I didn’t expect my news about my friendship to overshadow my bigger news of enrolling in a summer course overseas. Juan’s post tried to show my friend’s perspective, because he feels he is that sort of person my friend is, and after reading that, the whole issue became so clear.
I learnt in my Intercultural Communication class about the dimension of Universalism vs. Particularism, a concept forwarded by Fons Trompenaars, a Dutch author. Basically, this dimension asks if which is more important to you, rules or relationships? (I’m not sure if this dimension is applied to personal relationships, since we learnt in context of the workplace, but I think it can be.)
A Universalist is someone who upholds rules, ethics, etiquette and values of equality, justice and fairness in a relationship. A Particularist is someone who focuses on the values of consideration, even if at the expense of being treated unfairly or have injustive done towards them, because they value the relationship.
I’m a Universalist because I believe in fairness and equality in a relationship (this is in context of the ideal relationship with a best friend). How much I give, is the same amount I expect to receive. I could be considerate and understanding, but I expect the other party to do the same for me as well.
My friend and Juan sound like they are Particularists. They expect unconditional (speaking figuratively) love when they don’t deserve it, because they are willing to give unconditional love when the other party doesn’t deserve it either.
Putting it like this, I look like a calculating person. I am. It’s not a good thing, but it may not be an entirely bad thing. Wouldn’t you like a friend who appreciates you just as much as you appreciate him or her? Wouldn’t you like a friend who knows how to reciprocate kind gestures? The same goes with Particularist people. It would be nice to have a friend who’d be there for you even after you’ve wronged her. It would be nice to have a friend who would be there for you even after not speaking for 5 years.
I consider myself a Universalist, but only at the beginning of a friendship, when we are at the initial stage of bonding, sharing experiences and creating memories. As the friendship blossoms, and the value of it means more to me, I could be a little bit of a Particularist, but only so much. I’d say I’m one-quarter Particularist and three-quarters Universalist.
That’s why my friendship with my friend failed. She’s a Particularist, and I’m a Universalist.
(Maybe the way I’ve analysed this is kinda clinical, but this is the way it looks to me. To say we were neither at fault for the breakdown of the friendship is false, but neither are we entirely at fault too. I guess because the both of us couldn’t reach an understanding or compromise, the friendship couldn’t sustain – at least, not at this point in our lives.)