Acquaintances vs. Friends: Differences & Tips to Move From One to the Other

Stuck in acquaintance limbo? Learn how to get out and start building friendships with these helpful tips.

Published November 2, 2023
people drinking coffee and talking

Ah, acquaintances. They're in that strange limbo that lies somewhere between best friends and strangers. Not all acquaintances are built the same; some of them we just know we’re destined to be friends with.

If you've got a feeling about a person you talk to casually here and there and want to see if they're friendship material, you’ve come to the right place. Let us help you transform that acquaintance into a full-fledged friend.

Acquaintanceship vs. Friendship at a Glance 

Young couple talking outdoors

Acquaintances are those people you’re friendly with, may know a few personal facts about, and would happily wave to across the street. However, you're not calling them to complain on a bad day or planning a weekend getaway with them — that's what friends are for.

Often, acquaintances are people you don’t see that often or have recently met. You haven't had the time to build enough of a rapport to know if they're friend material or someone you’d rather distance yourself from. A few signs that someone's not quite friend material just yet are:

  • You can't remember what eye color they have.
  • You’re not sure if they have any siblings or where they grew up.
  • You definitely don't know their birthday and haven’t been invited to their party.
  • You feel comfortable chatting with them but find the conversation petering off about 10 minutes later.  
  • You may or may not have their number, but you're probably friends on some social platform.
Fast Fact

There are lots of nuances, but a friend might be defined as someone you know, like, and trust, while an acquaintance might be defined as simply a person that you know. 

How to Evolve Your Acquaintance Buddy Into a New Best Friend

Two people, young women friends together in city

Making friends in your 20s or even your 30s can be slow-going. But maybe you just haven't looked at the pool of people standing right in front of you! Neighbors, coworkers, or friends-of-friends are positioned just on the edge of friendship and all it takes is a little smart maneuvering on your part to tip the scales.

Invite Them to Something They're Interested In

Asking someone to do something is totally nerve-wracking, even if there's no romance involved. Rejection isn't a pleasant feeling, but you've got to spend time together to move that acquaintance closer to a friendship.

One way to entice them to say yes is to choose activities you know they'll like. If they're a big fan of drag shows, ask them to a drag brunch. Or if they're a huge foodie, take them to a delicious breakfast spot. The idea isn't finding stuff you want to do, but things you know they might say yes to.

Strike Up a Conversation on Socials

The middle ground between an acquaintance and a friend is one of the more harrowing places to be. There aren't really any rules of engagement, and both sides are fumbling to make it to the other side without stepping on any mines.

A great way to bridge that gap is to strike up a conversation on social platforms. This is where memes and funny videos come in handy. If you’ve got a handle on their humor, you can lean into that to help build your friendship. Soon, they’ll start sending you things back, too, and your relationship should start to progress.

Bring Up Your Personal Life in Conversation

The more you know about someone, the closer you feel to them. After all, sometimes the only difference between a stranger and a loved one is time spent together. Start peppering in little anecdotes about your family, past mistakes, hilarious faux pas, and vacations gone wrong. Let them into your world and they might start letting you into theirs.

Quick Tip

Sharing information about our lives can make many of us feel really vulnerable, and it's important to know you can trust someone before you share deeply personal things. Share only what you are really comfortable with (and gauge how the other person reciprocates) before you bare your heart and soul. 

Check in and See How They're Doing

Showing genuine interest in someone's well-being positions you as someone focused on building a real connection. In a world so full of artifice, the real is more potent than ever. So, reach out to the acquaintances you want to know better and ask how they’re doing.

Remember the tidbits about their life and reference them when applicable. For example, if you know they're in the process of moving, shoot them a text asking how it’s going. You could even offer to help out if you’re up for it. What matters is that you asked in the first place.

Include Them on Outings With Your Other Friends

If you think an acquaintance might read too much into a 1:1 hangout, or you think they'd be a little nervous to spend time alone, ask them to hang out with you and your friends. There's much less pressure when all eyes aren’t on them. As they say, there's safety in numbers, and it’s true for making new friends, too.

Skip Surface-Level Topics

If you've known your acquaintance for more than a few months, you've probably covered just about every surface-level topic you could. If you want to take things to the next step, you’ve got to skip the shallow side of the pool and jump into the deep end.

Start broaching deeper topics. You don't have to go straight for the existential questions, but you can ask people's opinions on social issues, media consumption, parenting, lifestyle habits, etc. Leave the weather talk to the meteorologists and go for something more Socratic instead.

If You're Not Interested in Being Freinds 

Not everyone meshes, and that's okay. If someone seems to be inching over to try to become friends and you're not sure you want to go there, you don't have to feel guilty. Be kind to the person without getting deeper into the relationship. Essentially, do the reverse of the tips above. It's okay to stick to surface-level topics and turn down invites if you don't think the person is a good friend fit for you. What is key is doing it in a way that you feel good about and isn't unkind to them.

Turn Casual Acquaintances Into Friends One Step at a Time 

Half of the problem with having acquaintances is that you can feel when there's a burgeoning connection there, but everyone's just too afraid of overstepping that no one does anything. Someone's got to make the first move — and it might as well be you. Start transforming those acquaintances into friends one invite or vulnerable convo at a time.

Acquaintances vs. Friends: Differences & Tips to Move From One to the Other