Best Friends

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!

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. 

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 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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Two Best Friends Return to Paris to Fulfill a Promise

It's story-time! This week I am telling you a story with hopes that it inspires you to say yes to something big in the name of friendship.... despite the excuses we all make so easily.

Once Upon a Time....

Our story begins with an idealistic freshman collegiate girl who saw a poster promoting the opportunity to study abroad in Paris for 3 months.  While she knew not a word of French, it didn't stop her from trying to talk everyone she knew into going with her on this glamorous-sounding adventure. Everyone eyed her like she was crazy except for one friend, Valerie, who within moments said, "I'm in."

Wanting their passport photos would look as chic and grown-up as they felt, they made the horrible mistake of both chopping off their long hair right before the adventure. Therefore, our young heroines--one sporting a haircut that was basically a mullet, and the other with bangs that started at the back of her head-- set off for Paris with little more preparation than learning how to say Bonjour on the airplane over the Atlantic.

To anyone who knows Shasta or Valerie, it will come as no surprise that their favorite activity while living abroad was eating the local food (and they each came home with an extra 20 lbs to prove that point!).  So much so that it made sense to them, at the time, that paying the 17 Francs to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower wasn't as compelling as buying a week's worth of pastries and bread. They figured they had seen great views from the top of Notre Dame and that pastries were much more important than "tourist traps."  But needing to bolster that decision, they idealistically announced that they'd "save it" for romance and come back someday together with the "men of their dreams." They patted themselves on the back that they could assuage any guilt for not ponying up the money and assured themselves that these imaginary men would one day thank them for the privilege of having Eiffel-Tower virgins to accompany them to the top.

The Paris Promise was made: they'd return.

Twenty Years Later...

It wasn't an easy promise to keep.  There were many times when both doubted whether it would ever happen as it just never seemed realistic or likely. Neither of them ever had thousands of dollars sitting around looking to be spent, (especially knowing that if they ever did return they'd need more budget than last time)! ha! And it seemed one or the other was always in graduate school, pregnant, going through a divorce, or had some other big reason why an international trip wasn't possible any given year.

But a couple of years ago, they started saying, "We simply have to do it."

And finally--this month--they did.

In January they booked discounted airline tickets on a sale, split the cost on a two-bedroom AirBnB, and saved up all their extra money to eat their way through France once again (this time hoping that 20 lbs couldn't be added in a mere 2 weeks, right?!?) Plus, as fantasized, this time they arrived with the men they love by their side.

These two best friends retraced steps and recalled memories.  They laughed at who they had been twenty years prior.  They grimaced over photos from the first trip; and then decided they might as well just be grateful that they had set the bar so low back then that now it was fairly easy to believe they had indeed improved with age! They toasted that they were still friends after all these years; and celebrated how much they'd created the lives that were mere fantasies when they were 18.  They bonded as friends, and as couples. . And they smiled.  And hugged. And laughed. A lot.

Here are a few photos:

A fun photo re-enactment at Les Invalides in Paris, twenty years later. (And please tell me we look better now!)

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The Moral of the Story...

It's really easy to make up excuses for why we can't do something.  And by excuses, I don't mean that they aren't real reasons. In fact our reasons are usually pretty good as most of us feel limited by the constraints of time or money, or both.

For us to pull this trip off-- Valerie and her husband had to find childcare for their three kids, my husband and I had to put some of it on our credit cards, and all of us had to say no to other things in order to say yes to this.

But I can attest that after having had the privilege of traveling with friends, as couples, that it was worth every decision that got us there. It was incredibly special and bonding.

Your story doesn't need to be a return trip to Paris with a friend from 20 years ago... it can be a camping trip this summer with a group of new friends, or an invitation to a friend to meet you in Mexico for a 3-night deal, or the decision to go on a day-trip with another couple.

All you need is a willingness to plan ahead to do something bigger with someone than meeting for dinner, the courage to extend invitations to others to join you on a memory-making adventure, and the commitment to devote some time and money to that time together.  Traveling with friends--whether driving an hour out-of-town for a day-trip or jumping on a plane for a weekend away-- logs more hours together and guarantees more bonding than meeting for a gazillion lunches ever could!  Shared memories bond us to each other in accelerated ways.

This summer:  what adventure do you want to do and are you willing to put that idea into action?

National Best Friends Day: But I Don't Have One

Tomorrow, June 8, is widely purported to be National BFF Day. It's a day where I want to invite those of you with meaningful friendships to celebrate them (call them! give them a shout out on Facebook! write a text expressing your love!), and also be thoughtful to the fact that the majority of you may be feeling like having a BFF is more like trying to find a unicorn.

You're not alone.

Most Women Don't Have a BFF

Friendship research is still a growing study of topic so we don't have a plethora of statistics (compared to the traditional familial and romantic studies), but taking into consideration all the studies I know of where they measure the degree of friendship-- I'd venture a guess that about only 1 in 4 of us have a best friend.  Many more of us have close friends, but the vast majority of us are left feeling like we're missing "that one."

I'm of the opinion that far more important than putting the emphasis on finding the one person upon whom we can bestow the word "best" is teaching women how to foster their friendships to experience more of the qualities of excellence.  In other words: let best refer to the quality of our relationships, not the quantity. Unfortunately even by this measurement, we're suffering too: In a survey of nearly 1200 women that I conducted last year for my book Frientimacy, when asked how satisfied they were on a scale of 1-10 with the depth of their friendships, (with 10 being the most meaningful), only 6% of respondents scored themselves a 10.  The number goes up to about 34% of us if we include everyone who also score a 7, 8, or 9.  But even that suggests that about two-thirds of women are feeling the gap between the frientimacy (friendship intimacy) they are experiencing versus what they wish they were.

If you are coming into this holiday feeling like you'd like to develop more closeness with one or two friends-- I'm teaching a class tomorrow for you:

More Friendship Please!  What To Do If You Don't Have a Best Friend

Audio Class, taught by Shasta Nelson

What:  Receive a 60 minute class, taught by Shasta Nelson, and a worksheet with reflection questions.

When:  Listen to the recording at your convenience.

Where: Listen from your office after work, in your car on your commute home, from your living room couch with a glass of wine, or get in your pj's and listen from bed! We'll send you the mp3!

Who: For all women who want effective and inspiring strategies for developing "best" friendships.

What You'll Learn:

  • What is the best definition for a best friend?
  • The 5 Myths About Best Friends that Are Damaging Our Relationships
  • Strategy #1: Where to Find for Your Best Friend(s)
  • Strategy #2: The 1 Action You Have to Do To Create Deeper Friendship
  • Strategy #3: Get Your Needs Met, No Matter What

Purchase the Class here!

We don't necessarily all need a BFF, but we do all need to feel like we have as much love in our lives as we can possibly hold.  We all thrive-- both literally and figuratively--when we feel supported in life.  Most of us have the capacity to give and receive more love than we're currently experiencing and it's our life invitation to keep leaning in and saying yes to more connection.  We've long given romance such a huge place in our human quest and journey... but that's just one relationship and we have so much more love to experience.  And so much more that we can.  It's not impossible.

Hugs and love to all of you this National Best Friends Day. If you have one or two of those types of friendships: reach out and express that love!  And if you're in a season where you feel like you don't have that depth with anyone: don't despair... love is always available and our willingness to open up to it will be honored.

May we all appreciate the love we do have in our lives and commit to fostering more if we feel that hunger.

xoxo

I feel fortunate to have several "best" friends but allow me a moment to give a shout-out to at least one: Thank you Sher for making the time for over 10 years to talk on the phone every week, and for sharing so deeply and honestly while always inviting me to do the same. xoxo

Amazing Moms Make Time for Friends

What memories do you have of your mom doing things with her friends?

Years ago, in a specific friendship workshop I used to lead, I would ask adult women to write down everything they could remember about their moms and the topic of friendship:

  • Who did she hang out with, that you remember? Did she have her own friends or was it more about getting together with other families?
  • Do you remember her going away for weekends with friends? If so, what did she say to you about those weekends away? Do you remember seeing photos?
  • Do you remember her going out for girls nights often? What would they go do? Who went with her?
  • Can you remember any advice or comments she ever made about friendships?  Hers? Or yours? Or just in general?

I was somewhat shocked the first couple of times when I gave that exercise as more women in the room, than not, would shake their heads, wrinkle their foreheads, and murmur something along the lines of, "I don't really remember my mom doing stuff with her friends," or "I'm sure she had friends, but I couldn't name any of them," or "She would talk to her sister a lot but that was about it."

