Making friends as an adult is an unspoken challenge that many face. Partly made difficult because of the established friendships made in our formative years, and the awareness of social malevolence (for instance, deceit), making us more vigilant when determining our friends. This phenomenon is very applicable to freshers, given that university is a unique opportunity to start afresh, building sustainable relationships from scratch.
Loneliness among students is profoundly common, partially born from believing that your needs may be misunderstood given the culture for example. The cornerstone of any solid relationship is that those involved believe they know each other significantly. Yes, trust and affection are important, but these experiences need the seed of knowledge to flourish appropriately. Given we are multi-faceted beings, and are aware that our behaviours are more dependent on our circumstances than we would care to admit; how can we determine that we truly know someone? And at which point is that assertion valid?
We can distort our behaviour and self-perception through the stories we tell ourselves
The most conventional and flimsy idea of sussing out one’s character is paying attention to what they say. “I say, therefore I am” would be the most convenient misquotation and misinterpretation of Descartes to justify their existence. Personality tests are pretty common, especially in the workplace context for employers to choose the right people for their organisation. However, we’re aware that these exercises inherently discourage authenticity given they’re rife with strategy, and generally, we can distort our behaviour and self-perception through the stories we tell ourselves. Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes.
Speaking of actions, another determiner of a person’s character may be the sum of their actions. Surely one’s actions reveal their intrinsic character assuming it corresponds with their beliefs and morals, right? Well, this is a stronger indicator considering much great literature, TV, or film stresses the significance of portraying a character through their actions, helping to present characters more three-dimensionally. However, (ironically) everyone is capable of acting.
You can act how you wish to be perceived, be it at the workplace, school, or functions. Plus, the phenomena of moral licensing exists, with actions merely reflecting how we are momentarily with reference to the state of our “karma”. Not to mention actions that seem random without access to the context of one’s mindset or circumstances too.
There’s doubt surrounding the ability to be honest to oneself
However, could understanding one’s value system to be the key to knowing someone? Though an admirable barometer, it is problematic for similar reasons concerning believing what one says. Whether someone’s honest to others is one thing, but there’s doubt surrounding the ability to be honest to oneself, especially since social media and advertising can influence what someone deems valuable in varying degrees.
Also, people can project what they feel others inherently value too. Projection is well-established in psychological study in the emotional context, and considering people’s attitudes to their values is invariably passionate, it’s not unfounded to have situations where you’re surrounded by people who you believe share your views by association.
Perhaps being able to predict someone’s reactions and intent in most circumstances can be the definitive point at which you can claim that someone is truly known. Although a sound suggestion, as Napoleon once said: “laws which are consistent in theory often prove chaotic in practice.” – people can be unpredictable, particularly while under untold pressure. TV series like Breaking Bad stress the malleability of the individual and the 20th century highlighted this on a monumental scale in showing how societies can become complicit to frightening regimes, even fostering them.
It can be that “knowing” is a sliding scale rather than a binary idea
There may be no concrete answer to this question. Of course, it is more likely that you know your family for instance; however, concerning non-familial relationships, it is more difficult to determine. It can be that “knowing” is a sliding scale rather than a binary idea, those who are your friends you know more than those who are your associates for example. It may be true that you don’t really know anyone. However, this isn’t to leave people in the throes of doubt.
We may need to start by truly knowing ourselves as tough as it can be. Once we do, we may inspire others to be who they truly are. If cliche sayings like ‘the world is your mirror’ and ‘who you surround yourself with reflects your character’ have credence, then surely, you’ll eventually find yourself knowing the right people.