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    How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make and Keep Friends | Dr. Marisa G. Franco

    Sharing our authentic selves with trusted individuals can deepen connections, but oversharing for validation may damage relationships. Mindful vulnerability and understanding individual differences in attachment styles can help build stronger friendships.

    enFebruary 20, 2023

    About this Episode

    Did you know that having friends can make you less depressed? One survey found that the average American had not made a new friend in the last five years but 45% of people said they would go out of their way to make a new friend if they only knew how.   


    Our guest today, Dr. Marisa G. Franco, has written a bestselling book about how understanding your own psychological makeup and attachment style can help you make and keep friends. Franco is a psychologist and a professor at the University of Maryland. Her book is called Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make–and Keep–Friends.


    This is episode three of a four part series in which we are doing some counter programming against the typical Valentine's Day fair. 


    In this episode we talk about:

    • Why friendship is undervalued in our society (while romantic love is overvalued) and why this is damaging on both a societal and individual level
    • The impact of technology on our relationships as explained by something called “displacement theory”
    • The biological necessity of social connection and the devastating physiological and psychological impacts of loneliness 
    • Attachment style and its relationship to our friendships
    • What you can do to make friends, including being open or vulnerable (without oversharing)
    • How to reframe social rejection
    • The importance of generosity
    • How to handle conflict with your friends
    • The difference between flaccid safety and dynamic safety in your friendships
    • When to walk away from a relationship 
    • How to make friends across racial, gender, and socioeconomic lines
    • How to deal with social anxiety
    • And how our evolutionarily wired negativity bias can impact the process of making friends



    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/marisa-g-franco-561

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Understanding attachment styles, being vulnerable, practicing generosity, reframing social rejection, and addressing cultural norms can help make and keep friends. Friendship is a vital form of love that should be valued alongside romantic love.
    • Platonic love and close friendships are vital for a person's resilience to conflicts and mental wellbeing, benefiting both partners. Society must place equal value on friendship along with romantic love, especially for women.
    • Cultivate and prioritize platonic relationships, and use technology to facilitate in-person connections rather than replace them. Foster vulnerability and connection on social media to combat the toxic effects of loneliness.
    • Prioritizing our social connections and investing in friendships is crucial for our physical and mental health, as well as for maintaining societal harmony and combating tribalism.
    • Friendships expose us to different ways of showing up in the world, grounding and centering us, regulating our reactive state, and providing a sense of intimacy needed to know ourselves and grow our souls.
    • Our past experiences shape our attachment style, which affects how we interpret social interactions. It's important to recognize and challenge these templates to develop healthy relationships. Parents and societal factors play a role in shaping attachment styles.
    • Knowing and understanding your attachment style, personalizing others less, and seeking help when needed can improve your relationships and combat loneliness. Attachment styles are malleable and can change based on new experiences.
    • Loneliness is common but often underestimated. Recognize the hidden symptoms, step out of your comfort zone, and make genuine efforts to build connections. It's okay to be where you are, and there's hope to find connection again.
    • Making friends requires initiative, repeated interactions, shared vulnerability, and assuming acceptance to overcome fear of rejection. Don't judge yourself for uncontrollable outcomes; rejection is a part of the process.
    • Don't let fear of rejection stop you from connecting with others. Expressing vulnerability can deepen relationships and improve mental health, as having a confidant to talk to is a strong protective factor against depression.
    • Sharing our authentic selves with trusted individuals can deepen connections, but oversharing for validation may damage relationships. Mindful vulnerability and understanding individual differences in attachment styles can help build stronger friendships.
    • Authenticity and vulnerability strengthen relationships, practicing generosity for others creates connection, acknowledge and communicate true feelings rather than masking them with defense mechanisms.
    • Invest in people who invest in you and handle conflicts with 'I' statements, perspective-taking, and deescalation for deeper intimacy. Avoid unhealthy generosity and invest time in relationships that give love freely.
    • Reflective listening, positive intentions, and intentional connections across differences can promote reconciliation, build bridges, and cultivate meaningful relationships.
    • Acknowledging privilege and oppression is crucial in connecting with others. Privileged individuals should prioritize listening and understanding marginalized perspectives, while marginalized individuals should prioritize their emotional wellbeing when building connections.
    • Acknowledge your own emotional state and actively seek out connection by absorbing positive experiences and valuing those in your life. It takes effort and bravery, but it's within your control to build genuine connections.
    • Acknowledge the complexity of relationships and embrace the small moments of joy to positively impact our nervous system and social interactions. Practicing gratitude and calling out positive moments can help manage anxiety and foster deeper self-intimacy.
    • Our brains often deceive us into thinking people like us less than they really do, and reconnecting with others can be more valuable than we think. Using attachment science, Dr. Marisa G. Franco offers practical tips for building strong friendships.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Importance of Friendship and Overemphasis on Romantic Love

