I hadn't been living in Byron Bay long when my young daughter got an invite to a daycare friend's fifth birthday party.
“Great!” I thought optimistically. “An opportunity to make some new friends! I’ll be right in with all the Byron mums by next week! Our kids will play together all the time!”
But when I got to the party, all the mums – who looked very much acquainted with each other – were sitting in a large circle on the grass, their backs turned to me as I walked in.
I stood a few metres away awkwardly for a few minutes, weighing up whether I could casually join in without causing a scene or attracting weird looks, then decided that it absolutely was not going to happen. So I joined in a smaller, less intimidating group with a nice little gap just waiting for me to slot in.
A circle is closed off, and leaves no room for other people to join. A horseshoe has a small gap, but is so much more welcoming to others.
Watch: Let's talk about friendships. Post continues after video.
This is the crux of the ‘friendship horseshoe rule’, an alternative to the ‘friendship circle’, long held up as the pinnacle of friendship.