In this case, I actually want to talk about affection in the context of friendship-feelings, rather than romantic-feelings. There is already good and healthy talk out there about romantic feelings, and how different people express their love and affection in different ways, and how understanding that can lead to better relationships. This is good and lovely, but I have not personally seen very much of this concept being applied to friendship type feelings.
Friendships seem to come in all sorts of degrees of closeness. I’ll be honest, I find navigating it all to be difficult and complicated, and I rarely find it worth it for anything short of very close, intimate friendships (though lately I have been experimenting with more casual friendships. it’s… interesting). Anyway, I am wanting to talk about expressing platonic affection. There are ways that I have to express affection or say “I like you” in friendship ways. Things like looking direction at a person’s face for several seconds straight, or giving them a big grin, or deliberately reaching out and touching them. In my language, these are all significant things because I do not do them easily or casually. They are how I express friendship affection.
Unfortunately, I have learned that not everyone sees them this way. I have had these things shrugged off and disregarded, sometimes in ways that I find hurtful. And not necessarily by people who want to hurt me, but by people who actually like me and reciprocate some level of friendship-feelings, but who apparently simply don’t understand what I’m saying when I do those things.
So I figure there are two steps to dealing with this. One is to try to teach them my language, so they know what various actions are saying (this blog post is actually a minor attempt at that). Another is to try to learn their language and use it too.
I like words. Words are fabulous. So it seems reasonable to, at least occasionally, say to a person “I like you.” When I think about it, it’s kind of amazing to me just how challenging it is for me to say that. I can say “I like doing this thing with you” relatively easily, but that is very different. So a personal project that I have been working on is to, here and there, say “I like you” to a person I have friendship-feelings towards. Of course, there is still a high degree of probability that they won’t really grok how challenging it is for me to say. I mean, given how much I like words it seems rather counter-intuitive that I would find saying certain things so difficult. However, it will mean that I will be saying it in a more direct, common-language way, so there will be less chance of my meaning being lost in translation.
In at least one experiment of this, I learned that words can be really quite significant. I have been riding for around four years. In that time, I have grown to have friendship-type feelings at my riding instructor. In all the time I’ve been riding, in FOUR YEARS of chatting, sharing personal stories, and getting to know each other, I had never once actually said “I like you.” NOT ONCE. So eventually I gathered my courage and did just that. I told her that I wanted to consider her a friend, I said that I really like having the chance to just chat and such once a week, and I said “I like you.” She actually surprised me with the strength of her positive response. So in at least one case, actually using the words really turned out to be a good thing to do.
So now I’m experimenting in little ways, here and there, with other people. I guess we’ll see how it goes.