I Like You But You’re Not Yet My Friend. What Do We Call Each Other? A Struggle to Replace “Acquaintance” With Something Better.
As an east coat Jew, there are always going to be a few issues for me which veer into neurosis. The existence of blueberry bagels. People who eat pizza with a knife and fork. Slow walkers. But outside of these there’s one yet unsolved question that I struggle with more than others: what’s a better word than friend to describe someone with whom you’re familiar (and positively disposed towards), but haven’t spent enough time together or gotten to know deeply enough to truly call them “friend?”
Most people tell me I should just call them “friend” but this isn’t right for me. A friend is someone I feel like I know. Where the relationship is of similar bidirectional intensity and commitment. A friendship is a vouch.
By saying everyone is a friend you lose the intimacy (and expectations) for what a friendship actually entails. The simplest fallback is acquaintance. Here’s how that normally goes, most often in a professional context:
“Hey Hunter, [other person] says you’re friends?” “Well I’d call them an acquaintance. But if I spent more time with them I bet we’d be friends.”
To me that feels acceptable, but there’s a weird asymmetry where most of the time the person I’m calling an acquaintance is calling me a friend and then it gets weird.
So here’s my question/request for you:
What do you call someone who you’ve had some amount of interaction with, perhaps even share some interest group/social circles/built some familiarity with one another, but aren’t yet “friendship” level close?
My requirements are:
- Genderless term
- Can work in a business/professional setting
- Common enough to be understood by 95%+ of people
- Has no baggage that makes it seem like I’m critiquing the other person who thinks we’re friends
You have my gratitude!
Originally published at https://hunterwalk.com on August 19, 2023.