Friends. Who needs em’ anyway? I do…we all do! Having meaningful and rewarding friendships is an intrinsic element in leading a positive, productive life. And as it turns out, there are 8 types of friends we need most in our lives.
We all have friends, but some of us have friends …those people we trust most and who uplift us, adding value to our lives. In turn, we too are good friends to others as well, since friendships should be mutually beneficial and rewarding.
But, as most of us have learned throughout life, sometimes our “friends” don’t always meet our personal needs — perhaps, for what ever reason, they actually drag us down more than they lift us up or, they’re never really there for us when we need them the most.
So what types of friends do we need?
Working with Gallup, New York Times bestselling author Tim Rath asked that very question when he launched an extensive study about the impact friendships have in our lives. Working with a number of noted researchers, Rath carefully studied literature, analyzed millions of Gallup interviews and conducted experiments to reach his conclusions, which he published in the book “Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without.”
“Drawing on research and case studies from topics as diverse as management, marriage, and architecture, Vital Friends reveals what’s common to all truly essential friendships: a regular focus on what each person is contributing to the friendship- – rather than the all-too-common approach of expecting one person to be everything” – Gallup.
“His team’s discoveries produced Vital Friends, a book that challenges long-held assumptions people have about their relationships.” – Gallup
You Need More Than One Friend
One of the conclusions that came out of the research, is the fact that no one friend can ever really offer us everything we need from the relationship. And, even if you have an extensive group of friends, they may not be meeting all of your needs either.
Rath and Gallup surveyed over a thousand people to discover what the types of “vital friends” are…those people that have the most impact in our lives and, who best meet our individual needs in terms of the relationships. Rath concludes that these are the 8 types of vital friends:
1. The Builder
This is the friend who is consistently supportive and who motivates and inspires others – in a sense, they build, rather than tear down, because they’re the ones who motivate us and help keep us going in life.
“Builders are great motivators, always pushing you toward the finish line. They continually invest in your development and genuinely want you to succeed — even if it means they have to go out on a limb for you.” – Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:
2. The Champion
This is one type of friend we all need — that buddy who stands up for us and sings our praises. They’re a positive influence in our lives because they root for us and, they have our back.
“Champions stand up for you and what you believe in. They are the friends who sing your praises. Every day, this makes a difference in your life. Not only do they praise you in your presence, a Champion also “has your back” — and will stand up for you when you’re not around. They accept you for the person you are, even in the face of resistance. Champions are loyal friends with whom you can share things in confidence.” – Vital Friends
3. The Collaborator
In my opinion, the collaborator is the ‘fun’ friend — that cohort who thinks like us and has the same interests as us. This is the friend that will help you pull off the ultimate practical joke, or who will hop on a plane and jet off to the tropics with you on a whim.
“A Collaborator is a friend with similar interests — the basis for many great friendships. You might share a passion for sports, hobbies, religion, work, politics, food, music, movies, or books. In many cases, you belong to the same groups or share affiliations.” – Vital Friends
For me, the collaborator is the friend mostly likely to still be by your side in old age, because you share so much together, you’re more like family.
4. The Companion
The “best friend.” The companion is the friend that quite literally, is always there for you — that person who knows the real you and who without fail, sticks by you.
“A Companion is always there for you, whatever the circumstances. You share a bond that is virtually unbreakable. When something big happens in your life — good or bad — this is one of the first people you call. At times, a true Companion will even sense where you are headed — your thoughts, feelings, and actions — before you know it yourself. ” – Vital Friends
5. The Connector
The networker — the friend who knows someone who can do something and who will put you in touch with them. They’re resourceful and willing to share their other relationships. They have a diverse network of friends and contacts and when you need someone to re-grout your tile, they “know a guy.”
“A Connector is a bridge builder who helps you get what you want. Connectors get to know you — and then introduce you to others. These are the people you socialize with regularly. Friends who play the role of a Connector are always inviting you to lunch, dinner, drinks, and other gatherings where you can meet new people.” – Vital Friends
6. The Energizer
We all need an energizer! This is the pal that always makes you laugh, organizes fun trips, knows the best restaurants and who tries to get everyone together for a good time.
“Energizers are your “fun friends” who always give you a boost. You have more positive moments when you are with these friends. Energizers are quick to pick you up when you’re down — and can make a good day great.” – Vital Friends
7. The Mind Opener
The thinker and philosopher. They read a lot and they love to talk about issues. This is the friend that you can always count on to open your mind to new horizons.
“Mind Openers are the friends who expand your horizons and encourage you to embrace new ideas, opportunities, cultures, and people. They challenge you to think in innovative ways and help you create positive change.” – Vital Friends
8. The Navigator
When you feel off track or in a rut, the navigator helps set you right and gets you back on track.
“Navigators are the friends who give you advice and keep you headed in the right direction. You go to them when you need guidance, and they talk through the pros and cons with you until you find an answer. In a difficult situation, you need a Navigator by your side. They help you see a positive future while keeping things grounded in reality.” – Vital Friends
While some of your friends may embody more than one of these traits, you too may be more than one of these vital types of friends to someone else in your circle. Friendships are vital and they should be harmonious relationships that empower and motivate.
As we look at our friends and think “hmm, I think Jim is the Energizer,” we should also ask ourselves “which one of these am I?” Being friends means having mutually beneficial relationships, so if you feel you could be a “better friend” to someone, there’s no better time to start than right now.
About Tom Rath:
Tom Rath has written five of the most influential books of the last decade. His first book, How Full Is Your Bucket?, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. His 2007 book, StrengthsFinder 2.0, was Amazon’s #1 selling book worldwide in 2013. Tom’s most recent New York Times bestsellers include Strengths Based Leadership and Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements. His books have sold millions of copies and made more than 300 appearances on the Wall Street Journal‘s bestseller list
Check out some of Tom Rath’s great books.
Gallup delivers analytics and advice to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems. Combining more than 80 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup knows more about the attitudes and behaviors of employees, customers, students and citizens than any other organization in the world.
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