Having a variety of friendships is a generally a good thing, but there are definitely some people you shouldn't attempt to be friends with. These people include those in certain positions of trust, professionals you interact with, or folks who are responsible for you on some level. For these types of people, it's better to remain a friendly acquaintance than someone you'd consider an actual friend.
Types of Inappropriate Friendships
Some of the people you should avoid friendships with include your:
- Child's teachers
- Tax preparer
- Doctor, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, or anyone who serves your medical needs
- Financial reps or bankers
These folks need to interact with you on a professional level, and even if they get to know you over time, I wouldn't advise trying to move their friendship to the next level. Keep them as a friendly acquaintance, and leave it at that.
Definition of Friendly Acquaintance
Even though you shouldn't friend one of the people listed above, you should remain on friendly terms. We call this being a "friendly acquaintance," which means that you are cordial and pleasant, but you don't:
- Friend them on Facebook
- Follow them on Twitter
- Invite them to parties
- Call them up to chat about personal things
- Tell them too many personal details
- Socialize with them
Why It Is a Bad Idea to Friend Certain People
For certain professionals (like doctors and teachers, for example), friending a patient or student would be crossing a line that could lead to confidentiality problems, misunderstood communication, or the perception of impropriety. If you're on the opposite end of this scenario, however, it's also a bad idea. There should be a clear distinction in the boundaries of your relationship that a friendship would definitely cross.
Moreover, you can never really be yourself with someone you also see on a professional basis. The very nature of the professional relationship would add judgment and perceptions to your friendship that would make it very hard to conquer. It's better to leave these people to your professional world, and seek out other people that you can have a strong and healthy friendship with instead.