Hosting a Friendship Book Club

Huge thanks to Kristen Baker for writing up her experience with hosting a book club about my last book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen, so her story might inspire a few of you to do the same!  Imagine having a fun evening together and engaging in conversations about your friendships while all learning together what it takes to create healthy and meaningful connections? Win:win!

If you do decide to try it, I wrote up discussion guides you can download for free whether you want to do a 1-time book club or a 4-week book-club. Not sure who to invite? Read this post for ideas!

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Girlfriends,
I had a blast leading a book club gathering around Shasta’s fantastic book Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Friends.

I read Shasta’s book after hearing her guest interview on Christine Arylo’s class  (Me before We) on self-love and just loved her content. As I poured into FDJH, I started to see

Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!

Huge thanks Kristen Baker for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club… and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!

patterns from my past emerge, patterns in my friendships, family relationships, even dating. It was truly a book about connection, intimacy, and vulnerability. I had so many “ah-has” and “Ohhhh that’s why that happened,” moments while I was reading. My eyes even welled up with tears as I read the chapter on forgiveness – releasing some past feelings of rejection.

So naturally, I had to share it with my group here in Houston. I lead a sisterhood for self-exploration, a coaching community – the Divas, here in Houston (and online) and we have a monthly book club, so I added FDJH to the docket. A small group started trickling in, and we started sharing our experiences from the book. The beautiful irony was experiencing these Divas sharing their struggles with vulnerability WHILE BEING VULNERABLE. While being authentic. They showed up, shared their struggles, we connected. It was magical.

The common themes that came up for us:

  • Our right-side friends (the deeper friendships) were not as full as many wanted.
  • We practiced gratitude for the left-side (we even had one ah-ha that if one of the women went back and re-did her circles again and added her male friendships – it would have been a much fuller chart!).
  • We talked about friendship and how it impacted our life goals, how friendship fit into the greater context of our life. We contemplated: how does it all fit together?
  • We talked about the overlap in romantic relationships, family relationships, dating, to what we had learned in the book.
  • We talked about what gets in the way of vulnerability: messages from our parents, past rejections and disappointments, rejection of self, approval-seeking.
  • We talked about opening up the possibilities of WHO we would pursue friendships with.

Some ah-has from our group:

  1. “Accepting yourself is the key to building intimacy”
  2. “Friendships don’t just happen” (yes, this was an ah-ha! ha)
  3. “That I am not as vulnerable in my current relationships as I would like to be”

My personal takeaways:

  • I love connecting over a book club. So, yes, check – I want more of that!
  • I continue to deepen my understanding of friendship, and frientimacy as a practice of self-love, self-trust, self-acceptance. And really enjoy deepening that awareness.

I am so glad I chose this book for discussion, I may have a round two because there is so much richness in the book, it is chock full of insights and I could talk about relationships, intimacy and vulnerability for HOURS. And it is really beautiful to watch people open up about their experiences with friendships.

All in all, a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it.

Love,

Kristen

Kristen Baker is a life and career coach, find out more about her here.

Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships!  :)

Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships! :)

Don’t yet have your own copy of Friendships Don’t Just Happen!– Buy it here!

Did you read the book or lead a group? Share with us in the comments a bit about your experience.  Or feel free to ask any questions about how to host– we’ll help!  :)

 

Posted in Books & Movies, GFC Member Stories, Girls Night, Group Friendships, Guest Blogs, Personal Growth/Spirituality, Practical Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hitting Pause on Romance for Friendship

Last week, while watching Grey’s Anatomy (am I the only one still watching?!?), I had a bit of a “hmmmm…. I don’t know if I agree with that friendship rule” moment.

Meredith and Alex, platonic friends on Grey's Anatomy, as they keep practicing what friendship is supposed to look like between them.

Meredith and Alex, platonic friends on Grey’s Anatomy, as they keep practicing what friendship is supposed to look like between them.

Meredith was explaining to Alex (who is supposed to be trying to be her new best friend since Christina moved away) that his job was to answer every text from her, even if he was in the middle of having sex. Which he had been.

She said that “The Pause” is one of the rules of friendship.  Real friends will stop whatever they are doing–and spouses and lovers just need to get used to it–to respond and be present. The text wasn’t even an SOS text.. it had simply said something along the lines of “What are you up to?”

I wondered if, as an advocate for friendship, I was supposed to agree with her rule that gave such priority to friendship?

But I don’t.  I definitely don’t. Our marriages/family are a priority and bonding time should never be interrupted. But even if we don’t interrupt “moments” that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t interrupt our lives for each other.

With that said, there are a few more times I do think women, in general, should be willing to hit pause on romance/family for the sake of our friendships.

The Rules for “Pausing” Romance for our Friendship

Our reputations precede us when it comes to how much more important we think romance is than friendship. We have left a wake of broken and missed friendships in our past because we haven’t practiced pausing the love in our homes to keep up the love in our circle of friends.  Here are a few places I think we can afford to pause romance in order to maintain friendships:

  1. Hit pause on romance when you’re on a girls weekend: I had someone write me last week and describe how thrilled she was to finally go on a weekend-away with a friend she hadn’t seen in years, but then felt disappointed by her friend who called to talk with her husband throughout every day. It left her walking beside a friend who was on the phone a lot feeling like even when she had her friend, she wasn’t really with her. I love my husband and could talk to him all day long and want to tell him everything… but GirlFriends, come on, we can go a day or two without having to catch him up on everything in real-time. On a girls weekend? Then tell your lover you’ll see him when you get home or call only when it doesn’t leave your friend out. On a romantic weekend? Same thing! Tell your friend/sister/mother you won’t be calling for a few days and gift your lover with your undivided attention. In other words– give your undivided attention to whomever you’re with.
  2. Hit pause on romance when it’s new to make sure your friends still feel their importance I’ve seen and heard A LOT about women ignoring their friends for new love. Even if what we think we want is 24/7 with some new romantic interest, we will tell him/her “As much as I’d love to spend the whole weekend with you, I have a standing date with my friend on Sunday mornings so I can’t get together until after that.” Communicating you have a life and good friends can only improve a healthy relationship!
  3. Hit pause on romance/family when you’re busy and time is limited. Yes life is full, no one is minimizing that.  But if having friendships is important then the intimacy has to be maintained with ongoing love and connection.  We will not go MIA on consequential relationships just because we’re distracted with a busy life.  We will fit in the important people, including our friends, even if it takes time we could give to family/romance. We will find creative ways to make sure that
  4. Hit pause on romance even if he doesn’t go out with his friends.  Many a couple, myself included, feel like they get almost all their needs met in each other, being married to their best friend.  It can be hard to give up time with him– I love being with him. But we have to carve out the time and perhaps say, “If left to my own tendencies, I’d probably just spend every moment with you, but it’s important for me to make/keep my friendships so please don’t take it personally that I need to go out at least once a week to maintain my friendships.” We HAVE to peel ourselves away from family to give time to our friendships… the more we do it, the more meaningful those times with them will be. Our goal is to have a wide support circle made up of many different kinds of love and connection in our lives.
  5. Hit pause on romance even in the midst of engagement and wedding euphoria.  With many women getting engaged this month and lots of weddings being planned this spring, it makes sense that woman are rightfully caught up in their love stories.  No need to feel guilt about that!  But we do need to hit pause to not only still make time for our friends, but also to make time for their lives when we are together.  We don’t need to only talk about the wedding. We can hit pause and ask them about their lives, being intentional to make sure we’re thoughtful of what they are feeling and experiencing.

I’m all for love.  Lots of it!  So no need to choose one or the other– all love is important!

This Valentines weekend, even if we’re caught up in romantic love, we can still pause in some way, to remind our friends that we love them and can’t wait until our next get-together.  That’s what friends do.

With love,

Shasta

p.s.  What rules so you wish you could set? What hurts you the most that your friends do when they’re dating? Do you find it hard to go out with friends when your lover doesn’t? Share with us!  :)

Posted in Holidays, Importance of Friendship | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On Being Willing to Disappoint People

I have to go into hibernation mode if I’m ever going to get this book done!” I said to my husband.  I said it with a chuckle, not yet knowing just what that meant.

He looked at our calendar and quipped, “Good luck!” when he saw my schedule.

Sometimes No Is the Loving Truth

If I wanted to be in writing mode in January then I probably needed to be saying no to things back in November and December (and probably shouldn’t have taken on planning two big surprises weekends to celebrate his birthday last month!) but now I am ready.  I know that to birth a manuscript by May means that I need to be churning out a chapter a week for the next couple of months.  And to churn out a chapter means I need several uninterrupted days every single week.  Every. Single. Week.

But since this is on top of an already full life of seeing friends, running a business, traveling to speak, and keeping up with things that matter to me like blogging, etc.– something has to give.  I’m not a full-time writer who has the luxury of spending months in a cabin.

So I have to say no.  To a lot of events. To projects. To ideas. To people.

Grateful my friend, Christine Arylo, has been saying this again and again over the years!

Grateful my friend, Christine Arylo, has been saying this again and again over the years!

Saying No is Frickin’ Hard!

Saying “no” isn’t my forte.  I’m a recovering people-pleaser. I want people to like me.  And I want to communicate that I like them!

On Tuesday, I looked through my inbox and felt my shoulders collapse a bit just looking at all the requests: one friend wants to schedule our next lunch, another wants to know if I can help promote her book, a reporter wants to interview me for a story, a project partner wants me write a guest blog, a group I’m a part of needs me to RSVP for a lunch, someone who has interviewed me in her community wonders if I can return the favor, another asking me if I’m attending a specific conference, a close friend needs some advice and hopes I can call tonight, a friend of a friend wonders if I have 5 minutes to help mentor her through book publishing, and someone I met a few weeks ago read in my book that we should always set a date instead of putting it off so she wants to know when we can get together next. *sigh*

For almost every single one of them I can tell you why I should say yes: well this one helped me with my book launch so it’s only fair I return the love, this one’s a really good friend, this one would only take me fifteen minutes, this one is from someone who never asks me for anything so I want to come through so she gets more comfortable asking for help, this one would be fun to do, this one would help promote my business, and this one is a cause I really want to support.  Almost all of them from women I love, or at least know and admire.

I don’t want to miss out on anything fun. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I want to love my friends lavishly. I want to support my network and make time to be a giver.

But I know deep down that I can’t birth this book and keep up my own life and do all these things. Even for people I love. Even for relationships that are important to me.

My friend Christine Arylo, the Queen of Self-Love, is like a little voice in my head:

“Stay true to yourself, even if it means disappointing another.”

If that’s true, then this week I feel like I’m in a graduate course for self-love.  And while love is in the word– I assure you that when doing it, it doesn’t feel like hearts and rainbows; it feels like fear and panic.

How Not to Say No

With the first few emails I found myself sort of saying no, but not really.

I kept falling into the temptation to assuage my guilt:

  • Barter: “No, I can’t do that, but I can do this instead.” –Which then left me still obligated, even if in a smaller way, but my head space was still committed to that project or person in some way.
  • Justify:  “I’m so sorry <insert long explanation here> but I so support you <insert long gush here>”– Which then made me realize that in the 15 minutes it took me to say no, slightly defeating the purpose of trying to clear up my days.
  • Delay: “I can’t do lunch right now as I’m writing, but let’s get something on the calendar for end of May!” which felt like a put-off, required 2-3 more emails to get it scheduled, and then I started dreading the end of May for when I’d be over-committed to all these things when what I’d probably need is a get-away!

I was trying to find a way to say yes while saying no, but I found that I felt just as bad, it wasn’t freeing up head space, and it felt like I was still committed to things that didn’t reflect the season of my life. Saying one thing and meaning another is not the path to integrity.

How to Say No

The gift of having to say no to many people all in the same time frame is that as I practiced, I got better:

“Dear amazing friend <insert name>– You are important to me and this ________ <insert project, event, interview, request> is undoubtedly something I would love to do or be at; unfortunately I’m in a season of life where I have to say no to a lot of awesome things in order to do what I’ve already committed to do.  I’m a fan of anyone who asks for what they want so I’m glad you asked and hope you feel comfortable reaching out again in a few months. With love, Shasta”

What I learned:

  • Keep it short and simple.  A no is a no, they don’t need my sob story.  The temptation to drag on is my own issue.
  • Avoid promises. In some cases, the “no I can’t do that, but I can do this” is the best approach.  In committed relationships, that is what I’ll be doing as needed. But in the vast amount of the requests, my gut knew that I just needed to say a firm and clear no, without getting hopes up or dragging out the process.
  • Affirm them and their request. That’s important to me to communicate my respect.  It’s possible they’ll still get hurt feelings or be disappointed, but I know I spoke kindly.
  • Invite them to ask again, later.  I struggled with adding this one… but finally decided, in my case, that it felt good.  One of the causes I champion is helping women to learn to ask for what they need… so even if I can’t always say yes, I’m proud of them for asking.  And I hope it causes them to feel safer asking things of me, as they can trust me to say yes or no, as needed.

