4 Ways to Not Let Politics Ruin Our Friendships

I saw on the news last night that the American Psychological Association says that “fully half of Americans say that the election has been a very, or somewhat significant, source of stress” for us.  In fact, a new term has been coined: Election Stress Disorder.  And more of us are prone to get it, if we’re not already among the millions who already have it.

Undoubtedly a huge portion of the stress comes from our fear of the “other side.”

Certainly how we view the candidates, and subsequently their policies and worldviews, leaves a lot of room for discordant opinions and interpretations. But as an observer of relationships, the part that pains me the most is how this is impacting how we relate to each other.

Relationships At Risks This Political Season

I have caught myself judging others, “How can they believe this?” or “How can they possibly support that?” Perhaps you have, too.  Whether it’s on Facebook, in our offices, or around our dinner tables– the divide has never seemed so huge. Or so very deep.

This cartoon by Tom Gauld illustrates, only too well, how many of us are judging the other side:

b_aii9_xiaa67_tRelationships that experience an increase in judgment, a loss of respect, ongoing criticisms, and frequent misunderstandings are prone to leave us having lost that loving feeling. We know from research that our relationships need to keep a 5:1 positivity-to-negativity ratio in order to stay healthy and I’m fearful that we’re engaging in battles and brimming with judgments that aren’t being counteracted with nearly enough love, kindness, and empathy. That’s a recipe for some serious disconnection.

And it’s a vicious cycle because, as we’ve been studying nuerobiology and relationships in GirlFriendCircles.com this month (see the note at the bottom for more details), we are reminded that the less connection and intimacy we feel– the more likely we are to feel anxiety, irritability, stress, distrust, rejected, misunderstood, and apathetic. In other words, the less love we have in our lives– the more likely we are to lash out at others, devalue their lives and opinions, spew distrust, and feel fear.

It’s a double-whammy: we have an epidemic of loneliness that is leaving most people feeling more irritable and anxious about others AND then the way we treat each other ends up creating even more disconnection and distrust.

Choose To Be a Facilitator of Connection

In the big scheme of things, I am reminded that indeed friendships can save the world as we’d undoubtedly navigate these political transitions with far more grace if we lived in a world where we felt truly connected to each other; but in the short-term, there are things that some of us can choose to do that will help remind others (and ourselves) that we are all human, valuable, and safe. We can still love and relate even if we see the world differently.

Next time you scroll through Facebook or find yourself in a political conversation, I dare you to try one of these:

  1. Look for Common Ground: What can you agree with this person on? Can you both agree you want fewer abortions? Can you both agree you want less mass school shootings? Can you both agree that sexism and racism is being revealed? What if you and the other person actually could agree on the desired outcome and really only differ on best strategy? Let’s not fall for the myth that if we agree with them that we’re “giving up ground,” or “losing.” Challenge yourself to always find one thing you have in common with them.
  2. Say Something Affirming About the Other Side: The last question of the last debate challenged our politicians to say something positive about the other and you could just feel a collective sigh from all of us watching. It’s exhausting to always be on the defensive. What if you actually wrote a comment on a friends post saying “you know this is one thing I admire about your candidate…” Challenge yourself to sincerely affirm something with whom you disagree.
  3.  Assume Good Intentions:  This one is so hard as we are so quick to assign motive to each others actions. But we can either assume the worst and be wrong at least 50% of the time; or assume the best, and risk being wrong sometimes in that direction, too– so why wouldn’t we start from a place of hope and trust in each other? Research shows us how blind we are to our own levels of emotional health, almost always scoring ourselves at our highest because we know our justified excuses, valid reasons, and good motives; and that we score others at the lowest of the range because we can’t see what battles they’re fighting, what wounds they’re acting out of, or what hopes that they had for that action. We can afford to be more generous knowing how horribly inaccurate we actually are at judging each other. Challenge yourself to try to defend “the other” as quickly as we defend ourselves and our candidate.
  4. Increase our Positive Interaction:  It’s impossible to not feel some angst in our relationships, but whether it’s on Facebook or in real life– let’s be cognizant of the fact that those around us need 5 positive interactions for every negative interaction in order to keep the balance.  So plan activities you both enjoy, post positive articles, write affirmations, share jokes, and overall make sure you’re not just spewing, fighting, and complaining more than you’re loving, shining, and leaving others feeling better about life.

