Friends: How can we develop our friendships?

This week is particularly personal for me as I pay tribute to my friend who passed away last week. So this one is for you Chris.

How can we be better or even the best friends possible?

Thanks to the following guests for participating:

Trin Garritano, co-author and co-host of Friendshipping. Here is the full interview:

Elizabeth Arifien, Artistic Director and Founder of Creative Dance London.

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Rachel Wilkerson Miller speaks to Politics and Prose:

Shasta Nelson hosts a Ted Talk on Frientimacy in 2017:

Books looked at this week:

Trin Garritano and Jenn Bane: Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends

Rachel Wilkerson Miller: Art of Showing Up

Shasta Nelson: Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.

Transcription

Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to the fourteenth episode of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky skills by taking this learning journey with you.

This week is particularly personal to me as I try and uncover what makes a good friend. My wonderful pal Chris Turner passed away last week, and left me and many others in total shock. He had been my friendly companion in our walking group, always making me feel welcome. And it was the fact he had left a number of voice messages and I hadn’t gotten back to him that makes me feel like the worst friend ever. And so this one is for you Chris. How can we be better or even the best friends possible?

I got to speak to the wonderful Trin Garritano, co-author of our first book Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends.

Alongside Jenn Bane, the duo are behind the cult favorite podcast Friendshipping.

Here is Garritano speaking to me earlier this week, and find the full interview on http://www.howtobe247.com.

TRIN GARRITANO

Covering the basics from making friends to maintaining friendships, Garritano and Bane do a deep dive into how to make friendships stick. Why are friendships important? They explain that friendship is ancient survival skill. Paleolithic humans worked together to find resources, protect one another, and gather food thus forming groups. So it’s hardly surprising we still stick together.

But it’s harder as adults to make friends as we don’t have communal places where we can meet new people. And sometimes with a limited budget, it can be difficult to enjoy hobbies with others.

However before we can make the leap to making friends, the authors say we must hone the relationships with ourselves first. Using meta thinking or noticing what thoughts enter your mind and examining why they’re there, where they came from, and if they are actually true, we figure out how to filter out cognitive distortions and learn to be compassionate.

If you’re trying to make new friends, Garritano and Bane recommend looking at your current flock and see if you can ask to join their wider friendship groups via activities they take part in.

They describe what good friends do for each other including occasional annoying favours, check on each other proactively especially in times of difficulty, say nice things about you behind your back, celebrate and commiserate with you, share things with you that they think you may like, encourage you and never judge you.

And they say Internet friends are real friends too, and can be pursued further in a safe way, as long as it’s consensual and no one is under age. Garritano tells me treat people on the Internet like feral cats, ease into friendships without jumping head first.

One of my favourite parts of the books is about flaky friends. I have been one of those people, as a natural introvert and cactus friend, coming out of my shell is very unnatural to my being. As long as you tell your friends what you can and cannot manage generally, instead of committing to things, state your boundaries and limits and then accept the fact you will be left out of certain things out of your own choice. And try make up for it if you do flake out, it’s your responsibility.

Vent with consent they say. While it’s great to rant, do ask your friend if they have time to listen, ask them sincerely how they are doing as well, and be grateful for the fact that they shared their precious time with you.

When apologising, don’t expect anything in return, it’s on their terms how angry they may be, make your apology specific and active ie. Im sorry for doing xyz and not I’m sorry you are upset, and should not be a lengthy monologue.

It’s a brilliant book that covers everything from befriending old friends to even breaking up with them. I highly recommend their podcast too.

The next book looked at is the Art of Showing Up by Rachel Wilkerson Miller. The Deputy Editor, Life at VICE looks at how to show up for yourself, with the second half of the book exploring how to show up for others. Here’s Miller speaking to Politics and Prose.

RACHEL MILLER

Miller defines showing up as noticing anything that communicates a need, processing what you’ve noticed, naming and identifying the underlying need, and responding in a way that the receiver (including yourself), feels supported.

She adds showing up for yourself and others is rooted in nine core values: curiosity, intelligence, intuition, compassion, generosity, creativity, self-awareness, confidence, and a willingness to be vulnerable.

Before showing up for others, she says showing up for yourself is required, and self-knowledge is at the core of this. She then suggests looking into your values, preferences, your comfort levels, your emotions, your needs, your boundaries, your time, money, and energy, being able to say no, showing up for your body, your environment, accepting help, and venting appropriately.

She goes on to showing up for potential new friends using techniques such as becoming a regular in groups that can be found online, for example on meetup.com, improving your small talk with ARE acronym which stands for anchor (describing what is around you and where you are), reveal (where you share something about yourself), and encourage (ie. Inviting the other person to talk). It’s important however to remember friendships don’t happen overnight.

If it works out, be generous with attention, ask for recommendations and not just questions, be interested in their wider world ie. Their families, their work, their interests, be mindful of complaints, believe what they tell you, don’t pressure them into anything, support their goals but don’t put them on a pedestal.

When arranging a hangout, Miller quotes Priya Parker who recommends setting an agenda and a purpose for getting together. Miller also adds to honour the Labour of showing up.

In terms of keeping in touch, she says stop putting it off, make time for them, find a method of communication that works for both for you, feel free to set up a standing time to talk regularly, making your text messages more meaningful by thinking of it more like an instant messaging conversation, do not rely on their social media for updates, do activities together even when you’re apart, make plans for the future, and be willing to be vulnerable with them.

It also means showing up for them in hard times, keeping your focus on them and not just saying you understand and shifting it back to a similar experience you may have faced. When in doubt, ask how you can support them, and don’t see it as a fact finding mission.

Miller talks about embracing the ring theory where a person experiencing trauma and grief needs a specific kind of support during their time of crisis and remains in the centre. The next ring around that person is the next closest affected, and so on and so forth. Anyone in the inner rings can complain to anyone further out of their circle.

In our third book, Shasta Nelson, author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness and expert on friendships looks at how to develop meaningful relationships in the face of the Internet.

Here she is at a Ted Talk.

SHASTA NELSON

Nelson says that though many of us have friends and friendships we care about, we don’t necessarily feel the depth of intimacy we’d like to feel. That yearning indicates we have an intimacy gap.

In 2004 the American Sociological Review apparently found that the number of confidantes people had were closer to zero in comparison to 1994, where most answered two or three. Hence Nelson suggests that loneliness and disconnection is worse than ever before despite people having friendships.

She adds that the cost of loneliness can be catastrophic, quoting Dr. James Coan, the lead researcher in this study and a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia, “The burden of coping with life’s many stressors . . . when you have to deal with them all by yourself not only feels more exhausting, it literally creates more wear on your body.”

Many women remain lonely because they think having close friends is a product of discovering the right people. But the truth is that meaningful friendship is actually the product of developing the right friendships and releasing expectations.

Acknowledging our gaps creates energy, providing the impetus to make meaningful changes.

So how can we find frientimacy? She talks about the Frientimacy triangle which says:

• For us to feel SATISFIED, we must feel our interaction is rewarding, practicing POSITIVITY with each other. It’s imperative that the positives consistently outnumber the negatives: at a ratio of 5:1.

• For us to feel SAFE, we must feel some level of trust, practicing CONSISTENCY with eachother. Without a sense of growing commitment, we won’t establish the confidence in our friendship that frientimacy requires.

• For us to feel SEEN, we must be willing to reveal ourselves, practicing being VULNERABLE with each other.

Nelson says if frientimacy is a relationship between two people that is positive, consistent, and vulnerable, then it stands that every intimacy gap reflects an imbalance of one or more of those qualities. When positivity is low, it’s usually because we think we’ve given more than the other person. So it’s crucial to not just “give more”—but to also understand why we feel a lack of equanimity.

 It is our job to develop our sense of self-worth so we don’t give just to feel needed or valuable. And that means keeping our energy reserves in the healthy zone, offering when we can, and saying “no” when we need to. Fear that we aren’t good enough stands in the way of deepening intimacy.

 To receive the meaningful benefits that belonging can have in your life, friendship has to be a rock that you schedule the rest of your life around. We can’t reach depth with our friends if we only dedicate an hour a month to them. The gift of time is the currency of intimacy. It’s in prioritizing a few people —staying in touch and ensuring we’re consistently dedicating time to them—that we move some friends toward frientimacy.

If there are issues and anytime there is a fight, an unmet need, a slow-boiling frustration, or a repeated judgment in one of our friendships, we have the sacred opportunity to try to repair it, develop it, enhance it, and grow it—before we end it.

In the end, it’s good to reflect to see if this has helped in 12 months by considering three words: receptive, revealing, and reconciling.

With Receptive, you question “Have I expanded the type of people I love? Can I honestly say I am more accepting of others than I was last year?”

With Revealing, consider “Am I able to be more vulnerable, more intimate, more real, with more people?”

And with reconciling, ask yourself “Am I someone who wages war, picks fights, and belittles others—or do I practice being someone who unites, creates harmony, uplifts, and verbally values my competitors?”

So to sum up:

In Friendshipping, after you’ve thought about what you need, think about looking to acquaintances as potential friends, and when you have that in place, ensure you are thoughtful if you cancelling plans to be open and honest, and ensure you nurture your friendships.

In the Art of Showing up, Miller says show up for yourself first, then show up for your friends during the making of a friendship process, care and keeping of friends, noticing if something is wrong, and especially when they’re going through tough times.

Frientimacy talks about we don’t need better friends; we need better friendships. When we feel a lack of intimacy, the first thing to explore is ourselves. Frientimacy = positivity + consistency + vulnerability. Amusement, awe, gratitude, hope, inspiration, interest, joy, love, pride, and serenity are apparently the ten feelings as ideal pathways to positivity. Gift a few top friends your time and consistency.

I definitely need to reach out more, hence I will probably set aside time to speak to friends on the dreaded phone. Before I leave you, here is Elizabeth Arifien, Artistic Director and Founder of Creative Dance London who spoke about what friendships mean to her this week. And if you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe.

ELIZABETH ARIFEN

Published by suswatibasu

Suswati Basu is a writer, journalist, producer and feminist activist residing in London. She has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the F-Word blogs, and has worked for various media outlets such as the BBC, Channel 4 and for ITV News/ITN. She currently works as a senior intelligence expert.

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