Close Encounters of the Best Kind

I love the relationship I have with Reggie, who owns this summer resort town’s only grocery store. I don’t know much about him–not even his last name. And yet, I’ve eaten his mother’s cooking and the other day, briefly met his wife. We see each other anywhere from four to six weeks a year, depending on how much time I spend on Fire Island. We share moments, not events.

As is true of most consequential stranger relationships, Reggie and I couldn’t be more different. Continue Reading »

Wanna Know Who Your CS Are?

Check out your email address book or Facebook “friends.”  Depending on the total number, ten, twenty, at most thirty are close or somewhat close friends; the rest, in varying degrees, are consequential strangers.

Test: Friend or Consequential Stranger?

Our vocabulary of relationships is limited. We tend to use the word “friend” for most of our connections, but many of our everyday contacts are actually consequential strangers (acquaintances). Think of someone you know but aren’t sure how to accurately describe the relationship. Then take this Friend or Consequential Stranger? test to look at the differences.  The test is most interesting when you apply it to several people–or fifty.  It will make you think about the complexity of social ties–and the different elements that make each relationship unique.  Then look at the (unscientific but probably accurate) scoring below.

As you probably guessed, the A statements are more likely to relate to consequential strangers, the B statements to your intimates.  However, all relationships span a continuum from complete stranger to soul mate. Although one “territory” blends into the next, and relationships can change over time, these statements can help you approximate where each person might fall on your own continuum.

More than 17 B’s: The person is somewhere near the soul mate side of your continuum–-a partner, parent, child, or close friend who is part of your inner circles.

5-7 A’s and 13-15 B’s: The person is in friend territory but not necessarily part of your inner circle.

10 A’s and 10 B’s:   The person is in the grey zone between consequential stranger and friend, perhaps someone who started out as an acquaintance and is now moving along the continuum toward the friend end, or an acquaintance who was once important and is now less so. It also might be someone you’ve known for a long time or see fairly often but who doesn’t qualify as a close friend.

13-15 A’s and 5-7 B’s: The person is a close consequential stranger, an acquaintance you associate with a particular place or activity.  You might use the label a “friend,”  but the relationship is probably based on a particular aspect of your life–your work, leisure pursuits, volunteer work.   You might even spend a considerable amount of time together, but the person is on the periphery of your social life not at its center.

17 or more A’s: The person is probably in solid consequential stranger territory–one of those wash-and-wear relationships that requires very little maintenance.