    Friendship is undervalued in our society, while romantic love is overvalued, causing a friendship famine. Understanding your attachment style can help make and keep friends. Technology can lead to loneliness and collective loneliness. Being vulnerable, reframing social rejection, generosity, and conflict resolution can help in making friends across different lines. Negativity bias can impede the process of making and keeping friends. Dr. Marisa Franco's book Platonic emphasizes that friendship is a vital form of love that should not be overlooked. Our beliefs are often informed by cultural norms that place a hierarchy on love, and this needs to be addressed to see the value in all forms of love.

    The Importance of Platonic Love and Friendship in Today's Society.

    Society often devalues platonic love and overemphasizes romantic love, especially for women. Historical reasons such as women's limited rights also played a role. However, it is crucial to have close friendships outside of romantic relationships as it makes a person more resilient to conflicts and improves mental health, benefitting both partners. Placing equal value on friendship can also help some people question the idea of choosing a life partner and a friend instead of merely focusing on romantic love. Hence, society should emphasize the importance of friendship as much as romantic love, especially for women.

    The Impact of Romantic Love on Platonic Relationships and the Role of Technology in Loneliness.

    Fetishizing romantic love hurts both those in relationships and single people who may not recognize their platonic relationships as meaningful connections. Friendship networks have been shrinking for decades, in part due to the technology we use and how we use it. Displacement theory suggests that if we use technology to replace in-person connections, we will be more lonely. However, using technology to facilitate in-person connections can actually help reduce loneliness. Social media and technology are designed to keep us on them, but using them to foster vulnerability and connection can improve our mental health. Loneliness is toxic and has negative consequences for both individuals and society.

    The Power of Friendship in Combating Loneliness and Tribalism

    Loneliness has significant impact on physical and mental health, and also leads to social problems. Lonely people are more likely to distrust social institutions, resulting in tribalism and support for populist leaders. Friendship, on the other hand, makes us empathetic, helps us figure out who we are, and makes our souls grow. It allows us to express ourselves more deeply and be a part of a larger community, which makes us feel whole. Collective loneliness can occur when individuals don't feel a part of a group working towards a common goal. Therefore, prioritizing and investing in social connections and friendships is crucial for overall well-being and societal harmony.

    The Power of Friendship in Finding Our True Identity

    Friendship helps us figure out who we are by exposing us to various ways of showing up in the world and giving us a sense of identity. Quality connections and friendships make our souls grow by grounding and centering us, regulating our reactive state and allowing space for our deeper sense of selfhood. It helps us figure out who we really are and lessens the impact of traumatic relational history. Conversations, even with strangers, can increase our wellbeing, but quality connections and friendship provide a sense of intimacy that helps us know ourselves better and grow our souls.

    Understanding Attachment Styles and their Impact on Relationships

    Our attachment style is shaped by our past experiences and affects how we interpret social interactions; securely attached individuals assume that people are trustworthy and feel less rejected, while anxiously attached individuals put in high effort but feel easily rejected and may become cold or aggressive. Avoidantly attached individuals do not trust others and put in low effort in friendships. These templates become self-fulfilling prophecies and limit our ability to engage in behaviors that create intimacy. While parents play a role in shaping attachment style, societal factors also impact their ability to be responsive to their kids' needs.