These might sound Pollyanna-ish, or like I’m asking for the impossible.  Your entire ego and sense of “what’s right” might feel challenged.  But the truth is– at this point, with the methods we’re using, we’re not changing anyone’s viewpoint and we’re destroying the fabric of our humanity.  Maybe it’s time for us to give the “muscles of our best selves” a bit of a work-out and see if we can’t get to election day with a bit more love left in our hearts.

What other ideas do you have? Share them with us!

Namaste (the best in me is choosing to look for the best in you),


An illuminating take on this subject that helped inspire this post, also includes some great data and analysis:  The “Other Side” is Not Dumb”.

I couldn’t be more proud of the emotionally intelligent women who have joined GirlFriendCircles.com as they’ve committed to paying attention to their relationships in an ongoing way, learning about how to develop healthier connections with monthly classes, and choosing to be counter-cultural as women who practice placing the value on their relationships that science shows makes us happier and healthier. Join today to access this month’s class “The 4 Ways to Rewire Our Brain for Safer Relationships” featuring, Dr. Amy Banks, the foremost authority in the combined fields of nuerobiology and relationships.



Posted in Conflicts with Friends, Difficulty & Challenges, Judging Others, Politics, Technology, Social Media, and Online Tools | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

What If No One Shows Up To My Event?

I LOVE teaching but sometimes we can learn even more through the stories and experiences of each other so I’ve asked Katrina Emery, a GFC member who lives in Portland OR, to help curate and write up some stories that might help inspire us all.  I love that she started not with a story that we’d all consider a “big success,” but rather submitted a story of what many of us would consider a “failure.” –Shasta

What If No One Shows Up To My Event?

by Katrina Emery

You know you want more friends, but thinking of hosting a whole event may feel intimidating. What if no one shows up? What if you’re vulnerable and stick yourself out there and no one takes your hand? Miriam knows that feeling, but she’s here to tell you to do it anyway. Maybe no one will show up. But maybe they will.

A GFConnector in Riverside, California, Miriam has volunteered to be an active

Miriam isn't going to give up on continuing to invite potential friends into her life.

Miriam isn’t going to give up on continuing to invite potential friends into her life.

member in the GirlFriendCircles.com community in creating local friendships, both with herself and between others. “I believe that friendships make us better people,” she says. “Feeling lonely is not a good feeling, so I am taking responsibility for my happiness and [having] friends is a hole that needs to be filled.” Her profile cheekily mentions that she enjoys walks on the beach, though it’s even more fun when shared with others!

Part of the responsibility of a GFConnector is to facilitate events that allows members to meet new friends at a local hangout like karaoke, drinks, or just some coffee and conversation. For an introvert like Miriam hosting an event can be a challenge to get out of her normal comfort zone. But she was up to it, as she says, “I figured that if I want to be part of this women’s friendship movement, I would have to push myself into uncharted territory.” Waiting for strangers to show up at a local cafe was certainly uncharted. She kept it simple and sent invites to women who lived nearby, and even a few family and friends, inviting them all to meet at Panera Bread for breakfast.

She arrived early and waited with her GirlFriendCircles Sharing Questions (fun conversation topics to help everyone share!), ready to make some connections. And waited. Eventually her daughter came in to sit with her, so Miriam tried out some of the questions on her. It ended up being a good conversation that they probably wouldn’t have had in a different setting. After her daughter had to leave, Miriam stayed another half hour but when no one else came, she left the cafe, admittedly disappointed. Later, she said it turns out someone did come about 15 minutes before the event was set to end!

Despite the absence of her new friends, Miriam stayed positive, joking about the “almost no-show” event. She knows and deeply understands the difficulties in giving time to new friends. Between working as a Family Medicine doctor full-time as well as caring for family members that have become dependent on her, she faces the challenges of time daily. “I am working on creating time, because it’s important to me. I need peers… with whom I can laugh and play and recharge my batteries.”

Her story has a happy ending–or rather, middle. Or beginning? Miriam held another Connecting Event just recently and this time was able to have a lovely conversation with a new friend! With another event under her belt, she’s already planning a third for more activities. “Remember it takes time,” she says of making friends, “but it is so worth it. Enjoy the journey and take notes. There is much to learn about relationships.”

Leave your cheers for Miriam in the comments or share with us your own experiences about what you’ve learned from some ‘failures’ or what keeps you from giving up, even when it’s tough!




Posted in Events, GFC Member Stories, Making Friends, Practical Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Dopamine: Relationships are “Supposed To” Give Energy

We keep hearing how good relationships are for us, but what do you do when relationships drain you, scare you, or exhaust you? Or maybe life just feels so blah now that you’re left feeling lethargic, stressed-out, weary, or flat? Maybe the idea of peeling yourself off the couch to connect with someone just sounds like way too much work?

Maybe you’re not getting enough life-enhancing dopamine?

In my latest class for Friendship University I had the awesome fumc-dr-amy-banksprivilege to interview the foremost authority on the combined fields of neurobiology and relationships.  Dr. Amy Banks, the author of Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link Between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships, walked us through the four ways we can improve our brain function in order to improve our relationships.

Science is continuing to reinforce that every single one of us is hardwired for connection.  Which means that when we feel loved and supported: our immune system is healthier, we recover from surgery and sickness faster, our bodies protect us from the impact of stress, we feel happier, and we live longer. And… in light of our conversation today: we feel more energy when we connect.

How Do Relationships Give Us Energy?

The human brain is designed to give us a dose of dopamine–the  chemical that not only lights up our pleasure center but also helps give us the energy to move toward rewards–every time we do something life-sustaining.

Dr. Banks says:

“Eating, drinking, water, exercise, sex, and healthy relationships are all supposed to trigger feel-good sensations, to make us want to do the things that are good for us.”

She is quick to caution us that we “all live from one dopamine hit to another” (because it’s natural for us to want to feel good!) but that if the human brain can’t get that hit in healthy ways this is what drives so many of us to look for substitutes: shopping, gambling, over-eating, or anything that leads to addiction.

But What If Relationships Don’t Give Me Energy?

In an ideal world, as babies we received love, touch, and connection that paired those actions with our dopamine producers.  Studies shows that when that link between relationships and reward was reinforced, it set us up for improved social status and social support.

But for many of us, if our childhood relationships were stressful or harmful, or if we were taught to be fiercely independent or perceived as weak for wanting connection, then relationships didn’t get paired with our dopamine reward system as they were supposed to.  Which, according to Dr. Banks, means that “instead of becoming energized by friendships–even good ones–they are drained and depleted by the interaction.”

Feeling disconnected provokes our stress response systems which raises our anxiety, provokes irritability, and leads us to assuming that we’re being left out or rejected, even if we aren’t. Which means what we need the most–connection–is unfortunately not only what we probably fear the most but also what we’re least likely to feel energized to pursue.

But Dr. Banks and numerous other voices out there are encouraging us: we can heal our damaged pathways.  (If you haven’t yet watched Johann Hari’s TED talk reminding us that the opposite of addition isn’t sobriety, but connection— then it’s a must see!)  In the book Wired to Connect she says,

But there is plenty that you can do to nourish your neurological pathways for connection. If they are damaged, you can start to heal them. If they are neglected, you can cultivate them. And if they are stressed, you can soothe them.”

How To Move Toward More Energy in Relationships

Dr. Banks gives so many brain exercises and activities in her book to practice reconnecting the dopamine reward system to healthy relationships, and our GirlFriendCircles.com community is so enjoying the class, our worksheets, and our conversation this month as we dive deeper on the subject, but let me leave you with just one of her very practical ideas to try.

  1. Identify the relationships that give you energy.  Who are those people for you?  With whom do you feel the safest? What relationships in your life give you some sense of reward or pleasure, even if small?
  2. Try to spend more time connecting with those people. For many of us, depending on our jobs, we might be spending the bulk of our days around people we didn’t choose, or with people who drain us. It becomes even more imperative to try to lean in to more time with anyone who does energize us.  It might mean calling our mom a bit more often, initiating time with a friend, or practicing more conversation with a safe person.

It seems counter-intuitive that when we lack energy that we need to then identify relationships to seek out, but Dr. Banks assures us that identifying our “strongest sources of relational dopamine” will give us our best shot at repairing our reward systems. Perhaps knowing that as you reconnect those wires, that what costs you energy now will reward you with energy down the road, will give you courage.

I do want to point out, what I hope is obvious, that “more relationships” aren’t the answer to everyone’s weariness. Much like how food is good for us and also gives us energy– the answer isn’t just eat more food! Over-eating can make us lethargic, too!  Or not eating the right food.  Or not having a good relationships to food or our bodies.  Or maybe your food is perfect and what you need is more sleep!  🙂 But please, when you’re avoiding people because you don’t have the energy, consider the possibility that sometimes, counter-intuitively, we need to connect instead of withdraw.



p.s.  Interested in the Friendship University class? It comes with membership to those in GirlFriendCircles.com.  Every month we offer a new theme, a new teacher, new worksheet, and new friendship actions to practice– join us in October and get access to this class immediately!



Posted in Books & Movies, Difficulty & Challenges, Exercise & Yoga, Health, How To?, Importance of Friendship, Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Transform Disappointment into Feeling Loved

In my last video post I talked about how we can feel more loved.  It’s SO important, because if we don’t take the time to really articulate what makes us feel loved, then the outcome is DISAPPOINTMENT.  🙁

In this 4-minute video I talk about how we can transform our disappointment, and unmet needs, into clarity and fulfillment by sharing a ritual that I do on my birthday every year (and when I facilitate my annual New Years retreat) to help identify how I most want to feel.

When we articulate what feeling “loved” or “successful” means to us–because it actually feels different on each of us and can change at different times of our lives–then we can better collaborate with shaping our lives to result in the feelings we most want.

In my relationships, I assume that my friends and family DO love me… if I’m not feeling loved, then what do I need that is different from what I am receiving?

I want, more than anything, for you to KNOW what makes you feel loved and to focus your life saying yes to the things that will bring you closer to the love we all want.


If you know what feeling leads you to feel loved, how can you see that helping prevent disappointment for you? What can you do to help facilitate that feeling?



Posted in Happiness, How To?, Love Languages & Types, Personal Growth/Spirituality, Strengths | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Do YOU Feel Loved?

Do you know what it feels like to feel loved?

Most of us are familiar with the 5 Love Languages–acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, gift giving, and quality time– as different methods of communicating love with others; but another one of my favorite ways for identifying what I need from others in order to feel loved is asking myself what I most need to feel in order to feel loved.

In this 3 1/2 minute video I share why it’s absolutely necessary to identify what we each most want to feel in our relationships.  Every January on the New Years retreat that I facilitate, I guide the participants through a process to hear their intuition peak to them about what they most want to feel in the upcoming year.  It’s so powerful, life-illuminating, and hopeful  to those who come, and while all our words are so different based on our current life experiences, without fail, the desire to feel “loved” is one of the most expressed feeling words.

We all want to feel loved, right?

But what does that really mean? To one of us it might mean feeling heard while to another we need to feel actually feel more expressed?  Or are we really saying we want to feel supported? Or believed in? Or encouraged? Or uplifted? Or trusted? Or trusting? Or resonant? Or valuable?

You can hopefully feel the difference in some of those words? The nuance matters.  How I go about increasing the chances of me feeling heard will look different, and invite something different out of me, than if I want to feel expressed.

When we know what feeling words lead us to feeling loved– we then will be more available, aware, and ready to lean toward the people and conversations that will increase our likelihood of feeling what we most want to feel.

What feeling would lead you to feeling loved? Are you willing to share with us? (Note: we’re not listing what behaviors others could do for us, but rather, what feeling helps you feel loved?)

Posted in Love Languages & Types, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments