Dr Jozelle Miller
February 27, 2018
The enemy of my enemy is my friend – part 1

There is a well-known saying “Not every grin teeth is a smile”; in essence, we are warned that not every person who smiles with us is in actuality doing so out of friendly motives. It is important to note that sometimes persons form alliances because of a common dislike of someone or something else and not necessarily out of genuine interest in the well-being and growth of each other.

I would like to shed some light on the sociological phenomenon called the common enemy effect. In sociology, Simmel (1955) and Coser (1956), in a hypothesis known as the in-group out-group hypothesis, argue that the presence of a common enemy leads to more cohesion in groups and among individuals; this merger, however, lacks the ability to be genuinely long-lasting, as once the commonality of that ‘enemy’ is taken out of the equation, these two forces will be faced with the reality of a lack of common interest, lack of a real desire for each other’s growth and well-being and worse yet, both may see each other as a potential threat, as it will become evident that both are capable of devious, manipulative and gruesome tactics to destroy the other.

The reality is each of us as individuals must develop the ability to decipher and differentiate between who an enemy is and who can be regarded as a friend. I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few months, taking people I know or have known, side by side, and wondering what the common factors are. What was the common element in someone who proves to be a friend, an enemy, a bully or a “frenemy” after all is said and done. Frenemies can be hard to recognize, because they start out as a ‘friend’. However, their comments, actions and tones impact negatively on how you feel about the relationship.

Let us decide: friend or foe?

How do YOU feel? Do you feel frustrated? Angry? Pathetic? Tired? – After meeting with this friend? Your feelings are a flag as to the state of the relationship. Is this person good for you?

Are they builders or destroyers? Do they build up your self-esteem by loving your new haircut, or destroying your self-image by putting down your weight? Sometimes it is hard to differentiate constructive, well-meant, criticism from negative, well-placed, digs. A builder is a friend. A destroyer is an enemy.

Are they serial-negativity-spreaders? Everyone can have a bad day – saying the wrong thing (it happens) however, enemies make put-downs a recurring part of your relationship.

Frenemy language: Enemies might be perfectly friendly to you – but then say or do things against you behind your back. They may speak negatively about you, your career, your parenting style, your kids or your partner (directly to you or behind your back). You might not even hear the “words” of a frenemy, but instead feel the eye rolls, head shakes or pursed lips. Is this a friend?

Actions make re-actions. Perhaps the friend is perfectly lovely – but their actions are not. Ever hosted a play date where the friend’s child bullies your child and the friend doesn’t step in? Does it happen over and over – every time the kids get together? The friend’s action (or non-action) is not good for your child. Is this a friend or an enemy?

To be continued next week