In the interviews Kitestring did, Hubbard found that bids also deepened friendships, and could set off “a cycle of increasing vulnerability and trust.”
Kelci Harris, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto who studies friendship, says that bids seem “probably equally viable for friendship” as they do for romance and marriage. She thinks that’s a promising avenue for research—taking concepts from romantic relationships and seeing if they work for friendship as well.
But as far as getting that cycle going, “it does take some push from someone,” she says. “I think a lot of people, myself included, can sometimes get stuck. Like ‘They haven’t called me, so I’m not going to call them.’ If you want to talk to your friend just call them. You don’t have to play chicken about who’s going to take the first step.”
Rawlins, however, doesn’t care for the bid concept. “I don’t think of friendships in economic terms,” he says. “I don’t think about ‘investing’ in friends. I see friendship as an ongoing conversation. A way of literally coauthoring the story of our relationship.”
Another metaphor Rawlins doesn’t like is Kitestring’s third takeaway—the idea of putting friendships in “containers,” where friendships are easier to maintain if you create some kind of regular practice in which to hold them—a weekly dinner, or a monthly book club.
“I think friendships are more dynamic than to be placed in a container,” Rawlins says. “But I like the notion of rituals.”
One interesting way Hubbard uses the container metaphor is this concept of “repotting” friendships to make them closer, as you might repot a succulent that has outgrown its terra-cotta cup. “Sometimes you’ve got a friend at work, and you see them every day, but the pot that plant is in at work is quite small,” Hubbard says. “It’s going to reach the size of the pot, and that’s it. If you want it to be a bigger, deeper friendship, you need to repot it to a bigger context. You might need to bring them to your house. Or invite them to meet your family—that’s an even bigger pot.”
Regardless of the chosen metaphor, Rawlins has some similar advice. He recommends “taking the risk to express to someone that you’d like to do something with them outside of situations where you’re required to spend time together.”
Obviously you have to build up to it; it probably wouldn’t be advisable to try to start a strict weekly dinner date with a brand-new friend. Hubbard uses the terms “intention” and “air”—“intention” being earnest efforts to connect with someone, and “air” being the breathing room you give the relationship. “If you have a lot of trust in a relationship, it can bear more intention, and if you don’t have as much trust, you need more air,” he says.
A lot of things about modern life make it easy for the air in a friendship to overtake the intention. “I think the times we live in are really an obstruction to friendship, and it needs to be said out loud,” Rawlins says. “We are living in very very divisive times where the tenor of discourse in public places sets the tone for conversation and it works its way down very quickly to dyadic relationships.”