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Interpersonal communication is an important part of the society. Notably, the society is made of groups and subgroups which interact on a daily basis with each in a coherent and mutual way through interpersonal communication. Without interpersonal communication, the relationships which are formed within the society cannot be able to thrive. One of the aspects of these subgroups in the society is friendship. In reference to Boyd (1844), friendship is an attachment between persons of congenial dispositions, habits, and pursuits (p.176). According to Grunebaum (2003), friendship identifies a special relation between persons that distinguishes friendship from other relations, such as collegiality or moral rectitude (p.99). In other words, there are special aspects of friendship that have created a demarcation between friendship and other social relationships that human beings in the society have.
One of the important issues that have been a subject of study among researchers and scholars is embedded in the way friendships are formed. To begin, it is important to understand that human beings are social beings. Stated in other words, human beings coexist with each other in a social context, without which it is difficult to maintain relationship under interpersonal communication. Therefore, researchers and scholars, sociologists and philosophers have identified ways on how friendships are formed. Before looking at these ways, it is vital to mention that the formation of friendship is affected by the cultural background of the people involved.
To begin with, there must be a context that would bring two or more people together in order for friendship to be formed. Note that the context provide an opportunity to individuals to interact and share out their minds before choosing whether one should seek to know more about the other. For instance, academic institutions are some of the important contexts which have been identified so far, which played a significant role in the formation of friendship among most people across the globe. For instance, it is common for business partners to call each other long-time friends from school, college, workplace, etc. Desai & Killick (2010) argues that research which has been carried out in the field of sociology has, unsurprisingly, shown that friendships tend to develop when individuals are placed in a context where they regularly participate in joint activities (p.142). Therefore, the first step toward the formation of friendship between or rather among individuals is the availability of context. Notably, context is an important facilitator of interpersonal communication among people.
The second factor that is necessary in the formation of friendship is regular or constant involvement in joint activities. These activities provide the participants which a chance to interact with each other and as a result lead to knowing of each other. Note that one cannot be able to know the other even if one is described in details unless there is a personal interaction. Therefore, friendship is formed by interacting with one another. As it was observed earlier on by Desai & Killick (2010), friendship is formed when individuals regularly interact with each other by participating in joint activities (p.142). Following this point, the facilitation of interpersonal communication remains a vital aspect in the formation of friendship among human beings.
There are different ways which have been identified on how friendships function in the society. To begin with, friendship functions by promoting companionship among the individuals who are involved. According to Desai & Killick (2010), friendship incorporated expectations of social and material obligation which included the overtly self-serving elements of pleasure, utility and companionship (p.72). Note that companionship promoted the mutual interaction of individuals who were involved in a particular relationship. This is done by participating in different activities together. Another aspect on how friendship functions in the society is through stimulation which is concerned with the sharing of information between adolescents (Cicchetti & Cohen, 2006, p.441). In line with this, individuals who are involved in a particular friendship relationship share vital information that is helpful to their overall development of interpersonal communication. This is further reinforced with physical support which promotes the use of assistance and resources from other friends. This is what is commonly referred to as 'being there for each other' aspect of friendship. Therefore, friendship has been found to employ the use of physical support structures to enhance its existence in the society.
Apart from the above mentioned aspects of friendship that promotes its functioning in the society, there were other aspects which played an important role in the functioning of friendship. To begin with, friendship functioned by promoting social comparison, which weighed the values and virtues of other people who were involved in a particular friendship. Note that different people have different values and virtues. Therefore, social comparison enabled individuals in a friendship relationship to focus on identifying the values and virtues that were valued by others in this friendship. For instance, some members in a friendship valued honesty, self-respect, etc. According to Cicchetti & Cohen (2006), from a cognitive-development perspective, social comparison requires one to hold two dimensions in mind simultaneously in order to compare them (p.377).
Similarly, friendship also functioned by promoting ego support which involved such issues as motivation, reassurance and complimenting of one another. Individuals in a relationship need support from one another to keep going as well as to build one another's ego (Cicchetti & Cohen, 2006). This is compounded by factors such as consistent reassurance and complimenting of one another. Research indicates that when individuals are not motivated, reassured or complimented, they have a tendency of developing negative attitudes towards themselves. This aspect of lack of self-esteem does not promote interpersonal communication: instead, it breaks every friendship link which could promote such communication in a particular friendship.
Friendship also functions by sharing of personal feelings and thoughts which are kept secret between two individual as well as maintaining trust between each other. In this regard, friends are able to enhance their intimate and affection interactions, which not only strengthen the friendship relationship, but also prevent intruders from interfering with the overall existence of the relationship. As a result of this, friendship is maintained and would grow from one level to another.
There are various differences that have been identified regarding friendship based on sex and gender. To begin with, women's same-gender friendship is 'expressive,' 'communal,' or 'face-to-face' whereas men's same-gender friendship is described as 'instrumental,' 'agentic' or 'side-by-side' (Wright & Scanlon, 1991, p.552). In other words, women's friendship involved emotional feelings which easily led to confiding where men's friendship was likely to be centered on specific structure actions or issues in the society. Arguably, the friendship which existed among women was more likely to be more complex as compared to the relationship between that existed among men.
Therefore, women went far much deeper in enhancing their relationship as compared to men, who centered on specific issues that concerned their lives and ignored the rest. The moral or mutual support for one another which was exhibited among men was far much lower as compared to the moral support which was exhibited among women. In other words, women showed a heightened support for each other as compared to men in any friendship which had been formed. Thus, it can be argued that the approach to friendship among men was totally different from that of women.