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 , , , , , | 8 Comments

Top 11 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2014

I typically round-up my top 10 articles, but this year there was a tie between two of them so it’s my top 11! Thanks for being a part of this community as a woman who is committed to being a healthy friend in this world! It’s been an honor.

For all of you who joined us half-way through the year, missed a post here-or-there, or just want to re-read some of the goodies to see if they speak to you where you are now,  here are the 11 most read, popular blog posts from the last year:

1.   The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

I want meaningful friendships for you.  So very much, I do!  But we have to come to the table with healthy expectations and thoughtful beliefs, rather than with hopes, myths, and limiting beliefs that sabotage us from creating substantial relationships. Here are the five most common beliefs that are damaging you and your friendships.

2.  The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women’s Groups

In this post I share with you several of the Circles that I have participated in– each one feeding different parts of my life– so that you can see how those groups got started, what happens at each of them, and which ones you might crave inviting into your life!

The diagram in this post has served me over the year as such an incredibly helpful visual-aid for understanding how to help those in crisis without putting them in the place of having to comfort us, even though they’re pain undoubtedly impacts us.

3. The Problem: My Friend Doesn’t Ask Me About My Life!

If you have relationships where you feel like you’re always the one doing most of the listening and question-asking, I challenge you today to consider how you’ve contributed to that imbalance and what you can do to show up in a way that builds the relationship and better supports you.

4.  How to Not Feel Judged

While it was my high school reunion that prompted me to worry about being judged, the way I showed up differently this time may be of service to you in any setting where you are prone to feel insecure, unaccepted or judged.

5. Men Really Need Intimate Friendships, Too

Are men’s and women’s friendships all that different?  And if they are, is it because they’re hard-wired to be different or is that cultural influences shape them differently?  This article showcases some fabulous research that you’ll want to share with the boys and men in your lives!

6.  Do You Feel Like People Pull Away From You?

Some of us might have intense personalities– lots of energy, words, and enthusiasm that can sometimes overwhelm others.  We are who we are so it’s not about changing us or saying that there is anything wrong with us… but we do have to learn how to use our energy in meaningful, helpful, and mature ways!

7.  5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend
There are few things more bonding than time away with friends
that extend beyond a dinner or an afternoon together.  Throw in an overnight experience and the bond factor goes waaay up!  Here are practical tips for planning and inviting women in your life to an adult slumber party.

8. We’re giving the wrong advice for “toxic” friendships!

Friendship experts commonly encourage you to get rid of any friendships that are toxic, stressful, or negative.  I have a caveat that I want to add to that!  This article shows why we can’t simply get rid of people we have called friends without trying to improve the relationship first.

9. Quiz:  Am I a Good Friend?

We put a lot of focus on what we’d like to fix or improve in how our friends treat us, and here’s a good quiz for helping us hold up the mirror in our own lives to see where we might be able to practice being a better friend!

10.  5 Types of Vulnerability: It’s Way More than Skeletons in Your Closet!

What is vulnerability?  We all hear this buzz word all the time but often mistakenly think it means we have to get better at sharing our shameful secrets with people… This blog post covers 5 different types of vulnerability that will help deepen any relationship as you practice them more regularly!

11.  The Myth that Keeps You Lonely

When we’re feeling that little nagging angst of loneliness– it’s for her that we want.  It’s for the fantasy best friend that we know would be the Thelma to our Louise, the fork to our spoon, the laughter to our jokes.  She would be the finisher of our sentences, the reader of our minds, and the affirmer of our hearts.  Our time together would be effortless, easy, safe, and comfortable.  But then we meet a whole bunch of candidates who aren’t quite good enough to fit our BFF opening so we quietly reject them and keep looking, albeit somewhat disillusioned. This post will help you see the pattern that might be preventing you from feeling more connected!

With gratitude for a year where we all grew in our maturity and loved more deeply,

Shasta

p.s.  As always, I welcome your comments!  Share with me which one is your favorite!

p.s.s  Want more popular articles?

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Article of 2013

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2012

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2011

Posted in Importance of Friendship, Maintaining Friends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

3 Ways to Increase Meaningful Connection this Holiday Season

The caricature of women during the holiday season is one of a frazzled, exhausted, pressure-filled, and over-extended woman.   I’m not entirely sure how true that is anymore? I’m holding out hope that we’re getting better at picking the events that matter, saying no to credit card debt, and letting go of the belief that we have to send cards and throw a party and hide the elf every night and make homemade cookies and buy everyone a present. I’m hoping…

But even if we’re not frazzled from over-commitment, it’s far too easy to let the holidays whiz by without really sinking in to meaningful moments.

