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Session 118: Making Friends As An Adult

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a Licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible version of ourselves.

We’ve spent much of this summer engaging in conversations about our friendships with other sisters, and one of the main questions many of you had was “How do I make friends as an adult,” so that’s what we’re digging into today. For this conversation I was joined by Dr. Marisa Franco. Dr. Franco and I chatted about the most important aspects of making friends, the characteristics of a good friend, and what’s needed to really sustain friendships.

Resources Mentioned

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Where to Find Dr. Franco

Twitter: @marisagfranco

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Read Full Transcript

Dr. Joy: 00:11 Welcome to the therapy for black girls podcast, a weekly conversation about mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves. I'm your host, Dr Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information or to find a therapist in your area, visit our website at While I hope you love listening to and learning from the podcast, it is not meant to be a substitute for relationship with a licensed mental health professional.

Speaker 1: 00:55 [inaudible]

Dr. Joy: 00:55 Hey y'all. Thanks so much for joining me for a Session 118 of the therapy for black girls podcast. Yes, much of this summer we've been talking about our relationships with other sisters as a part of our summer of sisterhood campaign, and one of the main questions that many of you had was how do I find friends as an adult? So you know, I had to find someone who could give us the full scope on this area. Today you'll get a chance to hear my conversation with Dr Marissa Franco. Dr Franco earned her bs in applied psychology from New York University and her Master's and Phd in counseling psychology from the University of Maryland. She has worked as a professor of psychology at Georgia State University and is currently transitioning to work in policy where she'll be applying research towards bettering people's lives. She has published 20 research articles and has received research grants from the National Institute of Health and the Society for the psychological study of social issues. She is passionate about making research accessible to the general population and has channeled this passion into writing a book on the psychology of friendship called platonic. Dr. Franco and I chatted about the most important aspects of making friends, the characteristics of a good friend and what's really needed to sustain friendships. If you hear anything that really resonates with you as you listen, please be sure to share it with us on social media using the Hashtag #TBGInSession. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: 02:28 Thank you so much for joining us today. Dr. Franco.

Dr. Franco: 02:31 Thank you so much for having me Doctor Joy. I am so excited to be here.

Dr. Joy: 02:37 I'm really glad you know, we connected online. Oh. Because of course all throughout the month of July we were talking about as some were of sisterhood and how we could really, you know, do some work around strengthening our relationships with other sisters and really build on friendships. And so then you share that this is kind of your area of expertise and you're writing a book about friendship. So I definitely knew we wanted to have you the podcast so that you could share more information related to this.

Dr. Franco: 03:02 Yeah, definitely. I got really excited seeing all the posts on your Twitter, on a friendship and having sort of interactive conversations with other people re-tweeting. I was like, I'm going to read these and maybe put some of these stories in my book if I need to contact people. So I just, I also love like what you all are doing regarding friendship on social media right now.

Dr. Joy: 03:20 Thank you. Yeah, I mean, and you know, it was something that I felt like needed to be addressed because I don't think we often spend enough time talking about our relationships with friends when really so much of our relationships with other people in terms of friendship can really be the lifeline of, you know, just ideally be, but we don't often talk about it. We spend a lot of time talking about like healthy romantic relationships but not necessarily healthy friendships, you know, that are [inaudible] not romantic.

Dr. Franco: 03:46 I totally agree with that. And actually as I write the preface for my book, that's actually like my main motivation, like looking back at my earlier life, focusing so much on romance, at the expense of friendships and thinking, you know, I don't have enough love in my life when I had so much generous amounts of love surrounding me for my friends. And I know like as someone who's trained as a psychologist, that's the kind of thinking that contributes to depressive symptoms where you're zooming in to sort of one form of love and excluding and discounting all the other forms of love that are available to you. And so I totally agree and I think like part of my sentiment is someone who's gone through that experience and been like, I need to turn my energies towards all the love that I have in my life already and recognize that it's there. Put my attention towards that because like that is so fulfilling and there's just like that one form of love that is going to benefit people.

Dr. Joy: 04:40 Yeah. And I'm glad you bring that up and you know, I'm wondering if in your research and or in prep for the book you've come across like why that is right, like why we spend so much time thinking about like dating and mating and that kind of thing and not so much time being intentional about our friendships.

Dr. Franco: 04:58 Yeah, that's a really good question. Like I think that this is like sort of a strong social message that we get and it's not something that like is innate to us too put relationships on such a hierarchy and put romance so much higher above friends. Even when we think legally, you know, like who's able to show up at the hospital with you? Who are you able to, you know, share joint income with all of these sort of legal restrictions on who can be considered a close relationship and having friendships excluded from that legally. It makes it really think about like how I think institutionally as a society we have created, all of these policies that highlight, emphasize romantic relationships and don't leave as much room for really close, meaningful friendships to be as a part of these major life factors like income and hospitalization. And even like, you know, we have a formal ritual for, for marriage and close this with our romantic partners, but we don't actually have a formal ritual to to indicate that like this is a really close friend and this is someone that's really important to me. And so I think it's sort of like a downstream consequence of that and of media that like we really focus, tend to focus more on romance and the importance of romance even when friendship can benefit us so much.

Dr. Joy: 06:11 [inaudible] really good points. And I wonder if we will see, um, you know, especially with more kind of progressive thinking maybe in legislature and you know, more people with like lots of this kind of energy running for offices. If we will begin to see some changes institutionally in, you know, like who's allowed to be your emergency contact and really kind of exactly. Exactly. Going along with this whole idea of the family that you get to create for yourself as opposed to the one that you may be born into.

Dr. Franco: 06:38 Yes, definitely.

Dr. Joy: 06:40 And I think it also kind of goes to the casualness with which sometimes we approach friendships, right? Like that it can kind of just happen. We don't need to put very much effort into it because there is this kind of societal thinking that Oh, maybe these relationships are not as important.

Dr. Franco: 06:55 Yeah. Dr Joy. Like I really want to touch on that because I think that this belief that I've, you know, I've endorsed at certain times in my life that friendships are just, they just happen and they're organic. And that's also like maybe a point of pride that your friendships develop organically and you didn't have to be intentional about them in the research, assuming that your relationships will happen without effort organically or based on some sort of friendship magic is actually related to loneliness five years later. Whereas those who believe that friendship takes effort less lonely five years later. And the reason was that the people that assume that friendship takes effort, we're a lot more likely to put themselves out there and engage with people socially. And so I think that's a major limiting belief when it comes to friendships that blocks us from initiating and being intentional about building friendships when people are so intentional. Again about trying to build romantic relationships using all of these dating apps. But something about friendship makes people think, you know, we have to leave it up to this magic and that is actually harming people's ability to build relationships with others.

Dr. Joy: 07:54 Yeah. You know, but I think a lot of it may be comes from, you know, when you are in grade school and when you go on to college, like there's almost this built in, you know, just set of people who could become friends. And so you become friends with people who are in the same clubs and teams with you or you working on a project together and you know, so I think that's where some of this organic piece comes from and that these people are kind of always around and so they are who becomes your friend set. And I think that's a part of why people struggle when they leave like the collegiate setting because then there is not necessarily this built in like coming together of a bunch of people that you can then choose from to be friends.

Dr. Franco: 08:32 Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think sociologists have actually worked to like break apart what is that organicity and what are the factors that are at play when friendships do develop organically. And so there's a couple of ingredients and their continuous unplanned interaction and shared vulnerability. So we're in a space where those ingredients are present, then friendships are more likely to of develop. Even if we're not aggressive about them, we're not intentional about them. And so I think when we're in our younger years, high school, College, we are inhabiting spaces where we have continuous unplanned interaction and shared order ability through our classes, through our college dorming. And so as we get older, as we become adults, we have less and less access to that as a sort of natural occurrence in our lives that might occur. For example, at work associates are often sort of smaller than our friendship potential associates at a high school and college. And so I think because of that, we no longer have those ingredients. But I think one way to approach friendship too is to think about how can I put myself in context in spaces which allow for continuous, unplanned interaction and shared vulnerability. And so for those people who really liked the idea of friendships developing organically, yeah. Thinking about like joining an Improv class, joining a language class, um, doing different things to be a part of an environment that allows for those, those specific ingredients.

Dr. Joy: 09:52 So can you talk to me, Dr. Franco more about the idea of it being unplanned? Like what is the need for it to be unplanned as opposed to making a plan to continue to see somebody?

Dr. Franco: 10:01 See I think the unplanned piece is just that it's more likely to happen consistently if it's unplanned, if it's like we all have to be at this class, whereas if we leave it up to ourselves, then it's more possible that we won't follow up or we won't be as intentional. And I think some people's fears come up. I think reading into this research on friendship, the fear of rejection is so central to being a major barrier to people's friendship development. So it may be like you like someone you've hung out, but now like in order to continue to meet up, you kind of have to put yourself out there. Whereas the unplanned interaction, it sort of allows people to not have to continue to put themselves out there. And risk rejection. So it just makes things kind of easier.

Dr. Joy: 10:40 Got It. Okay. So you have shared two things that I definitely want to make sure that we dig into more. Cause they also came up within this month of conversations we were having about friendships. You shared some about like vulnerability and this fear of rejection, which I think are huge for people, right? Yeah. Nobody wants to sign up to kind of have the doors slammed in their face. And so talk to me more about some of this fear of rejection and maybe how people can kind of move past that to become a, be in a better position to make some of these friendships.

Dr. Franco: 11:10 So one of the best advice that I have for people to make friends is to assume that everybody likes them. And so that takes honestly actively telling yourself like people like me in this environment and like having that be the new running dialogue that you create. Because the thing is when you're fearing rejection and so social anxiety is part and parcel with that. People who experience a lot of social anxiety, they're always hearing rejections. What happens is those spheres, what's going on in your head affects your behaviors and you become more likely to withdraw, to be looking at your phone the entire time to be doing things that will actually make people reject you because you're not engaging with them. And again, other people are afraid of rejection too. So if they try to approach you and you're like on your phone all the time, then they might be less likely to follow up with you.

Dr. Franco: 11:51 And so that's why I think fear rejection can really inhibit us because your manifests is our behaviors. We engage in these self protective behaviors that actually sabotage our ability to make friendship. And so I really think about these behaviors. There's sort of two types that go along with fear of rejection. So we might engage in what's called overt or covert avoidance. Overt avoidance is I really fear rejection. So I'm not even gonna show up to that party. I'm not going to show up to that networking event. I'm not going to show up to that class. Covert avoidance is when you show up to the event, but you don't engage with people. You're completely disengaged or you're keeping to yourself, but you're not introducing yourself to people. And so I think when we, when we target fears of rejection and making ourselves feel more secure and reminding ourselves that like other people like us and that be our new running belief, then we're allowed to target that overt and avoidance to get us to show up. And also that covert avoidance, which means when we get there, we are going to be intentional about introducing ourselves to people and engaging people.

Dr. Joy: 12:48 Ooh, I like this. Okay. So I mean, and we've talked about this I think even in previous episodes about even just giving yourself a time limit to go to a certain place or you're feeling really anxious about this party. Can you go for just an hour and interact with people? And then if it feels too overwhelming, then you've done your kind of due diligence, you at least got there and tried interact with people.

Dr. Franco: 13:09 Yeah, I love that idea. I think too, like I just want to mention that the research shows that we're actually really bad at predicting our own likeability. So like the biggest predictor of people's ratings of their own likability is their last social attraction. So people use their last social interactions to indicate how likable, how charming they are. And so you, I think what really underlies this social anxiety is the fear of not being enough or that other people are going to dislike you. But we're actually really, really bad judges of that and I share that information to encourage people to challenge that. The thoughts that you're having about your self worth about your worthiness in interactions are actually like really not very correlated with how other people actually experience you. And the only time that social anxiety is related to other people like to do less is when that social anxiety manifest as behaviors. So even if you're feeling these things, if your thoughts are making me feel unworthy, if you engage in behaviors like engaging with other people, introducing yourself to other people, being warm towards other people, then people actually don't suspect that you're socially anxious at all.

Dr. Joy: 14:08 So let me just back us up for a minute and then make sure that we are clear on what you're saying. So you're saying that we are not usually the best judges of whether people like us as much and that people typically do like us much more than we sometimes think in our heads.

Dr. Franco: 14:21 Well, I wouldn't say that people necessarily like us. Just that we're really off. We're off. Yes. But it pays for the deep, all the assumptions for us to have to be the others like us because then that will encourage us to put ourselves out there more.

Dr. Joy: 14:35 Okay, got you. But I want to also then bring, you know, the cultural piece in because I think specifically as black women, I think again societaly and culturally there is a lot of, you know black women are too loud or it's tough to get along you or all of these things, right? That a lot of us are also bringing into social situations. And so I'm curious about any thoughts you have about how to like then dismantle those kinds of beliefs when we are often fed that.

Dr. Franco: 15:04 You know what, I think that's a really great point. I think a lot of us Terry like baggage's baggage around racism and we're censoring ourselves and because of that like censoring yourself, what the research shows is that takes like energy from your brain so you're less likely to do other things and be able to like put yourself out there because you're so focused on the self centered. So that just takes away from your resources in terms of being able to connect with people. And it's hard I think cause I want to like share sort of a balanced truth in that like you know like it pays again to like assume that people are going to treat you as well as possible and that you're going to be affirmed. But again, like that's not always the reality for black women or black people locked in, you know, faced rejection and these race based stereotypes.

Dr. Franco: 15:45 And so I think it's like holding both truths. I think part of it is like still assuming positivity but being able to have like what's called a secure base, which is when you don't receive that positivity out in the world, but you have people that you can come back to to replenish yourself, where you can feel connected. Maybe that's with your sisters, you know, like somewhere where you feel like I'm worthy and I feel valued and this feels really easy. And like that again helps you to build up, I guess the wherewithal to go out into a social world that is not always kind to you as a person of African descent.

Dr. Joy: 16:16 [inaudible] yeah. So thinking, you know, like one bad interaction does not mean that you are a bad person. It could just mean that you in that person don't click. It doesn't mean that nobody will like you.

Dr. Franco: 16:27 Yeah. Dr Joy, you know, I've been thinking about this so much, like what is the key to like making friends with people and I don't, I think us using the terms, liking not liking is not accurate or like in good service. I think what it's more about is attunement , attunement is about like I'm anticipating what another person's needs are regarding friendships and I am able to meet that like an attuned relationship work. So for example, like maybe someone's a new mom and they really want to focus on their kids and family and they don't have a lot of time to make friends right now. And so you might want to make friends with them, but that might be misattuned truly with what their needs are in this given time. Right. So the timing may be off. And so like for some of us, maybe we're new to a city and we're trying to make these friends and we're reaching out to people a lot. Like other people know, cities already have established friendship groups so they're sort of less likely to want to hang out all the time. And so I think it's really about like more about attunement than like and dislike Like in terms of like what are people looking to add to their life right now and do is do our needs match what other people are looking for as well. And so I think that's really one of the strong predictors of whether we'll be able to continue to build a friendship.

Dr. Joy: 17:32 Okay. So you're suggesting kind of being more focused on, is there something that seems likely that I could add to this person's life and vice versa at this given time?

Dr. Franco: 17:42 Exactly. Not like, Oh, I guess I'm not likable or I guess they don't like me because they're not able to hang out with me right now. Just realize like there's so many factors that go into whether someone is willing to build a relationship or a friendship with you that are so outside of who you are as a person. And usually people make judgments about friendships pretty early on and so they don't even really know you and like the depth of who you are. And so maybe you're someone who likes shows more of yourself over time. And so what I'd really encourage people to do is like, again, challenging their limiting beliefs around when they feel like they're rejected, that that's actually just like a misattunement or an incompatibility at this time.

Dr. Joy: 18:18 Got It. And I think, you know, that often comes up in friendships that are already formed, right? Like you know, so you've been friends with somebody for a years now and then she becomes a new mom and then maybe has less time and you know, things kind of get off kilter. But then you have the history of their relationship to maybe be able to kind of withstand that kind of a change, whereas you might not with a new person.

Dr. Franco: 18:41 Yes. Dr Joy definitely. Definitely, definitely. And I think what you're alluding to is backed up by the research in that the research shows that, so when a relationship has more costs. It basically like it negatively affects the relationship. For example, like if I have to commute a long way to see you, then we're less likely to be friends. But if you're ready, close costs are way less likely to affect the continuance or the development of the relationship. So like at the beginning it's sort of more of a fragile period in that if things, if a little as a smaller thing goes wrong, it can have more of a stronger ramification on the relationship. Whereas like once your friend who was ready to develop and set your relationship will be a lot stronger and more fortified so that if like conflict happens and negative events happen, you'll be a lot more likely to be able to work it out and continue the relationship.

Dr. Joy: 19:27 Oh, Dr. Franco. So are you seeing that kind of early in a relationship? Most of us are probably doing like this cost benefit analysis?

Dr. Franco: 19:35 Unfortunately. Kind of. Yes. It's honestly because we don't know someone holistically. I think this happens in dating too, right? Where it's like, I don't know, like I just remember like I have a friend for example, and like one of our friends was like licking his fingers after eating Nachos. And she was like, you know, he's just himself. He does him, he does whatever he wants and I just really appreciate that about him. And so he goes on a date with this guy and he does the same thing and she's like, I was just so grossed out by it. Like it was so disgusting. And so I think like I just shared that story. I think it reflects how like we relate to the same action differently when it's someone that we're close to and when someone would, we built a relationship with it because we see them holistically and see like we see like that even if they have this like flaw to them and that that's part of like a larger, oh, like a larger group of qualities, many of which we like. So it just doesn't matter as much.

Dr. Joy: 20:27 And I think, you know, that also helps to take some of your ego and some of this like connecting self worth to friendship because in a lot of ways it's a numbers game and it's a time game and it's not necessarily so much about who you are

Dr. Franco: 20:42 Exactly. Like it's really about so many factors. And I think the people who win in this friendship game, in terms of like the ones who really develop the closest and most relationships or whatever feels most fulfilling for you, it's like the people who are able to persist. And again that involves overcoming some of these barriers related to like fears of rejection, difficulties with putting yourself out there, lack of like engagement or intentionality about initiating with people.

Dr. Joy: 21:08 Okay. So I want to go back to the point of kind of putting yourself out there because again, this came up a lot in our discussions about people just being afraid of being vulnerable. Maybe they have been burned in relationships in the past or have had some, you know, traumatic experiences around kind of putting themselves out there and being it being thrown in their faces. So what kinds of suggestions do you have related to that? How do you become more vulnerable? Especially in a new friendship?

Dr. Franco: 21:33 Okay. I love that you brought this question up because reading the, I'm like this self-disclosed myself in this question. Reading the research I'm friendship has really changed my own engagement with like self-disclosing and vulnerability. I think like for me, I'm always someone who loves to listen to other people, you know, trained as psychologists and thinking that like if I share myself, I'm going to burden someone or turn them off. But like what the research actually shows is like self-disclosure on both ends is the lifeblood of relationships. Like disclosing things about yourself and welcoming disclosures from other people. So if you're similar to how I was, or maybe what I'm still working through and thinking that like you have to be evolved, you're going to burden other people, you're people aren't gonna like you if you disclose stuff about yourself that's actually causing harm to your relationships and your ability to build intimacy with other people.

Dr. Franco: 22:22 And so I think just sort of fact checking was helpful for me in terms of like thinking about vulnerability and how shared vulnerability. And I think too, like I also want to contextualize this socially. So like [inaudible] we've been taught not to trust people to be more cautious because of our history. Because like those though that orientation was very adaptive given our history. And so we have to think through like for every like strategy that were engaging in behavior that we're engaging in what are the benefits, but also what are the costs? Like not trusting other people. Sure. Then they benefit us and that we might be less vulnerable to being exploited. But there's also like strong cost to that in that we have less intimate relationships. We feel less close to people. Like intimacy is actually based on the Latin word inner most. So there really is no intimacy without vulnerability and being able to share yourself. So, you know, I just really encourage people to be open to sharing more of themselves because that is sort of the vital blood of relationships.

Dr. Joy: 23:21 But is there a line Dr. Franco, because I think that there is in terms of like sharing and then oversharing.

Dr. Franco: 23:29 Yes.

