"GIVE": How to be a Friend.
Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Finding is anxious to make new friends? Try these 4 GIVE skills.
Meeting new people and turning them into friends is not easy for everyone.
I've actually been posting a series on Instagram about "Stories of Singaporeans about Loneliness" for a while now. You'll be surprised by how many people out there are feeling lonely.
Really, I cannot stress this enough, you are not alone in your loneliness.
Much of loneliness comes from a deep need to connect with someone at an intimate level. We all strive for such deep connections, whether platonically or romantically.
Yet, sometimes this doesn't come easy.
"Everyone saying that their years in school were the best time of their lives, they made lots of friends, went to parties. But for me it's not like that. I am quite shy and find it hard to mix. Is there something wrong with me?"
Let me assure you, there's nothing wrong with you.
Yet, a common thread amongst people who are experiencing loneliness is a difficulty in finding new friendships and maintaining them.
Is it because you're broken or that something is wrong with you? Well, no. And it's not your fault.
We haven't been explicitly taught how to make friends.
Our ideas of friendship evolve throughout our lives. If we had to turn back the clock to when we were kids, you and I can probably agree that the main focus of our friendships at that time was to play.
Part of playing involved make belief and assuming various roles. It was entirely okay to boast about yourself, or even exaggerate on your "life accomplishments" as your five-year old self.
One day we could be a superhero, and the next, a child of an important Singaporean family with deep ancestral roots.
It was totally acceptable to project yourself as a different identity from who you really were. That was all part of the fun, wasn't it?
Our needs were different then. It was all about fun.
Fast forward a few years, and at some arbitrary point seemingly decided by our adolescent peers, such false-projection was no longer tolerated.
In fact, if you continued to exaggerate about yourself, you'd most likely be taunted or bullied.
Suddenly the rules have changed, and so have our needs.
The purpose ieneah
We start to be faced with anxieties and insecurities about how we appear to others.
I'm sure every single one of us out there have gone through a time where we worry about what people think about us.
"Should I try to position myself as a humble dude? What if they think I'm boring? I should try to make myself sound more exciting."
For some of us, we manage to find our little identity in the group and fit in. While for the rest of us, we get lost in the evolving ideas of friendships, and get left out.
"I hate graduations because I always observe people taking photos with all their friends and getting gifts etc. Meanwhile, I don't have anyone to take photos with."
Again, it's not your fault. Nobody ever told you what was the right way to go about such things.
Unfortunately, fast forward and going into adulthood, this gap and self-imposed withdrawal continues to grow.
It's almost like a vicious cycle - The more we try to fit in and fail in our attempts, the more our anxieties and insecurities grow. For some people, they give up and resolve themselves to a pessimistic future of isolation and emotional disconnection.
If the above resonates with you, it's time to relearn how to approach your friendships.
GIVE: The four interpersonal skills to relearn.
This is a skillset I've borrowed from a psychotherapy called Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).
It is actually a therapy created to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a disorder that makes a person take relationship difficulties to the extreme, warping perceptions of others so that almost all relationships are built on mistrust.
It takes anxieties and insecurities about relationships to the next level. It's not an easy way to live.
These four interpersonal skills that make up the acronym GIVE were designed to help us change the way we approach our friendships. If they can help people with BPD, then surely they can help you too.
By learning these four key skills, we leave our insecurities at the door. We also learn to take our attention away from ourselves, and to focus on the other person.
Why does this work? Well, if you really think about it, you're not the only person craving for emotional connection are you?
So, if you're able to provide the emotional connection that another person desires, chances are, they'll likely become a friend that gives you back the same.
"The only way to have a friend is to be one"
- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
1) G is for Genuine / gentle.
The first step in changing things up is to learn you don't have to put up a front anymore. You can just be yourself.
That's what being genuine is all about.
You don't have to portray yourself as being smart, kind, happy, energetic, or any other positive-sounding adjectives in order for people to like you.
They want to see the real you. Anything else just puts up an invisible barrier between you and them. It doesn't make any sense.
Trying to adapt yourself to fit in only ends up conflicting with who you are inside versus who you are portraying yourself to be. It only leads to more anxiety.
In fact, being genuine means letting people in on your thoughts. It can even sound like:
"Hey it's nice to meet you. I was a little anxious about coming to meet you. I'm usually not great with first meetings..."
Putting your true feelings forth like this already gives the other person insight into who you are. And if anything, it'll reflect positively on your honesty.
There's no need to pretend to be confident when you aren't. Yet, if you continue to practice this, confidence will come along on its own naturally.
On the other hand, gentle is about delaying all your assumption and judgments about the other person. Having all of these going on in your head is inevitably going to come out in the conversations.
Instead, try to be...
2) I is for Interested.
Focus on the other person. Be curious!
By showing interest in a relationship, we are allowing for reciprocity to take place. This allows you and the other person to know straight-up that the relationship is a two-way street.
Leverage on your natural curiousity about the other person to ask questions and find out more about what's happening in their lives.
They don't have to be the most exciting questions too, but anything from what they do, what are the worrying things going on in their lives, what do they enjoy doing on weekend etc.
Let the conversation play out and use your curiousity to drive the way.
3) V is for Validate.
Across various conversations, whether it's with a new person or your friends, they will be letting you in on some of their issues or problems in life.
By doing so, it doesn't mean that they are inviting you to fix them.
Not. At. All.
Your job neither to fix their problems, nor make judgments about what their going through - whether they are doing the right thing or not.
Your job is to listen and validate.
Focus on hearing out the other person and what their needs are. Hold back on pushing your agenda. As you probably already know yourself, it's nice to be heard and listened too.
Unless they directly ask you for your advice, keep on listening that way. You might find that they will feel closer to you, and thankful that you've given your time to hear them out.
That way, they'll likely hope to listen in and share in experiences too.
4) E is for Easy-Manner.
Lastly, maintaining and easy-manner helps in all your relationships.
This means to learn to adopt a pleasant attitude to people. Nobody wants to meet a person that is defensive about every single thing, or is harsh or threatening.
Let your guard down. No one is out to attack you.
And if they do, then they're probably not people you want to be friends with anyway. Just do watch out that that's not you who is going out and attacking people too.
Taking an Easy-Manner also links back to being genuine - show people who you really are deep inside. At its core, who are you but someone who simply wants to make new friendships?
Why not let people in on that rather than be on guard all the time?
As long as you keep doing that, you'll never be able to really establish a deep connection right?
Learn to be vulnerable. While doing so, adopt an attitude of openness towards the person you are interacting with.
Smile to them, be light-hearted, be warm and inviting. Be friendly.
You have to be a friend in order to have one.
Only by doing so, will you allow others to come into your life. Otherwise, the invisible barrier you've put up between yourself and the world will always remain.
Step out of that barrier. Go ahead and GIVE.
Thanks for reading kaya toast for the soul. If you ever need a friend to chat about this and listen in on what's going on in your life, I'll be here too. Take care, Hernping.