At first I was alarmed that so many moms didn't have good friends, but the more I talked about it with other women, we started wondering if, in fact, the bigger issue was simply that the mothers tried to do friendships when their kids wouldn't notice.  In other words, were the moms more likely to hang out with their friends when the kids were in school or soccer practice, thinking it was best to spend time with their friends when it wouldn't "take away" time from their kids?

This week I sat in a cafe and wrote love notes for Mothers Day to a handful of my girlfriends who are mothers... I never want them to doubt how much I admire them as they raise incredible human beings!

It makes sense on some levels, doesn't it?  Whether it's guilt from not spending enough quality time with your kids, frustration from the spouse at having to parent on their own while you're off "playing," or crying from the kids who insist you're the only one who can put them to bed-- it can be hard to schedule time with friends in the evenings and weekends.

And yet... it's imperative that we do.  Our daughters, and sons, need to see how much friendships are valued. For their health and happiness, they need to see us put into action the values of being connected to others.  They need to be able to one day answer the question "What kind of friendships did your mom have?" with a list of memories and details.

Inspiring Ways Some Moms Still Prioritize Friendship

I want to shout-out to some of the amazing moms who I am lucky enough to call my friends, with hopes that perhaps one of the ideas inspires your own path to prioritizing friends:

  • For over 10 years, Sherilyn and I have talked on the phone every single Wednesday for almost an hour.  She has three kids who are frequently told, "You'll have to wait... I'm on the phone with Shasta" and she often has to say to me, "Will you hang on just a second?  Sorry."  She juggles all of us, no matter the ages of her kids over the years.  They will one day be able to say "My mom had a best friend she talked to all the time."
  • My friend Daneen, who at one point was the only mom in a weekly small group of us who got together every Tuesday evening, had two babies and both times showed back up for weekly girls night as soon as she could get them to take a bottle of her breast milk.  Was it stressful on her husband? Oh yes! But Tuesdays became Daddy and Daughter night and they figured it out.  Her daughters will definitely remember that mommy went out with friends often.
  • A few of my dearest far-flung friends-- Karen, J'Leen, Valerie, and Krista-- have had 6 kids (and added 2 step-kids) over the years and not a one of them has ever missed our annual girls weekend. Never once. That means they've missed a soccer game here-and-there, left Dad with sick kids, and had to pump up a storm before boarding the plane.  Their kids will long remember that their moms come back smiling and happy and excited for the next girls weekend.
  • One of my friends Kat is busy cooking her oldest son's favorite dishes every Sunday and planning awesome family vacations this year as she prepares for him to go off to college in the fall.  She knows her time with him is precious and she wants to soak up every second she can as a family.  And yet, not only does she drive over an hour to come into the city for a monthly women's group at my house, she also is going to turn it into a slumber party so she doesn't have to drive home so late. She won't be there for dinner or breakfast, but in her absence she's teaching them just how important friendship is.

I could go on and on.  My friends are kick-ass women who feel like there are never enough hours in the day to be the rock stars that they are in their careers, spend as much time with their husbands as they would ideally want, and be the kind of mom that their inner critic tells them they need to be.... but they don't let those become reasons to not keep up their friendships.

If you're reading those examples and thinking they're crazy-- then you haven't yet heard or absorbed just how important friendships are to your health.  All healthy relationships--including the ones with our parents, our spouses/romantic partners, and children-- add value to our lives. But it's primarily with our friends can we get the benefits of love without as much arguing about money, negotiating chores, scheduling their doctors appointments, or feeling like there is a never-ending to-do list attached with them.

But hopefully you're reading those and thinking "okay how can I start saying to my kids something like 'Just as you played with your friends at school today, now Mommy is going to go play with her friends because we all need good friends!'" Your kids will benefit, you will benefit, and your friends will benefit!

To all the mama's out there-- we love you and consider ourselves lucky to call you our friends! xoxo

 

Do you have a friend whose a mom that you want to give a shout-out or thank you to? Go for it!  We'll love her up with you!  What do you appreciate about her?  Or, if you're a mom-- share with us something you've done to prioritize friendships and let us give you virtual high fives!

How to Respond to a Friend's Pity Party

I woke up early yesterday morning unable to go back to sleep, which is unusual for me.  But my mind was so busy hurling accusations at me that no lullaby could be heard above the ugly words. In the dark hours my critical voice sounded strong and empowered as she told me what a loser I am.  She grabbed my new book, my business, my classes and projects, and everything she could get her hands on and tore them up in front of me by telling me how they weren't good enough, how I wasn't doing enough, and how I could have done better. Her words were plentiful as she made her case for my lack. She used my own dreams and fantasies against me reminding me that not only had I not yet lived up to them, but that I probably never would. Her convincing words echoed through me this time in a way that resonated with my own deepest fears.  So even as the sun came up, I couldn't shake the feeling that she had been right: I'm failing.

Now I can defend myself with the best of them by jumping into the game and trying to name my successes or by assuring myself that the ruler she used to find me wanting wasn't measuring the right things.  And I typically am a pretty positive and hopeful person. But as a girlfriend arrived later in the day for our early dinner plans, I welcomed the back-up by exclaiming: "Oh I am so glad you're here-- I'm being bullied by a bunch of inner mean girls!"

The Five Amazing Responses of My Friend

I am sharing this story with you primarily because I want to share how my friend responded so we can all feel inspired to show up for each other when we feel under-attack by ourselves.  But I also am pushing myself to share this because it's important that we all hear reminders from each other that self-doubt and fear of failure are on every playground, even (or especially?) in lives that have stretched, dreamed, and succeeded by some measurement. frientimacy_quote_4 For me, right now, it's centered on the gap between the impact and teaching I want to be doing versus what I feel I am currently achieving; but for you or one of your friends, it might be about hoping you'd be married or have kids by this age, feeling like a failure because you don't have x (fill in the blank: a 401k, a book deal, or a corner office) yet, or feeling discouraged because while you are making good money you aren't pursuing your creative work, or vice-versa.  Unless we've reached pure enlightenment, we tend to fan a desire for something more that we're secretly convinced will make us feel better about ourselves and more peaceful about our lives.

Here are some of the ways my friend loved me well and brought me home feeling more hopeful:

  1. She Took It Seriously... Before I had interrupted her with my current condition she had been walking up the stairs to my apartment exclaiming, "There's the amazing and famous author and teacher who has been out traveling the world!"  But when she heard my panic, she pivoted quickly and instead of dismissing my feelings and telling me I was crazy, she validated them, "Oh no! I am so sorry. Those voices can be so cruel. What awful things are they saying?"  I felt supported, seen, and heard; not crazy, weak, or silly.
  2. But Not Too Seriously... But as we started walking into the neighborhood to find a spot for dinner, she also helped put it into perspective: "Shasta, I don't know a single author who doesn't feel depressed at some point after their book comes out.  It's a post-adrenaline drop after working on something for so long, your heart is still trying to catch up to your body as you traveled all over the country in the last few weeks, and everyone has higher hopes for their work than the immediate response. It makes sense you're feeling this way."  She helped again to validate my feelings but also subtly reminded me that how I feel now isn't the final answer.
  3. She Matched My Vulnerability Without Taking the Attention Off of Me. Upon sitting down in our chosen cafe, she shared with me how she had a similar attack over the weekend, feeling like a complete loser because several of her friends were buying their dream houses or had just moved in to new homes recently.  Her mean bullies said all kinds of awful things about her as she compared herself to others in that department. She confided how she had pouted, how she had hurt, and how she had eventually been able to hear her own wisdom. I felt closer to her for her willingness to reveal her own insecurities and felt peace that I wasn't being judged; she understood.
  4. She Invited Me To Find the Joy that Mattered.  When our drinks came she asked me to share with her 5 highlights from my book tour.  Five!  Most of us would simply ask someone how it went or to share a highlight or two... but she asked for five.  And somewhere between thinking up the 4th and 5th one, I had given myself enough evidence of how much had gone really, really well.  She cheered for me, toasted me, and found joy in my answers.
  5. She Brainstormed With Me.  Knowing full well that I was undoubtedly being too hard on myself, she also knew that there was some truth(s) to what I was saying mattered to me. Much like when we're menstruating--our feelings might be heightened or we may have less reserves--it doesn't mean that what we feel isn't real or that what upsets us shouldn't. She started asking me questions about my business and my book to see what actions I might want to consider in the weeks and months to come.  She didn't try to solve it; she just opened up the space for me to feel like I could respond to these feelings in productive ways at some point.

In my book I have an entire chapter on the five acts of vulnerability, three of which my friend and I practiced in a big and beautiful way yesterday:

  1. Know Yourself to Share Yourself
  2. Shine In Front of Each Other
  3. Share Your Shame & Insecurities

We both shared honestly about what we were feeling, we revealed the fears we hold and what those mean or symbolize to us, and we invoked each other to shine, to be successful in other areas, and to dream.  Which is significant because when we say we want to be loved it includes accepting both the amazing and insecure pieces of us.

