Languages of Friendship; and when you don't speak the same one!

During a recent conversation I had with someone, the topic of friendship styles came to light and I felt there must be a blog post in there somewhere. So here it is. Also, I have been reading the book “The 5 love languages” by Gary Chapman, and it is fascinating the different languages we speak, in love, and in friendship. The 5 languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through spoken affection, praise, or appreciation.
  • Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love.
  • Receiving Gifts: Gifting is symbolic of love and affection.
  • Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided, undistracted attention.
  • Physical Touch: It can be sex or holding hands. With this love language, the speaker feels affection through physical touch.

I have a friend who has a very tumultuous friendship with one of her other friends. If love and war were represented as a friendship model; theirs would be a pretty close poster child. One of the main problems they seem to face is their style of friendship.

I am one of a handful of women my friend is close to, with a wider circle of male friends also in her orbit. While my friend maintains conversation on a consistent almost daily basis, she has a wide enough circle that catch up’s are not particularly frequent. It’s not just with me that she doesn’t catch up with as often, it is most of her friends, because she is quite the social butterfly, always busy with someone. I really admire the effort she puts into juggling so many friendships and I understand her limitations. Although I have fewer balls in the air than this friend, I do tend to operate in a similar way and have a few close friends I see independently of the others. It’s just our style.

My friend often comes into conflict with her other friend, because this friend tends to have only one close (usually a best) friend at a time. I do know a few other people who also operate this way, so I don’t think it is particularly uncommon.  The problem isn’t so much the style of the friendship as the expectations that go along with it.  As this type of friend doesn’t have a wider network, more of her social time is free and directed towards this one friend, whereas jugglers like my friend and I can only offer so much time to one friendship in order to maintain the balance.

There are, for example, only (on average) 4 Saturday’s per month; If Saturday is your social day and you have 4 independent friends, it stands to reason you would likely see each of them once a month. If however you only had one friend, you may expect to see that one friend every week? See what I mean? While my friend is off with her other friends, she feels she is inadvertently hurting this one friend who seems to need more than my friend can give her in terms of time and attention.

It would be easy to paint one of them as needy, jealous and possessive and the other as mean, cold spirited and distant, however they are just not speaking the same language in terms of friendships. It would be wrong for us to take sides, because naturally we all conduct our friendships in the way that feels most comfortable to our soul.  Still, it stands that this is an issue; they are not communicating in the same language! My friend’s language seems to be words of affirmation and acts of service, where as her friends language is quality time….So what should they do about it?

As in all relationships compromise is the only way out of this one. While my friends friend cannot expect her to give up all her other friendships and give her the time and attention she needs, my friend needs to be aware that this friend does have higher needs and make an effort to give her a little extra time and attention and make her feel validated and special.  Her friend needs to accept this, and in turn find other ways and things to fill her time and not make my friend feel guilty when she spends time with other people.

I guess it is all about perspective and not seeing things through an all or nothing lens. Neither one can give the attention or the freedom the other needs, so instead of looking at it as though “she never makes time for me but has time for everyone else” her friend could choose to look at it as though “I am so grateful for the time she does make for me, because I know she is busy and I am lucky to be one of the people in her life.” My friend could choose the perspective “It is wonderful she enjoys and values my friendship so much” instead of “I am allowed to have other friends, why doesn’t she understand this?”

It is really challenging when you don’t seem to speak the same friendship language as your friends. I have recently encountered drama myself with a friend, with whom I was not speaking the same language.  Similar to the situation above; Her primary love language seems to be acts of service, whereas mine is quality time. I felt that I was giving way more than I was getting in terms of rewards in the right language. So I have stopped “giving” to this particular friend the service which I felt was taking it too far. In my general experience I am happy to meet the needs of a friend, whatever language they speak, so long as they are equally meeting my need for my language of quality time. It is just important to maintain an equal balance.

It is important to recognise and meet the needs of our friends, but it is also important to recognise our own needs and if they are being met. If they are not then we need to reset the balance. We can’t ever make someone else give more or meet our need, but we can give less of ourselves to right the imbalance.

While it is possible to maintain healthy balance with people who have different styles and speak different languages, it is more challenging. If you are a person whose style is one friend at a time and whose love language is quality time, your best bet is to find someone the same. That will provide the highest rewards for you.

It’s certainly interesting isn’t it? The way we list the 5 languages in terms of priority is unlikely to be the same for our friends. Even if we don’t speak the same language we can probably identify the ones they are likely to value most and offer more of that. Try it as an experiment and see how you go. Let me know the results!

❤ Love

Your Best Friend ForNever