Looking For A Friend – The Guide That Needs To Be Written
This multi-part guide is aimed at:
- 1. Dispelling the myths surrounding Foreigner/Filipino relationships. These are often perpetuated by those who have had a negative relationship experiences. They seem to overpower some forums with tales that infer negative attributes about all Filipinos or Foreigners.
2. Highlighting the steps that both Filipinos and Foreigners can take to give their relationship a better chance of success.
These articles will not make you or your relationships perfect. However if you act on the information it will increase the chances of you finding a friend with whom you will be compatible.
Throughout this guide I will be using the words “Expat or Expats” to denote foreigners of any gender, who make their home in the Philippines for significant periods of time.
While tourists are not specifically included, there is much for them to learn from reading these articles prior to coming to the Philippines
The words “Filipino or Filipinos” are used to denote Philippines nationals of all gender involved in any personal intimate relationship with an Expat.
For the purpose of simplicity the term “friend” is used to denote the other party in in the generalised term “relationship” that Expats become involved in.
Preparation For The Adventure
How did you come to the decision to stay in the Philippines for a significant period of time.
- Many Expats stay longer than planned because the recreational opportunities, the history, or the culture.
Others have been attracted to the Philippines because of the qualities of a group of, or even individual Filipinos living in their own country.
Others came after hearing from friends about the values and qualities of Filipinos which appealed to them as positive qualities to have in a friend.
Other came with no agenda and stayed because they found a friend.
The issue was further compounded when you found your hosts operating with a another set of beliefs. Ones they have garnered from television, film and music as well as friends and relatives who have had contact with foreigners or lived overseas.
The two “belief shots” above are based on that flawed information, on what are known as stereotypes
The Thing About Stereotypes
How Accurate Are stereotypes?
Read each of Statements 1–10 in the table below carefully.
How did you go?
How many of had a tick in the All or the None column?
What were your reasons for having that opinion?
The reality is that you should only have two in the “ALL” column.
Which statements do you think they would be?
Yes all “fish have gills is correct” as is “Sugar is bad for your teeth”.
One other column should have elicited a consistent response, what do you think it might be?
Right again, the None column.
It should have no ticks in it.
The remainder of your responses should be spread over the other columns.
Some cats will scratch in any circumstance. Some only scratch at certain stages of life, such as in kitten-hood. Others will scratch in certain circumstances, such as when they are attacked or they are provoked. Others will never scratch. So the response would likely be either many, some or few.
The same applies to all the other statements, with the whole range of responses from Most to Few able to be utilised based on your information.
The way you respond to these questions will be primarily based on your own life experience plus information gathered from other sources
The point of all this is to point out the obvious, that All or None are rarely accurate responses when assessing these types of statements, even Most is a stretch unless you are looking at the statistical 51%.
All such statements need to have qualifiers added to them.
Some snakes attack humans, or many dogs bite, or a few poor people are lazy
The essential difference between the “Fish Have Gills” statement, and “Sugar Is Bad For Your Teeth” statements and the others is that the former refer to known facts. The others are behavioural. Facts are stable over time whereas the behavioural statements are often influenced by environmental factors.
Those stereotypes are generalisations which are initially made for the purpose of communicating efficiently about groups of people, but which over time become become either weapons used to disparage that group or rose coloured glasses which assign positive qualities to all those group members in all situations.
As well as the Expats Think or Filipinos Think examples above which are based largely on the information provided by others, another type of stereotype is that which we apply to the group, either Expats or Filipinos based on our experience of the behaviour of one or two members or even a dozen members of that group.
Two examples of these as negative stereotypes are:
- Referring to Expats “All they do is drink and chase other women”
Referring to Filipinos “They are all scam artists”
While examples of positive stereotyping, which are just as dangerous, are:
- Referring to Filipinos “They are family oriented”
Referring to Expats “They are all rich”
The reality is that in either group those statements are:
- True for some of that group all of the time.
True for some of that group in some situations.
Untrue for others in that group in some situations
Untrue for others in that group all the time.
But never do they apply to all that group in every situation.
So because Expat George and three others you know of or met were all unfaithful to their Filipino friends it doesn’t prove that all expats are unfaithful.
Or because Filipina Flor and a large group on a forum you belong to, are dedicated to raising their children and supporting their extended families it doesn’t mean that all Filipina’s act in this way.
So while stereotypes may provide some assistance to scientists, sociologists, criminologists, and anthropologists, who deal with populations; they offer very little to people seeking to establish a successful relationship.
The Thing About Relationships
Building a relationship based on stereotypes or guesses about what the other person aspires to, what their priorities in life are; with them doing the same regarding you is naive. Each Expat and each Filipino is an individual and deserves to be treated as such. Which means that the beginning of any relationship, is about knowing yourself and then knowing how to learn about another human being.
The Thing about You
Why do I ask such a strange question?
Well I do so because “self awareness is a major building block in any successful relationship and the most essential one if that relationship involves the levels of intimacy required by couples.”
Becoming self aware and acting on that awareness is a journey not a destination. In fact it is better to have begun your journey long before you begin a new relationship, so that any new relationship is interdependent rather than co-dependent in nature from the start. However life is often not that linear and for those of you already in a relationship we will be covering strategies to enable you to evaluate accurately your current relationship.
Two individuals who understand and accept:
They have strengths and can identify them.
Identifying your strengths is often the outcome of taking self assessments such as Gallup Strength Finder.
However recent studies have cast doubt on the verifiability and therefore the validity of such assessments.
Psychologists Nick Epley and David Dunning in reviewing a series of studies showed that people “consistently overestimated the likelihood that they would act in generous or selfless ways.” This isn’t just true for generosity; people are wildly inaccurate judges of their strengths in a wide range of tasks and domains — from logical thinking and reasoning skills to math aptitude, and even in estimating their own abilities to recognize a funny joke.
They suggest that people wanting to identify their strengths more objectively should consider a Reflected Best Self Exercise.
This involves collecting feedback from a variety of people inside and outside of your family, no less than a dozen. By gathering input from a variety of sources;family members, past and present colleagues, friends, teachers, and so on; you can develop a much broader and richer understanding of yourself.
You then ask these individuals to provide in writing, information about your strengths, accompanied by three specific examples of moments when you used those strengths in ways that were meaningful to them, to their families or teams, or to their organizations.
You then read that information looking for patterns, strengths reported by many of the respondents. Those getting the feedback report that the results are highly consistent even though the participants are diverse in many other respects.
Next you write a self portrait of yourself utilising and incorporating the information on your strengths provided by your friends, acquaintances and colleagues. This could look something like this, depending of course on the feedback you have received:
My Qualifications For Being A Friend
- I am loyal.
I am able focus on an issue and follow it through to resolution.
I can think and act in innovative ways.
I am a good listener.
I am supportive of others.
I can look at situations objectively even when they are emotionally charged.
I am able to express my feelings.
Is this to far to go just to find a friend? That depends on how much you want your search to be successful.
Remember also that strengths change over time, some are developed over a lifetime, while others are required for particular stages of life. Today you may be able to claim patience or stamina as strengths, without internal or external dissonance. You continue to maintain them and develop new ones, according to your life priorities at any given time.
Two individuals who understand and accept:
Their weaknesses and can own them.
An honest appraisal of weaknesses is important, not as an excuse for failure but as a hedge against it. You will never expunge all weaknesses, in fact the difference between co-dependency and inter-dependency in a relationship is often rooted in how each party defines weakness and then how they address that weakness. This can be manifested in two ways:
Firstly it enables a potential friend to see if there is a mesh between your weaknesses and their strengths, and vice versa. This encourages collaboration in the relationship.
Secondly it gives an opportunity for you to discus ways in which you can limit the damage that can be caused by each others weaknesses, by putting into place contingency plans.
Two individuals who understand and accept:
The parts they have played in previous relationship failures and can articulate these.
Firstly you have recognised that it usually takes two to begin a relationship, two to start destroying it and two to end it. The degree of involvement may not be equal, and the kind of involvement may vary from active participation, to failure to address an issue when it first surfaces. Being able to identify what your part was will help you decide if that was your only option at the time, and may help you identify more options in a similar future situation.
When one person in a relationship is hurt by the actions of the other, the relationship often deteriorates into a blame game with each party focusing only on their own hurt rather than having any appreciation of the hurt the other party may justifiably feel. Moving from the position I’m Ok but they need therapy requires self awareness and enables you to consider the other persons situation and recognise that their view of the what caused the relationship to end may have real value to you.
That doesn’t mean making changes to the “core” you, but even adjusting to having a relationship requires a flexibility not needed when you are single. So expecting it to be business as usual is unrealistic.
Even for those of you in current and long standing relationships, if there is a constant challenge to make changes to your behavior it may be because you thought you could live with another person without making any concessions.
As you become increasingly self aware you will examine all aspects of your worldview, your attitudes and behavior to discover your true core values. These are those things you hold true once you have identified what beliefs, attitudes and behavior are held in place by either external forces, loyalty or habit, and are open to change. These core values may include aspects of your spirituality, your definition of integrity, respect, equality and equity. Can I re-emphasise here something that is heard many times, “I thought I could change him/her”. Please never enter into a relationship on that basis, because even if you can inflence a person for a while, who they really are will always be front and centre in the end, and if you don’t like that package and they do nothing to change, or don’t want to change, get out as soon and as safely as you can.
Two individuals who understand and accept:
That this relationship or any future one may not work because we do this due diligence on ourselves.
The possibility that this relationship is not the one for you must be actively considered as an opportunity cost, one possibility on the continuum of possibilities. Often relationships spiral out of control and entrap the participants long after both parties realistically understand that it has no future.
This is a pivotal statement that affirms your commitment to addressing the issues your self awareness raises. This will nurture the relationship and produce a quality and lasting experience for both parties.