I was willing to show up as I was; and she met me right there in the most affirming and generous of ways. As we practiced vulnerability with each other, we not only bonded our relationship in deeper ways, but we both left that time together feeling seen, safe, and satisfied-- which is what friendship can give us that matters so very much to our lives.

Thank you, dear friend.  And may your kindness inspire all of us to show up with others knowing that even in success, there may lurk doubts and fears that we can witness.

xoxo

 

 

 

How Do You Get Lucky In Love and Friendship?

"How do you get lucky in love?" a gruff voice asked from behind me. I was standing at a teller window at the bank so it seemed an unlikely place for someone to be asking for relational advice. And yet he repeated his question even more loudly. You could see several of us looking around somewhat awkwardly, trying to figure out if he was serious and sane. He was waving a magazine and gestured toward it as he made eye contact with the teller closest to him.  He asked a third time, with a mix of irony and laughter: "Seriously I've been married three times and would love to know how one goes about getting lucky in love?"

The tone lightened up a bit as we could tell he had just seen a headline on a magazine that had been innocently lying in the bank lobby that must have triggered his friendly zeal. But he kept his gaze on the young teller, presumably awaiting an answer.  The teller couldn't have been more than young twenties and after laughing nervously, finally said, "I guess you just haven't yet found the right person."

I nearly choked.

How DO You Get Lucky In Love?

Seriously?!?! There's a guy waving a magazine in the bank lobby telling everyone who is standing within earshot that he's been married three times and the best we can do is assume he hasn't met the right women?

I forgive the teller.  He was young and idealistic. But it's a view that far too many of us still hold.  And when it comes to friendship-- it's no different.  We assume that if the relationship isn't working that it's their problem.  Or if not their problem, then at least that who they are doesn't match up with who we are.  We shrug our shoulders and cheer ourselves up with the words of the teller:  I guess we just haven't yet met the person who could be our best friend.

Like a needle in a haystack we think we need to keep looking for that specific and rare person who can love us and whom we can love back.  Now don't get me wrong-- I've been accused of being the biggest romantic who believes in soul mates and love and chemistry and deep connections-- the whole big love enchilada.  But, and this is a serious but, love isn't something we go around discovering in people, something that they either have for us or don't.  No, love in all forms, is something we can develop with people.

That man in the bank... I'll bet all three times he married he believed he was in love.  He had "discovered" love. But it's more than simply finding someone you love, it's choosing to practice the actions that develop that love, that matter most.

What Friendship Is and Isn't

I notoriously say in front of nearly every crowd I speak to, "Friendship isn't about how much you like each other; but rather it's about how much you practice the behaviors that make up friendship."

frientimacy_quote_1

In other words:  I can meet someone instantly and like them and talk for hours with them and want to be best friends with them, and they with me. But that is not a friendship.  If we never see each other again then we were merely two people who had a great evening together and were friendly with each other, but that is not friendship.  There is a VAST difference between the people we're friendly with and the people we develop a friendship with.

What makes a friend is less about how much we like them instantly or even how much we like them over the long haul.  We aren't all closest to the people we actually love and admire the most. No, we're closest to the ones with whom we're willing to practice the actions that make up a friendship.

In my new book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness, I am thrilled to be teaching the three actions that make up a friendship.  For far too long we have left love to luck and chance, bumping into each other and hoping for the best.  It's time to actually understand what intimacy is, what actions lead to it, and how much power we have in actually leading every relationship in our lives toward greater love.

What I wish I could've said to the man at the bank was, "That's awesome that you haven't given up on still wanting more love in your life.  And the good news is it's not like playing the lottery where you have to get married for several years before finding out if she is the one or not.  You can take responsibility to develop the relationships that indeed leaving you feeling lucky in love."

We all need more love in our lives.  We don't have to leave it to chance.

xoxo

Advice: Drifting Apart: Give Up or Try Again?

Dear Shasta Request for advice! I read your advice on emailing a friend about a drifting friendship and am looking for help! I have a 'commitment' friend (15 year friendship). Our friendship has been drifting for the past 5 years, despite being in each others wedding parties and both having babies recently. The things I attribute the drift to are: - geographical separation (though, c'mon - 30 min is not that far!); busy lives (toddlers and full-time jobs); husbands with slightly different interests (her husband seems to have all the friends he wants). This last point is what I blame the drift on the most, with busy lives and kids I feel it's tougher to connect and I feel more resentful that they don't welcome my husband into their lives. Fearing that we are lost forever (my last-ditch effort to reconnect with our babies has officially failed), I need some advice. The sadness I feel from mourning her loss in my life (and jealousy of the new friends she focuses all of her efforts on) is on my mind constantly. I was a zombie of sadness (not at all like my old perky fun self!) at our last group gathering when I attended her son's 2nd birthday. I even feel that my daughter is getting pushed out. Do I email her? Help?!

Dearest Zombie of Sadness,

Oh my heart breaks for you! It is SO painful feeling like we're losing a friend.  Much like a break-up except sometimes worse in that we don't have the conversations that help bring closure and we try to keep up appearances for so long, unsure what the status really is.  It makes sense that you feel sad-- something feels lost and sadness is the healthy and appropriate response!

And in answer to the question you asked: "Do I email her?" My answer is a resounding yes!

Here's why:

  • You're commitment friends.  My rule of thumb is that the more we've invested in each others lives, the more I'm willing to do what I can to repair the friendship (or at least end well).
  • You still like her!  This isn't a drifting apart case where you two don't like each other-- you're both still in each others social circles and want to be closer!
  • You've both gone through a lot of changes.  Weddings and babies-- either one of those changes can be tough for us to even figure out, let alone all our friends who have to figure out the new normal, too!  It makes sense that it would feel different and a bit hesitant since neither of you have practice at this yet! Be gentle on both of yourselves, if you can!
  • You have a lot in common.  Besides all the history you have, it's actually amazing you both are married, had kids at the same time, and are choosing to keep working.

But.... my read on this (and granted I don't know what you mean by last-ditch effort failing OR how she's feeling and what she's noticing) is that if I were you I'd focus less on the problems right now and more on trying to add more positivity to the friendship.

My next book (Frientimacy) covers this big time because a friendship has to have a positivity:negativity ratio of at least 5:1 which means that sometimes we can't eliminate all the stressors (busy lives, disappointments, jealousy) but we can add more joy.  And as we get that number back up (enjoying each others company, laughing, playing) then we have more room to have tough talks.  It's not to say you can't have that talk now or that you have to keep it bottled up, but it is to say that ultimately what you want is to feel closer to her so the highest priority is strategically figuring out the best way to accomplish that goal. To feel mad at her for her husbands choices (which possibly causes friction in her marriage) or for her making new friends (which is actually healthy and normal and probably a good idea for you, too, no matter what happens with this friend!) may not lead to you feeling closer.

So what I'd suggest, in this case, is an email that isn't focused on the frustrations, but rather on your end-goal: more time together.  Your goal in this email is to solicit her help brainstorming suggestions for your time together-- you show care to her by reaching out and prioritizing her preferences and schedule, and depending on what she writes back you have more information as to what, if anything, she's actually willing to do to keep this friendship in her life.

“I miss you… and I was wondering what you feel like works best for us in terms of staying in touch? In your opinion is it easier/better trying to do more family time together with our husbands included or is it easier/better on you when it’s just us girls or do you prefer trying to include our kids more?  Does it feel better on your end knowing that we have something scheduled regularly that we can count on (i.e. meet for drinks once a month, talk on the phone every Thursday on the way home from work) or does it feel better to keep it organic and spontaneous and just both take on the responsibility of reaching out when we can?  So much in our lives has changed and I'm just trying to figure out what our friendship can look like in this phase of our lives. You’re important to me and I want to do what I can on my end to keep our friendship healthy!  I know it’s realistic that our friendship will ebb and tide, and shift as we keep going through all these life changes, and yet as I hear about so many friendships that simply drift apart, I also would hate for us to lose touch with each other or have our time together decrease in meaningfulness for either one of us…I look forward to hearing what feels easiest and most meaningful to you these days."

The good news with this approach is you're not opening a can of worms or starting a big fight.  You're not blaming or accusing.  You're simply saying that her opinion matters to you and that you want to be intentional about your friendship!

Best case scenario-- it opens up the door for you two to figure out how your friendship needs to change to accommodate your new lives. And hopefully you both feel more valuable to each other in the process!

Worst-case-- you have clarity that she's not going to make time for you right now (which isn't to say that next year couldn't be different.  Remember you have both gone through SO many life changes recently and are both just trying to do the best you can to adjust!) and you can set your expectations accordingly.

I have so much more I could say but I'm already above my word count (no surprise there! ha!) so hopefully that at least gives you my vote that I think it's worth you writing her.

My prayer is that someday you can write me back and it would be signed, "My old perky fun self." With or without her-- you WILL get there.

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s. What about the rest of you GirlFriends-- what advice would you give her? Should she write?

p.s.s. Want my advice? Fill out this form!

Grateful My Friends Have Other Friends

In late September, before I left for a vacation with my husband, I was caught up with all most closest friends and family and bid them goodbye.  While I was going to be on Facebook a bit and try to scan my emails occasionally, I was planning to be off-the-grid as much as possible.  I said farewell and off we went on our dream trip to Greece. Cue forward three weeks and I felt like I came home to a rapidly changed world!

One of my closest friends, who was scheduled for a c-section the week after I

my friends has other friends

was to get home ended up having her baby two weeks before I returned.  Not only was I not at the hospital with her as planned, but I wasn't even in the country.  Others surrounded her, organizing meal drop-offs, helping babysit her other daughter, and cheering her up with love. All I could do was send an email of congratulations from afar... I whispered a prayer of thanks that she had built an entire community of friends who could love her well in my absence.

Another close friend, in the span of those three weeks, was so inspired by a friends detox program that she ended up not only starting the 21-day process herself, but already had other friends paying her to do their shopping, chopping, and cooking so they could join her in the cleanse. She and I are friends who tell each other everything in our weekly calls, but in missing 3 weeks-- I wasn't there to bounce ideas off of, cheer lead for her courage, or help think through pricing and possibilities. This diet wasn't even on her radar when I left; when I returned she had the beginnings of a business! I whispered a prayer of thanks that she had other friends who not only supported her in that entire launch, but who first gave her the idea, and some who became her first clients.

A similar thing happened with my sister who had a job opportunity come up, interviewed, got it, turned in her two-week notice, and started a new job, all in the span of my vacation! Again, prayer of thanks that she has an awesome community around her who helped validate and cheer her on along the way.

My life felt like it was placed on pause while I went off on a much-anticipated vacation, but there was no stopping the lives of everyone I loved while I was gone. All I could do was come home and give them my time on the phone to catch me up on everything that had happened in their beautiful lives: new babies, new vision, and new jobs! (What relief that it was all good stuff and not any crisis's!)

Our Friends Deserve All The Love They Can Get

I hear from many women who feel threatened if their friends make other close friends. Their egos get wounded because they interpret that interest in more friends as though it means that they are inadequate.  And that can't be further from the truth.

The truth is, that when our friends make other good friends, it means our friends are healthy!  It means our friends know the value of community and know what it takes to foster love in lots of different places.  If we love our friends-- we will want others to love them, too.

All I did was go on a vacation. But it limited me from being "there" for my friends. All of us will have times in our lives where we can't be as available-- busy work periods, parents who need us, kids who are going through a rough patch, wedding planning that consumes our attention, having a baby that puts us out of commission for a bit, or going through a health challenge that leaves us without energy. There are any number of things in life that can constrain us from being the kind of friend we ideally would want to be; and many of them are to no fault of our own.

Our friends deserve having as many friendships as they can foster. They are better off with it.  And so are we.

We're better off with them having other friends? Absolutely!

  1. Less pressure and obligation: They don't lean on us too much, expecting us to be and do everything.
  2. More meaningful time together: They're typically happier and more centered with more friends so our time with them will feel more energetic and positive.
  3. More fun and opportunity: We will get to meet their friends at some events and possibly get exposed to more people we already know are wonderful (because our friend has chosen them!)

It's Our Responsibility

If we're feeling jealous, it's not her fault.  It's our responsibility to make sure that we are initiating time with her and making the most of the time we have together.

If we feel resentful that she isn't meeting all our needs, it's not her job to do so, but rather our responsibility to surround ourselves with a circle of love.

We need to foster additional friendships, too; not to replace her (and maybe not even ones we'll enjoy as much as with her!) but to feed other parts of our lives and to ensure that we have our own support system of meaningful friendships.

We all -- us and our friends -- need as much love as we can handle!  :)

Leave a comment: What other perks have you experienced in your friend having other friends?  Or... what has made this especially hard for you?

No Excuse! Commit to a Girlfriend Weekend!

If you've been following me for a while then you know that every year, around this time, I meet up with 4 of my friends for our Annual Girls Weekend.  This year marked our 10th year of weekend get-aways. 10 years.  I almost can't believe it.  It's not hard to believe that we've been friends for that long... in fact we became friends before that... with 1-2 of the friendships going back nearly 20 years.  But that five women have committed to taking the time and paying the money to go on a girls trip for 10 years in a row feels huge to me. That is commitment that moves me.

This year we met in San Antonio, where my friend J'Leen lives so we could watch her perform Improv on Saturday night since she credits our group friendship with her taking her first Improv class last year! What fun!!!

So Many Excuses to Not Get-Away!

That means that 5 incredibly busy women have prioritized time away with each other and made it happen. No matter what.

  • No matter that during that time we've had 3 divorces... everyone has come, every year.  We've celebrated 2 weddings... and we have one more coming up this December!
  • No matter that 1 girl is on a strict budget and 2 have often used credit cards to come... everyone has come, every year. Even when they got hit with HUGE tax bills, bought new houses, had cars die, gave up per diem hours to attend, and had to scrimp in other areas to make it work.
  • No matter that my girlfriends have birthed 5 babies during that time.  We have, in fact, had someone pregnant more years than not, including last year when one of them was 8 months pregnant. Everyone has come, every year. Even the year when one of the girls had a late miscarriage the day before the trip... she came.
  • No matter that our work schedules are insane-- conference attendance, speaking schedules, book launches, private practices to run, and a dozen reasons to say "I'm too busy!" Everyone has come, every year. Including this year when one woman had to return from a business conference, barely kiss her kids and husband, and then get back on a plane to head off to see us.
  • No matter that it inconveniences our husbands/boyfriends because they have to sacrifice the money, watch the kids, and do life alone for a few days. Everyone has come, every year. Even the years when some of the girls didn't have a spouse, they had family watch their kids and they still came. Even the spouse who isn't available 7-8 months out of the year steps up joyfully if we can plan around his schedule!
  • And speaking of kids... between my 4 girlfriends, they mother 8 children, ranging this year from 10 months old to 15 years old.  But they come every year... I shake my head in awe...

Kids and Girlfriend Get-Aways

I don't want to downplay the commitment I make to be at Girls Weekend every year, because no matter whether we have kids or not, all of us have full and busy lives; but I absolutely am in awe of my friends who are moms who don't use that as an excuse to not show up for their friendships.  When I hear about the Little League games my friends are missing by being gone, the extra stress it puts on their spouses those weekends, or the times when their kids are sick and they aren't home to nurse them... I stand in deep gratitude for these women.

Here are some tips I've picked up from them that might help make it easier for other mom's to make the very difficult choice of justifying a get-away weekend:

  • Daddy Time: Several of them said, "It's actually kind of awesome to watch our kids have these special weekends with Dad... yes it's stressful in some ways, but this way they get to plan pizza night, feel like they have Dad's undivided attention, and create memories."
  • Modeling to the Kids: With statements like "I can only hope that my girls are watching me do this and looking forward to the days they are grown up and get to do girls weekends!" and "I just tell my kids-- just like you get to go a have a slumber party sometimes, this is Mommy's slumber party," my friends are teaching their kids that friendship is worth scheduling.
  • Expectation Management: They all agreed, "Actually, the more we all do it, the easier it gets.  Now it's not a surprise or a hardship to go away as much as it was in the early days, the families just know it's going to happen and they're practiced."
  • Personal Self-Care: Now when I ask them why they come, most of them just say, "I wouldn't NOT come!" or "This is the best weekend of my whole year!" We all recognize it as the time when our own cup gets filled up with love.  We process life, share what's making us happy, talk about our fears, and become better people for having been away. I think, undoubtedly, that we all show up back home with more love to give.

I do think, like anything, that the more one does it, the more meaningful and easy it becomes.  One girlfriend weekend may, or may not, change anyone's life or feel worth the stress... but you add up the years and how much value we add to each other's life, and I really do believe that we are adding years to our lives. And each year we can go deeper, share more vulnerably, cheer for each other more loudly, and laugh so much more.  We've made our weekends meaningful and life-saving.

Today I just wanted to pop into your inbox to say that no matter what excuse feels so true for your life... I am one loud vote on the side of you saying yes to some friendship time that extends beyond a lunch or dinner.  Something about staying up late laughing and snorting, waking up and whispering about life, and spending a long full day together is truly as magical as life can possibly get.  Keep it cheap, keep it easy, and keep it meaningful-- but whatever you do, get the invitations emailed and get that date on the calendar!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Huge love to Valerie, J'Leen, Karen, and Krista for juggling friendship as one of the priorities of your very busy and full lives.  I am blessed by your commitment. xoxo

p.s.s.  Other posts about Girls Weekends:

5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend!

Weekend Get-Togethers: The Benefits of Long-Distance Friendships

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women's Groups:

The Myth that Keeps You Lonely

You wish you had the kind of girlfriend you could just text a code word to and she'd know exactly how to respond; the friend who would say, "Let's just hang out this weekend" and you'd want nothing more than uninterrupted time with her; the friend who hears that you're sick and shows up with a pot of soup; the friend who seemingly never tires of listening to you rant about X (insert whatever or whoever you feel like you're always worried about!); the friend who includes you in everything; whispers secrets to you that she tells no one else; and the one who just always seems to want to be with you the same amount of time that you want to be with her. Friendship: What We Want & What We Get

When we're feeling that little nagging angst of loneliness-- it's for her that we want.  It's for the fantasy best friend that we know would be the Thelma to our Louise, the fork to our spoon, the laughter to our jokes.  She would be the finisher of our sentences, the reader of our minds, and the affirmer of our hearts.  Our time together would be effortless, easy, safe, and comfortable.

Most of us just ache for her and keep hoping we'll bump into her one day, doing little-to-nothing to actually seek her out. As if she's a unicorn we just have to hope we'll one day spot!

Some of us go one step further and decide to put at least some energy toward the search-- we join sites like www.GirlFriendCircles.com, sign up for workshops and classes, and attend the parties of our friends with a willingness to connect with new friends. We go out looking for her; as though we're casting agents hosting an audition, employers ready to interview for an open position, or headhunters looking for "our types."

But then, much to our dismay, we discover that the difference between what we want and what we get is vastly huge.

Because what we get in a new friend, 90% of the time, is a stranger that we don't yet know as a best friend so we don't yet love her. We get discouraged when she takes three weeks to schedule, skeptical when she seems to have other friends, doubtful when we see that our lives aren't as similar as we had hoped, and judgmental when we see her choose differently than we would have. She's not quite as vulnerable as we like, the conversation doesn't go as deep as we wish, and we're not laughing quite as much as we think we should be.

We meet a whole bunch of candidates who aren't quite good enough to fit our BFF opening so we quietly reject them and keep looking, albeit somewhat disillusioned.

The gap between the women we're meeting and the women we ultimately want as best friends feels far too great to close.

The Myth That Needs Busting: "I'm looking for the right person to be my BFF"

The gap is indeed discouraging between who we want as friends and what we get from the women we're meeting.

But technically that's only disappointing if you expected it to be otherwise.

The myth keeping most women lonely is that they think having close friends is a product of discovering the right person; when the truth is that meaningful friendship is actually a product of developing the right friendship.

And that, my GirlFriends, is good news. Because now we can recognize that a gap doesn't mean she's not the right one! Rather, a gap reminds us that everyone starts as a new/casual friend and some of them over time (and we won't know which ones for quite a while!) can develop into the friendships we crave.

The Truth: Friendships Don't Start With Frientimacy, They Are Developed

Remember my 5 Circles of Connectedness? In this visual we see how all friends have to start on the far left in the Contact Friends Circle and be developed over to the far-right via consistent time together, increased vulnerability, and broader ways of being together.

Shasta's Circles of Connectedness_updated8-31-11-01

For example, let's use me for a moment.  If you met me today and wanted to be my BFF-- you might judge me against your standards of who you want me to be as a "Commitment Friend."  You could think such things to yourself as: "ugh, she already has her good friends... and she's so busy... I want someone who could meet up with me tonight if I wanted... and when I see her she just doesn't open up about her life that much... and I invited her last time and she hasn't reciprocated yet...besides she's x (married, without kids, too young-- pick the one that doesn't match your life)" and your brain would be tempted to rule me out.

But here's the genius:  Basically as long as I'm friendly toward you-- then I meet the standards for being your Contact Friend so there's NO need to rule me out!  :) For I think I'm a pretty decent friend! (Do I have a witness?!  LOL!)

So you wouldn't want to rule me out because I don't treat you like a BFF when we're not!

Your Take-Away:  Lower Your Standards!

In other words, don't use the standards you'd have for a best friend for a new friend!  For a new friendship: LOWER your standards!

"Lower my standards?" I hear the panic rising in your voice!

Yes, lower your standards.  Release your expectations.  Stop trying to pick and choose so early in the game.  As long as there are no red flags (think abuse, lying, mean spirit) then be open to being surprised by who might develop into a meaningful friend.

Basically, I can let nearly anyone into my Contact Friends Circle.  If you're not biting me or screaming at me-- I accept you!  Welcome to my Circles!

By letting you in, it doesn't mean that I think we'll become bosom buddies, necessarily; it just means I recognize that all levels of friendship are important and acknowledges that I don't always know which women will be the ones I grow closer to.

Open your life to more people (aka: lower your expectations/standards) and let life surprise you with who you end up developing into a deep and meaningful friendship!

(In fact most of my current Commitment Friends weren't necessarily the women I liked more than anyone else I knew at the time... they are merely the ones where the relationship continued to develop, for various reasons.)

From that Circle, some women I'll run into automatically (at school, work, PTA, association gatherings) and we'll eventually make the jump to Common Friends as we grow our friendship.  For others, I may need to initiate some time together so we can keep seeing where our friendship progresses.

The truth is that if you and I barely know each other, then you shouldn't be trying to figure out whether I could be your Commitment Friend as much as you should be excited that we're now Contact Friends.  And as Contact Friends-- everything I named above as reasons you might rule me out are actually appropriate and healthy actions for that beginning level of friendship.  I really shouldn't be expected to be opening up deeply with you yet, dropping everything for you, or feeling pressure to invite you out in order to keep our friendship "equal."  You can't judge me or guess what I'll be like as a Committed Friend by how I treat you as a Contact Friend.  Does that make sense?  Because the truth is that I, appropriately, give different levels of myself to people based on the friendship that has been developed.

Friendship is NOT how much we think we like each other; it's how much of a pattern two people have in practicing the positive behaviors of friendship.

Your job right now is to lower your standards: let friendly people into your life and make time for them without ruling them out because they don't match the fantasy you have for what an eventual best friend might look like.

So stop auditioning women for the starring role of your BFF and start saying yes to people who are friendly and see where it goes.

For in the world of friendship... horses can become unicorns.  :)

I welcome your questions, concerns, and feedback!  Was this helpful?  Did I confuse you more?  Can't wait to hear from you!

The Test that 70% of Us Are Failing

Researchers are scratching their heads trying to figure out why it's so rare to have women talking to each other about something other than men.

The Bechdel Test for Movies

If you watched Miss Representation several years ago or have read articles that have talked about how few movies have strong women characters that aren't completely focused on a male, then you're familiar with the Bechdel Test.

The Bechdel Test requires that a movie must meet minimum standards to get receive a passing grade.  Those minimum standards include that the movie dialogue must show 1) two women talking to each other 2) about something other than a man.  Some add the requirement that both women actually have to have a name (and not just be "girl behind the counter") or that the conversation has to last at least 60 seconds long.

Even this Barbie movie passed the test since the many named characters all talk to each other about a variety of topics including going to the palace, Lumina's magic, Lumina's job as a hairdresser, etc. If Barbie can pass the feminism test then surely more than 30% of us can do this?  :)

On paper these standards don't seem entirely too lofty to me.   But apparently only about half of the movies end up passing the grade, with the minimum of requirements.

The irony is that we get our panties all twisted every year during Award season as we realize how few of the big movies actually show women talking to each other or not having the entire dialogue revolve around the men in the story, and yet our own lives are showing even worse results!

The Bechdel Test in Our Lives

When asked if they had at least two female friends who they talk to about something besides men, Yale researchers found that only 30 percent of women are able to say yes.

Among those under 35, their favorite theme for discussion is "boys" and for those over the age of 35, the answer shifts only slightly to "spouses."

We are relational creatures, and our romantic relationships are certainly some of the most defining ones in our lives, but really?!?

When we could be talking about things such as our personal growth, news stories that impact us, our changing relationships to our parents, how our identities keep shifting, our insecurities at work, our dreams about what we want to contribute to this world, the projects that light us up, the hobbies that energize us,  the unjust behaviors happening to women around the world, or the ideas that stimulate our brains.  There is so much in this world to talk about in addition to romance.  The world needs us talking about so very many other things.

Intentionally Expanding our Female Relationships

This is, at least, a two-prong issue.

The first is that we have to have more than two women we talk with for more than 60 seconds at a time.  Research is revealing several things that could certainly make time among women more rare: some women who don't confide in anyone other than their guy, some are wary of female friendships, claiming to be more of a "girl who gets along better with guys," some simply have tons of acquaintances but no one they really have deep conversations with, and some are willing to have these conversations but just don't know anyone to confide in.

Clearly, for many, the need is simply establishing more female friendships so that if our lives were being filmed for a movie-- there would be many scenes filled with us having substantial conversations with other women.

The second issue though is that for those of us who do have many female friendships-- we need to practice expanding what we talk about!  We need to practice being together sharing way more about our lives than simply how we feel about how one person in the world feels about us at any given moment.

In short we need more meaningful friendships with other women-- relationships that feel safe and healthy because they are built on us sharing about ourselves in a wide variety of ways.  Relationships that support our romantic interests, but that also support all the other sides of us, too!

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Starting NEXT week!  "The Friendships You've Always Wanted! Learning a Better Way to Meet-Up, Build-Up, and Break-Up with Your Friends!"

Here I am with the wealth of books I selected to feature in this month's "The Friendships You've Always Wanted!" friendship course!

I really hope you'll consider joining us this September-- International Women's Friendship Month--where we will all make a commitment for one month to focus on increasing the frientimacy (friendship intimacy with other women) in our lives!

With our workbook and lots of inspiring interviews-- we will find ways to 1) make more female friends and 2) do so in such a way that they are much deeper than any one topic!  :)

www.FriendshipsWanted.com

The Power of Witnessing Each Other

Yesterday I just sat and listened to her talk about me even though my impulse was to interrupt.

I Panicked.

If you're keeping track, not that I expect you to, but if you were, then you'd notice that it's been two weeks since I've posted a blog. That's partly due to the fact that I am working on my book proposal for my next book so my writing time has been directed toward that consuming endeavor.

And for those of you who haven't written one before, it's basically a 60 page document about my book idea that my agent will use to sell the book. In it I have to outline all my chapters, put together my promotional plan, write two sample chapters, and try to convince whoever is reading it that I'm worth their risk. Once it sells, then I'll write it. And if all goes well, the book will be available in like 2 years! Crazy process, huh?

But it's been really rewarding to outline my idea and give it life. To see my message being given words is exciting!

Until two nights ago.  Then it wasn't so much fun anymore.  Just when I thought I was 80% done, I wondered if I needed to start over. :(

The creative process, being what it is, made me start questioning the whole enchilada!  Who's going to read this, anyway? I mean, really.. who specifically is going to be drawn to this book?  What ache is going to cause them to walk into a bookstore and buy this book? What are they feeling--when they open my book to the first page--that I need to be able to articulate? Basically, though I'm embarrassed to admit it, I felt like I knew the answer, but didn't know what the question was. (Are you willing to help me brainstorm? Here is a 10-question survey where I'd love to hear your opinion!)

Anyone who spent any time with me in the last 2 days was subjected to me quizzing them, begging them to give me the answers that were alluding me. What would make you buy this book, I inquired? Do you like this title or this title? Is this idea worth fleshing out? (Funny how scared we can get even when we know to our core that this is the message I am meant to be giving!)

They Witnessed.

Fortunately, as fate would have it, yesterday was a full scheduled day of engaging with wonderful people.  The morning began with conversations with women from my masterminding groups who helped think through felt needs and title ideas, and the day ended with a 5-hour dinner with an amazing couple whom my husband and I adore, who both communicated such an excitement to read this book that it made me want to come home and write the whole thing at once!

Thank you Jaime for seeing me...

And tucked in the middle of my day was meeting a friend I hadn't seen in a few months for tea.  As I was expressing my concerns to her, she started saying, "I loved how you talked about it when you gave that one talk wearing that sequined dress..."

My eyes narrowed.  "In Seattle? But you weren't there!"

To which she replied, "Oh I watch all your videos." WHAT?!  Seriously? Wow. I felt seen.

And then she began to go into detail describing what she liked about it, how she felt like I put my audience at ease, and how the message is indeed in me... This is where I was tempted to interrupt.

My impulse was to say thanks, or change the subject, or brush it off.  I mean, isn't it kind of weird to just sit there and take it all that goodness for too long?  I don't want to look like a dry desert starving for any drop of water! I value humility.

But a voice of wisdom whispered in me: "You need to hear this.  It's important to hear how people experience you and see you.  What you feel from the stage and what they feel from the audience is vastly different.  You have a woman in front of you willing to hold up a mirror-- look at it Shasta."

So I looked.  I listened intently.  Not from a place of arrogance (isn't that what we're all so afraid of that makes us err on the side of false humility?), but from a place of inquiry and appreciation.

I soaked in how she experienced me and I thought, "I want to bottle this up and write this opening chapter for her... to match what she sees."

The Power of Witnessing

I think our default, especially as women, is to give advice to each other.  Whatever problem someone has we think, "What would I do?" and then we offer up any ideas that come to us.  If we lack solutions, then we go to, "When have I felt this way?" and we offer up a story about how we know what they're feeling.

Advice and Relating are kind of our default modes.  But notice how both approaches turn the focus on us and how we feel, instead of keeping it on them and how they feel?

What my girlfriend Jaime did for me yesterday was hold the attention on me. She witnessed me.  She showed me that she saw me and reminded me that she liked who she saw.

She asked me questions to help me think about it differently: "Pretend you're giving your first interview on this book and they ask you why you wrote this one-- what will you say?"

She reflected back to me where I am strong and beautiful.  She spoke of my essence--that which she experiences about me, those things that I am without having to do or be them, because I just am those things.  She saw me and she wasn't scared to tell me.

And, while I credit her with offering up the gift of validating a friend; I realize that just as important was me be willing to receive it.  If you're anything like me, it can be far more comfortable to give it, than to take it.

But what she said grounded me in who I am and what I have to offer.  And my next book will be the better for me not having interrupted the gift of her witnessing.

May everyone be the kind of friend who witnesses their friends verbally and reminds them of their essence.

Would love to hear if you feel like you get enough of this in your relationships? Do you find it easy to give to others?  Do you wish others gave it to you more often?

 

An Interview with Tiffany: Why I Love GirlFriendCircles.com

In talking to Tiffany this fall she kept crediting GirlFriendCircles with giving her a circle of friends who helped her through a health crisis. I'd say all credit goes to her for fostering friendly people into friends, but her story was so inspiring, I asked her if she'd be willing to share it with all of you! Tiffany was a member of GirlFriendCircles.com in San Francisco, CA for nearly 2 years and is still a huge advocate and ambassador.

So, Tiffany, this particular part of your story begins this last September...

Yes, it was right after Memorial Day and I ended up needing to go to the hospital because I was in so much pain.  I couldn't have guessed upon arrival that they would be telling me that not only were they keeping me there, but also that I needed emergency surgery.

And how did you respond? 

Well I immediately called two friends of mine (one whom I had met through GirlFriendCircles.com) and they put out the word about where I was and what had happened.

The response was unbelievable.

Anne, Julia, Tiffany, and Maurine-- once strangers, now good friends because of GirlFriendCircles.com

Three of our friends, who we had also met through GirlFriendCircles.com (GFC), came and spent hours with me in the emergency room so I wouldn’t have to be alone.  (What makes this even more special is that one of them is an avowed germaphobe who avoids hospitals!) My surgery ended up becoming a 3 ½ day hospital stay.  And there was honestly not one day that went by that this amazing group of women did not call, visit, text, etc. I am convinced that the love and support from them is what made the healing process go so quickly.

I spent two weeks recuperating at home and the “amazingness” continued.  People visited, called, texted, brought me food, took me to doctor’s appointments, stayed with me when I needed it…. It was a truly humbling experience to be on the receiving end of that much love.

Before all this happened, I had in my head that these women were my “village” and it was gratifying to know that it translated to real life!

Take me back to that moment when you realized you actually had friends who were supporting you through this crisis… what did you feel?

I felt incredibly blessed and grateful.  I met all these women through GFC.  The women who show up to GFC, and are intentional about making friends and building community, really do make the world a better place to live.

As a single woman who doesn't live near family, I basically lived through a crisis that would have been so much worse had it happened a few years ago, before I had built up a circle of friends.  We've all had times where we've wondered, "Who would I call in an emergency situation?" and this time, I knew the answer.

Oh that makes me so happy to hear! How did going through this together impact your friendships? 

The ultimate impact of this was that my FRIENDS became my FAMILY in the truest and best sense of that word.  Even though I was the one who was sick, we all now know that we have each other’s back when the chips are down.  We have a community where we lean on each other and celebrate each other’s wins.  We've proven it to ourselves!

It truly was an amazing experience to be a part of.  To me, it's not too big of a statement to say that none of it would have been possible without GirFriendCircles.com. To meet women who were ready and willing to develop meaningful friendships literally gave me a support system, a tribe in this city.

Anything else you want to say?

My take-away is that it is so worth it to invest the time and energy into building a network of female friendships.  I am convinced they are the root of a happy and successful life!

I hope I've been able to convey how amazing and special this group of friends is / has become and that none of it would be possible without us all meeting through GFC. I am so grateful.  Thank you Shasta for starting this...

You're so welcome Tiffany.  Thank you for jumping in, meeting people, and taking the time to foster friendships-- that's where the magic was!

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Tiffany attended 8 Connecting-Circles & 1 Friendship Accelerator during her membership in GirlFriendCircles and that combination of involvement has given her a strong circle of local girlfriends.

Membership deal: Until Dec. 2, women can save 20% off a GirlFriendCircles.com membership, ensuring that your 2014 is filed with invitations to local ConnectingCircles. Promo Code: UPGRADE

Friendship Accelerator: And if you, or someone you know, lives in New York City, San Francisco, or Las Vegas-- I'll be in those cities in early 2014 offering Friendship Accelerators! More info here.

 Want more inspiring stories from real GFC members:

Throwing Myself a Birthday Party of Gratitude!

My birthday was last week and I lived it up this year with a retreat-day (complete with a massage, soaking in a rooftop infinity hot tub, and journaling), an afternoon of shopping with my husband, 3 days of play, America's Cup races, and yummy food with my parents who came into town, and on the actual day of my birthday I threw myself a little birthday party with some of my girlfriends. One or two people made comments like "You shouldn't have to throw your party!" but I smiled and said, "That's what I want to do!"  And indeed it's exactly what I wanted to do.  Why leave it to chance? Why risk it not being fulfilling in the ways that only I could possibly know I need? Why not create the evening I most wanted to experience?  Besides, life has been full with so many different events and groups the last couple of years that so many of my friends hear me talk about each other but haven't actually had the privilege of meeting each other. I could think of nothing I wanted more than to be surrounded by some of my friends and showing them off to each other, possibly even launching a few new friendships among them!

We live in a world where there is only a 50% chance that any two of our closest friends know each other! It's so easy to meet people from here-and-there, giving us the feeling, at times, of having lots of friends but not really having a "group" of friends.  I've realized recently that I have several amazing groups of friends, but that my worlds hadn't collided in a little while.  It was time! A birthday is a fabulous excuse to bring the people we love together! (And with my birthday being on 9/11 I feel an ever greater joy and honor to spend that evening celebrating life and friendships!)

So I made my dream list of local friends. They were quite varied: one has been a friend for the entire 8+ years I've lived in San Francisco and another I just met in May; one was in her early 30's and another in her early 60's, one came in fierce stilettos & fashion garb and another one was make-up free and walking around in her socks; one is traveling around the world on a mission with her life-changing book and another one who isn't quite sure what she'll be doing next; one who has created and celebrates her financial abundance and another who isn't exactly sure how to pay next month's rent; half are mothers, half are not; one has been married over twenty years, another is happily single... And those are just some of the differences between those who could come!

The night was SO very special. I kept the planning easy (tacos!) so that hosting was a breeze.  I wasn't there to impress anyone with my party throwing skills as much as I was there to make sure everyone felt loved!  I don't think anyone who came knew more than 2 other people, some didn't know anyone but me.  But by the end of the evening, I couldn't have been more blessed by the loved felt in the room.  Email addresses were being exchanged, photos texted to each other, and I just sat their gleaming in pride at how amazing my friends are!

That's me in the white tank--the little black lines read love...love...love...:)-- surrounded by some of the women I'm lucky enough to call friends.  Call me a grateful birthday girl!

In fact, one might think that to sit in a room with amazing women who are showing up in this world in such big, beautiful, authentic, and deep ways might be intimidating.  But on the contrary.  As I went around the circle describing each friend to the others I kept hearing myself use words such as "truth speaker," "strong," "independent," "a fierce protector of causes and people," "living out her mission," and "generous." Those words kept coming up over-and-over, and I slowly realized that even while we all couldn't be more different from each other, in other ways we lived out the truism that "You are the sum of your friends."

These ladies have rubbed off on me... been contagious in their courage.  I've not only been more inspired to be those things I admire because of watching them be those things, but it has given me permission to be those things without fear of failure, judgment, or jealousy.  We see each other all doing our best to be the blessing in this world we feel called to be and we cheer each other on. They give me confidence.

My take-aways for you:

1) Throw your own party! I am proud of myself for planning the party I most wanted.  And I ended the night with satisfaction that I was surrounded by the women I wanted around me and that I could run the party how ever I wanted! (complete with sharing questions and stories about each woman!)

2)  Show your gratitude!  I actually named mine a Girlfriend Gratitude Birthday Party, went around the room and bragged on each women in front of everyone, and sent them each home with a card telling them what I admire about them.  (You can get more ideas from my book on page 134-135.)

3) Don't be afraid to collide your circles! I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I felt a small pang of worry the afternoon of the party wondering if my circles of friends  were just too different from each other to really connect, but deep in my heart I knew they'd all rally and fall in love with each other, just as I had.  And it was magical!  Now I feel more joy knowing that many of my friends have met each other.  (And it makes me want to throw myself a monthly birthday party just to do it all again!)

The season of thanks is coming!  So you don't need a birthday to plan your own little soiree.  Just pick a date in early November for a Girlfriend Gratitude Party of your own, make a list of girlfriends and start inviting!  :)

 

 

The Power of Female Stories

There is the passing along of information.  And then there's the telling of stories. Both methods can both convey words, details, and content; but one has more power to bond us in our humanity, help us feel seen, and move us closer to hearing our own truth. Stories are powerful.

Stories of Female Connection

I was reminded of that today as I read through the essays that have been compiled in the Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection anthology. Fifty-one women opened up and let us in.

anthology

  • I was moved by Laura Fenamore's essay as she described her journey with Overeaters Anonymous. I've never struggled with food in the same way or released 100 pounds like she did, but I know the feeling of being ashamed of your body.
  • I felt my heart in my throat as I read Aspen Baker's story about her abortion.  I've never had to face that decision, but as she described how many abortion stories she has (different ways of telling the one story) I nodded knowingly about how many different ways I can tell my divorce story-- all true, just each with a different focus. And as she shared the judgment she faces in the telling, I again nodded in affirmation.
  • When Amie Penwell described her life going from idyllic childhood with two parents to a separation that followed with her father's too-soon death and her mother taking her from one spiritual commune to another, my heart ached for her, wishing I had known her and befriended her when we were young.  I don't know what it feels like to go to six schools in two years.  But I know the feeling she described when she finally found another "wounded warrior" to call a friend.
  • Mickey Nelson's essay opens with the reading she shared at her 28-year old sister's memorial.  How grateful I am that I haven't had to suffer the loss of a sibling, but I know grief.  I resonated with her as she talks honestly about the parts of sadness that time doesn't heal.

I could go on-and-on.  I know only a small handful of the women who contributed to the essays on these pages, and yet after their vulnerability-- I feel close to them.  I saw them.

And, I saw me. Not always in the details, but in the feelings that connect us as humans.

Sharing Our Own Stories

I was reminded how easy it is to put up walls between us assuming no one else knows our pain and our stories. And while our stories may take on very different forms; what was ever clear was that there is more that connects us than we might ever guess.  We all know what it feels like to be lonely, scared, confused, sad, and mad.

I'm struck though how much of our conversations with each other are based upon information:  where do you work? where do you live? are you married? do you have kids? how long have you lived here? did you see the Giants game last night? We ask such informational questions that can leave us with an answer, but not necessarily with greater connection.

Whereas stories (i.e. what drew you to your job? why did you move here? Why is this important to you?) help us connect.  Our empathy--the ability to identify with and understand the feelings of others-- has far greater chances of being tapped when someone shares their experience rather than simply relaying information.

Today, I encourage all of us to ask questions that invite stories.

And choose in some moments to share more than just the information.

If we want people to like us and feel close to us-- we have a far greater chance of that when we're willing to see and be seen. Those moments where we don't just tell each other the canned answers, but risk adding a feeling into the sentence, a moment of vulnerability into the life of another human. Let's tell stories!  Like the women of old who sat around the campfires and passed along their traditions.  Let's show up around metaphoric campfires and really talk, connect, and share.

Congratulations to Christine Bronstein who dreamed and birthed this anthology into existence. In a day and age where much focus is given to the drama of jealousy, competition, and cattiness that can occur between women-- we'd all be blessed for reading some positive stories.  For by beholding, we become changed.  Buy the book here on Amazon TODAY.

