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Here's how to inoculate ourselves against negative ones.

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Verified by Psychology Today. By Karen Karbo, published November 1, - last reviewed on June 9, When people are asked, "What gives meaning to your life? Yet the dynamics of friendship have remained mysterious and unquantifiable. Like romantic love , friendships were thought to "just happen.

With intriguing accuracy, sociologists and psychologists have delineated the forces that attract and bind friends to each other, beginning with the transition from acquaintanceship to friendship. They've traced the patterns of intimacy that emerge between friends and deduced the once ineffable "something" that elevates a friend to the vaunted status of "best. Years ago researchers conducted a study in which they followed the friendships in a single two-story apartment building.

People tended to be friends with the neighbors on their respective floors, although those on the ground floor near the mailboxes and the stairway had friends on both floors. Friendship was least likely between someone on the first floor and someone on the second. As the study suggests, friends are often those who cross paths with regularity; our friends tend to be coworkers, classmates, and people we run into at the gym.

It's no surprise that bonds form between those who interact. Yet the process is more complex: Why do we wind up chatting with one person in our yoga class and not another? She laughs at our jokes, and we laugh at hers. In short, we have things in common. But there's more: Self-disclosure characterizes the moment when a pair leaves the realm of buddyhood for the rarefied zone of true friendship.

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One person takes the risk of disclosing personal information and then 'tests' whether the other reciprocates. Reciprocity is key. Years ago, fresh out of film school, I landed my first job, at a literary agency. I became what I thought was friends with another assistant, who worked, as I did, for an infamously bad-tempered agent.

We ate lunch together almost every day. Our camaraderie was fierce, like that of soldiers during wartime. Then she found a new job working for a publicist down the street. We still met for lunch once a week. In lieu of complaining about our bosses, I told her about my concerns that I wasn't ready to move in with my boyfriend. She listened politely, but she never divulged anything personal about her own life. Eventually our lunches petered out to once a month, before she drifted out of my life for good. I was eager to tell her my problems, but she wasn't eager to tell me hers.

The necessary reciprocity was missing, so our acquaintanceship never tipped over into friendship.

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Once a friendship is established through self-disclosure and reciprocity, the glue that binds is intimacy. According to Fehr's research, people in successful same- sex friendships seem to possess a well-developed, intuitive understanding of the give and take of intimacy. Hefty helpings of emotional expressiveness and unconditional support are ingredients here, followed by acceptance, loyalty, and trust. Our friends are there for us through thick and thin, but rarely cross the line: A friend with too many opinions about our wardrobe, our partner, or our taste in movies and art may not be a friend for long.

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When someone embodies the rules—instinctually—their friendships are abundant indeed. Kathy is one of my oldest friends; we were roommates in graduate school and have been through cross-country moves, divorces, deaths, and births together. Her ability to be a friend shines during a lousy breakup. She knows when to listen and make sympathetic sounds, when to act good and outraged at your ex's bad behavior, when to give you a hug, and when to tell you to stop obsessing and enjoy a glass of wine. She knows when to offer you her couch. It's this responsiveness that accounts for her having more friends than anyone I know—certainly more than the five our mothers told us we were lucky to be able to count on one hand over the course of a lifetime.

Compared to these emotional gifts, a friend's utility paled, Fehr found in her study. Study participants judged as peripheral the ability of a friend to offer practical help in the form of, say, lending 20 bucks or allowing use of a car. This fact often turns up as a truism in movies, where the obnoxious, lonely rich kid can't understand why always picking up the tab never makes him popular. Money really can't buy love. If anything, it's giving and not receiving that makes us value a friend more.

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  • It was the American statesman and inventor Ben Franklin who first observed the paradox, now called the Ben Franklin Effect: "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged. In one classic study, participants won "contest money" from a researcher.

    Later the researcher approached some of them and explained he'd actually used his own money and had little left; could he have the money back? Most agreed. Later, the researchers found, those asked to do the favor rated the researcher more favorably than those not approached. Psychologists concur that the phenomenon stems from a desire to reconcile feeling and action, and to view our instincts and investments as correct: "Why am I going out of my way to help this guy?

    Well, he must be pretty nice. If closeness forms the basis of friendship, it stands to reason that your best friend would be someone with whom you enjoy supersized intimacy. If I confide that money is tight or my boyfriend's in the doghouse I might detail the money worries or give a blow-by-blow of the dramathon that led to the boyfriend's banishment. We have with our best friends a "beyond-the-call-of-duty" expectation. If we suffer an emergency—real or imagined—and need to talk, we expect our best friend to drop everything and race to our side.

    But according to social psychologists Carolyn Weisz and Lisa F. Wood at the University of Puget Sound, in Tacoma, Washington, there's another component to best friendship that may trump even intimacy: social- identity support, the way in which a friend understands, and then supports, our sense of self in society or the group. If we view ourselves as a mother first and a belly dancer only on Saturday mornings at the local dance studio, our best friend is likely to be another mom because she supports our primary social-identity as opposed to our personal identity as, say, someone who loves film noir or comes from the Bronx.

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    Our social-identity might relate to our religion , our ethnic group, our social role, or even membership in a special club. Weisz and Wood showed the importance of social identity support by following a group of college students from freshman through senior year. Likewise, Acceptance, Gratitude, and Attraction are ways to orient yourself in life so you can live fully. Here is how you can put this into practice.

    On your couch in your living room? At a desk in your office?

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    Take a moment to survey your surroundings and notice as much as you can. The objects in the room, the people, the sounds and smells. How do you feel in this environment? At peace? Notice all of it and take it in. Can you accept what is right now, acknowledge that you are exactly where you are meant to be?

    That is not to say that you give in or give up hoping for better. Surrender just means saying yes to Now. The past is unchangeable and the future is yet to come, so Now is all we really have. Can you accept who you are at this moment? Can you love all that you are and all that is? This is what acceptance is—an awareness, an acknowledgement, a recognition, and being okay with it. Some say that being grateful is the most necessary ingredient in the recipe for your best, abundant, most authentic existence.

    Gratitude is that hot-air balloon that takes you beyond the mundane and into higher realms; it is a feeling of being full as opposed to empty, joyous as opposed to sad. It is a knowing that all is as it should be, and being thankful for it. Gratitude save us from self-pity and self-deprecation and lifts us to a level of appreciation for what we have been given.

    Gratitude does not discriminate, and we need it to live our best life. The Law of Attraction says that whatever we give the energy of our attention to is what we will bring into our lives.