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What is Friendship? Part 4
May 21, 2009 @ 2:50 PM
Friendship is Shared.

My guess is that you've had that friend that you meet with regularly and enjoy being around, but it still feels like something is missing? It's odd because you like each other, it feels consistent and mutual, but for some reason you still don't feel like you have crossed the line from ________ (fill in the blank with: classmate, lunch buddy, coworker, neighbor, friend of so-and-so, friend from such-and-such) to actually being real friends.

The third quality of friendship is "Sharing."
Most of us want to be known. We really do. That's not to say that we're not nervous about it, but the truth is that most of us want relationships that go beyond talking about kids, men, jobs and television shows. We watch Sex & the City and crave the idea of being with girlfriends where there are no taboo subjects.

WebMD reports that our circle of confidants has been shrinking over time, leaving us on average with one person less than we had twenty years ago. And more alarming, 25% of people claim they have no one to confide in!

This is not because most of us want it this way-- it is merely a habit we have repeated until we think it's normal. What I have found to be true most often is that, the DNA that formed the friendship originally is easy to continue, but requires great intentionality to go beyond. When I say DNA, I mean the make-up, the shared experience, the expectations that the two people brought in at the beginning.

Where and how you met that friend often comes with a sense of what is appropriate to talk about with that person. For example, if you are exercise buddies-- you might more readily have permission to talk about your weight or relationship to food, which might not feel like an appropriate or easy matter to bring up if your relationship has been primarily made through a crafting club or business network. And you can go down the list with those you know from a book club, the office, church, an association, a school or a mother's group-- a pattern develops of what you think is acceptable conversation for that relationship. They are often limited relationships.

Ironically, it's not because you don't trust that person, like that person, want to go deeper or that she wouldn't want that also; it's simply because we falsely believe that there is an unspoken line of what this relationship can discuss.

Making my living helping develop community, I've experienced group dynamics repeatedly where everyone stays on the safe subjects, until, one person shares with more vulnerability and all of a sudden in a collective sigh, it's as though permission has been granted for everyone else to share their authentic experiences also.

NOTE: Sharing is not the same as bitching, complaining, monopolizing conversation or vomiting your yuck on anyone who will listen. We're talking about building friendships-- not using people for your therapy. Furthermore, there are relationships that need to stay business, or need to stay limited in topic, but then those aren't the people you should be counting as friendships to foster.

Most of us live in psudeo-community where we are all nice and friendly and mistake that for friendship. If there is someone you feel like you enjoy being with and see consistently, but still don't feel "close" to them-- then sharing is the quality you know must be fostered to develop a real friendship.

My Sharing Challenge:
1) Growing Myself as Friend: Do you find yourself craving more close connections? What stops you from fostering that connection? Fear? Not sure who to trust? Unsure how to do it? What is one thing you can do to help you feel more ready for developing deeper connections?

2) Fostering Friendships: How can you help the DNA of your relationships get started where sharing is more normal and acceptable? What relationships do you have now that might be able to grow into this? How can you help make that happen?

Resource: A fun resource is the "Sharing Questions" page where the questions are designed to not be intrusive or private, and yet will help create a culture where we seek to get to know each other, not simply gather information about each other.

To friendships that are consistent, mutual and filled with sharing!

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