How Many Hours Does It Take to Make a Friendship?

Do you want to make some new friends this summer?

Yes? Well, you're in the right spot! And you're not alone in that beautiful desire!

Unfortunately most of us just want that to mean "I want to meet my best friend in such a way (hopefully today!) that we both immediately know we're best friends and therefore can start acting like best friends immediately."

But, as I've been saying for a looooong time: we don't just discover a best friend, but rather we develop a best friendship. And no matter how much chemistry we might have with someone... it still takes time to see each other, know each other's stories, and figure out who we are together.

In fact, recent research from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships revealed that it takes approximately 200 hours for a 'best friendship' to develop! 200 hours!!! That means if we grab lunch for 90 minutes with someone that we'd have to schedule 132 more lunches before we felt that close, knew each other that well, and felt like we were tired-and true. That seems a bit high to me... but nonetheless, the point is well made: feeling safe and close to someone takes time. 

So while it's perhaps unrealistic that we can go from meeting someone this summer to being best friends by September... it's certainly do-able to start logging the initial 50 hours of interaction that they found turns an acquaintance into a 'casual friend'. That we can get started on!!!

Like this summer.

I challenge you this month.. while it's still May, to actually write down realistic goals for your friend-making journey this summer. The season of festivals, walks, outdoor dining, and long days is ahead of us-- and it's made better with friends beside us. So start by being both realistic and hopeful as you answer the following questions:

  1. Is my situation that I need to meet more people or that I need to devote more time to some of the people I've already met?
  2. How much time (and where is it? weekends? evenings? at work?) can I devote to friend-making this summer? In other words, how much of a priority is this to me? 
  3. And what's the best use of that time? Where can I meet new people OR who do I need to be reaching out to now to start scheduling time on the calendar?
  4. What will most support me in this journey? What will help me stay motivated? What will hold me accountable? (Want a resource to help? We're starting an 11 week journey together this summer!)

This is our work, GirlFriend. There is hardly anything more important in this lifetime than our relationships. 

And this is our time. While what we ultimately want are close and intimate friendships-- we know that we have to start by simply putting in the time to meet people and get the friendships started. It's not what we like doing, but it's where we have to start. So we will.

This is our summer for making friends! Let's at least get started!

TravelCircles: Traveling with a Group of Women

I love travel. And I love women. So several years ago I decide to combine those two things into TravelCircles!  And it's been magical!  :) Each year, I pick 1-2 countries to visit (this year we have Peru in June 2018 and New Zealand in January 2019! And I'm already starting to think about where to go in the fall of 2019! Yahoo!) and I open it up for anywhere between 6-12 women to join me. 

For someone who LOVES bringing people together and helping facilitate connection, conversation, and laughter-- these trips-- whether to Cuba, Greece, Nicaragua, or Rwanda--have been such a delight. Every time. It's truly amazing that a group of strangers can come together and have such a memorable time!  But instead of taking my word for it... 

 We're celebrating in RWANDA that we all met each other on a trip to GREECE several years ago and have made amazing memories together in various countries since then!  From left to right: Miriam, Courtney, Shasta, and Angie.

We're celebrating in RWANDA that we all met each other on a trip to GREECE several years ago and have made amazing memories together in various countries since then!  From left to right: Miriam, Courtney, Shasta, and Angie.

As a group of us were traveling through Rwanda together this last summer, we realized three of the women had each been on three TravelCircles-- Miriam (age 60) from California, Courtney (age 33) from Maryland, and Angie (age 47) from Iowa! So, of course we had to take a photo!  And I had lots of questions for them!

THREE trips already!?!?!  And you're all signed up for a 4th trip this year! What inspires you to keep signing up for TravelCircles?

Miriam: I keep signing up for them because the trips are so well planned, involve much more than sightseeing and I feel safe traveling with a group that takes my wants and needs seriously. 
I have a passion for learning about people from around the world. Learning about religions, cultures, history, food and beautiful places. And this is all covered in these trips. The itinerary is active, busy, well balanced, fun and beautiful exposures to the places I have never seen before.
Finally, connecting with the women from my own country, getting to know them and share in such wonderful adventures is priceless. 

Courtney: I keep signing up because I've wanted to travel internationally but have lacked travel buddies and the know-how to plan all the details and get the most out of these locations. Also it's been an excellent way for me to expand my comfort zone and safely travel to places I never expected to go. These groups are special because of the unique experiences I never could've done on my own, like Making halva in the middle of the street in Ithaca with two Greek women that didn't speak English, or learning an African dance outside an art gallery with Rwandan kids laughing at us! These are fun experiences I'll never forget and likely very few people will get to have.

Angie: I'm thrilled that I found TravelCircles, I do believe that what really makes these trips so special and unique is the travel partner that TravelCircles uses to plan these adventures.  AltruVistas focuses on locally owned hotels, restaurants, and sightseeing partners.  They also make sure we meet local people and agencies. Depending on the country we are visiting we've met with people to discuss local farming practices, cooking lessons, immigration policies and women's rights.  Ive learned a lot and met people that I never would have met had I traveled on my own.

When you first signed up-- you didn't know anyone else who was coming. What advice do you have for our first-timers?

Miriam: That’s part of the adventure! We are all a little nervous at first but we end up friends. An experience like travel forms a very special bond. If you take responsibility for expressing your needs and keep an open mind and a spirit of tolerance and compassion, you have nothing to fear. And having a person in charge, moderating our interactions is also a strength about these trips. Shasta is on top of things all the time, so I don’t have to ...(lol)

Courtney:  I'm introverted and before I did my first TravelCircle to Greece, I was extremely nervous about not fitting in and not getting enough alone time. Much to my surprise, for the most part I really enjoyed hanging out with the other women, and if I needed a break, it was usually easy to opt-out for an evening or whatever I needed. I'm also not adventurous when it comes to food, but I was always able to make it work. Try a few bites of something, then order what makes you feel more comfortable. 

Angie: Even though you may bond easier with one person than another, we don't let that prevent us from getting to know the others. We all make an effort to spend time with each traveler, sitting with different people in the van or at restaurants etc. and really feel like one group rather than separate little cliques traveling together.  We all have always tried to help each other out, whether it's borrowing something or all of us trying to find a particular item someone needs.

Courtney: To that point, ask for what you need. Always. I freaked out a couple weeks before going to Rwanda and sent a panicked email to Shasta and Malia and they both responded with care and love and compassion. If you don't feel well, if you're uncomfortable with something, if you need a break from the group, if you really need to see something specific in-country, just tell someone. No one can help you if you keep your needs to yourself. And everyone will want to help and support you any way they can. 

So what country will I see each of you in next? :)

Courtney: Peru!  I'm most excited about Machu Picchu and the paragliding option. Oh, and the weekend in the Amazon.

Angie: Peru for me, too! In fact, it's funny because Courtney and I have become good friends through these trips but we've never even see each other in our own country. And I'm probably old enough to be her mom (ha!) but I absolutely love her and am so glad we met in Greece!

Miriam: New Zealand for me.  I've always wanted go there!  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of these trips. I would never be able to have these experiences on my own. My world has become much bigger and yet I feel much closer to women across the ocean and in other countries because I have seen how much we have in common and how interesting our differences can be. I’ve learned so much and I hope to continue to be able to participate in many more adventures. 

Well I can say it has been such a joy to travel with all of you.  And we've together made some amazing memories and met such inspiring women along the way! See you abroad! xoxo

And if you want to join us: you can always see our upcoming trips here or leave your name to be notified when new trips are added!

Why We Should Care that Friends Day is February 4

For those of us who know the value of our friendships (and if you're on my list then I probably am preaching to the choir!) we know better than to let any moment pass when we can tell our friends that we appreciate having them in our lives. But did you know that a fun opportunity is upon us this Sunday? 

Every February 4 is Friends Day, a day when Facebook encourages us to show gratitude to those who matter most to us. So I'm looking forward to logging on that day to see what fun experiences they roll out to encourage us to celebrate our friendships, (plus, I'll be doing my very first Facebook LIVE to mark the day so come join me-- details below!) but whether you're on Facebook or not, I am always a fan of taking any excuse to share our love with our friends.

Why Expressing Gratitude for Our Friends Matters

For anyone who follows me, or has read my books (especially Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness), you remember just how significant positivity is to our friendships.

Feeling good feelings is the foundation of every healthy relationship! Positivity is what determines whether we will want to spend more time with each other, how we end up feeling about each other, and how safe we'll feel in sharing ourselves with each other! The less doubt we have that we are loved, accepted, and admired--the closer and more satisfying that friendship will feel. Basically, our friendships are the people we are choosing to be with and we'll make that intuitive choice, in part, based on how they make us feel about ourselves: we like people who like us.

So anytime we can compliment, express gratitude, give a gift, provoke laughter, communicate our pride in them, or enter into an experience together that feels special--> we are increasing the bond of that relationship! We are increasing the odds that it's healthy.  We are ensuring that our interactions together feel warmer, more supportive, and more satisfying. Those are no small outcomes!

In fact, research shows we need five acts of positivity for every negative feeling in our relationship in order to keep those connections feeling healthy and fulfilling.  In other words, there will undoubtedly always be some "withdrawals" we each make on that friendship with annoying habits, stressful events, and unmet expectations; but more telling to the health of the relationship than the fact that we will occasionally disappoint each other is whether we're making enough "deposits" to keep our relationships balanced!  The more joy coming in-- the less the negative will affect us.

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To that end, we have so much to gain by showing our friends that they are thought of, appreciated, and meaningful to us-- this Sunday, on Friends Day, and pretty much every other day throughout the year! ;)

Fun Ideas and Ways to Show Gratitude to Our Friends

  • Brag and Cheer Loudly for the Success of Our Friends!  Just like we cheer for our favorite teams, show the love to your friends on social media! Every day is a golden opportunity to post your wedding congratulations, brag about their podcasts and blogs, and cheer for their work accomplishments, and this Sunday, we can at least post on our friends' walls and tell them jsut how cool we think they are!

  • Post Photos of Friends on Friend Day!  Post a collage of photos of friends who made memories with you this year—we all love to feel seen and valued! Plus, we'll see those photos pop up every year ensuring the love will keep on giving!  This gift, while seemingly small communicates to our friends that we loved making those memories with them and research shows that seeing photos gives us a boost of joy, almost more powerful than the day we took the original photo!

  • Host a Gratitude Party.  If you're up for celebrating offline, one of my favorite ideas, shared in my book Friendships Don’t Just Happen!, is to throw a casual party for your friends who rallied around you after a hard year, a big event, or a painful crisis.  Invite them over, feed them food, introduce them to each other, and thank them to their face for being there for you in a way that mattered! Send out the invitations on Friends Day and let them look forward to a soon-to-come gathering!

  • Surprise Friends With Stamped Mail!  Getting an unexpected card in the mail is one of the simple joys in life that stands out and means so much.  Write a few lines today telling your friend how much your friendship means to you and what you specifically admire about them so they can find your love in the midst of the bills and junk mail! 


Join Me On My First Facebook Live!

I've been wanting to try out Facebook Live for a while now (since apparently I am one of the last people on the planet to do one?!? ha!) and I figured what better time to dive in than on Friends Day!!  So will you come join me so I'm not talking to crickets?? (It's like the fear of being the only one to show up at a party! Come save me!) I know you have the Super Bowl too... but you know... maybe you have 10-15 minutes on Sunday morning, at 10 am PST/11 am MST/12 pm CST/1 pmEST to come say hi? I'll be on my Facebook page sharing research on the power of being grateful for our friends and I'll be sharing your stories and ideas and tips, too!  Can't wait!!!!  (Join me here.)

You Answered: The Most Challenging Part of Making New Friends

This post is written by Katrina Emery, a member of GirlFriendCircles.com who lives in Portland, OR.

One of the most popular questions in GirlFriendCircles, that our new members answer is “What specific aspect of making new friends feels the most challenging to you?”

I read through all 750+ answers (I promise, I did!), and am here to report with your answers. Because this friendship thing is hard, we all know that. There are aspects of it that we all struggle with, so while 750 of you out there may have commented about how hard it is to make new friends, you’re not the only ones. Solidarity, sister. We’re here to figure it out together.

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Top 5 Challenges:

#1: Time.

Let’s be honest, this one’s a bit boring. Everyone’s got time constraints, we all know we’re busy, there are a million apps promising to fix that, and none of them do. But we’re all here because we know that friendship is important anyway.

#2: Meeting People Initially.

The hardest part for a lot of you is the simple act of figuring out how to meet someone. You’ve carved out your time, but aren’t sure where to go. Or you’ve figured out where to go, but can’t tell what to say. Many of you also noted how hard it is to break into an established circle of friends. And a lot of you mentioned how hard it is to combat shyness and gather the courage to speak up.

“Just meeting people can be a challenge--and it sometimes seems that everyone already has friend group and isn't really looking for new friends to add.” - D

“The most challenging aspect for me is the initial putting myself out there. “ -T

#3: Moving Deeper.

Lots of commenters said how much they hate small talk, and how difficult it can be to move past an initial meeting into something more meaningful. Shasta would describe it as moving circles, and it’s tough to bump folks up from acquaintances to something better. Even someone who can blaze through the first two challenges might get stopped up here. There were so many thoughtful and poignant comments around this topic, which shows that we all spend a lot of time really thinking about this.

L says, “It’s that invisible wall that seems to stand between friendly chit-chat with other women and becoming actual friends - how does that happen?”

And J put it nicely: “Keeping a momentum of friendship other than “Hey how are you?” back and forth all the time.”

And another L noted, “The actual approach to making new friends is very hard. I've met people who I thought "OK, I could totally see being friends with this person."  However, I never make the transition to friendship because I don't know how.”

#4: Finding the Right Kind of Friend

This was an interesting category to me. A lot of commenters mentioned that they were looking for a certain type of friend--one who fits with their own idea of what they’re looking for, or one that shares all the right interests.

One commenter, A, summed this up nicely: “Finding people I like.”

This makes sense. We all want people we like, who understands where we are in life. Because we’re all going through struggles, and we think that no one can help unless they’re going through that same struggle. Many commenters wrote about how challenging their own situations were, and their barriers to making friends. And here’s what I noticed: they were all different, and often contradictory. Having a demanding job, working a weird schedule, not working at all, working as a stay at home mom, having teenage kids, having kids under 3, being a single mom, being single with no kids, being married with no kids,… everyone mentioned how hard it was for them. Which just goes to show… it’s hard for us all. It really is. We’re all kind of freaked out by it.

So, what if, instead of looking to make friends who are in our same situation, we branch out and open up? Don’t get me wrong-- I know this is crazy hard. And I understand many times it’s a matter of practicality rather than preference. But it might be worth it. Here’s what M. had to say about it:

“[I’m challenged by] making new friends with people who are different from me — like a whole lot different. They have a different culture, different ways of doing things, different dialect...this has been a challenge for me for so many years. I feel like I don't "click"...but this year, I am determined to be more open and welcoming.”

To sum up...

#5: Fear.

Other than time (though, we could make an argument for that), this one sums up all of the above challenges. They’re all about being afraid of being judged, of being not enough, or too much. That’s why I thought #4 was especially tragic. We’re all looking for a specific kind of friend and telling ourselves that those who don’t fit our categories aren’t good enough for us, while being inwardly terrified that we’re not good enough for other people’s categories.

“When opening up to new people I feel vulnerable to judgment from others.” -A

“Being vulnerable and wondering ‘will they like ME?’ “ - S

“Reaching out. Initiating. Suggesting a get-together and having the other person say no or cancel. Rejection in all of its many forms.” -C

“Feeling like I am too much. Being fully accepted. Feeling like I’ll let others down.” -A

First, let’s all take a moment to congratulate ourselves on admitting that stuff. Good job!

Now that we’ve done that, let’s congratulate ourselves on being here, wanting to do something to tackle those challenges. It won’t happen immediately, but the more we reach out, send an invite, risk chatting to a new person, or move past our shyness to be a little vulnerable, the better we’ll get at it.

And while you practice those things, read up on the Friendship University-- it’s loaded with all sorts of tips to tackle these challenges and more, such as:

Making Time for Our Friendships, with author Samantha Ettus

Friend-Making Overwhelm? 5 Strategies for Starting Right Where You Are, with author Sam Bennet

The 3 Requirements for Starting Friendships or How to Make a New BFF with our own Shasta Nelson

How to Connect with Others: The 4 Laws of Authentic Conversation, with author Michelle Tillis Lederman

Because if there’s anything that reading these 750 comments taught me, it’s that these challenges aren’t so unique, after all.

How to Respond When You Feel Betrayed

On a pretty regular basis I hear so many of us share how we feel betrayed by our friends.  Have you felt betrayed by friends? Disappointed by their actions (or inactions)? Here are some examples I hear pretty frequently:

  • "We used to see each other at work all the time... now she never even reaches out to me."
  • "I can't believe she's not coming to my wedding. She says she doesn't have the time off work but if she really cared about me..."
  • "After my divorce, she stopped calling and inviting me to things..."
  • "She knew how important this event was to me, but you wouldn't have known it by her actions."
  • "When I needed friends the most... she was too busy. Guess she wasn't the friend I thought she was!"

Does that pain tempt you to want to pull away and protect yourself? Do you tend to devalue the other person and assume they're phony, fake, toxic, or not a good friend?

In this video-- I share with you some big things that have been rolling around in my heart on this topic for quite a while.  I challenge you to listen to them, hold them with a non-defensive heart, and consider what might be done to help foster a healthier relationship! 

xoxo

How to Set A Monthly Friendship Goal

I asked the women of GirlFriendCircles.com last week what their friendship and connection goals were for the month of January and their answers were so inspiring that I thought I'd share a few of them with you just in case you want to set an intention, too! 

I've repeatedly found that those of us who are most able to move our desire for meaningful connection into actions we can take tend to feel more empowered, hopeful, and effective. I encourage you to join us and name an intention that you feel will lean you toward the frientimacy you ultimately want!  

Here are tips and examples from our members:

Keep the goal do-able!

  • "Setting the bar nice & easy for January. 1-2-3... 1 in-person, 2-calls, 3 notes." -- Linda
  • "It looks like a busy month for me but I'll call people if I can't meet up and even just a few quick "Hi how are you" texts would be good.  And then once my schedule clears a bit,  I'll plan some meet-ups." -- Katherine

Be specific.

  • "My January goal is to attend 4 social activities where I can make new contacts." -- Jennifer
  • "I am going to schedule two friends dates."-- Dana  
  • "I am going to make plans with at least 2 different people to grab coffee/a meal this month." -- Julianna

Hold a hopeful and open attitude: 

  • "Start saying yes to more things!"  Elizabeth
  • "I will attempt to reach out to potential female friends instead of presuming they aren't looking for new friendships." Jodi
  • "To be willing to share openly and authentically despite fear of attack or rejection." -- Shelly
  • "I am going to be less guarded with the moms of the students I teach." -- Cynthia 
  • "I'm going to remind myself that connection is the opposite of loneliness. Sometimes a conversation on the phone with a friend can improve my whole day! Trying to consciously stay in contact with friends is important to me and a focus point this month." -- Candice

Choose to Take Charge of your Connection

  • "I'm starting a book club! Yesterday I emailed more than a dozen friends from all over my city (I have lots of individual friends I don't see very often) to be a part of it and have already had a bunch say they're in. Now I might have to figure out how to manage if there are too many people." -- Esther
  • "Continue to take initiative to invite people to get together - with current friends, as well as organizing in-person social support groups for a couple of illness groups I'm part of." -- Elizabeth
  • "I can sign up for an art class and go to the sessions to meet women who enjoy creative making, ceramics, and other crafts. I can host a potluck of crafting." -- Sharon  

Value the Long-Term Growth, Skills Training, and Practice!

  • "I started attending Toastmasters as a guest this week. I can work on improving my communication skills." -- Denise
  • "To express more of my friendship needs to my friends." -- Faith 
  • "Keep up with the Year of Frientimacy course and take one action step suggested in the book for January." -- T.

What a list!!  If you haven't yet named your goal-- it's not too late to do so! Name one for yourself!  Share it in the comments or join GirlFriendCircles.com (it's free!) and add it to our growing list! 

Speaking of GFC-- here are a couple things we have going on in our friendship world this month in case any of them would serve you in your goal!

  1. Join GirlFriendCircles.com for FREE to meet women near you and to stay encouraged in your friendships all year long!
  2. Join our "2018: Year of Frientimacy" --a 13 week program where you read Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness and evaluate all your relationships and put together a strategic plan for better friendships!
  3. Attend Shasta's New Year's Retreat in Santa Cruz, CA Jan 26-28, 2018
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May we all feel inspired to do one thing this month that we feel will strengthen our friendships!

xoxo

How to Reconnect with an Old Friend When You’ve Been Out of Touch

"Losing touch with our friends" is one of the most common regrets of people at the end of their lives. But here at GirlFriendCircles, we don't want that regret! We know that our relationships are investments-- and that we have to stay in touch with some of those people we've developed the most frientimacy with in order to keep the benefits feeling supportive, safe, and satisfying. Huge thanks to GFC member and rock star counselor, Tricia Andor, for sharing her story as encouragement to us all! May we each take the time to reach out to a friendship that matters! -- Shasta

The Reconnection That Almost Didn’t Happen

By Tricia Andor

I returned Dawn’s call on a Tuesday, and we reconnected for two hours of talking and laughing. We hadn’t spoken for three years, which is just part of the rhythm of our friendship. Sometimes we’re in-touch, sometimes we’re not. Maybe that’s bound to happen when you’ve been friends since preschool, but it’s a cadence that’s always been fine with me, and I think fine with her too.

After our conversation, a delightful little thought started percolating. It would be great to connect in person. Dawn should come out this weekend for a visit! The weekend was only three days away, she lived nine hours away (in Nebraska), and it was Easter Weekend, so there were possibly a few obstacles.

However, I knew my friend well, and quickly marked off each potential hindrance.

Dawn was actually a fan of last-minute get together plans. We’d done the last minute “wanna do lunch today?” countless other times, even when we lived an hour away in different towns. Check! I knew she didn’t exactly live on a shoestring budget, so the expense of a trip likely wouldn’t be an issue. Check! And, she wasn’t that into organized religion, so it seemed unlikely that she’d have conflicting religious commitments for the Easter weekend. Check!

Every obstacle -- crossed off!

Well, every obstacle that is, except one.

There was one last annoyance nipping at my heels: Connection Perfection.

The Voice of Connection Perfection

Connection Perfection sidled up and quietly whispered:

“You’ve lived here one and a half years and you still have unpacked boxes under the stairs? Sheesh.” “What? You haven’t even painted or decorated the bathrooms yet?!” And then, going for the jugular: “(Gasp!) You have no baseboards! Still?”

Connection Perfection caused me to fear that Dawn would look at my not-quite-finished home and conclude that I was inadequate. It made me want to chuck the delightful idea of inviting her out like a hot potato.

Connection Perfection is not our ally. It makes us think we’ve got to get our life perfect before we reconnect with an old friend. It makes us feel nervous, inadequate, and sometimes even ashamed.

It says things like, you’ve got to write the perfect email to reconnect. Or, you have to lose weight before she sees you. Or, don’t even think about having people over unless your house looks like it belongs on Pinterest.

Solutions

No need to fear, though. We can outmaneuver Connection Perfection!

Here are the 3 things I did that you can do too:

  • Think about your actual experience with your friend. Has she ever been anything other than happy or receptive to receive an invitation from you to connect? Has she ever been critical of your emails, your body, your home, etc. in the past? Does she expect perfection from you?
  • Surround yourself with people who are also exercising courage in their friendships. I’ve read Shasta’s books and am a member of GFC, and both reminded me that it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous when extending an invitation. They gave me the support I needed to follow my instincts and invite my friend out for a visit.
  • Distinguish the feelings that come from Connection Perfection from those that come from excitement. Both can elicit feelings of nervousness, hesitation, or fear. Connection Perfection, however, also tends to bring with it negative appraisals like, “I’m going to be judged,” “I’m going to be exposed for the fraud I am,” or “She’ll see me as inadequate.” It tacitly expects our friend to be a harsh, unforgiving judge, whereas the excitement brings hope and possibility. “That’ll be fun,” or “Something great is about to happen” are the appraisals of excitement.

My Outcome

I invited Dawn for the visit. She flew out, and we packed in activities and connecting, and had a fabulous time.

 Tricia, in between her husband, and her friend, Dawn

Tricia, in between her husband, and her friend, Dawn

We laughed and talked personal growth and politics at the dining room table. During my husband’s and her golf game, we chatted and laughed uproariously while zipping from hole to hole in our golf cart. We went out for dessert and caught up about our families. She, my husband, and I lounged Saturday morning, watching favorite comedy bits on Youtube. We meandered around a fine art gallery, and made ourselves at home in two cubist leather chairs in the middle of the room, swapping sordid stories about a few choice teachers we’d had growing up.

Best of all, Dawn and I got to connect face-to-face at this point in our lives. A lot had gone on in three years. I showed her my new town and home we’d moved to, she shared about her divorce, and I got to meet her new boyfriend through FaceTime.

There’s no one in the world like Dawn, and certainly no one who has her place in my life. She’s incredibly quick-witted, upbeat, and expects that situations will turn out for the best and life will be good. She’s the most self-confident, least neurotic person I know.

The whole weekend, Dawn -- of course -- didn’t have one iota of judgment about any not-yet-finished aspect of my home. On the contrary, I just felt supported, known, and believed in. I can’t believe I might have let Connection Perfection keep me from building all of these rich new memories with such a good, long-term friend -- a friend who, by the way, was too busy connecting with me to even notice, let alone care about my non-existent baseboards.  

 Dawn sent me a thank you right after her visit

Dawn sent me a thank you right after her visit


Tricia Andor: With a master’s degree in clinical psychology and sixteen years experience as a Licensed Professional Counselor, Tricia Andor uses the best psychology-based tools to help you stay focused, be kinder to yourself, and dream bigger.  Get her free guide, Better Together, which shows 7 things she did (that you can do too) in one week to make more and deeper connections. 

Want More Satisfying Friendships? The Data Is In!

Remember that Frientimacy Quiz that so many of you have taken? (what?!? You say you haven't yet??? Well by all means I hope you do so as it will give you a score in each of the 3 Requirements of Friendship--Positivity, Consistency, and Vulnerability--so you can better identify which area would make the biggest improvement to making your friendships healthier!)

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Well would you like me to share with you some of the insights that jump out at me when I look at all 4,064 of your results? Yes?  Okay! For you, I will spill the beans!

Here are some learnings, surprises, and insights!

  1. Overall, we're not impressively satisfied in our friendships. As I've been doing for years, I also asked each woman how satisfied she was on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the most satisfied) with the level of frientimacy (friendship intimacy) in her friendships. The results on this survey? We average 6.4 out of 10. That's a sold D for most of us. And we're still almost twice as likely to put a 1 or 2 as we are to put a 9 or 10. So the good news? We're collectively feeling the hunger for more frientimacy!

  2. Your overall satisfaction IS correlated to how you evaluate yourself as a friend. Across the board-- the higher your personal scores as a friend in the 3 Requirements: the more satisfied you were with your friendships.  Those of you who scored your satisfaction the lowest (1-3 out of 10) averaged scores in the 50's and 60's in each of the 3 Requirements; whereas those who scored your satisfaction the highest (7-10 out of 10) averaged scores in the 70's and 80's. That's encouraging as it leads me to believe that if we practice becoming a better friend-- our overall satisfaction might improve! In fact, for every 2-3 points you raise one of you Requirement skills-- your overall satisfaction jumps up one whole number!

  3. Outliers tended to view themselves more favorably than their friendships. There were some outliers to the above research where, for a small handful of people, their overall relationship satisfaction didn't correlate with their personal scores in the 3 friendship skill requirements. But as personal growth research has long showed that we tend to view ourselves as better or healthier than we are-- because we know our motivations, obstacles, and intentions, it was true here, too. I found it interesting that while there were less than 5 women who claimed to be so satisfied their friendship that they ranked a 9 or 10 overall, but who scored themselves low (50's) in one of the 3 Requirements; on the flip-side, there were almost 70 women who claimed little satisfaction in their friendships (1 or 2 overall) but who scored themselves high (80's) in their friendship skills. In fact almost 5 women basically scored themselves as 100's in all three Requirements of a Healthy Friend and yet claimed their satisfaction level to be a 1 or 2, out of 10. My mind can barely wrap around how they can have no satisfaction in their friendships and yet think they are perfect in increasing the positivity of their friends, initiating consistency, and sharing appropriately.  It leaves me wondering if more of us need to be asking people around us to give us feedback as to how they experience us and if we wouldn't be wise to collectively assume we can always improve how we're showing up and practicing friendship?

  4. The lowest self-scored Requirement of Friendship is Positivity. I will admit this one surprised me big time!  Whenever I'm teaching the 3 Requirements and ask women to raise their hands to which of the 3 they think is their hardest one-- they usually guess Consistency because we're all so busy.  But!!!!!  You guys!!! Positivity is consistently our lowest score!!!  We are collectively only scoring 64 out of 100 so we have a lot of room to practice this area in our friendships.  I'll talk more about that in the future-- but basically we could make a big difference in the health of our friendships if we focused on complimenting our friends more, whining less, validating their feelings, being quick to laugh-- and basically aiming to leave our friends feeling better about themselves and their lives for having been with us! This doesn't have to take more time! It simply is a matter of practice!

  5. The highest self-scored Requirement Changes as we Become More Satisfied! And here's another surprise result: for those who score their overall friendship satisfaction below a 5-- their highest self score in the 3 Requirements is Vulnerability; but for those who score their overall satisfaction above a 6--their highest self score in the 3 Requirements is Consistency. While that correlation could reveal a number of different interpretations-- I find it interesting that those who are more satisfied in their relationships tend to place higher value on, or report being better skilled at, the regularity/consistency/trust/history side of the relationship over the ability to reveal/share/be vulnerable.  Certainly the more time we make for friendship with consistency-- the chances go up that we are more vulnerable, while the flip-side isn't necessarily as true.

I look forward to unpacking these results more and sharing other research with you as I continue to analyze, but in the meantime I invite you to think of how you might practice being a better friend as a pathway to experiencing more satisfaction in your friendships?  

To better friendships,

Shasta

p.s. If our satisfaction in our friendships rises and falls on our ability to increase consistency, positivity, and vulnerability with the people we're meeting-- I invite you to take a class here or there at The Friendship University to build up your skills OR, better yet, commit a year to building up your friendship muscles and join us at GirlFriendCircles where we offer one class every month! xoxo

Taking the First Step to Making Friends

My first book was titled "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" because while we know our next BFF isn't going to just knock on our door, we still sometimes sit around and wait to meet her. We often take a passive role in our friendships-- almost like we're a victim to circumstances and luck. But there are actions we can take to increase our chances of meeting new friends and then to develop those friendships.  

I asked Katrina Emery to interview one woman who inspires me with her willingness to dive right in and create the friendships she wants!  --Shasta

By Katrina Emery

This wasn’t the first time Deborah had wanted more friends. She had moved before, from Seattle to Portland, and it had taken awhile to meet new people. She waited for them to show up, to connect with her, to reach out. And waited. And waited. 

So when she moved to Boulder and retired, she knew she didn’t want to mess around. “Waiting for friends to appear just doesn’t happen!” She’d already experience the loneliness of missing people, and not being in her day job meant she didn’t have those daily interactions anymore.

Committing to the Friend-Making Process

She knew she needed to take action. After a little research she found the opportunity to start a group through Girlfriend Circles, and became a volunteer Connector which held her accountable to reaching out and committing to organize at least one event a month where women could meet each other.

 Deborah Williams, a volunteer GirlFriendCircles Connector in Boulder has not only made new friendships by her courage to take the first step, but she has also given that gift to others!

Deborah Williams, a volunteer GirlFriendCircles Connector in Boulder has not only made new friendships by her courage to take the first step, but she has also given that gift to others!

Showing Up Can Be the Hardest Part

To get over the nerves of beginning a group, Deborah, a retired human resources expert, approached it like work: she got organized. A local cafe in Boulder turned out to be the perfect place to hold a large group, so she chatted with them about showing up. Once the meeting was set up and invites were out, the really scary part came. “The first time was the hardest, just waiting,” she remembers, even after drawing on her experience as a public speaker. “I was a little scared that no one would show up.”

Once again, she approached it like a work problem, and made a plan for what she’d do if no one came. “I just decided that I'd drink coffee all by myself at a big table in a coffee shop and look like I was waiting for a big group to come--if no one showed after half an hour, I'd leave. I was scared of looking foolish sitting at a big table all alone! I brought a big purse, a bunch of papers and spread it all out to make it look like this was going to be a well-attended meeting that needed lots of space.”

And then, they came. One, then, two, then three, until there were 15 women around the table! Deborah breathed a sigh of relief that first time, diving into making connections with them all. Now, a year later, the group meets on the last Saturday of every month and usually sees 8-10 women rotate through. The women are all ages and include new moms, retirees, empty nesters, and more. Members have reached out to pursue other events like happy hours or day trips, organizing them on the group’s Facebook page. Deborah herself started a book club, laughing that she had an ulterior motive to do that the entire time. And she’s currently planning a baby shower for a young woman who’s been attending. “A year ago we didn’t even know her, and now I’m hosting her shower at my house! Fantastic.”

All that, because she wasn’t willing to wait around anymore. Her advice to anyone else wishing they could find the strength to reach out is to just do it. “No matter how scary that first step was to set up a group, it doesn't compare at all to the sadness I felt about not having any friends.”

Now she shares her own passions for books, coffee, and art, and facilitates a space for others to grow and connect, all from that first scary step.

Katrina Emery writes for online and print publications about food, friendship, travel, and more from her home in Portland, Oregon. Find her at www.katrinaemery.com

Making Friends When We are Wired to Assume Rejection and Danger

"She doesn't like you..."

"You'll sound stupid if you say that..."

"She's stuck-up, she thinks she's better than you..."

"Why don't people every write me back or respond to my invitations?"

"What if I share something vulnerable and she judges me?"

The negative voices in our heads are relentless.

And they are, unfortunately, a very common, even normal, human experience.

Our "Negativity Bias"

Science consistently shows that we've been wired with a bias toward negativity.  We're much quicker to asses, even expect a threat; than we are to look for opportunities.  It's a matter of survival. If an animal misses an opportunity to eat-- he can find another one; but if he misses a threat of someone trying to eat him-- then that's pretty much a done deal. We are instinctively more worried about our protection than we are about our growth and pleasures. 

These are some great examples from The Happiness Hypothesis:

  • "In marital interactions. it takes at least 5 good or constructive actions to make up for the damage done by one critical or destructive acct.
  • In financial transactions and gambles, the pleasure of gaining a certain amount of money is smaller than the pain of losing the same amount.
  • In evaluating a person's character, people estimate that it would take twenty-five acts of life-saving heroism to make up for one act of murder.
  • When preparing a meal, food is easily contaminated , but difficult to purify.

Jonathan Haidt continues by saying, 

Over and over again, psychologists find that the human mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly, and persistently than to equivalent good things. We can’t just will ourselves to see everything as good because our minds are wired to find and react to threats, violations, and setbacks.

How We Can Respond

Since so much of our reaction is hard-wired and instinctive, the goal isn't to never have these thoughts; but rather what we are aiming for is

  1. Greater awareness that this is, in fact, our tendency, 
  2. Better skills at then processing the information that is coming in,
  3. And, then not making decisions out of fear when we aren't actually in danger.

This reminds me of the research I shared in Frientimacy about what researchers discovered about rejection.  We ALL feel it.  No matter how emotionally healthy we are-- we all feel the pain of being left out, or even the perception of being left out. We can't not feel rejection any more than we can not feel pain when kicked in the stomach. 

What we can do is get better at identifying that pain more quickly--naming what we're feeling--and then figuring out the best strategy for how to move ourselves back to a place of peace. 

Experts in this field suggest that practices that create new thought patterns-- such as meditation, some drugs, and cognitive therapy-- can indeed help us. It is definitely worth the conscious effort of doing what we can to get ourselves out of the trap that so often leaves us feeling rejected, unlovable, or hopeless.

Responding in Friend-Making Situations

Far be it from this blog post to do the work of being able to replace all our thought patterns with loving and healthy ones, but here are a few steps we can take immediately:

  1. Catch Yourself. More Often. More Quickly. Becoming aware of this negativity bias is definitely the first step of growth.  To see where it pops up, what you say to yourself, and how it taunts you is where maturity begins.  We can can't change what we don't see. So with as much compassion as possible, let's start pointing it out "Oooh that's your fear talking..." "Oh that's your Inner Mean Girl* bullying you..." or "yep, that's me totally withdrawing because..."
  2. Show up with Curious Love! As parents watching their 3-year old have a melt-down in a public area knows-- when we see that tantrum we have several options: 1) ignore it and act like we don't see it; 2) scream louder and try to shame them into submission, or 3) get down on their level and ask a few questions. When it comes to my inner critic and fear-- I've found that the 3rd option is the only one that creates change because she usually believes that her fear is legitimate and that she's trying to protect me from something like loss, danger, or rejection. So to the best of my ability-- in that moment or later in reflection-- I try to ask questions such as a) What are you most scared of? b) Because if that were true, what would it mean? c) What are you trying to protect me from experiencing? (And to that one-- I often find myself thanking her for caring!) And that usually leads me into a conversation about what I really want and what I'm willing to do to get it.* (See * below for more info on this process because it really is more than a blog post will allow! Crying tears!)
  3. And remember this is true for others, too THEREFOR don't leave them wondering!  Therefor... let's do all we can to speak words of acceptance, safety, and affirmation louder than their inner voice, when possible. We can assume that everyone is approaching and interacting with us at some level of fear, skepticism, worry, or questioning. They are searching for clues as to whether they are safe and liked. So knowing this, we can make sure to give them as much evidence as possible that we won't bite, judge, or reject them!  We can smile, look them in the eyes, thank them for calling/coming over, show curiosity to them by asking questions, nod our head to indicate we're listening, and always end a conversation by helping answer the question we know they'll have when they leave: "Does she like me??
  • After meeting someone new: "I am so glad we met. I'm looking forward to following up with you to...."
  • After rejecting an invitation: "Oh I wish I could come, but thank you sooo much for inviting me.  I do hope you'll invite me again because I would love to do x with you." 
  • After time together: "That was lovely. Let's do it again sometime!"
  • After someone shares something vulnerable, "Oh I can understand why you would feel x, but I'm impressed with how you did y. That took a lout of courage!"

We can choose so much more kindness toward ourselves as we remember that all of us-- me, you, and even all those women who look like they never worry one iota what others think of them-- want to be liked.  We are prone to worry we're not. But oh how much we want it.

This month, I hope you practice balancing out that negativity bias in our world by showing the compassion to yourself and others that we all crave.

xoxo,

Shasta

***  This theme touches on this month's Friendship Focus in GirlFriendCircles, featuring Amy Ahlers, who is our teacher for the class "Is Your Inner Mean Girl Hijacking Your Friendships?" Join this month for FREE and you can download the class and all of our resources.  Plus, on August 23 I will be doing a live Q/A call on this subject and modeling/sharing how I bring healing to my inner critic voices. All women welcome to join us! xoxo

The #1 Thing You're NOT Doing that is Hurting Your Friendships

I know, I know, I know... you're busy.  Life is as full as feels survivable. You're barely keeping up with the inbox that continues to fill up, the voicemails being left, the demands by the people who live in your house with you, and the tasks being added to the to-do list.  And so, oh how I hate to bring this up.... I really do. The last thing any of us needs is to feel like there's "one more thing" we need to be doing.

And yet...

And yet, it's truly the #1 thing that can make the biggest difference to your friendships.  

The Action That Would Make the Biggest Difference

To be sure, there are many different things that hold relationships together, such as doing favors for each other, making fun memories, being present in painful moments, practicing empathy, remembering her birthday, staying in touch, showing up at the big events, sharing a secret with her, and showering her with affirmation, to name a few.

But what if I shared with you the #1 complaint I get that causes your friends to give up on their friendships???  

What if I spelled out for you the #1 action that would make the biggest difference?  

The easy answer is: initiate reaching out.

I swear to you-- there isn't a subject that comes up as often as this one.

I get at least an email a week from someone about to give up on a relationship because they are tired of being the one to always reach out.

To be clear: I'm not one of those who believes that initiation has to be 50/50, and I don't believe in this "the ball is in her court" business. I'm completely fine hitting the ball repeatedly. I know many amazing relationships where one person is the primary catalyst, the initiator, or the scheduler.  I know in our marriages that we settle into "roles" that we each play on behalf of the relationship, without each person needing to every chore 50/50.  In a perfect world-- our friendships could be like that, too. I also think some people find it easier than others to reach out --based on practiced skills, insecurities, and personality types--and I'm all for each of us showing up with our strengths.  

So believe me:  I don't think you have to initiate in order to be in a healthy relationship.  In fact, I know that the only things necessary for a healthy friendship is: time together/consistency so that we can have fun (positivity) and share our lives with each other (vulnerability.) And as long as those 3 things happen-- it doesn't matter who initiated it. (For more on The 3 Requirements of Relationships)

What This INAction Means to your Friends

But we live in a world where aren't just running into our friends automatically and so time together then HAS to be scheduled.  There's no other way around it-- we can't feel close to people without interacting. And that means someone has to initiate it.

And your friends are WEARY of being the one. You're gonna have to trust me on this one: I hear from them on this. Often. They take this very personally. They feel like it means your don't value them or think about them. It leaves them feeling unimportant to you. They create a narrative in their heads that if they mattered-- you would reach out. They feel rejected. They feel like the responsibility of the relationships falls on them... that their initiation is the only thing holding you two together. They feel resentful of this giving and it leaves them feeling that the relationship isn't mutual or reciprocal. They feel used, they feel tired, and they feel unappreciated.

You and I know that probably isn't true.  

And yet there it is.

I can keep trying to remind them that it doesn't matter who initiates as long as it keeps the relationship connected, but at the end of the day-- if you were serious and wanted to do the one action that would leave them feeling relieved, happy, and loved-- you would reach out and not wait for them to do it again.

What You can do

You can set an alarm on your phone to remind you to reach out to them, you can swallow your fear that you're interrupting them or not reaching out at a convenient time, and you can simply know that whether they say yes or no-- they will feel loved because you reached out and thought of them. And that's what they want: to know that they matter to you.

And at the very least-- one thing you will try to do more often is thank your friends when they do initiate.  You will appreciate the gift they're giving and use it as an opportunity to tell them how much it means to you:

“Thank you for keeping the ball rolling on us staying in touch. I know I don’t do it as well as you do, but I want you to know it means a lot.  Thank you for not giving up on me.”  

And with that acknowledgement-- you'll find that they might just be that much more willing to initiate. Yet again.

Not an initiator? Send this to a friend who is with a note of appreciation and expressing your willingness to practice doing it a bit more! :)

And leave your comments-- do you agree? disagree? What stops you from reaching out? 

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

Do you come home from work too tired to do anything except crash on your couch? Does the very idea of calling a friend sound like too much work? Do you panic at the idea of scheduling a social event into your calendar? Do you end your workweeks so tired that you need the entire weekend to simply pull the blinds and recover? Do you wish you had time to go meet new friends but by the time you prioritize your partner, your kids, and others in your family-- you've reached your limit?

Using Positivity to Boost your Relationships

Using Positivity to Boost your Relationships

...because our friendships are one of the only relationships we choose (unlike co-workers, neighbors, and family), we are going to choose to be with people who make us happy. And we're only going to want to do the other two requirements of friendship with people who make us feel good: we won't be as consistent with people we don't enjoy spending time with and we won't feel safe sharing openly with people who don't leave us feeling accepted and validated. At the end of the day, our job as a friend is to add value to the lives of those we love.

So today's post is super important as we learn from one woman who exudes positivity: Colleen Braun, a volunteer GFC Connector for GirlFriendCircles in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota! She compliments everyone on Facebook regularly, laughs quickly when you're interacting with her, and shows up ready to support and cheerlead on our GFC member pages.

I asked Katrina Emery to interview her so we can all be a bit inspired this week with how we might increase the joy around us.  People like to be with people who make them feel good about themselves!  -- Shasta

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Yesterday, I felt discouraged.

My Pain Blocked Me

Like, really discouraged. The kind where I start to question my capabilities and my worth. My voices of fear whispered, "You're never going to make it. You're a loser. You're a failure."

While there was a big part of me that wanted to retreat and be all by myself in my misery, there was also another part of me that desperately wanted to hear other voices besides my own.

I wanted to reach out and say to my friends: I need you to remind me that I'm not the loser that I feel like I am.

My Friendship Affirmations

My Friendship Affirmations

May I continue to acknowledge what is true: that relationships are my way into health and happiness, even as I walk in a world that is no longer oriented to this knowing.  Money, productivity, and appearances often tempt me to think they point to my happiness, but I will remember that they are but empty promises-- ladders leaning against walls pretending to be paths. Instead of chasing other things with only hopes of someday using those things to feel loved, I choose to remember that I can simply go straight to the love I desire to create. I don't have to do more to impress, earn more to woo, or become more to be lovable. I am enough. May I be patient with myself and others as we continue to awaken to this truth.  We forgot. We fell asleep.  We got distracted. We lifted our gaze off our tribes, our communities, our families, and our friends-- we got caught up in the chase, the busy-ness, the pursuing, the grabbing, the climbing, and the achieving. May I be gentle with myself as I practice prioritizing people and may I be forgiving with others who don't yet remember.

The 3 Most Common Mistakes Moms Make In Friendship

Do you feel like you barely have enough energy for your spouse and kids, let alone your friendships? Do you feel guilty leaving your kids to go spend time with friends?

Do you struggle with the difference between friendships with moms vs. non-moms?

Do your kids not like the kids of your friends; or do you not like the moms of your kids' friends?

When it comes to combining motherhood and friendship there is a lot of new territory to navigate!

I get asked these questions so frequently that I decided to turn the camera on and let it run while I gave in-depth answers to these questions.  I hope that this video helps you prioritize your friendships in a way that feels good and meaningful to you!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Please feel free to share other tips and/or questions in the comments!

Shasta's Tips for Starting Women's Groups

I love few things as much as gathering women together.  There's often more laughter in groups and more diverse sharing and feedback. Plus, it also saves time being able to connect with a handful of friends at once, and it's more of a sure thing even if 1-2 people end up not being able to come. But there are so many kinds of groups to start! Your first question to answer is: What do I want the focus of the group?

  • Our Lives: This is one of my favorites-- basically we know that we are getting together in order to stay in touch, support each other, and invest in our relationships. We are the subject and ideally each person has time to share with everyone else what matters most in her life right now.  These groups should be started when you primarily want to bond by sharing your lives with each other.
  • A Theme/Subject: This category is one of the most popular types of groups because it includes such things as book clubs, support groups, entrepreneurs circles, mom's groups, Bible study groups, and political gatherings. These groups should be started when you primarily want mental stimulation, resonance in shared interests, and advice or support in a specific area.
  • An Activity: This category of group is primarily for gatherings where an activity is the focus whether it be a cooking club, a dining out group, a hiking group, or a group dedicated to training for an event. These groups should be started when you primarily want support/accountability in doing an activity, to experience new things, meet people with similar activity interests, desire more fun and socializing in your life, or to expand our horizons.

Of course there can be some cross-over, but it's important to be clear what desire is prompting your group.  If the focus is on hiking then one is less likely to leave feeling disappointed if no one asked her about her life, or if the focus is a mom's support group then we can put less attention to coming up with new activities and changing locations and devote more planning to conversations that matter to mothers. Knowing the priority serves as a filter for planning!

 

Another question that must be answered: Who is this group for?

  • Is there an ideal size? A minimum? A cap? If it's conversation-based it may help to be small enough to give time to everyone to share. If it's meal-based, do you want everyone to fit around a table? If it's networking based then maybe the more the merrier?
  • Is there something that everyone has to have in common in order to attend? Do they need to live in the neighborhood, have kids, or attend a certain church?
  • Is this an open or closed group? Can attendees invite others to come with them? Do you want to keep meeting people or go deeper with the same people?
  • What level of commitment is needed? Can attendees simply come when they want or is the intention that they come regularly?

I'll make a note to write more specific blog posts addressing some of the different types of groups since they will each have different needs.  But here are some of my overall tips:

  1. If you already have a few specific people in mind that you want participating-- then invite them to give input to such questions as 1) What type of group interests you the most? 2) Do you have others you'd like to invite? 3) Knowing we'll feel closer the more often we meet-- how frequently would you be willing to commit?
  2. Unless the focus is specifically to "try new restaurants in the city" or "explore new hiking trails" then keep the location as consistent and easy as possible. Every time you "switch" places it takes more brainstorming, planning, and communicating; plus attendees will be more likely to cancel if it feels like it will take a lot of energy.
  3. Similarly, come up with a "routine" and repeat it as often as possible.  People want to know what is expected of them and what to expect. My girls group "routine" is to chit-chat and catch-up while everyone arrives and before we put dinner on the table, but once we all have food on our plates then we switch gears to "going around the circle and each person sharing their highlight/lowlight." Maybe your book club talks about the book and then ends with mingling? Or is it the other way around? Aim for consistency.
  4. Keep the dates set even if someone can't attend.  Groups turn into a logistical mess when we start trying to change dates to accommodate different people. In general, it's best when the group can set their dates ahead of time (either the same day/time every week/month OR set their dates far enough out as a group so that everyone can plan around them) and then stick to them.  Every time you change for one, you risk messing it up for another, plus add to the communication weariness.
  5. Make sure everyone is given time to "be seen."  I'm a big fan of "going around the circle" so that each person has a chance to share--whether it's as small as an introduction before an activity or as big as giving each person 15 minutes to share on the topic of the evening.

What other tips do you have that you think would be helpful to others who are planning group gatherings?

Or, what other questions about group events do you have that I might be able to answer in a future post?

Empathy: The #1 Misunderstanding

We all know how important empathy--the ability to understand and share the feelings of another--is to a friendship, but sometimes it's easier said than done!

Do you ever hear a friends complain about her finances and think, "I'd give anything to have as much money as she has! Why is she so worried?!?"

Or, hear a friend complain about gaining five pounds and just roll your eyes and think, "She's so skinny-- she has no right to complain!"

Or, listen to a single friend vent about how busy and exhausted she is, and feel like screaming, "Are you crazy? Try working full time and raising 5 kids at the same time!"

While we want our friendships to be safe places to complain and vent about our lives, the truth is that we often feel more frustrated or annoyed with our friends if we don't feel like their circumstances warrant their feelings.

Since it's impossible to be both empathetic and judgmental, watch this 3 minute video about how to show up with more of the former, even when tempted to feel the latter.

How to Deepen the Long-Distance Friendship

Unfortunately, many, if not most, of the people we claim as our best friends don't live near us. I haven't seen statistics to back up that claim, but since we're moving, on average, every 5 years, I think it's safe to say that chances are high that we have moved away from friends we've loved dearly. And all too often, it doesn't matter how many monthly lunches with local friends we schedule, it's hard to feel as close to them as we do with those long-distance friends with whom we once logged massive hours getting to know every day in school, at that job, or when we lived as roommates.

For those of you familiar with my 5 Circles of Friends-- I call these dear friends our "Con

5 types of friends image

firmed Friends" and they frequently reside in the middle circle because we are too intimate with them to warrant them being on the more casual left-side, but we often aren't as consistent with them as we'd need to be to feel as close to them as we do with our right-side friends. This post is about how to move them to the right, into greater frientimacy.

How to Deepen the Friendship

So what if you actually want to develop a closer relationship with these long-distance friends? What if you want to keep building the friendship, rather than just do the minimum to maintain it? What it you want to feel like you know what's going on in each others lives more often than your infrequent phone calls or more deeply than what you can read on social media?

There are three requirements to all healthy relationships, as I teach in Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness:

  1. Positivity: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must bring more joy and satisfaction than exhaustion or stress, in fact research suggests we need to keep the ratio above 5:1.
  2. Consistency: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must be repetitive and have some regularity to it because this developing history is what fosters our trust in each other.
  3. Vulnerability: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must incrementally and appropriately increase in sharing as our consistency increases with each other. It is through vulnerability that we feel seen and known.

And they are just as true for long-distance friends as they are for local friends. (Bonus: They also are the same three requirements for starting friendship as they are for deepening it!)

Specific Ideas for Applying the 3 Requirements to Our Long-Distance Friendships

I can guarantee that any relationship that isn’t feeling as meaningful as we want is because at least one of these three requirements is lacking.

So how we can practice these three requirements from a distance?

Positivity:

  • Send an encouraging card: Take 5 minutes to send a little tangible love through the postal system telling your friend why you admire her.
  • Recall a good memory: Find an old photo of you and your friend that will bring a smile to your faces, and text it to her with a little note of gratitude for the history you two share.
  • Refrain from giving advice: Most of the time, when we’re sharing, we just want validation and affirmation.  Advice can leave us feeling judged or defensive. When you do have time to share, make a point to respond to her in a way that leaves her feeling better about who she is and how she’s navigating her life.

Consistency:

  • Embrace texting: Even the shortest text exchange in between get-togethers reminds us gives us the sense of the other person being close. When you think of her— text her and tell her.
  • Schedule a regular time to catch-up: We feel far away from long-distance friends when so much time has passed in between conversations that we’re convinced it would take hours to catch-up. Instead, see if she’s up for scheduling a reoccurring 30 minute call every 1st Monday evening of the month, or every Sunday afternoon.
  • Prioritize the Slumber Parties: We don’t need as much consistency to maintain friendships as when we are building them, but it is still in time together that we can create new memories; so no matter how broke we are, or how busy we feel, we have to visit each other to protect and deepen the love we've already developed. These overnighters can be a game-changer for deepening that relationship.

    long distance friends

Vulnerability:

  • Get to the heart of the matter quickly: We may not talk to, or see, our long-distance friends as often so let’s not waste our time by asking all the typical update questions and risk us not sharing what really matters. Instead, suggest, “I know we don’t have a ton of time, but maybe we can each share one highlight and one lowlight since we’ve each see each other?” By leaving it open-ended, we give each person the chance to share in the life areas they want to, while inviting honesty.
  • Risk being an "inconvenience": We so often talk ourselves out of calling each other when we feel down because we don’t want to be a burden or intrude on their busy lives, but it’s only by calling and saying “I just needed a friend” that we will feel the benefit of having a good friend, give her the permission to call when she needs, and help bond the relationship deeper by letting her help.
  • Invite her "bragging": Part of vulnerability is sharing what we're proud of... this can be hard because none of us want to be seen as bragging.  So make it easier and ask her: "Share with me something you're really proud of these days?"

Just because there are miles between us doesn't mean that we can't keep developing these friendships.  In fact, because we've invested so much in each other at one time-- and have the benefit of already feeling close to each other-- we're smart to do everything we can to protect those investments!

What other ideas have you tried? What sounds meaningful to you?

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The Key to Starting a Women's Group

By: Katrina Emery Katrina Emery, a freelance writer from Portland, OR, occasionally interviews a member of GirlFriendCircles and writes a guest post about their friend-making journey so we can all learn from, inspire, and encourage each other in our own quests for better friendships.

It was while she was volunteering at her local hospital that retiree Kris Trainor knew she needed to focus on friendship more. Her role was to talk and sit with people before they go into the Cath Lab, sometimes helping them fill out forms. “Many of them didn’t have anyone reliable to put as a contact on the form. This is Prescott, Arizona--we’re friendly. People know their neighbors,” she recalls. “but then I thought,

‘Who would I put down?’ And I had to admit that I needed somebody.”

After 10 years of living in Prescott Kris had plenty of acquaintances, but not many close friends. Spurred on by GirlFriendCircles, she started a group dedicated to forming new friendships for older women. They meet at her local Starbucks for an hour every single week. Consistency, one of the three requirements of friendship, is the most important thing for them, since it's hard to get to know each other or built up trust without it. And as Kris says, “consistency can be the hardest to establish with new friends”  so the commitment to meet weekly has helped her group connect.

The ladies chat and share every week, using GirlFriendCircles Sharing Questions to dig deeper. Kris laughs that she often has to bring the topic back. “People want to have meaningful conversations, but they’ll drift.” To make everyone more comfortable and ease them in, she’ll often read a list of values and goals she wrote down when she started the group. “I wrote what I wanted to get out of this. It includes 1) don’t take anything personally, 2) practice being open and transparent, 3) learn to express my love and appreciation of others, and 4) be madly in love with yourself. Part of what we’re doing here is learning to be good friends with ourselves.” The first time she read it the group responded better than she thought they would, and now it’s a common way she starts. “They love it!”

It hasn’t all been easy for Kris. The group has been meeting since August, but she’s not sure she can claim any of the ladies in her Committed friends yet. “I didn’t expect it to stay this hard. I didn’t realize I’d have to be kind of like a mom, in a leadership role.” To help, she reminds herself of the natural ebbs and flows of groups, rather than take it personally. “It’s been winter lately--bad weather, sickness, holidays, and the group naturally shrinks.” Going back to her list of what she wants to gain from the group helps, too. “I figured out that I had to go back to my sheet to know what I want.” Even on her end, consistency is a must.

One of the reasons she’s committed to the group is a memory of when she moved to Prescott and was looking at other ladies’ groups. “When I asked to join, they said no!” She was shocked. Her group has committed to staying open for anyone interested in joining. “I’m serious about always remaining open to new people. We’ve got to continue to widen our personal circles.”

Because they’ve all committed to meeting every single week, they’re rapidly getting to know one another. Consistency is key, knowing that they’ll continue to see each other without having to match up schedules. Outside of their weekly meetup, the group has taken classes together at the community college. One makeup class, Kris recalls, ended up to be a thinly veiled sales pitch, but the ladies all had fun anyway and they now laugh at the experience. They’ve started planning other events amongst themselves. Kris loves that, since she doesn’t feel she has the capacity to plan more. “I couldn’t do a bigger event every month," she says, “but I know that it’s easy to get a friend to meet you for coffee.”

And that’s what she’s done, every week, consistently.

Let's cheer for Kris and encourage her as she continues this commitment! And let's take inspiration from her: What is one way you could increase the consistency (regularity/repetition/frequency) in one of your friendships?