One of Franco’s key lessons about friendship is that it’s deeply tied to our attachment style, just like all our relationships are. Our attachment style is our unique way of viewing and being in relationships, based on our relationships to our earliest caregivers as well as other key relationships we have growing up.
Just like it can be scary to fall in love with someone, and to not know if you’ll be truly accepted or if your needs will truly be met in the relationship, the process of embarking on a friendship with someone can be weighed down with just as many underlying fears, many of which can be traced back to past experiences of relational pain or rejection.
Franco points to a concept in psychology known as “risk regulation theory,” which holds that people first need to feel confident in another person’s positive feelings toward them before they’re willing to risk connecting with and depending on them. Makes sense, right?
“To invest in a relationship, we need proof we won’t be rejected when doing so,” Franco explains. “Similarly, if we want people to invest in us, we need to make them feel safe to.”
One key way to help make our potential friends feel more safe to get close to us—and to mitigate that fear of rejection—is to be abundantly affectionate with our friends, she says. For example: complimenting them openly, telling them you’re happy to hear from them, greeting them warmly when you see each other, or smiling at them genuinely.
“We grant this security when we show affection. We impart that we love, value, and accept someone, so they can feel safe to take the risks of intimacy with us,” she writes.