The Thing About Changing Aspects Of Your Belief System
A key factor to remember at this stage is this is not an opportunity for you to map out the changes your potential friend should make to their belief systems. It is an opportunity for you to change aspects of the belief system of the only person you have the right to change, the only one whose attitudes and behaviors you can change, that is “You”.
When I have made this statement in counseling or at training seminars, I am regularly confronted by someone who will point to the fact that, others can effect changes in your life.
They point out that
- When they were in the military they obeyed the commands of people they would not necessarily obey willingly in civilian life. OR
To maintain a job they have agreed to abide by company policy they don’t really agree with. OR
To fit into a desired part of the society or community in which they live they have taken on the beliefs and behaviors of that group.
Some will even say that aspects of their relationships are built on that kind of compliance, the tug of war between love and fear.
Of course they are correct, those with power to impose their values or influence you can make you change your behavior and to a lesser degree your attitudes, just as you can do with those reliant on you for employment, or status, and more pertinent to this conversation, for affection.
While it may seem that this disproves my initial statement it is in fact the core to understanding behavioral and attitudinal change.
You are born a blank canvas with no beliefs and no attitudes. Nature may well give you some predispositions, but nurture (life) is what actually paints the picture.
All successful behavioral and attitudinal change requires you to agree to the change. That is the crux of any change; your agreement, explicit or implicit, that you will accede to making the required change. In an ideal world this would result in all belief system change being a process that comes about without coercion and after rationale consideration.
Unfortunately as has been pointed out above:
- Changes you agree to may not always be changes you agree with.
Or even think about if you are a child acquiring a belief system
Or even recognise if the change comes wrapped in beliefs you have already acceded to.
However if you look at the way that the changes came about you can see that the degree to which it becomes embedded in your belief system varies.
- Some change is maintained by purely external forces, ie war, role, position, salary etc.
For example you agree to kill people because they are the enemy in a conflict, when the conflict ends most of you will quite happily return to a non-combat role and be able to treat your former enemies with tolerance and even respect. OR
You are servile to an obnoxious boss because the salary is beyond what you could get elsewhere. One day you get offered the job of your dreams with a salary to match and you are quite able to verbalise your dislike of your boss as you leave and have insisted that mutual respect is a feature of your new working relationship.
- Some change is maintained by a mixture of loyalty and external forces. ie respect and role, philosophical agreement and binding agreements.
For example you respect your parents faith and enjoy singing in the choir. You are considered a church stalwart until your parents pass away and you start to question your faith. The disconnect is completed when a friend introduces you to karaoke, church attendance takes a back seat to your true passion, singing. OR
You believe in the general mission of your company but have signed a non specific agreement that forces you to support many decisions that you consider be contrary to good customer service. When you get a promotion you engineer the rewrite of your predecessors policies, insisting that customer service is paramount.
Finally you are left with changes that you have internalised so completely that no amount of argument, persuasion or appeal seems to shake your conviction that this is the real you.
What you have here are your core beliefs? The answer is “maybe or maybe not”.
There is potentially one final layer of behavioral and attitudinal change that is not the product of rationale thinking, careful analysis, and personal conviction.
Those are changes you have adopted by habit.
Habits can be both positive and negative when it comes to the practical effects on your life.
Every day billions of people try to rid themselves of habits they deem negative and acquire ones that are deemed positive. Smoking is largely seen as a negatively impacting habit, affecting both the health of the smoker and those around them. On the other side of the coin, regular exercise is seen as a positive habit to acquire.
However whether you smoke or are a fitness guru, has little effect on the core values you hold, they are peripheral, even if important, for we find these habits alive in every belief system on the planet. So while addressing negative habits and promoting positive ones is certainly to be encouraged and admired. It is not these kinds of habits that I am referring to.
I am talking about belief systems that you have adopted because your families have a long history of involvement in that belief system, or where you live in communities that hold strongly to one world view, which is rarely challenged, or where challengers are quickly dealt with by ex-communication of one kind or another.
Beliefs, attitudes and behaviors attained in such circumstances are often provided as a processed package learned by rote and adopted by habit.
A characteristic of people having such belief systems is their inability to offer a rationale basis for their beliefs, they often resort to rhetoric, bullying or insults to try and defend their position
Now before I go any further let me say, you are free to hold any belief you want to hold, this isn’t an article about everyone believing the same thing. It is about having a belief system:
- In which you have considered each aspect thoughtfully and rationally and you can articulate that process.
Where each aspect works in harmony with all other aspects, where there is no dissonance.
That has integrity and where any new information has the potential to add strength to your current beliefs or modify them.
Which is true for you, but is respectful of those whose beliefs differ from yours.
You will notice that you are spending a lot of time on looking at you. This is because you are the most important contributing factor in the success of any intimate relationship. the next article “Finding A Friend 2 – What You Bring To The Table” continues looking at how to become self aware and how to apply positive change from that process to your life and relationships.