‘almost friends’?!

An interesting recent post by Jeff McNair at CalBaptist University touches on a common question raised during Social Role Valorization (SRV) workshops, about the nature of the role of friend versus the role of staff or volunteer. This question often raises lots of defenses, which can be a sign that much unconscious devaluation is present. This question also speaks to one of the most fundamental human needs that we all share; the need for friendship, mutual relationship, love.

What is the social role of friend? What ‘responsibilities, behaviors, expectations and privileges’ are part of the social role of friend? What good things of life typically come with the role of friend? What is the range of ‘friend roles’ (e.g., best friend, oldest friend, new friend, going-out-to-the-movies-friend)? What is the wide range of ways that we typically make friends? Much to consider and reflect on. As always, we welcome your SRV-related thoughts, questions, comments and examples.

Marc Tumeinski

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  1. Written by Kelly Rebert
    on January 31, 2012 at 6:01 pm
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    I never really thought much about the social roles a friend or friends actually have in your life. When I first thought about this question the usual responses came to me. A friend should be there when you need them and provide you with comfort. When I really started thinking about this question I realized that having friends is a lot more important than just having someone to talk to. In society the role of a friend is much more than a companion but instead an important role that everybody fills an infinitely number of times in their life time. Society has a whole wouldn’t be the same without friendships. Not only do you make friends for life, short time periods but you make friends standing in a coffee shop waiting for coffee. No, maybe you won’t ever see that person again but for the moment and that minute you waited for your coffee they were there for you as a friend whether it seemed it or not. SRV also explains the reasoning for why some people just don’t get along and can’t get along. That person may never have done something to you but for some reason you don’t care for them. These feelings can be a result of the devaluation that takes place in society and the way you see yourself and that person. You may unconsciously believe that you are better than that person and therefore not like them even though you don’t know them. The way society characterizes people can have an unconscious factor on the way you look at them as friend material or not. These questions really opened my eyes to the reasons and the importance behind all the different types of friendships we as humans form and how unconscious devaluation can affect a friendship.

  2. Written by Janet Klees
    on February 2, 2012 at 10:32 am
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    Regarding “almost friends”, Jeff McNair makes some very important observations. Two outcomes of this crooked thinking about paid workers as friends are evident to me. My good friend, Beatrice, who has received services for most of her life has a very different and cynical view of “friendship” after a lifetime’s worth of promises of long term connection from workers who do not follow through. And secondly, when paid workers fool themselves into thinking they will be the exception, it is the person with a disability who pays the price.

    My constant advice to paid workers, do not call yourself a friend or make the friendship promises until a full year after your paid employment ends and there is a clear trail of regular times together that would indicate what such words might mean to you.

    Janet

  3. Written by stevetiff
    on February 2, 2012 at 10:31 pm
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    Jane Sherwin’s article in the latest issue of the SRV journal takes a close look at valued roles and relationships and in doing so illustrates the the subtle ways in which valued roles take one closer to real friendships. In light of McNair’s post, I suggest checking out this article, now posted for free on the SRVIP website.

    As a teacher in training, I have been thinking about the idea of friendship for the students with disabilities whom I will likely encounter in my classrooms. While much has been made of the policies of inclusion in Ontario, the few classroom experiences I have so far point more to “presence” of students with disabilities rather than “participation”, a concept that Sherwin addresses in her article.

    As someone with many hobbies I am reminded by this post of the wide range of friend roles: going out for coffee-friend, movie-friend, politics-friend, etc. Tomorrow I am hosting for dinner for some friends from school, friends I was able to make because of my valued role as student. Dinner with friends is just one of the many good things of life I enjoy because I fill the valued role of friend.

    Steve Tiffany

  4. Written by Kara
    on February 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm
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    “ Almost friends.” What exactly does this mean? We have all heard about different types of relationships in our lives such as an acquaintance, family friend, boy/girl friend, best friends and even almost friends. Personally, I know all of these so called “friends” in my life are unique and special to me in certain ways, but what exactly is the role of each form of friend, especially an ‘almost friend.”
    I can say that I have many friends in my life, but sometimes I wonder if all of my friends consider me their friend. This can be a hard idea to grasp. It can sometimes make people really upset or confused, but it is a real question and concept we have to ask ourself. Fortunately, I have always had a relatively easy time maintaining friends, but I know for some people this might be a hard task. Sometimes, individuals have a difficult time maintaing friends with someone because they might be moody, selfish, never around to hang out, or even because they have a disability. Often times, people with disabilities have the most challenging times making or keeping friends. Although they have tons of people who care deeply for them does this necessarily mean they are friends? SRV goes deeper into explaining reasons why disabled individuals might have a hard time with friendships. Individuals who are disabled have the tendency of experiencing ‘almost friends.’ These ‘almost friends’ are people such as caretakers, priest, teachers, or doctors. They have a job of assisting humans in living a better life, but this does not mean they are obligated to be a friend. Occasionally certain people will enter your life who you would like to get to know, but they on the other hand don’t always want or need to get to know you in a friend level. This might be because they see themselves as abled or better than you. or they see you as part of their caseload.
    This is a very hard topic to discuss and ponder. I believe that we need to help others who struggle with this concept better understand the possible reasoning as to why people in our life’s do not always need or want to be friends. This article made me really think about who are my true or ‘almost friends’ in life and the importance behind each type of friendship.

  5. Written by Caitlin
    on February 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm
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    Friends are someone that is there for you whenever you need them. They are caring and considerate toward you and never judge you for what you do or say. Having a friend allows you to express your thoughts and feelings without feeling as though you are being judged. Holding feelings or thoughts in can lead to a mental breakdown later. The build up of emotions can be eliminated if there is friend that you can talk to. I believe there are friends that are not as close to you as other ones. Best friends are always there for you and would never do anything to hurt you. They often have similar views as you and enjoy doing the same things you do. Friends are those people in your life that you are spend time with but not as frequently as your best friends. You still have many things in common, but choose to not spend as much time with them as your best friends. There are even friends you have that you spend time with just on the weekends or during the week. A person you spend time with during the week may be because you have similar classes as them. People you spend time with on the weekends may still be your friends but because of different schedules during the week, you are unable to spend time with them. I believe it is good to have friends on all different levels because you can learn from everyone even if you don’t spend a lot of time with them.

  6. Written by Susie
    on February 29, 2012 at 6:27 pm
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    The article is talking about the role of a friend versus the role of a volunteer. We all need friends and we all need to feel loved. Theme seven of Wolfensberger’s ten themes of social role valorization states that, “The importance of interpersonal identification between valued and devalued people: access to ‘the good things in life’ is more likely to be afforded to devalued people if valued people see themselves as being like them and having things in common with them” (Wolfensberger 2004). I believe that have a good friend, and someone who loves you and cares about you is one of the ‘good things in life.’ The social role of a friend is to be there for someone and support them no matter what. Everyone should have friends, and surround themselves with people they like and who like them. I think the different ranges of friends are relevant. Best friends, old friends, and new friends, going out to the movies friends are all types of friends. Best friends are friends that you can tell absolutely anything to. They are people who get you and understand who you are. An old friend is someone who you have been friends with for several years. You may not necessarily tell them everything, but they do know a lot about who you are, and know about your life experiences since they have been with you for so long. New friends are simple. They are people you have just met, and are just getting to know. Last but now least a going out to the movie friend is someone you enjoy to hang around. You enjoy their company, but you would not necessarily tell them your life story. Overall everyone deserves a friend. No matter what kind of friend a person may have, it is just nice feeling loved and thought about.

  7. Written by Susie
    on February 29, 2012 at 6:29 pm
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    my reference from my post:
    Wolfensberger, W. (2004). Social Role Valorization. Syracuse, NY: Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry.

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