Here are three ways to help increase your sense of connection this holiday season:

1)  Initiate Meaningful Sharing. Far more important than scheduling time to be with family and friends is then making sure that real sharing happens.  I do this most often by saying, “Let’s all share one high-light from this month (or week) so far and one low-light.” (read my post about that favorite sharing question here) to ensure that everyone gets to share about the subjects of their choosing and to help keep the conversation real.

But another idea that’s especially good for groups of people not used to sharing is to put a bunch of meaningful questions in a jar and during dinner announce that tonight we’ll each draw a question to answer.  This extends the meal time and keeps everyone laughing and connecting longer.  I’m keeping a jar on my table all month-long for everyone who comes over!

It doesn't have to be fancy-- just a jar with questions begging to be answered by anyone who sits around my table this month!

It doesn’t have to be fancy– just a jar with questions begging to be answered by anyone who sits around my table this month!

Questions could include:

  • What is one thing that surprised you in a good way, an unexpected gift, that you’re grateful happened?
  • What is one thing that you’re really, really, really proud of from this last year… something that matters to you that we can celebrate with you.
  • What’s an area of your life (i.e. work, health, hobbies, relationship) that has been really energizing and fulfilling for you. What contributes to that feeling?
  • What is one thing happening in your life right now that gives you hope?
  • If you had to give the last year a name/chapter title—what might it be and why?
  • What are three unique (not the typical “God/Family/Health) things in your life that you’re really grateful for?

A little note on this before I go onto the next idea.  It’s common to feel a little weird doing this and that’s okay.  I just tell myself that making sure everyone leaves feeling seen and heard matters way more to me than whether it will feel normal, comfortable or easy on me, or anyone else.  I used to try to guess whether a certain family member would think it was stupid or whether so-and-so would actually share– I’ve been doing this long enough now to conclude that most people prefer meaningful conversation to small talk, everyone wants to be seen, and that it’s a gift to all of us to have some structure that provides permission and expectation to share.  Courage to you!

2)  Choose One Person You Miss.  Ask yourself who you miss having more regularly in your life and commit to connecting with them this month.  It could be a far-away friend whom you decide you will Skype or call with… no matter what.  It could be someone locally that you just haven’t seen enough of recently whom you call and say, “You are my priority this month.  My month won’t be complete without being with you.. so name the time and place and I’ll come to you… I want to spend time with you.”  Or, it could be an aging family member, someone you’ve drifted apart from, or maybe even somebody where there has been some tension between the two of you.  The point is to just pick one person who pops into your head and find a way to really connect.

The gift of this is that everything else on your list will feel urgent, with a time-stamp to it, but that doesn’t mean they are all things we’d list as “most important”; whereas this connection isn’t urgent at all (the reason you’ve let it slide until now) but you’re claiming it’s importance and choosing to make it urgent.  You’re deciding that it is indeed urgent to make sure that this season has a deeper connection as part of your celebration. Initiate today… and be completely committed to finding the time to catch up and affirm and love on one person you miss.

 3) Pick Presence for One Event.  In an ideal world, we’d be truly present to every single event– decorating ginger-bread houses, the kids choir concert, shopping with your mom, signing the Christmas cards– but the truth is that many “fun” things don’t capture 100% of our attention.  So let’s not claim we can do it all season, but let’s intentionally pick one that matters.  Look at your calendar and say, “For this event… I am going to soak it up!” And then really be as present as you can be: choose to find the magic, watch their faces, add music, dance and laugh, pause and breathe deep, communicate your love, receive everything available to you in those moments.

In this exercise we’re not worrying about updating our social media pages, we’re not hurrying everyone along, we’re not more focused on the logistics than the people, and we’re not quick to temper.  Quite the opposite, we are cherishing as much as we can, holding gratitude, inhaling deeply, and smiling.  When we get to January– we want to look back and remember that we were there at that event.

In choosing to do these two of these three things, we’re not really adding more time to our month– we’re simply infusing the things we’re already doing with meaning.  We are making sure that for as intentional as we are about getting through our list of tasks that we’re also making sure that we’re intentional about the outcome of those tasks.  For what’s the point of filling up the calendar if not to also fill up our hearts?

May the month hold meaning for you,

Shasta

p.s.  What are other ideas you have?  Share them here and inspire others!  What are you doing to help add meaning? To make sure you feel connected?

Posted in Girls Night, How To?, Maintaining Friends | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Prayer for You: Feel Love Even When Insecure

Today when I sat with what I most wanted to say to you… I felt like I just wanted to pray for you.

Just pretend I'm lighting a candle of love for you and praying that all those who listen or read these words would feel their spine strengthen as they stand in love. xoxo

Just pretend I’m lighting a candle of love for you and praying that all those who listen or read these words would feel their spine strengthen as they stand in love. xoxo

To pray for you to feel loved this month….

Particularly as we are in moments where we’re often with people but sitting in fear, insecurity, and unmet expectations which makes feeling our connection possible, but not probable if we’re showing up with more angst than love.

Perhaps it’s at family gatherings where every relationship doesn’t feel easy or fulfilling; or perhaps it’s with old friends you don’t see often and you’re tempted to wonder if the time together is worth it; or perhaps it’s at a ConnectingCircle where you’re walking into a gathering where you don’t know anyone; or at a holiday party where it feels shallow and exhausting.

An Audio Version of My Prayer:

My prayer today is for you that you might find love and meaningful connections wherever it is you go.  Whether you feel loved has less to do with who is there and more to do with how you show up.

This prayer is my gift for you: download this 4 minute mp3 and listen to it as a meditation that invites you to breathe deep in the pool of love before breathlessly showing up this season.

Listen to 4-minute prayer for you to feel love

Note: This prayer can be listened to simply by clicking the link and/or downloaded to your computer/phone by selecting the green globe icon in the lower right corner. I spoke it imagining you listening to it before getting out of the car, while you’re riding the bus, or right before you leave the house.  May it ground you and go with you, opening up possibilities of you feeling ever more connected and loved. xoxo

A Written Version of My Prayer:

To the God that is Known as Love

This beautiful woman, this daughter, this sister of mine is getting ready to be with people… and that so often can bring up all our insecurities and fears.

I want to say a prayer for her… for her peace that she might walk through any door and greet any person… while never doubting her love and strength and worth.

So let her be here in this moment, fully here, with us.

Let her heart catch up with her body that she might be present.

And not just present, but also available, ready, and willing.

 First, let me thank you for her. She is one of the beautiful hearts in this world willing to be available to love. She won’t do it perfectly all the time, but this is a woman committed to practicing it. I so thank you for that. Bless her in these moments where she’s willing to pause and ground herself.

And now I pray that she be filled with love.

May she take a deep breath and whisper “I am loved, I am loved, I am loved.”

Letting that love wash over her…. I picture her heart beating and growing bigger and bigger as it sends love out through her entire body…. Almost like a color, a color that is flooding her body—

  • Starting in that willing heart—may it be vulnerable and still safe, tender and still strong, receptive and still giving.
  • May it fill her lungs as a prayer that her every breath will choose to breath in love, and breath out fear.
  • As it washes down through her mid-section and fills her stomach may there be peace where others feel nerves.
  • As it pours down through her legs and feet, we take that as a promise that it will go with her wherever she walks.
  • As it stretches out through her arms and hands I beg that she might be Your hands in this place—quick to applaud others, and unafraid to touch.
  • I watch that love go up through her heart and into her head, flowing up through her throat where it leaves a commitment to speak words of affirmation and encouragement… may that same Love fill her mouth with courage to speak with authenticity tonight.
  • May that Love be the lens with which her eyes see… that she might dare to see people the way the Divine sees them… not the way we’re used to measuring people, but with a commitment first to look for evidence as to why they are lovable.
  • As it gushes through her ear canals, may she feel excited to listen for the voices of those around her… and may she have wisdom to hear what isn’t even said.
  • And finally as it lights up her brain… may she be filled with memories of the times that she has been given love and appreciated it… may it invoke her own inner wisdom and remind her that she is safe and she worthy…

I see her body filled with love.

Oh that this woman would deeply know that she has an abundance of it. That she can give Love even before she knows what form it will return to her.

That she will recognize that she can receive it even if, and when, it is given imperfectly by another.

May this love bless the life of this woman who is now choosing to be an agent of love in this world. Might it add joy, depth, and meaning.

As she walks through those doors—the doors where she will undoubtedly bump into humanity—may the holiness of love go before her, with her, and in her. May it trail behind her leaving a blessing around her… that whoever is with her feels their worth, that whoever connects with her feels listed to and attended to, that those who are in her presence feel hope. And may all these gifts be given to her ten-fold… help her see where she can receive, embrace, ask for, be heard, and be seen.

Because we know that prayers begging to become more loving are prayers that will always be answered, we thank you even now that we have this privilege to practice being God made real tonight.

Thank you, thank you, and amen.

p.s.  I’m leading a call this Sunday, Dec. 7 at 4:30 pm PT/7:30 ET where everyone who holds any loneliness this holiday season is welcome to come and be present… I want to honor it, speak to it, and bless you…. you are so welcome, for free.  Get info here.

Posted in Fears, Making Friends, Personal Growth/Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments