Help! I Have Too Many Friends

Dear Shasta,

I’m completely overwhelmed when I look at my schedule. Most of my scheduled events, in and of themselves, aren’t things I would typically dread: coffee with a possible client, a call with someone who wants some advice, dinner with some friends from my husbands work, a lunch with a friend who’s in town, dinner with my brother, date night, a quick happy hour with some girls I work with, weekly Sunday call with my parents, meeting a good friend for a walk; but collectively it is TOO much!

Honestly, after working with people all day, trying to stay in intermittent touch with my family members, scheduling the people in my inbox who “want to connect,” and keeping up with all the networking… I don’t even have the energy or time to call the people I actually want to feel the closest to.

How do I shorten the list? How do I say no?

–Sincerely,

Too Many Friends

Dearest Too Many Friends,

Let’s start with the reminder that “people we’re friendly with” and “people we’ve developed friendships with” are two different categories of people. This might actually be a case not necessarily of too many friends, but perhaps of too much socializing?

In fact, you even said it: the biggest problem is that you don’t have the time for your close friends.

We have to figure out a way to say no even to people we care about, like, and consider to be friends, in some way or another, so that we have the energy to say yes to the relationships that we know sustain us,

So here’s what I think we need to do:

  1. List the relationships you want to prioritize. Who are the friends you want to talk to often so that you really feel supported and not just scheduled with intermittent “catch-ups.” Who are the relationships (including kids, spouses, parents, siblings) that are important to you to stay in touch with?
  2. Group them together by ideal consistency. In other words, who are the names on the list that you want to connect with daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Keep in mind that the more consistent we are, the more “intimate” those relationships will feel as those are the people who will really know what’s going on in your life.
  3. Schedule them in first. If you can find the consistent blocks of time–driving home from work, happy hour after work, lunch– to give those people, do it! Or at least block that time off with “Call one of my closest friends.”
  4. Then comes the really tricky part: figuring out what relationships/types of relationships you have time or energy to add in.  For me, I have a second list of friends who I love and want to stay in touch with but with whom I haven’t developed the intimacy/consistency that I have with my first list. I also want to leave a few slots a month for networking contacts, and a few slots for doing favors for others (i.e. a phone call for a friend of a friend).  What other groups/types of relationships do you need to pay attention to? I think for us to actually look at our calendar/life and see how limited those spots are can help us be more strategic with who we give them to and how frequently we give someone one of those slots.  The truth of the matter is that whether we end up feeling like we have 1 extra slot a day to give, or only one each week: we need to know it and offer it strategically and thoughtfully.
  5. Think through your strategy for how to decide with whom you give your extra space/time. If you don’t decide then it will end up being the squeaky wheel (i.e. whoever asks the most or will be the most upset if you say no) or simply first-come, first-served. Which puts other people in charge of our schedule instead of us.  Some possible questions could be: Does this person interest me? Am I clear what the objective is of why we’re getting together? Do I think I can be helpful to them? Do I think they can be helpful to me? Can this be scheduled with ease (i.e. without me having to travel far?) Is this the best way to connect with this person (or can I meet them at some event I need to go? Or can it be an email instead of a get-together?)

And then comes the hard part of learning to kindly say no to everyone else.  Which we simply have to do. (Here’s a blog post I wrote last year about How to Say ‘Not Interested’ Nicely)

Our time is finite with only so many slots and its our job to make sure that the relationships that matter most to us are the ones with whom we are making time.

The most important other piece I can say is a reminder that you can’t use whether it feels “good” to determine whether or not to be honest with them.  For most of us, saying no to someone, or disappointing them, won’t feel good. But neither will it feel good to be overwhelmed, exhausted, or unavailable for the people who fill us up the most!

I am the master, not the victim, of my schedule, my calendar, and my life. Shasta Nelson

This is maturity at it’s best: women learning that they aren’t victims of their calendar, but are in fact, in charge of them.  So we if we don’t like how it looks then we have the power to do life differently.  But the calendar won’t look any different until our behaviors reflect what we say matters most.

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Posted in Break Ups, Conflicts with Friends, Dear Shasta (advice), Difficulty & Challenges, Maintaining Friends, Our Mistakes | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Friendships

We all want friendships, but most of us don’t even know what that means.

How Do You Define Friendship?

When I ask audiences to define the word I get things like:

  • “Someone you like.”
  • “Someone who makes you laugh.”
  • “Someone who’s always there for you.”
  • “Someone who knows the worst of you and still loves you.”
  • “Someone you trust.”

Those all sound warm-and-fuzzy, but none of those are a definition by which we can measure a relationship with another person:

  • There are a lot of people I like but who haven’t become my friends.
  • Plenty of people make me laugh— some I only know via TV, does that mean we’re friends?
  • No one is always there for me… nor am I for them… does that mean we aren’t friends?
  • Yes, we want to be accepted by being loved by people who know us, but if this is our litmus test then does that mean we all have to confess our worst sins before we can be friends with someone?
  • Trust? Trust them to do what???  I trust the Starbucks barista not to spit in my drink– does that make us friends?

And the dictionary doesn’t help much by basically just stating that a friendship is a “relationship between friends.” ha! SO helpful!

A Definition of Friendship

I’ve taken the liberty to create a working definition of friendship (based on compiling/summarizing the research of many sociologists and psychologists) so we can all better identify and evaluate the qualities and actions of a friendship.

“A friendship is a mutual relationship between two people that is satisfying, safe, and where both people feel seen.”

  1. In order for a relationship to be satisfying, it must have a foundation of positivity While positive feelings are necessary in all healthy relationships; they are paramount to our friendships because these are the relationships we are entering by choice. We all want our friendships to add more joy, peace, and support to our lives.
  2. In order for a relationship to be safe, it must develop consistencyConsistency is the action of repeating our time together which in turn develops our trust as we begin to create and modify expectations of each other. The more consistency we have, the more we feel like we can anticipate how a person will behave in different situations. Consistency is what gives our new friendships momentum to get to know each other and, over time, it’s what builds a shared history and increases our commitment and feeling of support in each other.
  3. In order for a relationship where both people feel seen, it must develop vulnerabilityAs we spend more consistent time together, we are also incrementally revealing and sharing more of who we are with each other.  The more we let someone see us (always increasing our positivity with responses such as affirmation, acceptance, and empathy) then the more loved we’ll feel for who we are.

If you don’t have all three: then you don’t have a healthy friendship.

And the flip side of that is equally true: if you have any friendship that isn’t feeling meaningful or healthy, I can guarantee it’s because at least one of these three requirements is in lack in that relationship.

In other words, if you just have positivity and consistency (fun times that are repeated often) but lack vulnerability then it’s just a social group that lacks you Frientimacy the three requirements: positivity, consistency, vulnerabilityfeeling really known and supported.  Or, if you have positivity and vulnerability (a meaningful time where you felt seen and appreciated) but lack consistency so that it’s not ever repeated, then it was just a really special moment with someone, but not a friendship.  Or if you have consistency and vulnerability (deep sharing happening all the time) but lack positivity, then it’s just a draining relationship that leaves you feeling weary.  We have to have all three.

To that point, consider this quote I recently came across from The Atlantic:

“I’ve listened to someone as young as 14 and someone as old as 100 talk about their close friends, and [there are] three expectations of a close friend that I hear people describing and valuing across the entire life course,” says William Rawlins, the Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University. “Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy. These expectations remain the same, but the circumstances under which they’re accomplished change.”

Did you catch the three?

  1. Someone to talk to (vulnerability),
  2. someone to depend on (consistency), and
  3. someone to enjoy (positivity).

Now that we have a definition we know what actions can start, build, repair, or end any friendships in our lives.

Want to know which of the 3 Requirements would make the biggest difference in your relationships? Take this quick Frientimacy Quiz!

Note: These Three Requirements are unpacked, at length, in my book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.

 

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Posted in Best Friends, Consistency, Defining Friendship, Making Friends, Qualities of Friendship, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Friendships

Matchmaker Advice: How to Attract & Bond

I am fascinated by the similarities, and differences, of romantic and platonic relationships. This Valentines Day, I thought it would be fun to inspire our friendships a bit by interviewing a professional Matchmaker to see how we can improve all our relationships. 

Joy Nordenstrom, a certified matchmaker shares tips that can help our friendships, too!

Joy Nordenstrom is the Founder of Joy of Romance, Inc. and Chemistry of Connection.  She’s a relationship coach, certified matchmaker, love story preservationist and romantic event planner. 

Shasta: We often treat romantic and platonic relationships as filling two different needs, but in some ways they can speak to the same human need, right?

Joy: Yes, all relationships speak to our need to belong.

Positive Psychologist Christopher Peterson’s research found having healthy relationships with family, friends, and coworkers turns out to be the strongest predictor of happiness, and often health, in most studies on human wellbeing. In a study detailed in an article titled “To Belong is to Matter: Sense of Belonging Enhances Meaning in Life,” the authors found:

“… correlational, longitudinal, and experimental evidence that a sense of belonging predicts how meaningful life is perceived to be.”

So in short, to belong equates in our mind to having meaning in life: If I matter to others, my life matters.

That sense of belonging can be found both in our intimate partnership and in our purely friendship driven relationships.

We’ve been studying and prioritizing romantic relationships for longer than friendships so I am always fascinated by the idea of what we can learn from those relationships that might be helpful to our friendships.

Anything that jumps out to you about how we attract others?

Absolutely.  Whether it’s for romance or friendship, we still have to attract each other and connect. So when I work with my single clients to help them get ready for finding a partner, there is an exercise I have created to help them get into the right mental and emotional mindset to exude an air of self-confidence, positivity and receptivity.

It is inspired by my favorite quote:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Taking action in the direction of what pushes you a little, or a lot, out of your comfort zone helps create in your brain a chemistry similar to being in lust or the early stages of falling in love.

With the Scary Things’ Exercise, I ask an individual to work with the process for a minimum of 21 days in a row, in order to begin establishing a habit. The essence of the exercise is to be mindful and challenge yourself to do something a little out of your comfort zone every day.

All that we know about facial gestures and body language combined with neurosciences, shows us that what’s happening in our minds is being broadcast to others through our face and body. Once someone looks at us our spindle cells and mirror neurons wire us to connect and for them to “feel” to some extent what is internally happening for us.

Note that as humans, we gravitate towards individuals who are fascinating, curious and have a zest for life. In short, whether for romance or friendship, we want to be in relationships with those who are interesting and happy.

Love that!  That philosophy of staying engaged with life so that we’re “more interesting and more interested in others” leads to a mindset that opens us to more connection.

And then, when we’re with someone we are open to connecting with, what is one behavior we can be mindful to practice that can help our interaction?

Well, one easy tip is to know the impact of left eye gazing because our success in bonding resides in our ability to put others at ease.

You mean looking at their left eye?

Well if you gaze from right eye to right eye, it activates the left side of the brain, the side that analyzes, picks things apart, and looks for ways to get something out of the person or situation. Your facial expressions harden and become more intense. I call this the used car salesman gaze. Subconsciously, it makes the other person uncomfortable. This may be good as a tactic for hardcore negotiation but not for the art of connecting.

But when you engage in a gaze with someone utilizing your left eye you are tapping into the right side of your brain allowing you to access your full emotive self. With a left eye to left eye gaze, your mind will concentrate on where there is synergy and how you can work together. By gradually turning your face to the right, even by 5-10 percent, your left eye becomes more dominant. When you gaze at someone with your left eye, the corners of your mouth and the wrinkles around your eyes soften making the person you are looking at feel more at ease.

Again, the more someone is at ease, the easier it is for two people to feel safe, accepted, and be receptive to bonding.

Joy, thank you for sharing this wisdom about how we can attract others by paying attention to our own growth and exploration and connect with others by something as simple as left eye gazing.

May we all continue to pursue our human need of belonging in the healthiest and most intentional ways possible!

Want to connect more with Joy? Follow her on Twitter at @JoyofRomance or on her Joy of Romance Facebook page.

Posted in How To?, Interviews, Making Friends, Research | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Shasta’s Sharing Questions for Group Get-Togethers

This month, in GirlFriendCircles we’re teaching “How to Plan a Meaningful Gathering” because we all know that there is a BIG difference between entertaining vs. engaging.

Why We Need Sharing Questions

What we don’t want are more stressful or small-talk filled nights with people.  What we do want are more gatherings where we feel "When planning a gathering, always start by asking "how do I want it to feel?" and then plan to that desired outcome.seen, loved, and connected.  But, unfortunately, those are too far and few between these days for the vast majority of us.  So this month we’re all committing to plan one meaningful night with friends we want to know better! (You can join us— a class, supportive community, free advice, etc.)

A really important part of helping women connect is giving them the time and space to do it in a meaningful and structured way. For that reason we love Sharing Questions—they allow everyone to share, provide a focus of what to talk about (otherwise we end up talking about politics, TV shows, or the weather, instead of about us!), and help ensure that women start to feel like they know each other (as well as allowing each woman to be heard and feel seen).

Answering these questions is fun! They not only ensure that each of us has the opportunity to share, but they also focus our conversations on us rather than about celebrity gossip, news, movies, or our jobs and families.

How to Facilitate Group Sharing

Our sharing is shaped by so many things: how well we already know each other, the size of our group, the purpose of our gathering, and how much time is available, but here are a few fun ways to add Sharing Questions into your gatherings:

  1. Pick one question and go around the circle for everyone to answer.
  2. If your group is small and there’s plenty of time to share, have each person pick one question that everyone answers (so you’re answering as many questions as there are attendees, with everyone picking one question and answering all of them).
  3. Print and cut apart the questions and put them in a hat that is passed around the circle with each person drawing out a different question to answer.
  4. If the group is large, invite women to get into groups of 3 and give them 20 minutes to answer as many of the questions together as possible.

(Here are other tips for facilitating a group discussion.)

Sample Sharing Questions

If you’re with people who know each other fairly well, here are some of my favorites:

• What is the one thing you want less of in your life right now? And one thing you want more of?

• What title would you give to the current chapter of your life? Why?

• What is one thing you love about your current job/role and one thing you would change if you could?

• In what way(s) are you similar to and/or different from one of your parents (or other family member)?

• What were you like in high school? And if you could go back and tell yourself one thing– what would it be?

• What is one thing coming up in your life that matters?

• And, of course, my all time favorite question: What is a highlight and low light in the last week/month?

If you’re with people who don’t know each, here are some of my favorites (best ones are loosely connected to why the group is getting together):

• Share with us your name and how you know _______  (i.e. me–the host, the birthday girl, the bride-to-be) –where we met/how we’ve become friends.

• Share with us your name and one thing you did this last summer (or over the holidays/fall/spring) that stood out.

• Share with us your name, and tell us what you do for work, but more importantly, tell us what part of your work/job energizes you the most these days.

• Share with us your name, and because we’re here celebrating x holiday, share with us one memory you have of a previous one. (St. Patrick’s Day, Valentines, etc.)

•Share with us your name, and because we’re gathering to meet new friends, share with us how one of your closest friends would introduce you– how would they describe you?

• Share with us your name , and because we are all ____ (i.e. on this sports team, on PTA, part of this association) tell us what inspired you to join this group and why it feels important to you.

The real value of a Sharing Question is less about the exact question and more about letting everyone share and be seen– it helps us feel closer to each other even if we don’t end up having a 1:1 conversation with each person.  Plus, it gives us the beginning of a conversation thread that we can pick up and continue when we run into that person later.

If you’re not practiced at leading Sharing Questions it might feel uncomfortable at first. But remember: feeling awkward doesn’t mean it’s “bad” to do it– it just means we’re not very practiced yet.  So let’s practice!  🙂

What have been your experiences in groups that initiate group sharing vs. just mingling or letting only a few share? And please share other questions you’ve used and loved– let’s compile a list!

Posted in Events, Girls Night, Group Friendships, How To?, Practical Ideas, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Secret to Moving from Acquaintances to Friends

We learn so much through sharing our stories!  Thanks to Katrina Emery for interviewing a GirlFriendCircles.com member, Jan Link, about what she’s experiencing in her friend-making process that can inspire all of us!

When Jan retired three years ago and moved back to the Midwest, she was going home. After 40 years away, though, home didn’t come with many friends anymore.  Three years after she came back to her small town in Wisconsin, near the Minnesota border, she still hadn’t met many people to call for a fun day out or lunch date.

“I felt like I should go stand on a street corner with a sign that said, ‘I need friends,’ ” she laughs. When she joined GirlfriendCircles she hoped that would change everything. She signed up and met a few new people, but found herself right back to where she started. Nothing seemed to stick.

She wasn’t sure what was wrong. “I knew I didn’t have any trouble with vulnerability,” she says, pointing out that, “Who I am is what you get!” So she participated in some of the GirlFriendCircles classes and when she listened to “The 3 Requirements to Starting Friendships” she had an ah-ha moment: she needed more consistency with her new friendships.

“I wasn’t being as consistent as I needed to be. I’d meet friendly acquaintances, but I couldn’t get it to blossom from there by just getting together occasionally.” Knowing she needed to give more regular time to new friendships in order to create the momentum that leads to bonding, she decided to commit to growing a group of local friends, using the GirlFriendCircles site and also going beyond. “I made posters and flyers inviting women to join in fun activities, and stuck them everywhere: grocery store, health store, church, the next few towns over, gyms, even gas stations (everyone needs gas!). Every month I put out 15 posters, and I change them up.”

Now, a group of 15 ladies consistently get together several times a month, and it’s still growing. “The girls love it so much,” Jan says. Most of the group is ladies around her own age, retired, some widowed. “With exits and losses, we all need more friends through life changes,” Jan says. “Having someone nearby to go shopping with is so important.”

The group started out once a month, but Jan quickly realized that even that wasn’t enough consistency to really feel close to each other. Now they meet 2-3 times a month, and often without her needing to organize it. They host craft groups, go shopping or out to lunch, and have a regular Bunco game night. Once a month Jan makes breakfast and has everyone over. She’s proud of the fact that they consistently show up, given the distance at times: “In Wisconsin, if someone has to travel over 9 miles, they really have to think about it!”

Jan’s learned a lot about the value of consistency over the course of the group. She had joined a few committees at her church, but since they meet only once every three months, it just wasn’t enough. She plans on urging for more, and volunteering to be a contact and advocate for people who have just moved to the area. From being a new transplant herself, she know what’s it’s like.

Her advice to anyone trying to make friends is to keep getting in touch: “I hear a lot that I reached out and didn’t get any replies. I don’t take it personally if that happens to me,” she says. “Try again. Be consistent. Plenty of people are more than willing to talk.”

Her group of ladies is strong and growing, and they often express appreciation for Jan’s part. “It’s so rewarding, every time they thank me. But it’s all of them: I’m so inspired by them.”

All women are invited to join GirlFriendCircles.com for monthly classes, local events, and new friends!

Posted in Consistency, GFC Member Stories, Group Friendships, Guest Blogs, Interviews, Making Friends, Practical Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments