Dialectical Behavioral Therapy‘s Interpersonal Effectiveness skills are designed to help you get what you need from your relationships while being respectful of yourself and others. Interpersonal relationships can be very challenging when you are also dealing with unstable emotions.
Making friends can be difficult, especially as we get older. For those of us who didn’t have friendship modeled for us growing up, it can sometimes feel like we don’t know where to start. Never fear, though; there’s a DBT skill for that!
First and foremost, DBT wants to remind you that ALL human beings are lovable. Everyone is doing the best they can, remember? That being said, finding friends will take some effort. What you love may be different from what someone else loves. There’s someone out there for everyone.
A note for our neurodivergent community members, particularly those with autism and/or ADHD: this is a very neurotypical approach to making friends. We understand that it may not be possible for you to follow these steps and that your own approach to making friends may work just fine. Take from this skill what helps you and leave the rest.
Let’s break making friends down into steps.
- Look for people who are already around you
- It’s likely there’s someone around you already who is friend material. It helps if you interact with them frequently. It’s easier to become closer with an acquaintance than a stranger for many people. Look for potential friends at the places you frequent: work, school, religious service, etc.
- Look for people who are similar to you
- We make friends most often with people who share our interests and values. Look for people you have something in common with. Try not to fabricate things you have in common in order to get that good feeling of agreement. Friendship must be based on the genuine you.
- Practice your conversation skills
- Ask and respond to questions with more than a yes or no answer.
- Make small talk or chit chat if you can. Asking someone something about them can get the conversation started.
- Self-disclose skillfully. Match how much the other person is sharing.
- Don’t interrupt. Try to time your conversation additions to give the other person space.
- Learn things to talk about. Observe others, read widely, increase your experiences that you can then share with others during conversation.
- Express platonic feelings for your friend
- Have you ever felt unsure if someone likes you? Try to validate the other person that you do indeed like them. Use compliments sparingly as too many may make the other person suspicious that you’re not being genuine.
- Join an ongoing group conversation
- Take the first step and jump in! But how do you tell if the group is open to new members or not? And then how do you join in if it’s open?
- Figure out if a group is open or closed
- Open means new members are welcome. Closed means they are not.
- In open groups
- Members stand somewhat apart from each other
- Members sometimes glance around the room
- There are gaps in conversation
- Members are talking about a topic all can access (not inside knowledge)
- In closed groups
- Everyone stands very close together
- Members are absorbed in each other
- The conversation is animated with few gaps
- Members may pair off
- How to join an open group
- Wait for a break in the conversation
- Find an approachable member to stand beside
- Ask “Mind if I join you?” or something similar