    Understanding Attachment Styles for Better Connections

    Understanding your attachment style, knowing the types of relationships you need, and making adjustments can help you get the connection you seek. Even knowing about attachment theory can make you feel more secure. Malleability of attachment styles means they can change based on new relationships and experiences. Personalizing others less and understanding their behavior can help maintain friendships and make us more empathetic. There's no shame in needing help to make friends or combat loneliness; it's a common struggle. Knowing this information empowers you to take action, seek help and achieve the outcomes you desire.

    Recognizing and Overcoming Loneliness

    Loneliness is a normal human experience and it is more common than we think. People often underestimate their own loneliness and overestimate other's connectedness. Feeling lonely could manifest in various symptoms like random anxiety, feeling rejected, or being in a bad mood. It is essential to recognize the hidden symptoms of loneliness and take initiative to find connection again. Taking initiative means stepping out of our comfort zone, reaching out to new people, and making genuine efforts to build authentic relationships. It is okay to be where we are, and there is hope that we can come out of it and find connection again.

    The Effort for Adult Friendship

    Friendship in adulthood does not happen organically and requires effort. Repeated unplanned interactions and shared vulnerability can lead to organic friendships. Taking initiative, putting oneself out there, and assuming that people like you are key to making new friends. Fear of rejection often leads to coming off as cold and unapproachable, and assuming acceptance can help overcome this fear. It's important to realize that rejection is a part of the process of connection and not to judge oneself on the outcome that cannot be controlled, which is the other person's response.

    The Importance of Persisting Through Rejection and Expressing Vulnerability for Stronger Connections and Better Mental Health

    Rejection is part of the process of connection, and persisting through it is important. Expressing vulnerability is a powerful way to feel connected with someone, and it conveys trust and likeability. Sharing negative emotions, feelings or information conveys that the person is special to us and we trust them. Being vulnerable is also important for our mental health, as having a confidant to talk to have been found to be the most pronounced factor that protects us from depression. Overall, the things we do to better connect with people are also things that improve our mental health. Therefore, rejection shouldn't stop us from initiating connection, and expressing vulnerable emotions can strengthen our relationships.

    The Importance of Mindful Vulnerability in Building Stronger Relationships

    Being vulnerable with people we trust can lead to a deeper connection. However, oversharing usually stems from fear and a need for validation, rather than a desire for connection. It's important to discern the motivation behind our sharing and to be mindful of how our vulnerability is received by others. Authenticity, or realness, is a key component of vulnerability and can help build stronger friendships. However, it's important to remember that our authentic selves may not resonate with everyone and to be mindful of how our vulnerability is received by others with different attachment styles and emotional histories.

    Foster Authentic Connections Through Vulnerability and Generosity

    Authenticity and vulnerability are crucial in maintaining relationships and avoiding inauthentic acts, such as using defense mechanisms or aggression. Being real and generous can help deepen connections with others, but it's important to be mindful of our motives. Doing things for others that make them feel loved and valued can create a sense of inferred attraction and deepen our sense of connectedness to them. It's important to acknowledge and communicate our true feelings, even if they make us vulnerable, rather than obscuring them with defense mechanisms that can harm our relationships.

    How to Build Healthy Relationships and Handle Conflict with Anxious Attachment

    Anxiously attached people often use unhealthy generosity in an attempt to get people who mistreat them to like them, which results in investing time and energy into relationships with people who do not treat them right. Instead, invest in people who are invested in you and who give love freely. Handling conflict in friendships is also crucial for building deeper intimacy, and addressing problems in a loving way by framing the conversation with 'I' statements, asking for their perspective, deescalating, and asking for what you want in the future can be more effective than escalating conflicts with blame and criticism.

