The Importance of Friendships from a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Perspective

In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), the Interpersonal Effectiveness module focuses on improving our relationships with others. Friendships are a critical component of the human condition and do not naturally occur. They require skill and effort to be successful and satisfying. This blog will discuss in further detail skills for how to search for friends as well as how to effectively do it.

It can be lonely and isolating doing everything on your own all the time. Isolation can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and overall decrease your mental wellbeing. Finding those to become friends with is one of the first steps in decreasing feelings of isolation. Friends are essential for happiness. This is not to say that one cannot find happiness in solitude. However, most humans require friendships that are supportive and fulfilling in contributing to their happiness. It is also important to note that all individuals are loveable by someone, even if it may not feel this way to one.

Many find it difficult taking the step to befriend others. One tip is bearing in mind that proximity favors friendship. Try to think of opportunities that you have built in your everyday schedule to make causal contact with those around you. For example, if your office is located in a building, use the elevator instead of taking the steps and make small talk with those in it. Another example may be using the staff room to eat your lunch and speaking with other staff there instead of eating your lunch alone at your desk. Point being, we typically become friends with those who are physically close to us. Another way to make friends is to become friends with those that are similar to us (in terms of values, morals, personality traits, occupation, ethnic background, religion, age, education, activities). While it is true that opposites do attract, similarity does increase attraction.

In order to feel confident about making friends, conversation skills are necessary. Individuals who are considered to be good at making conversations, possess three behaviors: they ask questions, provide positive feedback, and make sure to carry their part of the conversation (typically looks like you are doing half the talking and not just listening to the other person speak).  

When asking questions, one must stay tactful and ensure that they do not end up interrogating the other individual. Be mindful with reciprocating and responding appropriately. Sometimes volunteering a little bit extra information can elicit a more extensive conversation. Mindfulness enables you to engage fully in conversations, appreciate the nuances of body language, and genuinely connect with others. Practice mindful listening by focusing on what your potential friend is saying rather than formulating responses in your mind. This cultivates a sense of understanding and empathy, laying the foundation for meaningful relationships.

It is also important to realize that small talk is effective and it doesn’t always need to be a DMC. Self-disclosure can also be helpful and play an important role. Do not disclose too much or too little about yourself. Self-exposure requires skill and social judgement. Authenticity is the bedrock of genuine friendships. Resist the temptation to present a facade or conform to societal expectations in order to fit in. Instead, embrace your quirks, vulnerabilities, and unique qualities as strengths that enhance your relationships. Be genuine in your interactions, expressing your thoughts, feelings, and aspirations openly and honestly. Authenticity fosters trust and deepens connections, paving the way for lasting friendships grounded in mutual acceptance and appreciation.

Try to be mindful about not interrupting the person talking and do not make the conversation always about yourself. People love talking and sharing about themselves when you give them the opportunity to do so. One of the most difficult aspects of conversation skills is feeling that you do not know what to talk about. One way to navigate this is to observe which topics are being discussed and how others are responding to them. This may make you feel more comfortable to participate in the conversation.

When feeling connected to one, it is important to let them know that we like and appreciate them. Yet, there are some caveats that need to be taken into consideration when doing so. Try not to comment on characteristics of others that are either obvious or nonexistent and don’t wait for others to come speak to you. Sometimes it is about putting one’s ego aside and being the one to start the conversation. In a world that often feels fragmented and disconnected, friendships can be critical to one’s wellbeing. If you or a loved one are struggling, feel free to reach out for support. No one should have to feel alone. Learning the skills you need to thrive interpersonally can be lifechanging and put you on the path of success, satisfaction, and joy.

Dr. Aryeh Berlin is a New Jersey licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Aspire Psychological Group. Dr. Berlin has vast clinical training experiences including a residential adolescent addiction treatment center in Israel, community mental health centers, and youth detention centers. Dr. Berlin has lectured on parenting children with emotional and behavioral difficulties, child development, helping children with school-related challenges and trauma. Audiences included attorneys, mental health professionals, parents, and educators.

The Importance of Friendships from a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Perspective