Transactional Friendships | The Truth About Them

Transactional friendships have become increasingly common in the world we live in. What are transactional friendships? Let's talk about the dynamics...

Transactional Friendships | The Truth About Them


There come moments in all of our lives where we stop to assess and analyse our interactions with others. We take a look at our friendships and the people we surround ourselves with. Upon making such assessments, we may come to realise that some of our friendships are not really friendships...in fact they are quite transactional. 


The thought of transactional friendships is something that only came to my consciousness a few weeks ago after a conversation I had. The person was speaking about the current friendships they have in their life and expressed how they had come to the realisation that most of their friendships were transactional. The reality of her situation? Both sides knew what they were getting out of the friendship, and that they needed each other on a very technical, basic level. 


This made me realise how grateful I am that none of my friendships are transactional. Discussing the concept of transactional friendships took me back to the last time I ever had transactional friendships - in secondary school. Since then, I've never tolerated transactional friendships, because unlike genuine friendships, they don't add any value to my life. 


Why do transactional friendships occur? There are two common scenarios around which transactional friendships form.

  1. Transactional friendships occur because people don't want to be alone. They don't want to be seen as a loner, so they hang around with whoever they can get. 
  2. Transactional friendships occur because someone wants to use another person to get ahead. People use such 'friendships' for clout, money, fame. 

Do you know the most interesting thing about transactional friendships? It is a very interesting dynamic, because at the end of the day both parties essentially know what is going on, and agree to it anyway. Transactional friendships are a form of toxic friendship, yet, it's a bit more than a one-sided thing where one party is abusing the other. 


People use transactional friendships to advance their careers, gain access to someone else's social circles, and to boost their own self-esteem and ego. 


Have you ever had a friend who only wants to hang out with you when everyone else is busy or unavailable? Perhaps deep down you know what's going on, but you enjoy the attention, even if it's momentary. This is what a transactional friendship looks like. 


A person who is interested only in a transactional friendship may act like the sweetest person you've ever met. But they'll forget about you and ditch you when something they consider better comes along.


They may only be associating with you because they have conflict with another friend, and so they need somewhere to be in the meantime. If someone is only trying to be your friend to advance their career or expand their social circle, they'll disappear as soon as they get what they want.


Sadly, people tend to cling onto transactional friendships because of insecurity. They don't want to be alone either. As bad as they are, transactional friendships might still give you a feeling of increased self-worth, because the person came up to you and wants to spend time with you. Even if you know why, or that it won't last, you might hold on. And so the transactional friendship continues to be kept alive...


The Difference Between Transactional Friendship and Real Friendship is Not Difficult to Spot 


So what makes real friendships so different from transactional friendships? 

One thing you'll find a lot in transactional friendships is people keeping count. 

'I did this for him/her, so I deserve this."

"(S)he didn't do this for me, so I won't do it for him/her."


Transactional friendships keep score, with the aim of not ever giving too much to the other person. This is so far from what friendship should be. 


Real friendships are based on love and long-term comittment. You don't just keep a friendship for what you can get out of it. When you truly love your friend, you give, give and give without keeping count of if they reciprocate each time. 


The main difference between transactional friendships and genuine friendships is that transactional friendships are selfish and self-centered, whereas real friendships are selfless and unconditional. 


Something I've noticed about true friendships is they don't often start with symmetry. At the beginning of the friendship, one person usually puts in a bit more effort than the other. But then once this initial interest is shown, and the friendship develops, it become more balanced with both parties working hard.


If you try to start a friendship with a transactional mindset, it won't go well. You have to be willing to go the extra mile and show a self-sacrificing attitude. 


When you show true love and have a real friendship, you get back, but not because of a sense of duty. 


Transactional friendships are weak, whereas real friendships are strong and stand the test of time. People in a transactional relationship would turn on each other in a split-second and speak badly about their 'friend' behind their back. They just do what suits them at any given moment. 


Real friendships are based on communication, and as you would expect, forgiveness. You don't give up on someone easily. Real friendships are investments, and you spend time and effort to get to the root of any problems that may arise. 


How Does One Avoid Transactional Friendships?


One of the first steps to avoid getting into transactional friendships is to develop self-respect and a healthy amount of independence.


You should be able to be comfortable being alone. This way, you will never need to seek out anyone to make you feel complete or to validate you. I'd talked before about Why You Should Have The Confidence to Do Things Alone


In the same vein, you should be willing to put in the hard work to get things that you want. Don't step on other people or use them in a selfish way to get closer to others, or to advance in a career. Re-direct that energy into improving yourself and your skills. 


At the end of the day, the biggest protection against transactional friendships is being a high-value individual. Treat yourself and others with respect, and you'll find that a lot less people try to form transactional friendships with you. When people see the high standards in your life, they won't even try to be fake with you, and you will unknowingly resist opportuntists. 


Aim to be the best version of yourself and seek out those who are also doing the same. Seek out people you admire and would like to grow with long-term.


Remember that transactional friendships are based on necessity, while real friendships are based on desire. 


Transactional friendships don't offer the same satisfication as growing to actually love, respect and trust someone, because you chose to - not because you needed a friend for a quick minute. 


Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, you'd probably like this one too. 


Have you had to avoid transactional friendships? Comment below:

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