 

 

 

 

How to Find a Best Friend

In teaching the 5 Circles of Connectedness last night for a room full of women, I was reminded again how seeing the varying spread of our different types of friends can prove so insightful.  There are countless friendship principles that emerge when we can begin to answer questions by looking at the model.  One such question is "Where do we find a BFF?"

Where do we look for our Best Friends?

When you see that a Best Friend is someone who is on the far right-side of the continuum, in the Committed Friends Circle, and you acknowledge that every friendship starts on the far left-side in the Contact Friends Circle-- then you quickly see first that every BFF is developed, not just discovered.

Even if you both fell in platonic love with each other upon meeting-- you did not meet as Committed Friends.  These Circles don't speak to how much we admire each other or have in common, but rather to how much consistency and intimacy we have practiced with each other.

It is possible for two of us to meet and both want to be best friends with each other-- but that does not make it so.  For just as often as that happens, if we never get together again, a friendship we do not have.  Time engaging with each other, not just good intentions and high hopes, is a prerequisite to a friendship.

So you've heard me say that every friend begins in the Contact Circle. And that is true.  Then, as we practice being together-- initiating consistency over time and incrementally increasing our vulnerability--we move our friendships from Left to Right.

But one mistake I think many of us are making is that we're "auditioning" women in that far-left circle for the job of the far-right circle-- and that is the wrong place to be looking.  While all friendships start in the Contact Circle, that is not where we go picking who we think might someday be our closest confidantes.  No, all we should ever be evaluating our Contact Friends on is, "Am I curious enough to keep leaning in?"  In other words, is there enough there to keep me open to grabbing coffee with her one more time? Sitting next to her during that class again? Finding her after church to say hi one more time? Making sure I walk by her desk today to ask about her weekend?

In this Circle someone can be twice our age, vote our opposite, or have more kids than we have dates-- and that's okay.  We know we want good friends down the road, but we don't really know who that will turn out to be, and the role of a friend in this Circle isn't for them to be just like us. (Read #2 of this blog that talks about what commonalities we need to have.)

Contact Circle Friends can only "apply" to become Common Friends-- the friends where we practice getting to know each other better in whatever commonality brought us together.  They don't get to skip to any other Circle.

Found them!

If we want more women in the Committed Circle, then it's only one Circle toward the left, in our Community Circle, where our future BFF's can be found.

Women have made it into our Community Circle because we've been practicing the dance of friendship together over some time and in some different ways.  Something originally brought us together--i.e. work, a mutual friend, a class, an event--and from there, we have not only taken our conversations deeper, but we've gone beyond that original commonality.  We may have met through an association, but now we get together on our own. We may have met when our kids went to school together, but now even if one of them switched schools, we still get together for coffee.  We may have met through a mutual friend, but we feel comfortable calling each other directly now.

Our Community Circle has a handful of women-- that given just a wee bit more consistency and/or intimacy could develop into the Committed Circle.  If you want a few more women who are 9's and 10's in your life, then go looking at those who are already 6's, 7's and 8's.

Why This Matters:

Understanding that relationships are developed makes all the difference.

For one, it allows you to show up with less judgment in the early stages of a friendship.  We don't need to dismiss someone because they don't have kids and we do, or because they're retired and we're not yet.  We can welcome them into our Contact Circle and just keep leaning in with curiosity.  We don't need to know now, nor could we know, whether this person might someday be on our Right-Side.  For now, we can welcome as much diversity into our lives as possible, letting go of the need to weed people out.  That's not our job at this point.  We are invited to open our arms wider on the far Left-Side.

Second, this helps us hold healthy expectations about each Circle of Friends. Seeing the development reminds us that we can't compare people on the Left-Side to the friends on the Right-Side; being disappointed when a new-ish friend doesn't act like the BFF we're looking for.  Just because a Contact Friend doesn't call you as much as you wish doesn't mean she wouldn't if you two developed the friendship into Community or Commitment Friends.  We can't dismiss people for not acting like the friend we hope to have when we're not yet anywhere close to having earned or developed that kind of attention, time, and vulnerability.

And third, it showcases how important it is to constantly be inviting people into our Continuums, moving some of them along into more intimate circles.  Our Circles shift, people move, life happens.  To build a strong social support in our lives, we will need to not just foster the friendships we love right now, but we will also want to continue connecting with others that may prove meaningful down the road.

We want to know that when we are in the market for adding another close friend into our lives (as we are more often than we want to admit!) that we have nurtured the possibilities that will make that search a little easier.

 

 

 

Three Friendship Inspirations from a 7-Year Old

It has been a record 22 days since I've blogged!  I guess you can't complain you're ever getting too many e-mails from me!  :)  My excuse for my negligence is two-fold: First, I sent off the complete draft of my book manuscript "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" to my publishers in the beginning of May so all my daily writing time was focused on getting that done instead of blogging! And my second reason is that the day after I e-mailed those 80,000 words, my husband & I flew out to Tampa, FL for 12 days to babysit my 7-year old niece and 4-year old nephew while my sister and her hubby enjoy their first long get-away without kids. So as a substitute mom I've pretty much limited my work to the bare bones while I'm here playing!   

Three Friendship Inspirations We Can Learn From Kids

But now the kids are happily playing in a homemade fort we built in the backyard so I thought I'd share my musings about three moments of beautiful friendship I've witnessed from my first-grade niece, Naomi. The first example comes from her meeting a stranger at the beach over the weekend, then I share two moments with her best friend (known in this post as T.) who lives down the street.

  1. I love how kids don't need a ton of warm up to play with others: We weren't at the beach for even an hour before Naomi and another little girl introduced themselves to each other in the water. They were inseparable the rest of the day as they practiced standing on boogey-boards, jumped on inflatable toys, and collected shells. I just shook my head in awe.  Never in a million years would I be making friends on the beach.  Not because all the other women didn't look friendly, but we simply don't walk up to people sun-bathing, introduce ourselves, plop down on their towels, and spend the afternoon together. But that's not to say we can't learn from her. I love that kids value the moment, playing with whomever is there, caring more about having fun now than trying to figure out whether they have a future together or not. We all value connection and there are a lot of activities in life that would be enhanced with new friends even if we don't know it will only last an hour or a day.
  2. I love how kids easily express adoration:  We arrived a few days early so we could attend Naomi's 7th birthday party.  Her BFF made her a card where she wrote: "You and I have been best friends since I moved. I wish I knew you since I was a baby. You are the bestest friend anyone can have! I wish in my next life we can be together." Wow! That they don't yet filter their adoration is such a sweet gift of childhood.  They aren't consumed with worrying about whether they'll look desperate, whether the other feels the same way, or whether it's 'too soon' to say it yet. They just proclaim the friendship into eternity.  Some of us adults can do that with friends we've known forever, but I've noticed we become much more guarded as adults, taking much longer to tell each other "I really like you!"
  3. I love how kids steal extra moments together: Naomi quickly informed me upon my arrival, "You know Aunt Shasta that T. and I play together every day, right?" Her face looked a little worried that when her parents were to leave that maybe I wouldn't know the routine.  I smiled and said, "yes" thinking this is exactly why friendship felt so much easier as kids-- we had every day together! Now I'm lucky if I see new friends once a month! Then a super precious moment came when T.'s older sister came to tell T. that she had to come home one day when they were playing over here. Next thing I know T. is running away from her sister, refusing to go home, not wanting to leave her BFF.  Her older sister began chasing her, begging her to obey.  T. then runs to Naomi for help; they stand there clinging to each other, refusing to end their time together without a fight. I'm sure if I were the mother who had to put up with that often then I may not find it as charming, but as the visiting aunt who knows the value of friendship I loved it! In our adult lives we schedule each other in, fitting our friends between this-and-that appointment, rarely giving each other an entire afternoon and then begging for more time together! It inspired me. To watch kids get together with no plan for what they will do ahead of time, play for as long as they can, and still wish for more time together-- that is as good as it gets!

I do believe that there was an ease in childhood friend-making that we can't always repeat as adults.  In fact, my book is all about how to meet people and develop them into meaningful friendships because I find that we often, as adults, just keep waiting and hoping that friendships will one day feel as easy as it did back when we were kids.  We may not now have the repetition of school or an open schedule to play every afternoon as we did back then, but we need friendships all the same. 

Naomi inspired me, reminding me that it doesn't always have to be complicated.  When it comes down to it, if we just 1) played with the people we met, 2) told them we liked them, and 3) tried to spend as much time together as possible-- that really is the bulk of friend-making. Even as adults.  

What do you miss about childhood friendships? In what ways are friendships the same or different as kids from adults? What observations have you had about friendship when you watch kids play?