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Do You Give More than You Receive in Friendships?
April 19, 2010 @ 3:44 PM
One of the most common themes for women when it comes to their friendships is the sense that there isn't a balance, a fear that they are the ones who are giving more than their friends.

The details change depending upon the nature of the friendship, but the implication is always that we are tired of being the initiators, the givers, the schedulers, the inviters, the ones who do the most for the other, who listen the longest, who are more thoughtful, more consistent and just overall, "better friends."

Ironically, you might be surprised to know that I have never talked to a woman on the other side of this equation. I have yet to meet, or hear from, the friend who is the recipient of all this giving. I haven't yet had a conversation with a woman who feels like everyone is giving more to her than she is giving out.

Which raises an interesting question-- do I only run into women who are doing all the work or is there a possibility that all of us think we're that person in our relationships?

We're Wired to Give in Different Ways
As a life coach there are multiple inventories I use to help people become more self-aware and what these tools and paradigms suggest over and over is that we're all wired differently. That should come as no surprise, however, what it means is that we can all give to each other, but it will look very different.

When it comes to the 5 Love Languages, we know that in romance we all feel loved in 1-2 primary ways whether it be: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time or Receiving Gifts. I have found the same to be true in friendships. Those whose love language includes Quality Time may be much better at initiating and scheduling that time together. But does that mean that she gives more than her friend whose love language might be Words of Affirmation who can feel slighted because she feels that she communicates her respect and admiration more than her friend?

When it comes to our Strengths, of the thirty-four that are identified, we all function best when we're focused on our top five or so. Therefore, someone who has Relator in their top Five will naturally find it easier to initiate a get-together with someone else as this is an area that energizes them. But does that mean that they give "more" than the woman who is strong in Empathy, Harmony or Learner themes and gives from those strengths instead?(note workshop below on this subject>

When it comes our Enneagram or Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory-- the same story keeps repeating itself. Someone whose Enneagram Type is a 2 (Helper) gets part of their identity from being needed and helping others around them. It would be easy for them to feel like they are doing more than their friends. But that would be missing the fact that there are 8 other types all functioning out of different needs, gifts and tendencies!

What This Means for Your Friendships
Here are some of the implications of understanding that we all give differently:
  1. Give Your Best: If you're good at initiating, scheduling and calling first-- then do it. Don't be shy! If you're good at listening longer, asking better questions and validating feelings-- then give and do it freely. If you're the one who remembers birthdays and buys presents for her kids, then do it with joy, harboring no resentment. Whatever feels like the best way to love the other. Give it to your friends. Don't hold back because you expect it to be 50/50 in this area.
  2. Don't Expect Your Friends to Match: Give to your friends in the ways that come naturally to you, but don't judge them based on what you're good at. This is not a competition. If she spends less money on you, calls you less or affirms you less-- that doesn't automatically mean she cares about you less. It means she's probably giving to you in a different way.
  3. Ensure that You're in a Reciprocated Friendship: Indeed there are some people who may be leeches, but most likely you wouldn't have become friends with her to begin with? Why were you drawn to her? Pull out a pad of paper and list everything you can think of that she does (this includes every example listed above and also things like easily forgiving you, encouraging you to be an individual, standing up for you, making you laugh, remembering to ask about your mom, etc.) The goal then isn't to both give 50/50 in each area, the goal is to make sure you're both giving generously overall.
  4. Increase Awareness & Appreciation: If you are the one who calls all the time-- keep giving that gift to the friendship. And if you're the other, who doesn't initiate, make sure you acknowledge and appreciate how she contributes! Additionally, be aware of how she gives and you can assume that's probably what she finds most meaningful so if you notice that she remembers your every birthday, maybe make a point to send her a card this year. Try to love her in ways that seem to matter most.
  5. Expand Your Circle of Friends: We all give in different ways-- it's why I'm a big proponent of having several close friends. We get different needs met and can appreciate how others give to us better when we can see the differences.
There are nuances galore with this subject and I could go on for days about how to better evaluate your needs, determine how you give and ensure that you're in a healthy friendship.(A lot of this comes up in the 21-Days of Friendship workshop listed below.) But the overall take-away is to not judge someone else by what you do best, but by what they do best.

So you give a lot. Congratulations. Make sure you notice what you're receiving too!

Upcoming Workshops:
A 20% discount is extended to all GFC Guests with code: GFC
1) San Francisco StrengthsFinder: I'm co-facilitating a StrengthsFinder workshop in San Francisco this Wed. Bring a friend, a significant other or come alone and learn more about how you're wired.
2) Tele-Course for Friendship Development: My next cycle of 21-Days of Friendship starts on May 3 and is done completely via internet & tele-calls.

Comments for this Weblog Entry
re: Do You Give More than You Receive in Friendships?
by Inactive Girlfriend
April 20, 2010 @ 8:04 AM
I didn't finish reading this entire entry, but if it helps balance things out, I have a best girlfriend and our friendship is balanced. We went thru a stage where we weren't sure where our friendship was going, we talked about things, had a little heated moments, and we came out understanding one another better for it. And this is one of those wonderful friendships that did actually "just happen." Neither of us was looking or "working" for that BFF relationship, and it blossomed over the years into a great friendship based on love, understanding, respect, and trust. She invites me to her house, to go and do things, to go dancing, to hang out, and most of the time I say yes. If I had to choose who was the greater "giver" or initiator in our friendship it would have to be her! I have learned to open myself up more to initiating and placing that same importance on our friendship, and I took my cues from her. I love her and hope we grow old being friends!
re: Do You Give More than You Receive in Friendships?
by Inactive Girlfriend
April 20, 2010 @ 3:33 PM
Great blog entry! this one made me think and reevaluate a lot with what's going on in some relationships. thanks for the enlightenment!
re: Do You Give More than You Receive in Friendships?
by Inactive Girlfriend
April 21, 2010 @ 7:19 AM
I agree with the others - great blog entry that gives me lots of food for thought. I was aware of the 5 love styles, but hadn't really thought how it applied to friendship. And, interestingly, I think my style is different in friendship than in intimate relationships. I also hope you will offer the StrengthsFinder workshop again soon - I have work event and can't make it this Wednesday, but the end of reading this blog I was dying to try it!

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