Many people fall for the belief that we have to say yes to people we love.  I disagree.  In fact, I believe it’s the people we love that can be our safest places to practice.  We know they love us, we don’t have to dance and sing to entertain them.  We can practice listening to our intuition and acting on it.

My mantra this week:

“Stay true to yourself, even if it means disappointing another.”

And I hope my friends believe that, too, even if it means saying no to me at some point.

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p.s. And this doesn’t mean I am ignoring all my friends– that’s never okay. I will continue to make time for my closest friends, partly for the sake of the friendship, and partly out of self-care to me.

p.s.s  Next Friday, February 13, is Self-Love Day.  If you live in LA then you can join Christine Arylo live to “take a bold stand to end your negative self talk” or watch from your computer via Livestream!

Posted in Difficulty & Challenges, How To?, Our Mistakes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Friendship Formula

On Sunday I sat at the front of the room, with my phone in my hand keeping time, and I looked out a room-full of women laughing, talking, and leaning in toward each other.

Only an hour earlier they had arrived as strangers, here they were looking a lot like good friends.  I knew that given a few more hours… I’d see women hugging each other good-bye with words like “See you next week!” excitedly hanging in the air.

Friendship Accelerators Bonding Women

There are actually few things more gratifying than facilitating Friendship Accelerators. Undoubtedly, speaking and writing are two of my favorite things since I love communicating and teaching, but the Accelerators give me a chance to go beyond inspiring and instructing an audience to actually helping cultivate the very connection people crave.  They’re magical for me. All the motivational speaking in the world can’t deliver friendships to people… but the Accelerators can; and for those results, I love them.

I, in fact, have joked that I feel a bit like a scientist in a lab inventing friendships.  Like any passionate scientist who might pour a little of this concoction, a dash of that, and a sprinkle of something else to create something greater than all the individual elements, I have learned that the very high possibility of meaningful friendships is something I can create.  Over the years I am perfecting the recipe, but the fact that the results are more predictable than ever has never dampened my glee when I watch it work, again and again.

Is there a Formula to Love?

Perhaps because I’ve been vocal over the years that I believe there is more of a formula to friendship than most of us want to believe, several women sent me the recent article in The New York Times titled, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This” and said variations of “This reminds me of what you do with friendship!”

In the article Mandy Len Catron shared the story of falling in love with someone through answering the same 36 questions that researchers had used in a study to analyze what helped people feel close to each other.

In that study, they developed a list of questions that were designed to help two people self-disclose in increasing intensity and included questions that helped the subjects talk about their relationship and each other.  The connection to each other was big enough for the researchers to conclude:

“One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure.”

Notice that the basis of the connection is self-disclosure and sharing, but that it also has to be consistent, mutual, and incremental.

Just as interesting as what did work in bonding people in a lab is what didn’t work that they also tested:  1) leaving two people to engage in small talk for 45 minutes didn’t work, 2) being matched with people who agreed with you on important views didn’t result in an increased connection, 3) being told the goal was to feel close didn’t make a difference in helping the pair reach the goal, and 4) being led to believe that mutual liking was expected based on them being a good match didn’t help it pan out.

Think about how much of our dating includes those four things: hoping it will work, believing we’re a match, both having the goal of finding someone, and spending time on a date talking… but none of those factors lead to intimacy as much as intentional and personal self-disclosure that escalated incrementally.

Is there a Formula to Friendship?

Similarly, while their research was more focused on romantic intimacy, it confirms what I have long known to be true in friendship, as well:  There are actions we can take to foster a bond.

In other words, it’s not just “chance” that will determine whether we’ll feel a connection, nor is it only if the other person proves to have the “right” qualities we think we want in someone.  Bonding has far more to do with the verbs we engage in with someone than the adjectives they possess.

It’s why the women who join GirlFriendCircles.com attend ConnectingCircles: small groups of 3-6 women who gather at a local cafe and pick questions off a list of Sharing Questions to ask and answer.  We have found the success rates of women feeling connected to others increases when they engage in sharing questions about themselves rather than just let the conversation drift from movies to men to jobs.

And it’s why I developed the Frientimacy Triangle which teaches that all relationships start at the base of the triangle and bond when they increase both their time together and the self-revealing they’re willing to do. (Read another post or buy book for more explanation.)

Regular time together (leading to commitment) and increased vulnerability is what will help two people bond.

Regular time together (leading to commitment) and increased vulnerability is what will help two people bond.

What’s so encouraging is that these actions are within your control!  You can 1) initiate time together with people you want to bond with and 2) you can ask questions and share about yourself in a way that helps the two of you bond.

It has far less to do with you both needing to be moms with kids the same ages, both needing to be retired, or both single 30-somethings– you can build a close connection that is meaningful with far more people than you believe you can.  I’ve seen it time and time again.

And that’s why the Friendship Accelerators work: they commit to a whole day together that I facilitate to help create intentional sharing and then they commit to 4 weekly get-togethers where they will increase their time together and continue to share their lives.

Last summer I was invited to attend the one-year anniversary of a Friendship Accelerator group who was still getting together weekly 52 weeks after they met. I went to a birthday party last month where three women there had all met at one of my Accelerators a couple of years back.  I regularly see Facebook photos of another group who seemingly gets together all the time for fun stuff all over the city.

Last week I received an email from a woman who had been in one of my Friendship Accelerators a couple of years ago who said, “Two of the friends I met at our Accelerator 3 years ago are still very dear to me and an important part of my life.  Even though one moved farther away, we are still in regular contact and get together often.  In fact, I had dinner last night with one of those friends and the 3 of us are going to the theater to celebrate the other one’s birthday next week. Thank you!”

The Two Necessary Ingredients in Bonding

Indeed, whether it’s romance or friendship– they both are built upon helping bond people– we all too often expect more from the things that don’t work and are too busy or too nervous to try the things that do.

If you want meaningful connections:

Time together + Intentional Self-Revealing = Feeling Close to Others.

—————

p.s.  If you want me to come to your city to lead a Friendship Accelerator you can add your email and zip code to our list to be notified when we schedule one in your area!

 

Posted in Consistency, Defining Friendship, Making Friends, Practical Ideas, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Losing Weight VS. Gaining Love

As I just read about how losing weight is the number 1 New Years resolution, I wanted to come in with my relationship pom-poms and sweetly remind you that what you

May we care more about how much love we feel than how much we weigh.

May we care more about how much love we feel than how much we weigh.

want even more than weight loss is to feel loved. Your brain may even actually think those two things are correlated, but they are not.

I’m all for being healthy, but if what you really, really, really want is to belong, to be “enough,” to be loved, to be in meaningful connection– then go straight for that.  No need to chase something else and leave to chance the feeling you really want!

This year, let’s be women who focus on inviting more love in our lives, even when awkward, even when scary, even when we’re tired.  I can’t think of anything worth more celebrating a year from now than to be able to say, “I feel more loved than ever.”

Standing on the Scale of My Love

It’s not about how much physical space I take up in this world, but about how much I’m willing to shine brighter and stand taller on behalf of others.

It’s not about having six-pack abs but about knowing how to hear my gut.

What size of clothes I wear pales in comparison with the size of my heart.

How many diets I’ve been on isn’t as important as how many gratitude entries I have in my journal.

My BMI doesn’t even come close to telling me as much about my health as the joy of the relationships around me does.

How fast I can run a mile doesn’t impress me nearly as much as how quickly I can forgive someone who has disappointed me.

How I feel about my thighs is of waning importance compared to how I feel about my purpose and calling in this world.

How much fat I can pinch on my waistline doesn’t even begin to rank with how many people I hope will hug me each day.

That I laced up my shoes to run this week is fabulous, but when was the last time I stopped and asked myself the far more important emotional question: “What in my life am I running from?”

We’ve been taught to care so much about the read-out on the bathroom scale; but I confirm today that it’s far more important that love weigh more than fear in my life.

I am a woman dedicated to inviting far more love in my life this year.

Posted in Exercise & Yoga, Health | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments