Circles of Connectedness

How to Deepen the Long-Distance Friendship

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

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

5 types of friends image

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

How to Deepen the Friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Positivity:

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

Consistency:

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

    long distance friends

Vulnerability:

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

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

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

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The Key to Starting a Women's Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cost of the Constant Catch-Up Cycle

Lunch with a friend? Yeah it was okay.... nothing amazing. Phone call with a friend? Glad we got that out-of-the-way for another 2 months....

Dinner with an out-of-town friend? Meh.

She's texting me to see when we can get together next?  hmmm.... three weeks from now is fine.

For many, the time with our friends isn't all that meaningful and amazing.  I mean it feels good to know we got together and caught up, but it's not like we're clearing our calendar in excitement for our next get-together.  We feel good about ourselves for keeping up with them, but it's hard to always be sure it's worth the extra money spent on drinks or the time away from ______ (the kids, the TV series you're currently bingeing, or the hot romance).

When the time together isn't super meaningful, it makes sense that we'd pull away a bit over time, let more time pass in between catch-ups, or not prioritize that friendship over everything that keeps us busy.

But for some of our friendships the answer may not be pulling away and spending less time with each other as much as it is to lean in and spend more time together.

For far too many of us, our friendships are caught in a vicious cycle of not spending enough time together to feel really meaningful. I call it the Constant Catch-Up Cycle.

This vicious Cycle is what happens when our time together is either too infrequent or too short to even get us across the line into really meaningful time together. It has less to do with her and more to do with the fact that the two of you aren't spending enough time together to get to that place where deeper conversations can happen.

Constant Catch Up Cycle

What is the Constant Catch-Up Cycle?

This Constant Catch-Up Cycle is what happens when we get together with friends and spend the whole time catching up (Read: updating and reporting) with each other since the last time we met, be it a month ago or a year ago. How are you? How's work going? How's your family? How's so-and-so? Are you dating? By the time we both give a cliff notes version to our lives, the check has come (or the commute is over so the phone call is too) and our time together is over, until next time.

What does feel good about this experience is that we can check that person off our list of people we need to "catch up with" and we feel accomplished in some way that we've now fulfilled a friendship responsibility.  Furthermore, and this is no small thing, it does keep us in touch which helps us feel like we're a wee bit closer to each other if we, or they, ever needed it.

Unfortunately, what doesn't feel good about this all-too-common experience is that these drive-by catch-ups rarely touch our hearts or enhance our lives.  Chances are high that we drove home, or got off the phone, and felt relief, but not necessarily love and joy.  It's more likely we alleviated some guilt than found ourselves excited to repeat it again. In other words, while they may now know how we feel about our job and we may know how their kids are doing, there are many things we simply can't experience when the time is too infrequent or too rushed.

The Price of Catching Up

Getting caught up in the Constant Catch-Up Cycle means that every time we're together we're focused on what has happened in our lives, which means that there are many feelings, topics, and experiences (usually all the ones we most crave!) that aren't as likely to happen.

Here are some of the things we often sacrifice when our time is limited or infrequent:

  • Pursuing the Transcendental and Philosophical Themes: We probably don't take the time to meander into topics like fears, ideas, politics, injustice, creative process, or personal growth since those don't come up in the first three questions we ask and answer. And even if we did mention them as part of an update... when was the last time we got into a long conversation where we both were sharing, prodding, growing, and learning?
  • Sharing the Unspoken Vulnerabilities: We are less likely to share our secret worries or dreams because we tend to stay on what's concrete and has happened, rather than on what really matters and what might happen. And the shorter our time together is, the less willing we will be to open something that feels big to us. We may have withheld something that is unfolding in our lives because we reasoned that it would take too long to catch them up on the back story.
  • The Opportunity for New Memories: We rarely create new memories together or have genuine fun together when we're "just grabbing a meal" or "calling real quick."  When was the last time we actually did something together that felt fulfilling, fun, and something to put in the memory bank?
  • The Feeling of Being in the Flow: We may not have been present enough to be ready to laugh, to pause, or to feel whatever needed to be felt since those things so often come from the part of us that is present, relaxed and open, not the part of us that is multi-tasking, rushed, and thinking about where we have to be next. When was the last time we were together without needing to do something or be somewhere afterward? When were we just sitting back ready to let our time together unfold and flow?
  • The Probability of Feeling Relaxed and Easy: If we don't see each other often then we have to spend our time "catching up" instead of watching movies, relaxing together, or just hanging out in each others homes. If we haven't talked in a while then it feels weird to call for 10 minutes while we're making dinner to ask her what she's cooking tonight. The more rare our time together is the less likely it is to feel like we're doing life together in a relaxed and easy manner. Sometimes talking about "nothing" is a hallmark of intimate type of friendship.

Chances are high that when most of us crave more meaningful friendships-- that it includes some of the things on that list above? I rarely am thinking, "Wow I wish I had someone to just call and update!" Instead, we're pining for laughter, long and deep conversations about life, the feeling of safety and ease, the relaxed feeling that spaciousness and intimacy creates.

The Invitation to Move Beyond Catching Up

I call this tendency a Cycle because just as it can be true that the less we see each other, the less meaningful our time together will often feel, which then reinforces the infrequency; so too is the opposite: the more consistent we are or the more we allow longer periods of time with those friends-- the more meaningful those friendships can often feel.  All it takes is one amazing long evening of laughter and authentic sharing and we'll be more excited to schedule it into our lives with a "yes please! I want more of that!"

We obviously can't do deep and consistent time with every friend in our lives, but we most certainly need it with a few.  Which friendship in your life isn't feeling super meaningful right now because you two are caught up in the Constant Catch-Up Cycle? And what might you do to increase the odds of the two of you getting past the "catch-up" so you can actually move into the enjoying of this friendship?

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!

Not Enough Time for Friends? Awesome Examples of Structuring Life Around Relationships

When I ask women what one thing they wish they could change about their friendships-- the number one answer is along the lines of wishing their friends made more time for them. We're weary by how we have to schedule each other 3-weeks out, initiate a dozen emails back-and-forth, and wonder if we're a priority to the other person.

We live in a time-crunched culture where everyone believes that time is scarce and many a friendship is falling victim to a lack of time together.  We aren't just sitting on front porches, sipping iced tea late into the evening, talking about life, and watching our kids play in the quiet tree-lined streets together.

So in a world where many women are putting relationships on the back-burner, I want to hold up three of my friends who are making amazing decisions to structure their lives around their friends. May they inspire all of us to not just do what is easy, but to do what is important to us.

Willing to Schedule Time FOR Friendship

My girlfriend, Sherilyn, and I try to talk on the phone at least once a week, often for up to an hour at a time. That is impressive considering I do it in the middle of my work day, between writing, giving interviews, and running my company; and that she's doing it with

Sherilyn and me together earlier this summer in Seattle on one of her get-away's with friends. xoxo

three kids running around and begging for attention.  But we set aside the time, knowing that if we want to feel close to each other and really know what's going on in each others hearts that it's easier to do that on a regular basis than an irregular basis.

But last week she upped the ante and impressed me even more in proving just how important friendships are to her.

She's been gone this summer a bit more than normal, including at least two trips to spend time with friends, so when the husband of one of her close friends called to see if she could fly out for his wife's birthday over Labor Day weekend, she was tempted to say no.  And none of us would have faulted her: her husband has gone above and beyond this summer watching the kids so she could take off at various times, her kids start school the day after she would get back so she'll miss much of the school prep, and her schedule is nuts between now and then.  Had she said no, we would have supported her for not over-extending herself.

But she and her husband have a habit of separately thinking and praying about something for a period of time before making a big decision so they decided to convene in 24 hours to decide.  Both of them showed up in that conversation on the same page, with her husband articulating, "Life is about relationships... if there is anything we should be structuring our life around it is for this. Go be with your friends."

Wow.  So he's watching the kids one more weekend, and she's practicing not feeling guilty, trusting that she's making time for what they feel matters the most in life.  Most of us would have simply said no because we're busy and tired without even stopping to think about whether it supports our values or not.

Willing to Commit Finances FOR Friendship

Another one of my friends, Ayesha, announced two years ago to a monthly group of us that gets together to support each other, that her husband was taking a job in New York City.  But because her friendship meant so much to us she said she was going to keep flying out once a month to spend that evening with us.

Here I am with Ms. Ayesha in CA where I am so grateful that she still comes back frequently to be with her friends.

Buying a place in New York City isn't cheap and as they've been trying to get more established in their new city it would have made sense to say "this monthly expense of flying back-and-forth is too costly."  Indeed it has a pretty expensive price tag on it.

But she knows that if these are friendships that are important to her to maintain face-to-face then she will have to invest in them.

We can't all afford to do that, but what she's showcasing is amazing.  What she invites us to look at in our own budgets is how sometimes it costs us something to maintain the friendship; and that a price tag isn't bad if you're getting meaningful connection on the other side of it.

Willing to Move FOR Friendship

When one of my best friends, Daneen, texted me in June to let me know that she and her husband were thinking about moving away from San Francisco, my heart just fell.  We all know how hard it can feel to finally develop meaningful friendships so the idea of losing a little bit of that time together was tough to swallow.

And yet... I was so immensely proud of her because her reason for moving was to go back to a community where she feels like she belongs.  She and her husband met in college in this community, where his family lives and where they still have many friends.

A few days ago, Daneen, (in the middle) drove over an hour from her her new home to come into the City to spend an evening with me and Vania!

Since having a child, San Francisco has felt like a hard place to have community that both includes children and spirituality.  (Her story in her words.) While there is much they love here, they are moving away to a place where they hope to have more families over for dinner and more engagement in a church community. It's a small community so they're likely to run into people they know at the grocery store and can walk down the street to connect with neighbors.

In a world where people move frequently for jobs, more money, or for love--leaving friendships to chance; (Here's an article I wrote for Huffington Post called 5 Things to Consider Before Moving Away From Friends) I find it amazingly inspiring to move for friendships, and trusting that they can find the other pieces.  All too often we leave a place, walking away from friendships, forgetting that it will take years before we can build those up again. And while she's moving away from me and a few others; she's leaning into a place where her life will be far more established around the community she craves. She is willing to plant herself where she believes her opportunities for meaningful friendship will increase.

What Am I Willing to Invest?

I hesitate to tell the stories because I don't want anyone feeling any guilt, whatsoever; but I choose to tell them because I think there's an inspirational element to them, also.

We are so often modeled by others that friendships come-and-go, that they are the first thing to let go of when life gets busy, or that they are only important when it's convenient.  So I think it's important for us to hear stories of what other women are doing, what they're willing to invest, what they're willing to do to maintain their friendships.  It's important for us to know that it's not crazy to make choices in favor of friendship. It invites us to ponder, "Maybe I do have one evening a week to go out with friends" or "Maybe I could commit to one hour a week to talk to one of my best friends."

Time isn't necessarily scarce; we just have to prioritize what we believe is worth structuring our lives around during the time that we do have.

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Starting in 3 weeks!  "The Friendships You've Always Wanted! Learning a Better Way to Meet-Up, Build-Up, and Break-Up with Your Friends!"*

Friendships Wanted banner-01One way to practice committing more time to our friendships is to choose friendship as your priority this September for International Women's Friendship Month!

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 for this 21-day class filled with up to 13 expert interviews 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 we are structuring our lives around them in a way that feels good to us!  :)

www.FriendshipsWanted.com

* Sign up early and we'll send you a free copy of my book "Friendships Don't Just Happen!"

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

I have sat in 5 circles of women and 2 circles of couples in the last 7 days, with two more coming up this weekend, which is a bit more connection than I typically allow for in my schedule, but my heart is feeling such gratitude and fullness today. I want to share a few of them with you because I want you to see how they got started, how different they each are, and how meaningful they are in so many different forms.  So many of you crave having more Circles in your life, and I want you to see what is possible for you to create.

Being in Circle Invites Support

Last Friday I was sitting around a table at a restaurant because I said yes to an invitation from someone I didn't know who was hosting what she was calling 12@12, 12 women she admires coming together for lunch at 12 pm for us to meet each other and find ways to support one another. She had made the reservations and initiated the gathering, and we all reaped the benefits.

Business mastermind womens group

When we went around the circle to introduce ourselves we had to answer three questions: What do we do? What is our super power? And, what is one challenge we're facing right now? Just from hearing those shares, one woman has reached out with an offer to introduce me to a friend of hers who is in charge of finding speakers for an event, I offered to make a donation from GirlFriendCircles to the non-profit that one of them is starting in order to bring art to children. Being in Circle invites support.  When women hear how they can help each other-- they do.

Being in Circle Invites Accountability

On Monday, I hosted six friends in my home for an afternoon of journaling and sharing, ending with dinner and celebrating.

womens circle for journaling and reflecting

This group came about because the day before New Years I had invited a handful of friends (who didn't know each other at all before that date) to come launch 2014 by setting aside the time to reflect, honor, and set intention in the midst of community.  As everyone was hugging each other good-bye that evening, everyone kept saying, "Can we do this again? Sooner than next New Years?" So I scheduled this one to celebrate the end of the first quarter.

It's one thing to pause and make sure I'm honoring my growth in recent months and getting clear about what I want the upcoming months to hold, and it's quite another hearing the honesty of others and getting clearer as I hear myself talk out loud. It was easy planning-- invitations were sent, everyone brought something to share for our dinner, and I just had some journaling prompts (such as "What am I tolerating in my life? and What is bringing me the most energy these days?") to give us some loose structure. Being in Circle holds the space to do things like journaling and reflecting that we value but don't always do on our own.

Being in Circle Invites Brainstorming, Feedback, and Ideas

Yesterday morning, I participated in two beautiful Circles that were both virtual. One was my entrepreneur mastermind circle (apply at Savor the Success to be matched into one!) where 4 of us spend an hour every other week on video chat getting the collective wisdom and expertise to help us grow our business.  I am hoping to partner with a few brands that might sponsor GirlFriendCircles and these women spent 10 minutes giving me every idea they had for what that can look like as I take my next step on a road that is unfamiliar to me.  Being in Circle with these women makes me a better business owner.

The other Circle happens early every Thursday morning via the phone.  There are seven of us who affectionately call ourselves The Rebel Queens. Queens because we are all thought-leaders, speakers, and authors who feel called to bring our messages of love into this world, each in our own domain and expertise; Rebels because that means we'll speak against norms, ruffle some feathers, and invite people out of their comfort zones. We know the power of having space where we can be vulnerable, witnessed, and supported by other women who are big, bright, and imperfect.  We'll each have days and areas where we will feel insecure; and days and areas where we can celebrate the success of each other. We each take time to share our hearts and receive the prayers and reflections of the group. This group was started by a couple of them who were friends deciding they wanted to have more structure to their support and connection, so they decided to start a small group and invited a few others in who they felt would be resonate. Being in Circle with these women helps me practice shining my best self in confidence that my shining gives permission to others to do the same.

Being in Circle Invites Fun

This Sunday is my 10/10 retreat day!  There are ten of us women who meet on the last Monday of every month. I started this group 3 years ago with two other friends.  We knew the power of networking but didn't like the idea of mingling at networking events as much as we liked the idea of a group of women committing to supporting each other regularly.  So we compiled a list of names of women we knew, or knew of, and sent them an invitation asking if they wanted to commit to attending at least 8 of the 10 monthly meetings that were scheduled.

Womens Retreat Day mastermind group

Three years ago we planned one day-long retreat in addition to the evening meetings.  It was so much fun that last year we decided to up it to twice a year.  And, this year, you won't be surprised that we scheduled three of them!  We always keep them easy, meeting at someone's home, adding some yoga or a walk, good food, and lots of laughter and sharing that bonds us way beyond a typical mastermind monthly session.

 

Being in Circle Invites Intimacy

Many of the groups I described above started as Left-Side Circles, meaning that I was either meeting with complete strangers where we became Contact Friends, or committing to the group for the purpose of bonding over what we had in common (i.e. entrepreneurs, speakers) which made us Common Friends.  The groups where we have the most consistency (either by meeting weekly, or because we've been meeting for several years) now are also growing in intimacy.  May of the women I met in these Circles have been invited into my other Circles as we continue to grow our friendships in multiple ways.

best friends, girls groups

But one of my Circles started with my closest friends.  Three of us made a commitment to get 2 dates on the calendar every month, if we can.  We schedule a few months out and plan life around those sacred Circles where three of us, who have now known each other for nearly 7 years, come together and instantly go deep. We have the power of history; the memory of where we've each been, what we've each survived and struggled with; and have seen glimpses of who we're each becoming that we can continue to hold up in front of each other.

Choose Your Circles

Being in these Circles never "just happens."  Your calendar will never just automatically pop up an alert that says "Women's Circle" without you putting it there.  Intention is necessary. Admitting what you want is important. Extending invitations is part of creating a Circle.

If you crave being in Circle with other women, I hope one of these stories inspires you... I wish upon you the opportunity to receive the power of the Circle.

p.s. TIP: If you're a member of GirlFriendCircles.com, our web site to meet new friends, then be sure to post a ClassifedCircle with the type of Circle you want to belong to and see who else wants to join you!  :)

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

We all want those really easy, meaningful, comfortable, and deep friendships with no drama, right?  And while that sounds fabulous, the truth is that most of us are silently suffering from some form of loneliness as we just keep waiting for those relationships to fall in our laps, the way little girls look for little fairies hovering over flowers. I want meaningful friendships for you.  So very much, I do!  But we have to come to the table with healthy expectations and thoughtful beliefs, rather than with hopes, myths, and limiting beliefs that sabotage us from creating substantial relationships.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make In Their Friendships

1.  You Hope That Good Friendships Will Be Discovered.  This is still numero uno on the mistake list.  In fact I titled my book Friendships Don't Just Happen to help speak to this very damaging belief in our lives.

But we all have examples of meeting an amazing woman that we connected with, loved, 180279_10151573165137435_1652204527_nand experienced great chemistry with... only to never really see much, or ever again. Simply meeting each other and liking each other doesn't make for a friendship.

And on the flip side, we all have an example of a friend (often someone we worked with or continued to see in some setting) that we grew to love that we didn't necessarily have fireworks with when we first met them.

Friendship isn't finding someone; friendship is developing consistent positive behaviors over time with someone.  And that doesn't just happen.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

2.  You Stop Developing New Friends. You hear me say this repeatedly, but it bears the repetition: We are losing half our close friends every 7 years.

That means that life changes such as moves, career transitions, relationship changes, and different life stages each bring a shift in our friendships that frequently leave us drifting apart from some friends.

Realizing that friendship development from stranger to close friend can sometimes take a year or two, we don't want to wait until we need close friends before we start them.  We never want to stop paying attention to progressing other relationships from our Left-Side to our Right-Side of the Circles.

Just for an example, let's pretend that our Committed Friends are at 100% with us-- as vulnerable, as close, and as involved as we want.  While we may not need to foster any other friendships to that same place right now, we certainly don't want to leave them all at 10%, 20%, or even 40%.

Because the truth is that life happens and there are events that will leave those 100% friends less available (i.e. friend moves away, starts traveling a lot for work, has a baby/gets married and gets caught up in her life).  They might go back to 20% or 40%, and the question that begs to be asked, then, is whether you have other friends at 50% or 60% that, with more time and connection, could develop into more meaningful friendships.

We want to make sure we're always welcoming new people into our Circles and fostering some of them into deeper Circles so that we have meaningful friendships at all levels, at any given time.

We need to see friend-making as an ongoing way of life, rather than as something we do once and then forget about.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

3.  You Think Mutuality Means Equal Initiation.  Oh so many friendships never get off the ground due to the fear in us that whispers, "I invited her last time, the ball is in her court now." So not true.

We all have strengths to give to our friendships; and initiation and planning are just that-- a strength that we all have in varying degrees.

I'm good at thinking up things to do and reaching out when I have the extra time and head space.  I never think, "Oh I had them over last time... it's their turn."  I think, "Oh I want to see them again, let me email them to see if they can come over!"

And they reciprocate in the friendships in plenty of other ways.  They thank me for inviting them over, they helped make a night of meaningful conversation and memories, they asked about my life, they showed interest, they shared their stories with me.  I got what I needed: time with friends.

Mutuality is important.  But mutuality is not 50/50 in each task, but it's whether we both are contributing to the friendship, overall.

If you're the one who wants it, then make the ask.  Don't let your fear of rejection stop you from initiating what you desire.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

4. You Compare New Friends With Close Friends.  I used to do this all the time!  I'd go out with someone new and conclude that the time with them just wasn't what I was looking for.  What I wanted was meaningful conversation, easy time together, lots of validation and affirmation, and just a whole bunch of obvious commonalities.  What I often got was two people trying to get to know each other, both showing up with their own insecurities (expressed often by one talking too much or both being very polite and image conscious), both wishing it felt more deep and less awkward.

What I'd conveniently forget is that all those things I wanted come with time together with someone.  My closest friends have gone through serious life with me and we've had so much vulnerability, history, and time together that it always feels super meaningful.

The awkwardness, or lack of intimacy, isn't a reflection on that person, but rather on that relationship.  In other words, time spent with someone doesn't show what they can become, only what it is now.  And right now it's two people meeting each other so it's actually quite appropriate and normal to not feel like best friends yet.

More blogs related to this: here and here.

5.  You Create a Story About Your Friends Actions.  And this is the most common mistake that happens when we start feeling sour about a friendship-- we assign meaning to their behaviors that usually either devalues our friend (i.e. "she shouldn't make that choice or have that priority") or devalues our friendship (i.e. "she must not care about me or prioritize our friendship") when usually neither of those are the intended message.

When we are feeling the love toward someone, we are generous with them, often assuming the best about them and their actions (i.e. she must be busy!).  When we're feeling like we have unmet needs that they aren't tending to, often we jump to conclusions that end up putting a wedge between us and them (i.e. she doesn't value me!").

Those stories are damaging.  They cover up the fact that there is probably a need there that needs articulating and expressing; and instead comes out in the form of judgment which never helps pull people together.

When we feel ourselves start to devalue people we love, we need to see that as an invitation to step back and own everything we can about what's going on.  Good questions: Am I mad at her because I might be jealous?  Am I judgmental because I'm insecure about my own life so somehow attacking her choices makes me feel better about mine?  Am I feeling neglected because I need more support in my life and I'm erroneously thinking it needs to come from her (remember it's our responsibility to make sure we have built up a circle of support so no one person needs to be everything to us all the time!)?  Am I looking for her faults to justify pulling away for some other reason?  Am I keeping a list of wrong-doing without ever taking the time to share with her what I need?

We all too often start pushing someone away when it's actually a relationship that has a lot of our invested time and resources in it.  I want to protect my investments, not walk away from them too easily!  Far more meaningful, usually, to salvage a relationship than to start over!

More blogs related to this: here and here.

Christmas Card Conundrums: Send Them? Why? How Many? To Whom?

Every so often I get a question in my inbox that triggers an idea for a blog that I would have never even thought up on my own; this week is one of those. (A sincere sorry to those who have written suggestions and I haven't yet gotten to them!  I might still!) This email landed in my inbox on the very day I was compiling my own Christmas card list:

"I begrudgingly addressed *320* Christmas Cards over the weekend and I couldn't help but think that you probably have some advice / decision criteria for thinning it out to a more manageable amount.  Clearly everyone has their own motivations and their "right" number --  all I know is that 320 is WAY TOO MUCH for us!  Perhaps this is a topic for a blog post!?"

While totally wanting to honor the truth in that question that everyone will have different reasons and list sizes, I can at least offer up some principles and questions that might help us each make those decisions for ourselves.

How I Decide How Many Holiday Cards To Send?

I'll start with my short answer, and then give a longer answer that shows how it plays out for me.

In short, my rule is this: "Send the maximum number that still feels loving and expansive to my heart and body, stopping 10 short of the number that starts feeling heavy, guilt-ladden, or resource-depleting."

What that looks like is a bit like planning a wedding invitation list.  You don't have to invite everyone-- a meaningful wedding can have 2 witnesses or 1000.  We make the choice based primarily on 2 things: "What time/money/energy do I have this season?" and "Who do I want to give those limited gifts to?"

  1. What are my resources this season?  In wedding language we would talk about a budget, how much time you have to make homemade centerpieces, and how much energy you want to put toward organizing this event in the midst of whatever else you have going on that year.  In holiday card language we must ask the same questions.  If your budget is tight this season, then you'll start reaching your limit sooner.  If your time is plentiful, then you may get excited about a few weeks of crafting homemade cards in front of a fireplace.  If your energy is waning then it may be that a short note of love being emailed out feels more do-able than coordinating that perfect holiday photo.  What resources are you coming into this season with?
  2. Who are my priorities with the resources I have?  In wedding language that would be like saying, "Okay, I have tons of money, now, would I rather pour that into a destination wedding for a few or an open-bar for everyone my parents have ever met?" Or, on the contrary, "I don't want to go into debt for this wedding, so I might need to either invite fewer people or decide to do snacks instead of a sit-down dinner." You know the process. In holiday card land, we need to do the same thing.

So finding that number between those two answers--where you stop short of feeling stress and angst-- is the goal.

And to state the obvious, every year is different for me.  So it doesn't matter what I did last year; it matters what we can and want to do this year.

What Is the Purpose of Sending Holiday Cards?

In a day and age of Facebook, when it feels like everyone knows what's going on with your life, do we still really need to even send holiday cards?

I lean toward yes. I believe holiday cards are a gift of thoughtfulness to people; not just updating. I'd like to invite you to send them out not from a place focused on your life, but but from a place focused on someone feeling remembered and loved. And to do that, we don't need "amazing" lives or worrying about how to wow others.

I remember the year after my divorce feeling like I couldn't send out cards because all the photos you see are of smiling families or couples.  But that misses the point.  I wanted to say thank you to my friends for supporting me that year and communicate that I was still alive after a tough year.  I remember one year not having much news to report and feeling lame, but again, that misses the point; I could still say "I'm wishing you the best new year" while I'm hoping the same for myself.

A challenge I hope some of you take on is that if you are typically the person who thinks they need to have this amazing card sent to a massive list as one of those things that makes you feel better about yourself-- this year consider just writing cards of love to 25 people instead.  And, on the flip-side, if you're someone who never sends out cards because you mistakenly think you need to have this"perfect" family photo or some big news--this year consider doing the same-- just pick 25 people (or whatever number feels do-able and good!) to say "Happy holidays!"

Let go of feeling like you have to reveal the perfect photo, share the most amazing updates, or have a glamorous and seemingly great life-- and instead, see it as a chance to send love to others who undoubtedly feel the same way you do 90% of the time.  Give love.

Who Makes the Cut and Stays on My List?

I actually think the 5 Circles of Friendship can serve as a useful resource as you make your decisions about who to send cards to.

One year, I decided to only send cards to my Confirmed Friends-- the women with whom I always want to feel close with even if we only talk once or twice a year, but opted to skip the friends I'm in constant touch with since I knew I'd be celebrating with them in other ways.  One year, I included my Committed and Community Friends in that list and decided that what felt best to me was hand writing cards to all 20 of them to tell them what I loved about them.  I obviously couldn't take on such an expression of love if my list that year included every friend in my life.

5 types of friends image

 

 

 

 

And every few years I think, "It's been a while since I've touched base with everyone-- I'm going to take it on!" and I look forward to a few evening of fires, hot drinks, and a big project. But even then, I go through my address book and ask myself:

  1. Who am I actually still in touch with?  (There's no point in sending cards to people from my past unless they're also still part of my present! And no guilt in not staying in touch with the whole world--that's what Facebook can help with!)
  2. Who fits this years criteria? (Nah, she's more business, and this year I'm sending to personal friends.  Or, no she's my daughter's friend, but not really mine.)

Going back to the wedding metaphor,  if you only have x hours and x dollars then you can't invite everyone and you need to pick your top 20 or your top 50 or your top 100.  And start on the Right-Side and work your way Left until the x number of cards you ordered are gone.

No wrong answer here. I don't for a second believe holiday cards have to be mutual.  I send them to the people I love with no strings attached.  They don't owe me one!  And I assume the same for those who send me one.  If they want to remove my name from next years list because I didn't send them one this year then so be it- my worth doesn't go up or down one iota based on how many cards I get.

Holiday love from me and my hubby, Greg Nelson, to you.  May you stand under your metaphoric "kissing ball" this season with courage and hope. xoxo

This year, I encourage you to give as much love as you can in whatever ways it feels do-able.  A card sent in stress is no gift at all.  Send what you can with love.  If it's only 6 cards-- then 6 it is. Our goal is let the people who matter to us know that they are loved-- however you do that is fine.  Breathe deeply and let go of any obligation to love in any way that causes you more stress than joy.

And because I cannot, and will not, send holiday cards to you all-- "I wish you each a very meaningful holiday-- that you will receive what you most deeply need." xoxo

The Ebb & Flow: Friendships Move in Both Directions

While teaching a Friendship Accelerator last weekend (sign up here if you're interested in me coming to your area to teach/facilitate) I made a note to myself, while standing at the whiteboard with marker in hand, that I wanted to remember to blog about how friendships move in both directions. Mental note remembered.  :)   We often talk about ending a friendship or drifting apart from friends as though they are being, or have been, "removed" from our lives.  But that's not usually the case.  Most frequently, our friendships aren't as cut-and-dry as someone simply being "in" or "out", bridges aren't always burning behind us, and there isn't always this declaration of the friendship ending permanently. The truth is, that for most friendships there is simply a shift that happens, often without intention or awareness.

I want us to visually see what that shift can look like.

Increasing Frientimacy with the 5 Circles of Connectedness

If you're a long-time follower of this blog, a past attendee of one of my workshops, or a reader of my book, then you know that I teach the 5 Circles of Connectedness as a visual tool for helping us see the movement of our friendships from those circles on the Left-Side to those circles on the Right-Side, from Contact Friends to Commitment Friends.  From the most casual of our friendships that depend upon a specific context for us to be connecting (i.e. work, association meetings, children's school) to the most intimate of friendship where we are confiding in them regularly, there are steps along the way.

5 types of friends image

For example, during my workshops, I find that the majority of women long for more Committed Friends when they find themselves wishing for more connection in their lives.  For them, it's not just knowing more people that appeals to them, but actually experiencing Frientimacy (the intimacy between safe and known friends) with a few of them that matters most.  Seeing where their current friendships fall on this continuum helps them assess which friendships could be moved to the right (from other Circles) to the far right where they want them, with an intentional increase in consistency, interaction, and revealing.

To be clear, all friendships start at Contact Friends.  We never meet someone and put them in any other circle, no matter how much chemistry there is, how much we like them, or how many things we have in common with them.  All friendships start on the left when they are new and then move to the right as we put into place the repeated positive behaviors that will become our friendship with that person.  Only as we get to know each other more (in new areas and in deeper ways), which comes with time together, will we move friendships to the right.

Decreasing Frientimacy with the 5 Circles of Connectedness

But most of that isn't new to you.  :) What I talk about less, but am determined to start talking about more, is that friendships go the other direction, as well.

This is huge for us because it gives us more options than to just ending friendships!  We now have a visual that illustrates for us that we can decrease vulnerability, time together, and ways of interacting to move friendships from the Right-Side to the Left-Side.

For example, women will often say to me a variation of "I'm going through a break-up right now... my friend is x (fill in the blank with any number of circumstances that aren't some obvious friendship failing but are exhausting the woman who has long called her a friend: having an affair, obsessed with losing weight, going through a divorce, dating some guy I think is horrible to her, or letting her entire life be run by her kids) and I can't take it anymore so, unfortunately, it's over."

But with the above Circles of Connectedness, we can mentally say, "X makes it hard to be close right now, with the amount of time we're spending together (or the limited amount of time I want to spend together right now), it's important for me to no longer see this friendship as a sustaining, meaningful, and supportive Community or Committed Friend right now so that I have appropriate expectations and boundaries with her.  With the decrease in time and pulling back of confiding in her right now-- she's probably more accurately in X Circle."

Moving someone to the left does two important things for us:

  1. First, it helps us acknowledge that something has shifted and the friendship isn't going to be as close and safe as it has been.  That means I don't need to feel guilty for not giving as much and I can definitely be more gracious to her as I won't be expecting as much. It means that we don't have to refuse to ever see her again, but neither do we need to pour energy into staying in touch with her as much as we have previously.  Now, just getting together once a month during this time is fine.
  2. And second, it helps us recognize that we need to make sure we have the close and safe friends in our lives that we need for right now.  It's not her fault for not being everything we wanted her to be as much as it is our responsibility for making sure we have the friends we need in our lives.  So if she left a vacancy when we moved her left, then we need to look for other friendships to nurture.  We need to start investing that extra time and energy into other friends.

This works for all kinds of circumstances-- even if it's a behavior of hers that isn't linked to a circumstance or isn't likely to change (i.e. talking about herself all the time, not opening up with you, gossiping about others, one-upping you).  Technically someone with behaviors that we can't stand shouldn't have made it over the Right-Side of our Circles, but if they did, then we can just as easily move them back to the Left-Side if we feel like our attempts to repair or enhance the relationship haven't worked.

There are many reasons to keep these women in our lives.  Just because she tends to squirm when the conversation gets too personal doesn't mean she isn't still a fabulous and thought-provoking museum date.  Just because she can get insecure and jealous doesn't mean she's not a super fun addition to your mom's night out group.  And just because she's not the person who responds without judgment to your secrets doesn't mean she can't keep you inspired as a fellow artist. In short, we can move the relationship back to where we're not over-sharing with someone we don't trust or spending too much time with someone who exhausts us, without having to let go of parts of them we do enjoy.

Our friendships don't have to be all-or-nothing.  This isn't "find one to be all to us" as much as "find several who can each meet different needs of ours." The most important thing being appropriate and healthy expectations of each other.

Relationships ebb and flow, wane and wax, drift and shift.

And you never know... someone you move Left today, may move back Right this time next year in a super meaningful way.... All things are possible on this Continuum!

___________________

Other pertinent blog posts:

Five Questions to Ask Before Ending a Friendship

Friendship Break-Ups 4: Holding On or Letting Go?

This Friendship Is Going Negative, What Do I Do?

This Friendship Is Going Negative: What Do I Do?

So my last blog post obviously hit a nerve. It is now the #1 post of the last 3 months, beating out popular posts--such as Reflections on my Katie Couric Interview and What Do I Do with My Toxic Friend?-- two posts that have been up for months.  We are apparently very interested in this subject of how to respond to the negative people in our lives!

Two Different Frameworks for Evaluating the 'Negative' People in Our Lives

So, as promised, I am going to share with you two frameworks of how to deal with the friendships that feel negative in our lives. This is a long blog, but I really wanted to cover at least two different paradigms and examples... hope it's helpful!

While we feel so much more mature than we were as children, the truth is that we still get on each others nerves.  Now we use language like toxic, negative, and un-healthy to label each other. *photo from irisclasson.com*

Just so we're clear-- I'm not writing about criminals, drug abusers, mental issues, or those who are willfully hurting us; but rather the vast majority of women that we've called friends at one time or another but now tend to use words such as toxic, negative, or selfish to describe them.  While we can all point out that there will always be a very clear "black and white" to the two extremes of who we can each have in our lives at different times, my desire here is to challenge us to look at what Kathy, in her comments on the previous post called, the "gray area."  The gray area being people who may not be un-safe to us, but certainly may be annoying, depressed, insecure, self-obsessed, distracted, or negligent.

1.  FRAMEWORK 1: Know the Different Types of Relationships So You Create Appropriate Expectations

I don't have room here to cover the entire 5 Circles of Connectedness which highlight the 5 different types of friendships, but basically our most casual of friendships are on the far Left-Side (Contact Friends) and the most intimate and consistent of our friendships are on the far Right-Side (Commitment Friends). I cover this in the most depth in my book but a quick overview can be found on this blog.

5 types of friends image

What's helpful about understanding the various types of friends is that when we do an honest assessment of whether our friend is truly a Committed Friend (someone we've built up meaningful history with over a long period of time, they are active in many areas of our lives, we are as transparent as possible with them) or perhaps is a Common Friend (maybe someone we've only known for a couple of months, someone we are only close to in one area of our life, etc.) it helps us answer the question: Do I have unrealistic expectations on this friendship?

I've observed many women not having a strong Right-Side of close friendships who then place those needs onto friendships on the Left-Side.  In other words, just because she's one of your closest friends doesn't mean you've developed the friendship that warrants the expectations and demands.  A good question to ask: "Am I blaming her for x because I want her to be a Committed Friend but in reality we are still Common Friends?"

Furthermore, it helps me see my commitment to the relationship.  If she's in a dark and needy space and she's my Committed Friend then I am truly committed to going through that phase with her even if she doesn't act healthy, positive, and supportive for a long season.  I can do this because we have a history together that reminds me that this isn't who she is permanently and I know that this is the call to relationships-- to be there for each other, even when it comes with some drama and emotion.  But if she's a Contact or Common Friend acting this way then a)  it may seem more like a red flag because we don't have enough history for me to accurately assess how she's acting now from how I know she's capable of acting, and b) we, quite frankly, don't have the same obligation/commitment to each other to be there for each other in the same ways.

Being clear what type of friendship the two of you have developed helps you better see how invested you are in this relationship and what expectations are fair. What you are willing to give, or put up with, in a Committed Friend might be different from what you are willing to do for a Common Friend.

For me, if whining and complaining is the grievance, for a Committed Friend it would be completely appropriate (though maybe not enjoyable or energizing-- so I need to make sure I'm getting enough of that in other close relationships during this season) for them to call me any time of night or day and sound like a crazy person sobbing and saying irrational things.  But while that would not be acceptable behavior for any friend of mine on the Left-Side, I would be willing to give them the space to monopolize the conversation during a scheduled lunch get-together and I'd give them a pass on complaining... for a time.

Does that differentiation make sense? It means we don't have to cut everyone out of our lives when they are needy and depressed and hurting, but neither does it mean that we're expected to put up with everything from everyone.

2.  FRAMEWORK 2: Know the Definition of Friendship so You Can Repair and Assess

This evaluation method also helps us decide which relationships to move along the Continuum so that you are choosing to nurture the friendships that are healthiest, minimizing the chances of having high-drama and unhealthy behaviors in your Right-Side friendships.

The definition of friendship, put out by Dr. Paul Dobransky, that I highlight in my book on pages 128 & 129 is  that friendship is "consistent, mutual, shared positive experience."  He says that when a friendship is failing it is because one of these four required qualities is missing.  I have almost an entire chapter devoted to each of those concepts but basically a friendship needs to have repeated time together, be seen by both as a friendship, include increased vulnerability, and ultimately add more joy than stress to your life.

For our purposes here, how this definition helps me is to realize at least two things:

1) These are not simply qualities that she possesses or not, but they are behaviors that we together have either developed or not. Here, we are evaluating the friendship-- the pattern and dynamic between the two of us-- not the person.  We're recognizing that something doesn't feel good between us-- but that's not the same as saying that every relationship this person has in their life is identical to our experience.  While we may find that they do something annoying, it's also possible that had we been more honest up front or set different expectations, that this dynamic wouldn't have been created. We hold for that possibility by assessing the interaction, not the individual. Which means it's possible we could do something different and shift the experience of the relationship.

2) It also informs me that if there are relationships that don't meet those requirements then it doesn't necessarily mean that I can't have those people in my life, rather it just means I don't want them to be on my Right-Side.

How These Frameworks Inform My Response

Knowing these two frameworks (both in greater detail in my book) helps us:

  1. Assess the current relationship experience-- what type of friend is this and which of the 4 qualities are most lacking?
  2. Figure out what needs be repaired so we can show up differently to see if that helps.
  3. Identify the investment/depth of the relationship so we can decide if it's worth an honest conversation (confrontation though awkward can be the best gift we learn to give to friends on our Right-Side where we should be willing to try "everything" before letting the friendship just dissolve.
  4. Decide if we can just move these relationships to the Left-Side (see them less often, confide in them less, have fewer expectations) rather than cut them out of our lives.

That's all I have time for today (You'd think I was writing an entirely new book with as much as I have to say! Ha!) but I'll keep writing on this-- next time I'll share 5 questions you should ask before ending a friendship.

Have a great weekend!

Are these helpful? What jumped out at you? How have you seen these concepts play out in your life? How could these have helped your past relationships? I love hearing your feedback so it's more of a conversation.  Jump in!  :)

 

 

Reflections on My Katie Couric Interview

Four women who have made friends on GirlFriendCircles.com were interviewed, along with me, by Katie Couric nearly two weeks ago for a segment that aired TODAY, Tuesday, March 12, 2013 on ABC. Katieshot copy

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at What It's Like to Be on Katie Couric

If you're on my GirlFriendCircles newsletter list, you already saw my quick little video made a couple of days ago when I found out when this show was airing.  But if you missed it, I gave a little behind-the-scenes view at what it was like to meet Katie, the fun surprise that caught all of us a bit off guard when we arrived at the ABC studio, and a little glimpse into the VIP treatment of being a guest on a national talk show. So fun!

Reflections on the Entire Friendship Show Segment

But the blog post I really want to write is one I've been waiting nearly two weeks to write!   Since some of what I want to share was about the interviews of others on the Show, I had to wait and let you watch it without any spoilers.  But now that it's aired.... I'm not holding back!  :)

Since my heart is as a teacher, I wanted to point out some great friendship take-away's that came up in the stories of other women on the show.  Here is a list of seven lessons we can learn about friendship just from listening to others share their personal stories.

The other segments included: Katie and her BFF--Wendy Walker -- talking about their friendship since their 20's, the surprise arrival of Larry King to talk about his long ago date with Katie, gal pals and comedians Chelsea Handler and Kathy Najimy, and two women in their eighties (Thelma and Kay) who have been friends for over 75 years.

Seven Friendship Lessons Highlighted on Katie Couric Today:

  1. Everyone needs friends. The Friendship Show opened with a photo montage of celebrity photos, with Katie's voice reminding us that "Even the hottest stars need a shoulder to cry on..." Indeed.  I've witnessed that often it's the women who are the most successful, beautiful, famous, or talented among us are the ones who often are the loneliest.  We all want to belong. (Related blog: There's A Reason They Say It's Lonely at the Top.)
  2. There's value in giving each other a second chance.  One of my favorite lines came from Chelsea Handler when she described the "stink eye" that Kathy gave her when they were being introduced at a Hollywood party.  She was off-put at first, but then said to herself, "Oh yeah, that's probably because she doesn't yet know I'm a good girl." I love that!  I love that even when someone else is intimidated, worried, insecure, judgmental, or whatever else might be getting in their way of showing up with love, that Chelsea didn't take it personally and reminded herself that Kathy doesn't even yet know her, but assumed she would like her once she knew her.  (Related blog: What We Need Are More Women, Fewer Girls)
  3. We need more than 1 Best Friend.  Did you catch the title they gave Wendy Walker, the best friend of Katie Couric?  It said "One of Katie's Best Friends."  I hit this theme a lot in my book that we need more than one BFF. Most of us report being happier and healthier if we feel we have a couple of women in our Committed Circle.
  4. Happiness plays a starring role in our friendships. Chelsea and Kathy certainly have a lot of humor to their friendship, Wendy credits humor to attracting her and Katie to each other, the two older ladies certainly have kept humor as part of their glue with new adventures and "bottles of wine," and the Saturday Night widows kept hitting that theme over and over, saying the word "fun" countless times. While we celebrate friendship with phrases like "crying on each others shoulders," what we really want is someone to add joy to our lives.  I devote the entirety of chapter 7 in my book to the subject of positivity because it's just that important.
  5. Consistency cannot be overrated.  The moment I had the hardest time not interrupting during the show was when Katie asked Thelma and Kay what had kept them together for 74 years and they responded with "We don't really know."  But then did you catch what Thelma said next?  "Well... she comes over once a week... and she's on the top of my prayer list every day."  Oh how I had to restrain myself from not saying "You may not know how it happened, but I do.  It's that gift of regularity that friendships are made of."  (Related blogs: Nothing Kills a Potential Friendship Faster and The Flywheel of Friendship.)
  6. Personality has way less to do with friendship than you think it does. I wanted to jump in and interview the Saturday Night widows after their founder (and author of the book by the same title) Becky Aikman said , "When we first all met I thought it was huge mistake-- we were such a mismatch of personalities." And yet here they are, a group of meaningful friends. Research continues to reveal that we can bond with all kinds of people who we wouldn't normally think we would choose as friends.  As I highlight in chapter 5 of my book "Be open!"  Related blogs: Go Friend-Fishing with a Net, Not a Line! and Do You Have a Friendship Checklist?
  7. Friends from all 5 Circles of Connectedness are important!  I'd venture to guess that Chelsea & Kathy are Left-Side Friends since they're somewhat new to each other, that the Saturday Night Widows are more-or-less Common Friends since they all met to share one specific area in common with each other, that the military woman at the end may have been sitting with her Right-Side friends since they all live nearby, do lots together, and show up to support each other in tangible ways, and that Katie & Wendy are either Committed Friends if they talk regularly or at least Confirmed Friends if they stay-in-touch and can pick-up-where-they-left-off.  I'm only guessing to help show the wide spread of friendships that were highlighted-- each serving a beautiful and valuable purpose. (Related Blogs: How to Find a Best Friend and Frientimacy: The Intimacy of Friends)

Someday I'll be on a show where I actually answer questions, teach healthy friendship, and talk for more than 2 minutes.  But until then, I'll just keep blogging away, teaching workshops, and writing books.  :)

Huge welcome to all my new blog readers who found me today from the Katie Couric show-- I look forward to you meeting other awesome women in this community.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Friendship Break-Ups 4: Letting Go or Holding On?

There are two extreme responses I see women consistently make when it comes to responding to the Drift in our relationships.

One is to hang onto every friendship "no matter what." They feel guilty if they don't make them all work, hitting their heads against the wall of unhealthy relationships, or connections that are no longer meaningful.

The other extreme is to always make new and current friends that reflect only who you are right now, letting go of people from the last city, the last job, and the last relationship.

Regardless of which path tends to be your default: we are called to learn how to do both.

The Gift in the Drift

Unlike a Rift where we feel that some painful grievance occurred that demands a decision about whether our mutual acts of forgiveness also means a willingness to stay engaged in improving our friendship, a Drift doesn't require a big obvious yes or no decision.  The gift to us in a Drift is that it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing.

When we see the spectrum of relationships displayed in our Circles of Connectedness, we can see immediately in our relationships that there is a movement, a pipeline, a progression of consistent time and shared vulnerability among our friendships.  And just as we can move friendly people from the Left-Side into friends that matter on our Right-Side, so can we move people the other direction, too.

I've had friends who I would have, at one point, placed in Right-Side of my closest girlfriends.  But life changes--that ended up impacting our dynamic, our time together, the presence we showed up with, and the needs we had--soon alerted me that we were possibly experiencing a Drift.

Reversing the Drift: In one of those cases, I knew instantly that I didn't want to lose the friendship we had invested in just because she seemed consumed with different things in life now than I did.  So while our friendship may have become less consistent for a few months (moving back toward the Left on the Circles of Connectedness), when I saw what was at risk, I was able to write an email saying, "I miss you!  Our friendship matters to me.  I know we're both going through such different life phases right now, but that doesn't diminish how much I love you and want to be a good friend to you. What do you need from me right now in this phase of life?  How can I support you?"  In that note I was able to 1) call our attention to the possible drift 2) state how much she means to me and 3) ask what she needed from me. It prevented our Drift from being permanent and we landed back in the Committed Circle.

Letting the Drift: In another case, as much as I adored my friend, I had this quiet peace about our friendship having served its purpose.  Our time together had been less vulnerable and less consistent--ultimately making it less meaningful.  And I had several other really amazing friends in my life so I wouldn't be left with a sense of alone-ness. I was at peace with letting that friendship Drift.  But even here, it isn't an all-or-nothing invitation.  I can whisper a little prayer for her, "Keep her safe, surround her with friends, lead her to joy," and look forward to still seeing her when I see her.  It's not ending something, but letting it become something different.  She moved from my Right-Side to my Left-Side-- still someone I will meet for coffee every couple of months and cheer for when I see her or hear about her.

How To Know Which Way To Go?

We often feel that Drifts "just happen" to us, like we're a victim to changing circumstances.  While I do think that often it takes our consciousness some time to see what we've already been doing, feeling, and responding to subconsciously, it's really important to realize that we have a voice in the process.  Taking a victim mentality increases our chances of blaming the other and feeling defensive-- two reactions that never lead to peace.

So that we don't go through life reacting from the two extremes-- hang on to every friend with a tight fist no matter how little joy we still share OR to let go of everyone because life changes and they're no longer just like us--we have to consider each friendship separately.

There are no hard-and-fast rules.  Here are questions I ask first:

  1. To the best of my knowledge, what provoked this possible Drift? Is this a permanent change or temporary?
  2. Why do I think I started pulling away?  Was it from listening to my inner wisdom or was it from my wounded ego voice? Did I get my feelings hurt or did I just sense a peace with not being as close?  Am I reacting to something else here-- am I possibly jealous? Am I judgmental? Am I scared?  Is this really about her or is there information here for me about my life?
  3. Is this someone who I deep down still want to be good friends with even if I can't see whether we can make something new or whether it would yet be meaningful? Is she someone I can enjoy? What side of me does she bring out? How has she fed me in the past?
  4. Is one of us in pain or crisis-- possibly calling me to a less meaningful season of our friendship, but not necessarily giving me an exit strategy yet?
  5. Is this a situation where if we were to talk about it (no matter how awkward!) that there is the chance for an enhanced relationship?  Are there scenarios I can at least imagine where we might not only keep enjoying our friendship, but actually improve it?
  6. Do I tend to leave too easily?  If so, what scares me in this situation?  What is getting triggered in me? Am I projecting my feelings on her?
  7. Do I tend to stay too long? If so, what am I hoping will happen? What does us staying connected represent to me? If we let go of this, what am I scared of?
  8. Do I have other friendships in place or am I at risk of letting go of something, that while not ideal, is still supporting my life? Would I be better served investing more vulnerability and commitment here where we have a foundation?
  9. If I give permission to let this relationship Drift-- what am I still willing to do to show up in her life occasionally?  How can I make sure I'm not choosing all-or-nothing?  How can I love her best as we move forward?

Maybe it will help you journal out your answers?  Even if you think you already know what answer you want to hear... sometimes the best information for our personal growth comes from going through the process rather than simply jumping to the conclusion we want.

I have found that after processing some of the above questions, I then just need to get quiet and check in with my own inner voice.  In those moments there is usually a clarity.

And if there isn't-- if you feel like you don't know which way to go-- I vote our default should always be to improve the current relationship we have.

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Previous blog postings about Drifts & Rifts:

Friendship Breakups 1: A Drift or a Rift?

Friendship Breakups 2: Saving a Drift, Avoiding a Rift

And, a previous blog posting about friendship drifts and rifts that pertain to the Circles of Connectedness: "Was She Really a Friend, Anyway?"

 

Three Things I Wish I had said To Kathie Lee and Hoda on the TODAY Show

We Interrupt this Programming I'm currently in the middle of a series about friendship drifts and rifts with so much more to say (and I know I specifically  committed myself last week to writing another blog about how adultery can impact our friendships-- I won't forget!) but in honor of our 500 new members in the last week, I'm interrupting my own series.  :)

My Trip to the TODAY Show

Last Thursday I was sitting in a plane on the tarmac at the JFK airport at 9 am-- the exact time I was supposed to be arriving freshly showered to the TODAY show green room for make-up and prep.  The production team had arranged for me to fly from San Francisco to NYC on a red- eye because I had a commitment the evening before that I didn't want to break. My plane had been delayed over 2 hours and my chances of arriving at the studio in time for my 10:14 am segment were diminishing rapidly.I had stopped caring about looking under-slept and un-showered on national TV and instead just hoped I'd even make it to the studio with five minutes to change out of my jeans! Sitting in Manhattan gridlock en route to the studio, I whispered the serenity prayer-- the part about giving me peace about the things you cannot change-- and then simply hoped for the best.

Two minutes before we went on air--I hadn't gone to the bathroom, sipped any coffee,  been prepped by any producers, or checked myself in a mirror--I stood as ready as I was going to be.  Three minutes later we were done. With four women sharing moments of rapid fire conversation, one simply cannot say much or say it all the way they wished they had.  Even if I had been more fully awake!

today show clip

Here are Three Things I Wish I Had Time to Say:

1)  Confirmed Friends: When Kathie Lee asked me if it was common to have a wonderful friend that she only talks with once a year since they can pick up where they left off, I wish I could have said, "Yes!  That is common.  And incredibly meaningful. Those friends from our past (Confirmed Friends: the middle circle on my Circles of Connectedness), who we may have intimacy with but lack consistency, play a significant role in our lives with many benefits.

But they are only one of the five types of friends. If we don't realize that, then what else can become too common is a sense of not feeling known, supported, and connected if we haven't also built up the Community and Committed Friends on the right-side of the Continuum--the friends who we consistently make time for and share vulnerably with.

2)  Where do women go to make friends? Way more important than where we meet each other is how we turn our friendliness into a friendship.The truth is we can meet people anywhere.  And we do.  But without starting the five steps of friendship with them-- they risk simply becoming a nice person we meet, rather than a potential friend.

The first two steps of friendship are to 1) be open and 2) initiate contact repeatedly.