    Overcoming Conflict and Building Meaningful Connections

    Conflict can be an act of love and reconciliation if done correctly. Reflective listening and positive intentions can calm the nervous system and create fertile ground for conversation. Social anxiety can make it difficult to connect with others, but focusing on the other person and actively looking for signs of approval rather than disapproval can help overcome it. Friendships across privilege lines, including economic privilege, race, and gender, can feel disconnected and undervalued by society. Understanding the issues and being intentional in connecting with people from different backgrounds can help bridge the divide and promote genuine connection.

    Importance of Acknowledging Privilege and Oppression in Building Genuine Connections

    Acknowledging systems of privilege and oppression is important in building genuine connections with others. When interacting across differences, privileged individuals should prioritize listening and understanding marginalized perspectives, as marginalized individuals may have had to understand privileged perspectives more often. It is also important to acknowledge the unhealthy relationship tactics that marginalized individuals may have had to employ in order to navigate interactions with privileged individuals. Making decisions about who to befriend depends on individual emotional responses - some individuals may be more dysregulated by hurtful comments than others and should prioritize prioritizing their own emotional wellbeing in building connections.

    Building Genuine Connections with Intentional Effort and Bravery

    To create a genuine connection with others, it's important to acknowledge your own emotional state and nervous system, and understand that not everyone reacts the same way to harmful or discriminatory comments. The path forward to building connections involves intentional effort and bravery, rather than waiting for it to happen organically. The Heal framework suggests focusing on and absorbing positive experiences to make them a part of your nervous system. Connection is crucial to overall well-being and requires effort, but it's within our control to seek it out and value the people in our lives.

    Practicing Gratitude and Acknowledging Positive Moments for Better Emotional Well-Being

    Acknowledging positive moments and practicing gratitude can alter our relationship with negative things in our nervous system and help us feel a little more safe in social interactions. It's important to acknowledge the complexity of our relationships with others and our own emotions, and to practice deeper self-intimacy. While we need other people to be happy, they can also be a source of anxiety and fear, and it's important to manage this paradox. Practicing the simple act of calling out positive moments can help remind us to take in the good, and can have a positive impact on our nervous system and the people around us. This whole being alive thing goes quickly, and it's important to embrace the small moments of joy.

    Overcoming Negativity Bias to Make and Keep Friends

    We often have a negativity bias, which causes us to underestimate how much people like us and undervalue our own vulnerability. Research shows that when we reconnect with people, we underestimate how much they value it. The message here is that things might be better than our brain tells us, people might like us more than we think, and we should leave room for humility. Dr. Marisa G. Franco's book, 'Platonic,' explores the science of attachment and how it can help us make and keep friends. Her website, drmarissagfranco.com, offers evidence-based tips for making and keeping friends, as well as a quiz to assess your strengths and weaknesses as a friend.

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    Sebene Selassie describes herself as a “writer, teacher, and immigrant-weirdo.” She teaches meditation on the ten percent happier app and is the author of a great book called You Belong. She’s based in Brooklyn. 


    Jeff Warren is also a writer and a meditation teacher. He and Dan co-wrote the book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. He also hosts the Consciousness Explorers podcast. He’s based in Toronto. 


    If you want to be part of the show, please call in with a question or comment. The number is 508-656-0540. Or you can email us with a voice memo at podcast@tenpercent.com with a voice memo. 



    Tickets for the two more Meditation Party retreats this year at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York are available now. The last one was a blast. Come join us for both. One is in May, the other October. 



    Related Episodes:

    How to Stay Calm No Matter What’s Happening | Sebene Selassie and Jeff Warren

    Meditation Party: The “Sh*t Is Fertilizer” Edition | Sebene Selassie & Jeff Warren

    Meditation Party with Sebene Selassie and Jeff Warren: Psychedelics, ADHD, Waking Up From Distraction, and Singing Without Being Self-Conscious

    Meditation Party: Magic, Mystery, Intuition, Tattoos, and Non-Efforting | Sebene Selassie and Jeff Warren

    Science-Based Tools for When You're Stressed, Obsessed, or Overthinking | Dr. Jenny Taitz



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