Dr. Joy: 23:29 And I think that this is a part of where people struggle with is like how much do I share to let you know me, but how do I not share so much that I'm like overwhelming.

Dr. Franco: 23:39 That is a great point. And I think that actually is reflected by the research. Um, I remember reading the study that was like when people disclose about like their history of childhood abuse and trauma and initial interaction, people were actually turned off, whereas when they disclosed on like [inaudible] like dreams and aspirations and an initial interaction, people were turned on and they wanted to connect with them more. And so I think there definitely is a limit. And so we didn't think about self-disclosure, uh, as a range or a spectrum. And so like in self-disclosing for you, just to disclose any of your internal world, any of your thoughts or experiences, any of how you might relate to the things that are happening around you that might be distinct from the people around you. And so that's just sort of what I would encourage like initially like that sort of self disclosure.

Dr. Franco: 24:23 Like what was your unique thoughts in relationship to what's going on around you? How did you relate to this experience that you might've gone through with someone else? And that is I think where self-disclosure begins and then it deepens as we talk about, you know, our childhood struggles and sort of deeper, darker sides are deepest darkest secrets as he used to say. And so like I think first of all like the whole reason I should say that self-disclosure builds relationships is because when we self-disclose to someone, the assumption is that we trust them and we like them and we feel close to them. And so people take that to mean like, oh this person is self disclosing to me. So they like me and that makes me feel closer to them. But when you are indiscriminate about self-disclosing, people don't feel like they earned yourself disclosure and they don't feel like you were necessarily disclosing because you like them maybe because you need someone to vent to. And so like because of that I think hyper self-disclosure does it make people feel like they sort of earn this closest to you that has merit itself. Disclosure in the same.

Dr. Joy: 25:21 That is such a good point under Franco. I love that you have like all of this research to kind of share the backup. All of Israel, you know, I think is also great because it shows you how differently like we operate as psychologists, right? Like this is clearly your world in terms of the research, whereas, um, you know much more on the practitioner side and so do some of the research, but not nearly as much as this research as you are. [inaudible] it's just fascinating to me, but I also think a lot of times what happens when people get into this oversharing, it feels like it's a, like, let me lay all these cards out on the table so that you know what you're getting into and if you still like me, then maybe we can move forward. But actually you're kind of doing yourself a disservice by leading with that too soon.

Dr. Franco: 26:06 Right? And like, we know that like it's human nature for again, for it to be more of a cost benefit thing at the very beginning. So we can't start litmus testing people before we built relationships with them. Like why should they continue to like us when we've over disclose? Like we haven't built a foundation of a relationship for them to do that. And so I think a lot of people, specifically people who fear rejection are more vulnerable to engaging in these like litmus tests. Like, I'm going to test this relationship by doing this and seeing how it comes out. And like, I don't know, just thinking about perspective taking the other person, like how costs work out in relationships for us to know how much to disclose and what is appropriate to disclose.

Dr. Joy: 26:43 Yeah. And , and I think it's important, you know, especially because I think a lot of that kind of litmus testing develops as a trauma response, right? That you know, you've had bad experiences or traumatic experiences and so then you're trying to test whether this is going to be another one. And while some of that I think has been a survival skill for a lot of people, you can see why it might not work out long term because then it can be a put off. for new people,

Dr. Franco: 27:07 Yeah, I think you're, you know, you're exactly right and I really appreciate you bringing in that perspective in terms of like what trauma does to people and how trauma affects their Interpersonal relationships. Because I think trauma fundamentally makes people feel unworthy and it just makes it really hard to connect with people when you're feeling that way. And it's really, it's really a lot scarier when you're going through a trauma. And so I think because of that, like there are specific vulnerabilities in this process that are really difficult for people that have gone through something traumatic.

Dr. Joy: 27:38 [inaudible] [inaudible] so when we were talking before Dr. Franco, you also shared that making good friends is not really about being charismatic and witty its really about loving and taking care of other people. Um, and so I want to hear more about how you can do that, but also respect [inaudible] boundaries. Um, because I think sometimes, again, especially as black women, we get into this caretaking piece and then realize that the relationship has not been reciprocal. So how do you do that in a way that shows that you care but that's still, you know, leave some room for it to be reciprocal.

Dr. Franco: 28:11 Yes. So there are so many fascinating things that are going on in my mind that I want to share about this topic. So there's this theory called equity theory. And what it indicates is that people don't like to under benefit from their friendships. They don't like to give more than they get, but they also don't like to over benefit. They don't like to get more than they receive because that makes them feel really guilty and really uncomfortable and like they owe you something. And so we might feel that like if we give, give, give, that'll help us build a stronger relationship when actually if we're over giving, we put people in a place where they feel kind of uncomfortable. And so I think that's really important to keep in mind. I think there are ways to give that don't feel boundary crossing. And so one of the most important aspects building friendships is just being able to affirm other people, tell them how much you appreciate them, how what they said touched you, how it stirred you, how you love these qualities or characteristics about them.

Dr. Franco: 29:03 Affirmation of other people is one of the t's differently. If you ever like heard an interview with Oprah, you will see how much you affirms people. And like I think she's like one of the biggest friendship, relationship building experts will tell you about the Aha moments, the tweetable moments. And so as I read this research, I'm like, I see how much people feel so safe around her because she is so good at just affirming people and affirmation. So what the research says again is that there's different things that are likely to build the relationships at different time points. And so like we said, intimacy, you know, more deeper intimacy be more appropriate later in the relationship. But what the research shows actually that affirmation of other people bonds the no matter what stage it is at. So even when you're just making friends or when you're further into relationship affirmation, it's always food and nourishment for any relationship. And so I think when you think about giving in terms of not just you like having to give up all your time for someone or having to do all of these things for them, but just being able to affirm people, that's always a safe way to give.

Dr. Joy: 29:59 So I think instead of thinking about what can I do or what can I buy to kind of continue this friendship, it really is just about affirming the other person just as a person.

Speaker 4: 30:10 Exactly. And so something I want to touch on too, cause I was listening to your, um, your discussion earlier of like the black superwoman approach and how, you know, as a black woman, we're so primed to give to other people and to be so nurturing and to like really be considerate of other people around us. And so what the research calls this is communalism or mutualism and people that are more communal and mutual, they do have better relationships, they're happier and other people are happy around them. But the caveat is what's called unmitigated communalism and that's when you are giving to other people at a cost to yourself. And when that happens can you listen? The mutualism doesn't benefit people as much. It doesn't make people happier. It doesn't make the people, they're in a relationship happier. It makes the relationship better overall, but it doesn't provide as much benefit as when we are communal. But also considering ourself.

Dr. Joy: 30:57 So there is a point at which, which we talked about, right there is a point at which you doing too much is not good for either. You are the other person.

Dr. Franco: 31:05 Exactly. And like, you know, like I said with equity theory, like when you do too much you activate a sense of guilt or discomfort or people are actually really uncomfortable when you give to them and they're not able to give back. And so like when we over-give we can actually make the other person more uncomfortable and also feel like it's at a greater cost to yourself. And like, I don't know about other people, but when I give to a lot, a lot to another person and they're not reciprocated. I also get really frustrated and I'm like, why aren't you reciprocating? And I think you know something to do, like if you notice that that's happening is to be able to pull back and realize it's actually going to benefit this friendship if I give less.

Dr. Joy: 31:43 Yes. That actually came up in the conversation during the month, you know, the summer of sisterhood in that people expect other people to kind of be the kinds of friends that they are. But there's never been a conversation about any of these expectations. Right. So you're thinking, I'm showing up for this person, I'm there in their time of need. I'm there to drive them to the airport like I do all of these things and then the expectation is that this other person will do these same things for me, but the other person is not even aware that that is the expectation.

Dr. Franco: 32:14 That's a really good point because I think another thing about the research that blew my mind, the best predictor of whether you get support from other people is actually whether you ask for it.

Dr. Joy: 32:24 Oh, so not whether you give the support but asked for it.

Dr. Franco: 32:30 Asked for it. And so like, and that actually asking for support actually makes relationships more intimate. So you may think that, oh, if I asked for this for someone, I'm going to harm the relationship. I may be asking for one. But once you like form your relationship with someone and you ask for their support, again, that's sort of like identity affirming for them. Like they're willing to turn towards me, they must really like me. And so asking for support for someone actually makes your relationship closer. And it also makes you more likely to get support in the future. Whereas people that don't ask a relationship, they end up having less intimacy in their relationships and they're less likely to get support in the future.

Dr. Joy: 33:05 Got It. Wow. I definitely want to make sure we bookmark that and people are paying attention to that because I do think a lot of people think the way to get support, like the whole idea of to get a good friend you have to be a good friend and so the expectation is that if I do these things they will do these things in return. Where the research it sounds like really suggests that you have to ask, you have to ask for it.

Dr. Franco: 33:26 Asking is the secret to getting support, but I also want to say like related to what you brought up around trauma, who is most likely to ask for support? It's we think it's maybe like the people that are most desperate or like don't have their shit together, but what it actually is is the people that feel the best about themselves and the people that have higher self esteem. The people that feel like they are in more control of their environments, they are the people that are most likely to ask for support. And so if we're consistently not asking for support, I think it behooves us to think a little bit about our identities and what might make us feel not worthy of getting support from other people. And so again part of this is cultivating that sense of security within yourself that you're worth something and you have something to benefit people and because of that you are more optimistic that if you ask for support people will actually want to give it to you because you know what? Understand that you're worthy. And so yeah, I also just sort of wanted to highlight that like there is a bit of self work that goes into the behavior of being able to ask for help.

Dr. Joy: 34:23 Yes, that is a great point, Dr. Franco. And I think, you know, it kind of goes back to some other conversations we've had here on the podcast just about one going back to the whole strong black woman thing, but also connected to this idea that like I am the one in my family who has it all together and there is nobody else to ask because I'm the one who's kinda holding it together for everybody else. So I think for some people it may feel like a reality that

Dr. Franco: 34:51 There is nobody else to ask for support. Yeah, I mean I certainly like getting understand that I think like even as I offer these pits, I'm like, I also want to empathize with people, but this is actually really difficult to do. So I really appreciate you, Dr Joy that should aid that. Like it's also really hard for people to implement these tips that I think what it really going for in my book platonic, like instead of it being like, oh, these are all the hot tips, it's also exploring our underlying psychological architecture and how that makes us more or less likely to engage in these things that really benefit our relationships.

Dr. Joy: 35:26 So I think, again, it can be a both hand, right? Like this is what the research suggests, but also looking at what is your personal history and how might it be difficult for you to do some of these things that may actually you or allow you to have more fulfilling friendships.

Dr. Franco: 35:40 Exactly. Like it's, it starts with and like, you know, I feel like I've seen those, I don't know in like sayings before, like you have to love yourself before others can love you. And you know, I kind of disagree with that cause I think we love ourselves through other people loving us. But I also see how if you love yourself, you engage in more behaviors that are fruitful for your relationships, such as like not assuming rejection. Because when we do assume rejection, we're actually more likely to be judgmental of the other person because now there's someone who has projected us. And so like there's just ways that like if you come to a place where you're at peace with yourself, you know your words, you are able to again, like do things like give people more grace when things, so when they don't like fulfill your expectations and have more perspective taking for people. Because when you're in like a lot of acute pain around things and you're really suffering, it's really hard to perspective take and understand that like this is another person with their own needs and their own life that's going on. And so like, because of that you can sort of be more scornful or take it more personally when things don't go right in relationships. And so I think what underlies a lot of these really positive friendship behaviors is developing some sense of security with yourself.

Dr. Joy: 36:45 Thank you. Thank you for that. So something else, kind of going back to our earlier conversation around, um, how much focus there is on how we have healthy romantic relationships. Something else that I think is often missing in terms of friendship stuff is like how to have conversations with friends when things are not going well or how you can acknowledge some of these feelings of guilt or shame that pop up in a friendship. Is there anything that you've run across in the research that talks about like how we might be able to cultivate that kind of space better in our friendships?

Dr. Franco: 37:18 Yes. So this is another hot tip from the research. I love it. I love the research. Well just it was just like so much wisdom to be, I'm like, oh, this is so helpful. I get so much wisdom. But um, so engaging in conversations around conflict can actually make your relationship stronger. So I think people's fears when they engage in these direct conversations about how their relationship is going is that it's going to really damage the relationship or the other people person is going to end up projecting them. But there are ways that you could engage in conflict and it actually needs you for your relationship to be stronger. And part of that is just expressing your truth. And not blaming the other person. So for example, like you know, I did feel kind of hurt when you didn't show up at my recital or something like that.

Dr. Franco: 38:07 Instead of saying like, you know, it was really shitty of you that you didn't show up as my recital and I, it's really like a problem that you did that like focusing and owning like our own feelings with those statements and expressing and staying at the level of emotion, like not getting caught up in the like you did this, you did that. But like how did that make you feel and sharing your feelings without blaming the other person. And this is really hard. I will say like, you should not do this when you are really angry at your friend when, when they, they, they just slighted you and it's really hard to regulate your emotions because you want to be in a place where you can be calm because when you feel really angry, you're more likely to blame people and it's going to be harder to have that conversation without being blaming. So I would say like pause, get to a place where you know, like your emotions have come down a bit and then engage and use those I statements in terms of like how, um, how things made you feel and share your perspective.

Dr. Joy: 39:03 Yes. And we talk about this of course a lot in therapy too. Like a lot of times clients will be afraid to say that they feel like the therapist has offended them in some way or um, you know, that something they suggested wasn't quite the best fit. And so they were afraid to kind of come back to the therapist and say that. But actually those are the moments I live for as a therapist. Right. Especially where somebody who has difficulty maybe kind of expressing their needs and wants or has issues with authority or something like that. That is a golden opportunity for me to kind of affirm, you know, what a big deal this was for you to come back and tell me this and how can we create more of this in your life and look this doesn't rupture our relationship. I still value you as a client and I appreciate that you felt safe enough here to share something that didn't quite fit for you.

Dr. Franco: 39:49 Yes cause I think like part of being a good friend is honestly wanting the best for our friends. Like being able to like be really happy in our friends success. Like that's what makes for really close relationships and so there are no, there are caveats to that when you might be contributing to some of your friends to stress, you know, wanting the best for your friend is being able to take seriously like Oh I did something that harm this relationship and like I want my friend to be happy. I don't want my friend to be in distress. And so being able to take that in as an invitation to build a closer relationship with someone. I think when you're on the receiving end of these conversations rather than as attack or as a threat, but like an invitation from the other person to be able to get closer to you and in the service of your goal as a close friend for your friend to live their happiest and healthiest and most fulfilling life.

Dr. Joy: 40:36 Love it. I cannot wait for this book, Dr. Franco. I want, I'm like where can we get this advanced copy? So I wanted to, I would like for you to tell us more like about what we can expect. So the name of the book is "Platonic". Yes. So what can we expect to kind of get, yeah, besides the gems that you have dropped now.

Dr. Franco: 40:54 So Dr Joy, honestly I'm trying to, so when I love like self help books just to disclose about myself, but I think like an issue that I have with them is that the helper often positions themselves as someone who's above at all who doesn't actually face the problems and the issues that are happening. Like they'd solved friendship and you know like apprenticeship is so many things. It is like existential dread around loneliness, isolation, belonging, excepted, affirmation, you know, all these really deep, powerful human things that are never solved. And so for me, like as I'm writing this [inaudible] I'm trying to be honest and vulnerable about myself and to share like okay I this in the research and I've tried to apply it in my own life and here were some of the hangups and here is where things work.

Dr. Franco: 41:38 And so I think it's, it's the research but it's also that integrated with like my real world experience. I'm going to be, I haven't gotten this far yet, but I'm going to be interviewing people, conducting focus groups, doing things like that. Just to say that like it's one thing to read about something and to understand things, um, and sort of a knowledge way, but I think it's a completely different act to be able to engage in that experientially in your life. And so like, just knowing information isn't going to help you with friendship unless you're intentional about applying these things to your life. And so I want to sort of be a model for my readers of like, this is what it's going to be like when you actually apply this information to your life.

Dr. Joy: 42:16 Love it. Okay. So do we have at all like a date where we might be coming out or are we just, we'll have to stay tuned.

Dr. Franco: 42:23 Oh, it's going to be a long, long time Dr Joy the proposal today, early on I'd done all the research at this point, but like yes, I'm constructing the pre, I finished the proposal and so I'm thinking like hopefully pending the process of getting an agent/publisher this might take like a year.

Dr. Joy: 42:43 Got You. Okay. So audience, please stay tuned bestseller that she will release upon us. So I'm curious, um, you've already shared lots of research for us and I love that you have shared the research in a way that is so like, you know, non jargony like anybody can understand what's going on. Um, are there other books or resources that you have come across that you think would be helpful for people to check out related to friendship?

Dr. Franco: 43:08 Um, yes. I don't want to share with your readers the books that have changed my life. Um, so one of them, I think the most important books about relationships that I've ever read is Bell Hooks book "All about Love". And so she talks about how love is helping other people express their themselves more deeply in the ways that they are living and supporting their spiritual growth. And I was like, damn, like love is not dominance. Love is not control. Like that is that love. Love is like helping somebody express their truth. That is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. So I would definitely recommend "All About Love" by Bell Hooks. Um, in terms of another book. So I'm hesitant to offer this book because it's actually about romantic relationships, but I also think that it's really, really good and can help people understand like some of their baggage around relationships and it also applies to friendships.

Speaker 4: 43:58 And so that book is called "Attached", yeah, that's, that's a really good one. What I would also suggest is if folks are having trouble with like being angry or being hostile towards other people or not trusting other people or you know, really want to be a better friend. There's this umm meditation called "Loving kindness meditation". You can just Google it on youtube and it's really, really helpful for like opening yourself up more to relationships. And so like if someone really wants to engage in a practice, is timing themselves to be more open to building relationships. And I would definitely that they try loving kindness meditation. Is that Tara Brock stuff? I think Tara Brock does do one type of loving kindness meditation, but there's a lot of other folks who do. Okay.

Dr. Joy: 44:41 Okay. So this is just a general meditation.

Dr. Franco: 44:43 Yeah, yeah, exactly. Like connecting to others humanity.

Dr. Joy: 44:47 Got You. Okay. Anything else?

Dr. Franco: 44:50 You know, I really didn't want to share this last point. You can tell I'm excited about it. So while I'm doing this research I'm really thinking about the idea of like humanity and like humanity being about caring for other people, helping other people, being able to like have empathy for other people. But as I'm reading this research sort of realizing that like unfortunately often our sense of humanity is circumscribed to people that we feel close to and people that we have relationships with. And like the word humanity is like, it sort of like reflects that. Like this is some aspect of human nature, but actually like our caring, our loving side, our empathic side comes out so much more when we feel close to other people. And so like that to me means that like if you want other people to treat you well in your life, whether that's at work or I don't know at the coffee shop or with your friends, like developing close relationships with them is central to basically living in a world where other people are more willing to treat you with so much humanity.

Dr. Franco: 45:50 And it's like, it's unfortunate that that's the case and we see that that happening politically, but I think like it's a point that I've really been thinking about in terms of like who we're, who people are most likely to be nice to you and go out of their way to, and I think closer relationships are really one of the strong.

New Speaker: 46:05 love it. Thank you for sharing that Dr. Franco. So where can people find you online? How can they connect? The best place to find me is going to be on my Twitter where I'm going to start posting more tips related to friendship. And so you can find me @MarissaGFranco. That's m a R I s a g F R a n C. O.

Dr. Joy: 46:26 Perfect. And of course we will include all of that in our show notes. Well thank you so much for spending this time with us today, Dr Frankel and sharing this wealth of information. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Franco: 46:35 Thank you. So it was so fun. I'm like so excited to share this stuff. I'm just like, people need to know this stuff. Thank you.

Dr. Joy: 46:43 I'm so glad Dr Franco was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her or to check out the books that she shared. Visit the show if you love this conversation, please do me a favor. And she had this episode with two are your girls. And don't forget to share your takeaways with us in your ige stories are on Twitter using the #TBGInSession. If you want to continue digging into this topic and meet some other sisters in your area, come on over and join us in the yellow couch, collect you where we take a deeper dive into the topics from the podcast and just about everything else you can join us at and, and if you're searching for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapists slash directory thank you all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take care.

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Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here