The importance for us to be open to new friends cannot be underestimated.  We all too often dismiss people if we can't see us having big obvious things in common-- like both being mothers, both being retired, or both being single. But in the book Click-- the Brafman brothers say that the quantity of things in common is more important than the quality we assign to those commonalities:

"Sharing a strong dislike of fast food, for example, was just as powerful of a predictor of attraction as favoring them same political party."

In other words, if we find out we both enjoy hiking, turn our noses up to Top 40 music, and love to eat kale-- those three "smaller" things will actually increase our bond more than any of those biggies we think we just have to have in common.  We can be so much more curious and open-minded about people than most of us are. (In fact, we need to be since it takes a little longer for kale to come up in our conversations!)

And the second step of building a friendship--repeated initiation--is where many possible friendships get stopped in their tracks.  We like each other, or are at least open to getting to know each other more, but if we don't make those next few connections happen sooner, rather than later, we lose any momentum we could have had together.  We simply have to be the ones to email and say, "So great to meet you-- I would love to get to know you better, maybe we can connect for dinner after work one night next week.  Any chance you can do  Tuesday or Wednesday? If not, let me know what dates work for you and I'll schedule in the time!"

My best friends aren't always the ones I simply liked the best initially, rather they were the ones I saw regularly, giving me the chance to feel comfortable with them and fall in love with them.

3). Is it okay to let go of some of my friendships?  I stand by my answer on this one but wish I had more time to explain how friendships shift.  My gut reaction to this question is that we are all getting a little too trigger happy in ending friendships before practicing ways of showing up differently.  Our tendency is to get more and more annoyed with certain people for their behaviors until we can't take it anymore so then we just cut them out of our lives and justify it with a "they were unhealthy or toxic." Whereas most of our friendships could not only be saved, but strengthened, if we learned the skills of asking for what we need from each other, withholding judgment, working on our own self-esteem so that jealousy is inspiring, not frustrating, and learning to forgive each other.

While Kathie Lee joked that usually "it's not us, but them" who is at fault, I actually disagree.  Yes they can be annoying, insensitive, and selfish.  But who among us isn't those things? (And how easy is it for us to interpret their actions with those words when it simply means they just make different choices than we do!)  The truth is that when we can't stand someone-- it's usually showing us something about ourselves.  In those moments of blame we can see more clearly what skills we need to learn in order to best hold our peace and joy no matter what they are doing and figure out to practice showing up with different responses that might yield different results.

With that said, friendships do shift.  In my 5 Circles of Connectedness, just as people we meet can move from the far-left with Contact Friends (the least intimate) to the far-right with Commitment Friends (the most intimate and consistent) so can our friendships move the other direction.  There are good chances that several of the women we feel closest to now might someday shift to circles where our friendship isn't as vulnerable or consistent.  That is normal.  Our lives do change.  But even then, we don't need to replace all our friends with every baby, divorce, marriage, annoyance, frustration, or move.  Our call with some of those women is to figure out how to show up in those awkward transitions, hold what we've shared with an open hand, and work at co-creating something new together.

So until they make time for me to give at least a 20 or 30 minute interview-- I'll just keep blogging!  :)

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A most sincere welcome to all our new members who joined after seeing me on the TODAY show last week or read about us in the New York Times style section.  Blessings on you as you courageously connect with new women, consistently choose to show up with honesty and positivity, and as you turn the friendly people you meet into friends who matter in your life.

Pre-order my Book: Also, my forthcoming book is all about how to meet people and turn them into friendships that really matter, including the skills of forgiveness, asking for what we need from our friends, and how to appropriately increase our vulnerability.  You can pre-order it now on Amazon!

Friendship Break-Ups 3: "Was She Really a Friend, Anyway?"

The other night I was out with some new friends and, as often happens when someone finds out that my work is all about female friendships, women I barely know start to tell me their friendship woes. One very friendly woman in her mid-forties was explaining to me that she doesn't have time for friends anymore now that she's a mom. (sound familiar? read this post.)  She went back-and-forth between defending her perceived reality and also sounding incredibly wistful. Like many of us in denial, we try to convince ourselves we're fine while simultaneously wishing things could be different. But then, her closing lines were, "Well I found out most of my previous friends weren't real friends anyway or they'd still be around.  So who needs them, right?" She tried to laugh as though she didn't care.

A Refresher on Shasta's Circles of Connectedness

One of my favorite things to teach in workshops, which is also a big part of my upcoming book, is about the Five Circles of Connectedness.  It's most often put to use when it comes to evaluating our current friendships or figuring out how to add new ones or deepen others.  Today, I want to talk about it in the context of break-ups and unmet expectations.

You'll want to go catch up on the abbreviated definitions of Shasta's 5 Circles of Connectedness if you're not familiar with them already: Watch YouTube or Read a Previous Post.

But basically, the friends on the Left Side in the Contact and Common Circles are friendships where we more-or-less have one way of being together, one commonality holding us together. That is to say our friendships are largely dependent upon the fact that we both attend the same church, are part of the same mother's group, are both single, or because we work together.

To move someone over to the Right Side in the Community and Committed Circles means that we have added new ways of being together (i.e. brunch on the weekend in addition to whatever our original commonality was), have spent considerable one-on-one time together, and have increased our intimacy.

Confirmed Friends in the middle are for the women who used to be in our Committed Circle of best friends, but we no longer have the consistency with them that our Right-Side friendships require.

If we mistakenly believe that all our friendships are more-or-less the same then we may not have realistic expectations in place.  Unmet expectations lead to disillusionment, and possible blame and anger toward the friends who aren't "there" for us.

There are SO many applications to our friendship Rifts and Drifts in these 5 Circles, but in the sensitivity of article length, I'll just mention the two most common misconceptions that can disappoint us if we don't understand our different types of friendships.

Two Common Misunderstandings in our Circles that Lead to Disappointment:

1)   Assuming a Common Friend is a Commitment Friend. We can feel so close to someone at work, church, or our mothers group and mistakenly believe that they should "be there in big ways" for us just because we both really like each other, get a long well, and see each other consistently in that common setting.

But the truth about Common Friends is that unless we have co-created a friendship that extends beyond that shared commonality-- when that commonality ends, the friendship will inevitably Drift apart if someone doesn't intentionally try to create a new way of connecting. And that doesn't always work due to time, priorities, interests, etc. These friendships don't end because we don't like each other, but because we haven't yet practiced being together in new ways, outside of that commonality.

We get our feelings hurt when we stop attending church or change jobs and no one calls us anymore-- but if that place was what we had in common, then no matter how close we felt, we're the ones who left that friendship structure. If the thing we have in common is getting our families together on the weekends to go camping, but then we go through a divorce, unless we had another way of being together just as women, we risk Drifting apart when it's our ex-spouse who has all the camping equipment.

It's not her fault, even if the changes were in her life.  In a friendship-- when we blame, we risk a Rift; if we decide we want to initiate consistently, we may be able to avoid a Drift.

If we can be honest in these moments and see them for what they are-- losing structures or commonalities that connected us-- then we can either find more peace in the Drift without us taking it personally or we more clearly see that we'll have to co-create new ways of being with that person. Which doesn't happen automatically.

2) Not realizing a Confirmed Friend is no longer a Commitment Friend. The other misunderstanding that can get the best of us is not realizing that just because we used-to-be-best friends, that while we still love each other so much, we no longer live near each other, talk regularly, or are present for each others lives in the same ways.

And if we haven't fostered new Commitment Friends where we now live, we're likely to make the mistake of wanting those Confirmed Friends to act like them.  We'll be hurt when they don't know what's going on in our lives, forgetting that it is our responsibility to build up local friends who can care for us on the consistent basis.

Because of the intimacy and trust we've built with these women back in college or in a previous life phase, we certainly make decisions to call our Confirmed Friends to stay in touch with them better to support us through a season or to tell them honestly what we need.  But hopefully they've developed close local friends that they are giving to so we want to be careful to not blame them for not reading our minds or knowing how to help us.

If we don't have strong relationships on the Right-Side, it becomes so easy to look to our other friends in the other Circles and begrudge them for not "being there" for us. It's so easy, when our life changes, to want everyone to be there for us that we sometimes forget that we never practiced that with each other beforehand or had yet built up to that Circle of Commitment.

If "she" wasn't "there" for you, was she really your friend?

To the beautiful woman who wondered aloud, "Well I found out most of my previous friends weren't real friends anyway or they'd still be around.  So who needs them, right?" and to all of us who ask a variation of that rhetoric question, I say this:

I am so sorry that you were hurt and disappointed by what you hoped someone would be for you.  That sucks. However, we don't have to devalue who they were or what we shared together.  It's entirely possible they were a "real" friend, even if they weren't the Committed Friend we had hoped they were.  Furthermore, the answer to previous disappointments isn't to give up on friendships altogether, but rather, to be sure to take responsibility for co-creating even stronger--more consistent and intimate--friendships this time around.

 

If you have questions-- ask them in the comments.  It's sometimes impossible to be comprehensive on such a big subject in one posting! Hope the outline at least helps though?

 

 

 

Common Friends: My Savor the Success Mastermind Group

I'm dedicating two postings this week to my left-side friends.  :) This is my second one. I've found that most of us fall into one of two camps when we look at the 5 Circles of Connectedness.  We either tend to have so many friends that our left side is super full, but we feel a lack on the right side where the intimacy, comfortableness, vulnerability and acceptance happen with real confidantes.  Or, the other imbalance is to only have a few close friends (a strong right side) and dismiss any relationship that doesn't feel BFF-like.

My previous post introduced you to the Friendship Circle women who are some of my Contact Friends, meaning that we don't really know each other well but we feel connected in some area, referring to each other as a friend, someone we're friendly with. This post is dedicated to the next circle, some of my Common Friends.

Common Friends:  We share occasional time spent together in the area we have in common. The difference between this quadrant and the former is that we have actually spent time together in a way that connects us deeper, we have our own one-on-one relationship with these individuals. It can be in our mom’s groups, because we work together, sing in the same choir, belong to the same club or we are frequently in the same social circle but we know these individuals well within the area we have in common.

One of my Common Circles: Entrepreneurs/CEO's

Last January we all committed to journeying together as a way of supporting our roles as entrepreneurs and CEO's of our own companies (our area of shared commonality). But what makes this group different than my Contact Friends is that we met monthly, shared our vulnerabilities, brainstormed solutions for each other, and offered to help whenever we could.  These women became friends of mine- I feel like I know them and they trusted me with the highs-and-lows of their businesses. (But note that they stay on my left side since we haven't necessarily bonded/socialized outside this area of commonality.)

One of the things I love about our friends in our Common Circles is that we may only have one obvious thing in common (i.e all entrepreneurs, colleagues, same pilates class, or all trying to lose weight) but we can all be so different from each other outside of that area.  In other words, we allow for friendships in this Circle with women of different ages and backgrounds far more than we do when we're out looking for a new BFF.  And it's the diversity that can add so much, often unexpectedly!

Before you meet them, I want to tell you what this group did for me, that my BFF's couldn't have done (since they aren't all running their own businesses).  These women, who were strangers to me a year ago-- have since then given feedback on my web site, introduced me to my lawyer, reminded me how far I've come on goals that felt like they were never going to happen, cheered for me when I shared my wins, talked me off the cliff when I felt overwhelmed, and brainstormed ideas with me for various projects. Those are no small things! My life is richer for having connected to this group!

Now I'll let a few of them speak for themselves!  They will each tell you what their business is and how they specifically benefited from this belonging to this group.

Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa: Founder of PixInk Design - San Francisco Bay Area's premier digital design agency focused on brands marketing to women.

"This fabulous photograph was inspired by the Savor SF Mastermind Group. Having had the privilege to lead this amazing group of women in 2011, I really wanted a photo memory that celebrated our journey thus far and the future successes to come. I was thrilled with the support and enthusiasm with which everyone in the group helped make this happen. Special thanks to Sonya Yruel for the great photography and Kat Gordon for the captions and Shasta Nelson for showcasing us in her blog! Like Kat said "Behind every successful woman... are others lifting her up."

Shamini Dhana:, Founder of Dhana, a new Eco Brand for kids is the lifestyle brand for tween boys and girls that is eco-conscious, ethically sourced, cool, outdoorsy, and exudes that pizzaz of fun and green, inspired by international artists. Available for purchase online and through selected retail stores.

"Connecting with people like Kat Gordon of Maternal Instinct and Ayesha Mathews of PixInk allowed me to gain insight into the world of women, how they were influenced by brands using different strategies. This was such a huge gift as understanding this behavior was exactly what I needed considering the market Dhana was serving – mainly mothers and women. Additionally, I would like to add that it truly helped having a group of women to trouble shoot, de-stress and share the lonely and challenging road that all entrepreneurs experience – great group of friends and a testament to Shasta’s GirlFriendsCircles concept."

Mary Irving: Founder of Maris, Botanical skin Care Products.

"Participating in the Mastermind helped me to keep moving forward with my business.  I committed to a new website and new versions of my products so every month I'd provide updates and sample products that kept me accountable to my goals."

Cindy Lin: Founder of Staged4more Home Staging celebrated revenue growth, working with great clients, different project opportunities within the visual industry and expanding our networks. We've also added new retailers to our fun environmental real estate good luck charm: EcoJoe.

"I loved having a sounding board of people who know what I'm going through over a consistent period of time and who can grasp the business scenarios I face. While my friends are supportive, they don't necessarily understand because they work in a corporate environment, unable to understand what small businesses go through on a day-to-day basis. This group knew how stressful having your own business can be!"

Kat McCaw Gordan: Founder of Maternal Instinct: Creative Problem Solvers for Marketing to Moms. This past year we invented our MBA Program product which stands for Mom Brand Audit. It enables us to truly move the needle of the mom friendliness of any brand of any size from any industry. That's really gratifying.

"More than anything, what I valued most about the Mastermind was having access to a range of perspectives. Countless times when I was reporting my biggest challenge, someone in the group would re-frame the issue or ask a question that allowed me to unlock a solution I never would have thought of without their input."

Other members of the group include: Cristina Moe, Founder of Moe Media Marketing that helps women-owned businesses with marketing and SEO, April Yarahmadi, Founder of April Reno Jewelry creating timeless and bold fashion pieces, and Erin Shields, Founder of Green Carpet Limo, Bay Area's premier eco-friendly chauffeured car service.

Makes you want one, huh?  Yeah, me too.  I'm so sad this group is ending!

I'm already thinking ahead for what I need to do now to make sure I have this in my life next year.  My biggest piece of advice in participating in any group is to make it as regular and consistent as possible, at least monthly.

Who is in your Common Circle? What area of your life needs focused friends (business? motherhood? divorced women? politics?) Do you need to create one or search one out for 2012?

 

An Example of Contact Friends: "The Friendship Circle"

I love watching little light bulbs go on when I talk about my 5 Circles of Connectedness.  It's not that describing different types of friends is revolutionary, but I love how seeing the spectrum validates us both for the amazing circles we do have, and acknowledges why we're sometime craving more, different experiences in our friendships.

In this blog I often talk about the far right-end of the spectrum-- as most of us are craving more Frientimacy, deeper connections, and confidantes.  But I want to dedicate my next two blog posts to some fabulous women on my left-side--the friends whom we share something in common, cheer for each other, and provide resources and support as we can in that context.

Contact Friends: We share a casual connection with these friends that is limited to one area of our lives. This is not the same as ALL acquaintances.  For example, we may know the names of all twenty people in our monthly association meeting or at church, but these are the 2-3 that we gravitate toward, considering ourselves friends when we see them even though we don't get together with them on our own, outside the shared context.

One of my Contact Circles: Twitter & Female Friendship

In the last couple of years as I've dived into social media, I can honestly say that building up some Contact Friends on Twitter is the only way I was able to stay engaged. Otherwise, it could have just felt pointless and exhausting-- too many people talking, too few listening.  But in the exchanging of some introductions (in under 140 characters), I now claim to have friends in that world.

These are friends in the loosest term of the word in that I have met only one of them in real life, know next to nothing about their personal lives, and we connect only in the area we have in common which happens to be twitter and the subject of female friendships.

But don't let the fact that it's casual imply that it's not meaningful! They do for me what my dearest, closest friends couldn't do.

These Contact Friends connect with me in different ways; they help me feel heard when I send out a tweet, offer to partner up on projects, congratulate me on my business wins,  and share with me the resources on our shared subject that they come across. Those are no small things!

Introducing the Friendship Circle

We've banded together and created the Friendship Circle.   Since they are all aficionados of female friendship-- they have a lot to offer the readers of my blog.  I want to introduce you to these friends of mine... that they might be yours too!

  1. Business: Tell us what you do and why you love it!
  2. Gratitude: What would be #17 on your list of gratitude?  :)
  3. Friendship: Give a shout-out to one of your GirlFriends you appreciate!

Cherie Burbach (aka @brrbach), Friendship Guide at About.com

I'm a freelance writer and author, and I celebrate the fact that every single day I get to do something I absolutely love. The days fly by when you love your work. My #17 is that I have creative hobbies (crocheting, painting, mixed media) that I can lose all track of time in. It helps me recharge my batteries and reminds me of the blessings I have. My GirlFriend: Debby Mayne. She's a writer I met online and has been a source of encouragement and cheerleading all year. I am very thankful for her generous spirit.

 

 

Rachel Bertsche (aka @rberch), Author of MWF Seeking BFF (blog & book)

Mine isn't a business, per se, but my book and blog are how hard--and hilariously awkward!--it is to make new friends as an adult. Last year was my second year at it, and I think last year I got really good at embracing the "you never know if this will be your next BFF" attitude in my life. #17: I am SO GRATEFUL for the fact that I'm someone who sleeps through the night. I hear about others who wake up every three hours and I always think, "Thank God for my lucky sleep habits!!"  Random, I know. GirlFriend: I can't pick just one! I have so many wonderful friends, and I'm so grateful for the new friends I've made over the last two years. Specifically, the new pals who've supported my writing--especially when I'm writing about them!

Debba Haupert (aka @girlfriendology), Founder of Girlfriendology

My business is my passion - inspiring women and their friendships. Girlfriendology started with a couple girlfriends dealing with cancer and grew to a community of over 40,000 women. I celebrate the joy of hearing women's stories and giving them a platform to share them. #17 Being born in this time. I'm not a 'ride across the prairie in a covered wagon' kind of girl and I'm definitely a technology and social media maven. I'm thankful for being alive in the time of iPads and WiFi (and, to be honest, indoor plumbing, gorgeous/easily-accessible shoes and coffee shops!). My beautiful GirlFriend Deana has has a rough year - including losing her BFF. Yet, through everything, she is always there for her friends and family - and with a gorgeous smile on her face. She inspires me and makes me very, very thankful that we met in college a long time ago.

Irene Levine (aka @irenelevine), Author of Best Friends Forever

I am trained as a psychologist and work as a full-time freelance journalist writing about a variety of topics including travel, lifestyle and friendship. The nicest part of my work is getting letters from people who say that my book changed their lives as well as their friendships! #17: I'm grateful to all the friends and mentors who helped shape my life---even though I've lost contact with many of them. My GirlFriend Linda listens, understands, and is always there for me. I'm lucky to be able to call her at any time or hour when I need advice.

 

Britt Michaelian (aka @MamaBritt) and Dabney Porte (aka @DabneyPorte), Co-Founders of #SMgirlfriends

Girlfriends Productions, LLC is our business and one thing that we are celebrating is that we have reached over 30 million people in 18 different countries and over 250 million impressions of support in the first 6 months in the Social Media Girlfriends community! Our #17: We are so grateful for the many people within our communities who are cheerleaders and who support one another without us asking for them to do it! GirlFriend: It is so hard for us to thank one person because there are so many to choose from and no one is more important than the next, so if we had to choose one person to thank it would be… our entire community.

 

And then there's me: Shasta Nelson (aka @girlFRNDcircles), Founder of GirlFriendCircles.com

My favorite aspect of GirlFriendCircles, the women's friendship matching site, is talking and writing about friendship.  This last year I was excited to expand this blog (subscribe top right corner if you're new!) and for the Huffington Post. My #17 is weekends with my husband-- the restorative time when I remind myself that my self-worth is not tied to my business worth. And a GirlFriend I want to shout-out to is Daneen for being willing to keep investing in our friendship even though the mom/non-mom difference between us can feel vast.

A pretty amazing round-up, huh?  :)  How much more enjoyable my social media experience  has been because of these women!  Follow all of us on twitter by following this list: @Girlfriendology/friendship-circle

Your Contact Friends?

What worlds are you a part of where building some new friendships would be meaningful? Where do you need inspiration? Resources? Encouragement?

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2012? Weight loss? Business growth? Home-schooling your kids? Involvement in a church? Hanging out with more singles? Where can you find those people? How can you start the connections?

All friendships start here with your contact friends. Put yourself out there and introduce yourself!

-------------------------

p.s. And huge thanks to Girlfriend Celebrations (Dawn Bertuca & Tina Bishop) who were founding members of our Friendship Circle, helping get us all together!

 

Frientimacy: The Intimacy of Friends

This is a posting that was originally posted April 26, 2010 on my former blog. Because I've been writing more about Frientimacy, I wanted to re-port this illustration of how it's played out in my life. ________________________

Sitting in that circle of six women was powerful. There is nothing like being seen by friends you love and who love you back. Intimacy is a word that just brings up too much romance, so I call it "Frientimacy."

We all live in different cities, but this last weekend we had all flown into Seattle for our Annual Girlfriend Get-Together. And so there we sat catching each other up on our lives. Our real lives.

Frientimacy Is Authentic We listened as one shared that's she not sure she wants to stay married. Another, found out her husband cheated. And another just broke up with the man she wanted.  One is trying to decide if she wants kids. Another is due next month. Another just found out her baby isn't developing on schedule. Another isn't sure she'll find someone to marry before she has that choice. Another is struggling with weight and another with financial security and still another with contentment.  We shared our pains and disappointments.

We also listened as we went around the room sharing 3 things we celebrate about our lives in the last year. It was spectacular: The risks. The wins. The accomplishments. The completions. The new beginnings. The Ph.D, the new baby, the new business, the new office, the new love. The big anniversary.

It was beautiful to be among friends who have history sharing both. These are six beautiful, amazing, professional, intelligent women who live life fully and are committed to truthful friendships.

Frientimacy is Awkward And while it sounds so good to be honest, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge how hard it can be go there.

We are far from being a homogeneous group: some married, some single, some divorced, some with kids, some with step-kids, some with none.  Through the years many us have traded those roles-the married one becomes single and the single finds her love. Often at the same time.  And we have to celebrate one and grieve the other. It is hard being the first or only in the group to have kids, and equally hard to be the last or only to not be in a relationship.

Even with people we love and respect, there is no way to be friends without bringing our personal insecurities, fears and baggage to the relationship. It's hard to celebrate each others joys even when we're jealous.  To hold their pain without projecting our story into it.

There were definitely awkward moments. Moments where you want to judge, give advice, justify your decision that's different than hers, wallow in self-pity rather than give her a high-five.

But we've practiced. We've made commitments to be generous with each other. Honest. We trust the commitment is bigger than the pain. We trust the history is deeper than the present moment. And we're still practicing.

We forge on. There will be lots of awkward moments we will witness and hold.

Frientimacy is Developed We can only trust our future because we've experienced our history. It wasn't instant.

It was due to consistency that we have fostered this.

Seven years ago, we were mostly strangers to each other. I invited a few women I had met to commit to a weekly group in my apartment. Some invited someone else. And over time, with one leaving here and another joining there, we had a group that was consistent. We didn't all necessarily feel like we would be friends with each individual in the group if it weren't for the collective time, but we knew the value of going deeper with other women so we kept coming.

What we celebrate now has taken effort. It has taken consistency. Far more than most women are willing to put in. Most of us think if we get together once a month with a new friend that a friendship will blossom. And I'd say once a month is enough to keep liking each other, but probably not enough to build enough history that when your lives change (and they will) that you have enough history behind you to stay connected through it. Once a week for one year gave us the gift we'll enjoy the rest of our lives.

I no longer live around those women so I've become part of another group of local women who meet weekly. We don't have the same history yet, but we will keep meeting and keep sharing and we are definitely developing our own new Frientimacy.

Who are you being consistent with? How can you schedule in some consistent time with other women? How are you building upon the new friendships you've started?

Frientimacy is Worth it You may not feel the potential after your first time together. Or your next time together.

You may doubt it. You may feel like they're too different from you. Or that you're not sure you like each of them.

You may feel insecure around one of them or find that one annoys you. It's likely.

But you will also begin to know you have a group that sees your life. That knows it. That you don't have to update but can simply share. You will feel the difference it makes to have close friends. Local friends. Not the kind you have to impress, but the kind you get to be real with. It's likely.

I had an amazing weekend with the women who have known me and loved me for seven years. And I'm committed to building more of that in my life, locally and on a weekly basis.

Frientimacy is authentic. It can be awkward. It takes time to develop. But it is so worth it.

What Types of Friends Do You Need?

As we start Friendship Month, I'm stepping into my commitment to start vlogging too!  I'm planning to regularly upload up a clip on YouTube since sometimes it's easier to teach on video than in writing.  (I'd be honored if you'd subscribe to my channel!)

Not All Friends Are the Same

Recognizing that we have different categories of friends is not to minimize the uniqueness that each one brings, rather it helps us both to honor how we’re energized in different relationships and identify where some of our hunger for more belonging might be coming from.

I developed a Connectedness Continuum that I use when I'm coaching women to help provide have a visual snapshot of our sense of connectedness. Here is a very brief outline of the five different circles of friends we all need to foster.

The Continuum begins on the left with the most casual of friends and moves to the right as the bond and commitment deepens. While there are some parameters to each quadrant, much of it will be subjective based on your own sense of bond.

Contact Friends:  We share an introduction with these friends. We are somehow linked to them whether it’s through facebook, because we went to school together, because a mutual friend introduced us, because we met them while doing something we both participate in, because we have at least one thing in common, etc.  This is not the same as ALL acquaintances.  We may know the names of all twenty people in our association meeting or at church, but these are the 2-3 that we gravitate to and would consider ourselves friends when we see them.

Common Friends:  We share occasional time spent together in the area we have in common. The difference between this quadrant and the former is that we have actually spent time together in a way that connects us deeper, we have our own one-on-one relationship with these individuals. It can be in our mom’s groups, because we work together, sing in the same choir, belong to the same club or we are frequently in the same social circle but we know these individuals well within the area we have in common.

I’m going to come back to Confirmed friends in a minute: There are two things that begin to shift when we cross that center line: the regularity with which we spend time together and the broadening of what we share together.

Community Friends: We share regular time spent together beyond the area we have in common. When we enter into In-Community Friends we have crossed the lines of our original relationship boundaries, whether it was your gym-buddy, a fellow mom, a scrapbook partner or a work colleague—we now share our lives beyond our original shared common interest.  We may be meeting people from other areas of their lives and revealing life stories beyond the original bonding subject.  (Note: we can be “intimate” with people on the left side—AA friend, weight loss buddy—sensitive subjects, but they stay on the left side as long as our area of connection is limited to that original bonding area.)

Commitment Friends: We share our lives with each other and our commitment extends beyond the things that hold us in common. The far right quadrant is reserved for the friends we regularly share our feelings with and have a commitment to be present for each other, no matter what. You may have bonded as “In-Common” friends because of your kids, you worked at the same place or you were both single, but these are now the friends that if those original common categories were to change it would no longer risk your relationship—they could switch jobs, get married, change interests, move away or the kids could all grow-up, but you will still be in each others lives.

Now, go back to the middle:

Confirmed Friends: We share a history with these friends that has bonded us but our connection is not regular. These are the friends that we used to live close to and love but we only talk occasionally now. This middle is reserved for the friends that go much deeper than the left side—we in fact would have at one point placed them on the right side of our spectrum—but we no longer have the regularity with them that we reserve for our right side. These are the women that we know we can pick up where we left off, they are dear to us and we will stay in touch occasionally with them, but they are not engaged in our day-to-day lives and in the creation of regular new memories together.

We all tend to find some circles come to us more naturally. Some of us love socializing and meeting tons of Contact Friends but have a harder time building enough consistency with a few to move into the real intimacy of Commitment Friends, whereas others of us have a few close friends but hate going out and meeting people.  But we all need people in every circle.

Write the names of people you consider your friends along the Continuum.... where are you hungry for more relationships? What types of friends do you most need right now?

________________________________

Update on 10/18/2011: There ended up being 5 short videos (3-4 minutes each) to this topic series:

  1. What Types of Friends Do You Need? (Overview of Circles)
  2. Who Are Your BFF's?(Commitment Friends)
  3. Our Used to be Closer Friends (Confirmed Friends)
  4. Four Values of New/Less Intimate Friends (Contact & Common Friends)
  5. Five Common Imbalances in our Circle of Friends (Assessing Your Needs)

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to receive updates of any future video posts.

Used-To-Be Friends or Still Friends?

We all know those fabulous women we have loved over the years, the ones where our shared history with them puts them in that special category of proven friends. When we talk to them, we  pick up right where we left off.  They're the kind of women we don't have to explain ourselves to, apologize for the time lapse or call them all the time to know we're still loved. So certainly it pains me to pop that bubble of idealism, but sometimes it must be said: Just because you can call her and know she'll be there for you doesn't mean you do.

One of the most common traps that keeps us in denial about needing more friends is that we used to have good friends.  And, the greatest risk happens when we think of them still as our closest friends.

Used-To-Be-Friends Or Still Friends?

This trap throws off the best of us.  We can quickly name 5 amazing women we call friends, and often feel better with our sense of connectedness. But then we still hear that nagging voice whispering that we think we need more friends. We feel lonely.

If you’re only sending Christmas cards, seeing each other once a year, calling every couple of months and giving little sentence updates on facebook—that may be why you still feel a sense of loneliness?

Risking redundancy, it stands to be pointed out that your current loneliness is not because you haven't had amazing friendships before. Rather, it's because you may not be engaging in them now.

I know for me, when I moved to San Francisco, I pushed away my awareness that I needed to make new friends by telling myself how awesome my friends were.  And yet, even though they were only a phone call away.  They were still a phone call away.  A phone call I didn't make with most of them frequently enough to keep it intimate and easy.

southern cal girls

And I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have these "former" friends.  (And by former, I only mean that the intensity & consistency may have been more in the past than the present.)  My girlfriends from Southern Cal lived through some of my worst and best moments with me-- I will always want to stay connected with them.  Those friends give to us in many ways by knowing who we used to be, giving us a sense of a wider net in our lives and helping us feel less alone in this world.

It's life-changing to know you have these friends you can call if you are diagnosed with cancer. You need to know you have people you can count on in the "big things."

However, I often talk myself out of calling these friends because while I know I can pick up where we left off... that's part of the problem.  I have so much updating to do with them to catch them up to life right now, that I often decide I don't have the time for a long conversation.

What Do We Most Need to Add to our Connectedness?

But what most of us crave are the kind of friends you can call to just ask her what she's making for dinner. Or how her day went. Or what she bought over the weekend. Or whether she wants to go get drinks tomorrow night. The "small things."

We usually feel more intimate with the people we can talk about nothing with as easy as we can talk about something with.

For the truth is, fortunately, that we make dinner more than we get cancer.

No matter how many women you used to be close to—you can still feel lonely now. And sometimes just knowing that you can call isn't enough. To abate loneliness we actually need friends we can go live life with, not just report life to.

SF girls

I ended up having to start over with local women.  It doesn't mean I don't still meet up with my used-to-be-friends every year for a weekend together.  Or that we don't call when the big things happen.  But it means I now have friends to call for the small stuff.  The small stuff that actually feels more important on a day-to-day basis.

So by all means, love those used-to-be women for the history they hold and the way they make you feel known, and by all means stay in touch with them!  But I invite you to own the fact that your loneliness may be your hearts way of saying “I would like some women who can journey with me more regularly.”

And perhaps 1-2 of them can step into that role. I called up one of the women in this circle for me a few years ago, told her how much I missed her and asked if we could schedule a weekly standing phone call to live life together a bit more.

But maybe that's not enough.  Maybe you still need new friends?

But either way, don’t confuse who used to be your best friend with the fact that you might need additional ones (or rekindled ones?) in that place now.