one make new friends?

    • David Morin

      My go-to is joining some sort of club, association, or interest group with at least one weekly meeting (more is better). I’ve seen people’s lives turn around very quickly when they find the right group of people, even for people in your age. Another tip is joining at the leadership level, because most people don’t want the extra responsibility, but you also get a lot more time together.