The month of love is upon us again and would you believe, we are on the eve on the one-year anniversary of the first major COVID-19 lockdown? Whilst the impact has been varied, far and wide, none more apparent than that on human interaction. Screens, masks, keeping your distance, all now added barriers to possibly connecting, particularly in an environment or country with existing barriers like language or culture.
That is why, this February Strawberry Lips has partnered with former editor of O Magazine (SA) and previous creative director of Design Indaba, Taweni Gondwe Xaba, for the #LoveYourCrew campaign. The campaign centres around offering South African women a few tips on a different kind of love — that of your girlfriends. Because the month of love isn’t just about romantic love.
Over this past year, we’ve seen across our community thousands of women who were struggling with adult friendships, only worsened by lockdown restrictions. If you need a little help growing and nurturing your female friendships here are a few pointers from Taweni Gondwe Xaba.
“I believe that good and true friendships, not unlike marriages or other long-term unions, are ordained through divine alchemy. Human meets kindred spirit and, instantaneously, a soul bond is formed. But there is, without a doubt, a bit of an art to making friends across cultures and languages. The following have proven the most important success factors for stepping out of my own comfort zones:
Come to friendship with an open heart and mind
I hear some say; “people have to earn my trust before I let them in” and that just doesn’t resonate with me. If you don’t let people in, how will you get to know them in order to decide if they are trustworthy or not? I mean, I believe in “trust the vibes” — those things keep us safe — but woooooh how does a stranger start at zero? Especially when you have grown up in different backgrounds, with diverse histories as well as different value systems and world views. What a mountain to climb to attain intimacy!
Consider starting people off with a 10% benefit of the doubt maybe? Take each person on their own merits? Give everyone a chance to show you who they could be to you, then decide? Look beyond gender, tribe, culture, race or age. Try it. You could be pleasantly surprised. I know I have been!
Come as you are
You’ve got to come as you are and be authentic. Bring as much of your whole self to the early encounters as you can, so people get to see what they’re going to be signing up for. Give them ammo to decide if you’re for them or too rich for their blood. It’s not necessary to do this in a confrontational manner, just take an honest approach and let your authenticity shine through.
If you feel more comfortable wearing certain clothes or dressing in your cultural/ traditional gear, do that! It’s a great conversation starter and an opportunity for people to get to know the real you. If you’re smart and opinionated, don’t pretend to be agreeable for the sake of looking “nice”; if you are a big personality with a loud laugh or dry humour, don’t put on a “genteel” demeanour just to fit in. Eventually, everyone’s authentic disposition surfaces. That’s when people start crying “fake!” You don’t need that. Narrow the gap between your “on-good-behaviour” persona and your real personality. And if they don’t accept the “real” you, you’ve got your answer… That is not your tribe!
Love is love
Love is love in any language. So is respect. But words help a lot to communicate both. I have lived in three countries for significant amounts of time, racked up some proper air miles as I criss-crossed continents over the years and filled up three passports in the process. In some countries, I have been able to communicate in the local language (I speak seven). In others, I have had to invent some makeshift sign language just to get help finding a public toilet! In none of them, have I left without making a friend. At a minimum, learn how to greet and say goodbye in someone’s language. It underscores your openness as a person and your genuine interest in others. Make the effort. Love is work!’
Want to hear more from Taweni Gondwe Xaba? She’ll be sharing more pearls of wisdom, answering your questions about making friends, and friendship, in general, every week on the Strawberry Lips social media platforms.
Plus, Strawberry Lips will be giving some lucky ladies the chance to win a fabulous professional photoshoot! Head to the Strawberry Lips website to find out all the details.