Consistency

Videos: The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Relationships!

VIDEO 1:

What Are the 3 Requirements for Better Friendships? An Overview!

Are you tired of feeling like you don’t have good friends? Do you wish your friendships felt more satisfying, more enjoyable, more meaningful, or more fun? Do you wonder what it is that makes some friendship feel good while others feel blah? Does it feel like you have no control over whether your friendships turn out to be worthwhile or not?

This is the 1st of 4 videos, with the following three each going deeper into one of the Relationship Requirements. In this video, Shasta Nelson, a leading expert on friendship, teaches the 3 Relationship Requirements that we can use to assess and evaluate every relationship in our lives. When we understand these three actions— we then know how to start, repair, or deepen every friendship around us. When we study what builds trust, what bonds effective teams, what makes for a healthy marriage, or what is present in our closest friendships— these three things always rise to the top.


VIDEO 2:

What Can You Do If Your Friendships Don’t Feel Good? Add Positivity!

Do you walk away from time spent with people and feel like it was a waste of time? Do you feel judged? Do you wonder what they think of you? Do you feel worse about yourself or your life? Or does your time always feel boring or shallow? The 1st Relationship Requirement is Positivity— meaning it has to be enjoyable!

Positivity doesn’t mean acting like Pollyanna, nor does it mean only talking about positive things. In a nutshell— this is the foundation for all relationships because if our time together doesn’t feel good… we’re not going to want to repeat it. It’s hard to bond with someone if we don’t feel satisfied when we’re together. This video is packed full of ideas, tips, strategies, and ways to increase the positivity in all of your friendships!


VIDEO 3:

What Can You Do If Your Friendships Don’t Feel Reliable? Add Consistency

Do you feel like you or your friends are just too busy to prioritize friendship? Do you wish for them to feel easier than having to schedule them weeks out and wonder if you’re really seeing each other enough? Do you talk or get together so infrequently that it always feels rushed or filled with updating before the next gap of time starts? Do you wonder if your friends truly have your back? Do you feel supported in meaningful ways? Do you worry that they wouldn’t be there for you if you really needed them?

Consistency is where we log the hours that our friendship needs in order for us to start feeling safe with each other— like we can predict what to expect from the other. This is the activity that fosters trust and reliability. In a busy world… we have to be intentional about what it means to really be in each other’s lives. This video is packed full of ideas, tips, strategies, and ways to increase the consistency in all of your friendships!


VIDEO 4:

What Can You Do If Friendships Don't Feel Meaningful? Add Vulnerability!

Do you feel like you or your friends are wearing facades? Are you at risk of showing up and trying to look like your Instagram feed? Do you wonder if you really know who they are, or are you scared to show who you really are? Or worse, are you over-sharing and making the mistake of thinking that if you just go raw and deep that that somehow accelerates the bond? Are you scared to share because you’ve been hurt before? Do you feel liked but doubt whether they really know you?

Vulnerability is where we get to know each other so that we ultimately feel seen. Vulnerability isn’t just sharing our insecurities and dark secrets; on the contrary it’s about learning how to share in an incremental and safe way that fosters the growth of a long-term and healthy relationship. This video is packed full of ideas, tips, strategies, and ways to increase the vulnerability in all of your friendships!

How Many Hours Does It Take to Make a Friendship?

Do you want to make some new friends this summer?

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

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

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

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

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

Like this summer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet...

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

The Action That Would Make the Biggest Difference

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

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

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

The easy answer is: initiate reaching out.

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

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

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

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

What This INAction Means to your Friends

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

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

You and I know that probably isn't true.  

And yet there it is.

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

What You can do

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shasta's Tips for Starting Women's Groups

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Save

Save

Save

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 3 Requirements of All Healthy Friendships

We all want friendships, but most of us don't even know what that means. How Do You Define Friendship?

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

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

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

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

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

A Definition of Friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you catch the three?

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

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

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

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

 

Save

Save

The Secret to Moving from Acquaintances to Friends

We learn so much through sharing our stories!  Thanks to Katrina Emery for interviewing a GirlFriendCircles.com member, Jan Link, about what she's experiencing in her friend-making process that can inspire all of us! When Jan retired three years ago and moved back to the Midwest, she was going home. After 40 years away, though, home didn’t come with many friends anymore.  Three years after she came back to her small town in Wisconsin, near the Minnesota border, she still hadn’t met many people to call for a fun day out or lunch date.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Tips for Successfully Making New Friends

I've got good news and bad news as I share my 3rd video in our series this week.

The good news is that with practice I am getting better:  it's shorter and I don't think I use any of the words that I apparently have a tendency to overuse: "abundantly", "just", or "right?".  :) The bad news is that I didn't shower and my hair reflects it! haha! oh well!?!

If you haven't had a chance to watch the other two videos this week then I'll catch you up today! This one covers it all!!

In this video I reveal:

  1. Which of the 3 Friendship Benefits Matters Most to You.  I remind you of the three biggest benefits that we covered in our 1st video, plus I share which one was overwhelmingly the most important to all of you based on all your comments! (Thank you! It was so fun to hear from so many of you!)
  2. Which of the 4 Type of Loneliness is the most Common to You.  In a poll that we took after this video-- there was a very clear front-runner to which of the 4 types of loneliness is the most common one.
  3. And, My 3 Tips If You Want to Successfully Make Better Friends.  I share three expectations or things to encourage you to do if you want to make sure that you actually make better friends and not just say you want to!  (I expect that you're not doing at least one of these!)

If you're willing, please leave a comment and share with me which tip is the hardest one for you!  Which one do you find yourself most resisting or refusing to believe?

May we all stay open and willing to doing whatever it takes to create meaningful connection,

Shasta

CEO, GirlFriendCircles.com

p.s. We are re-opening GirlFriendCircles.com THIS Tuesday, July 19! Get ready to say "yes" to greater connection in your life! Watch your inbox for your personal invitation!

p.s.s. Not sure if the new GirlFriendCircles.com will provide what you most need and want? Watch today's video to find out what's coming!

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?

A Practice for "I Don't Have Time for Friends"

Lack of time for friendships is easily one of the most common complaints when it comes to doing what we know would develop our friendships toward greater fulfillment.  We know that time together bonds us, but where does one find that time? Plus, it's a bit of a vicious cycle because the less time we make, the less fulfilling the time together can feel.  Which then undoubtedly leaves us even less motivated to make time again at future dates. We find ourselves musing, "Is going out with her occasionally to just catch up on life worth leaving _____________ (fill in the blank with work, kids, romantic person of interest, or whatever feels more compelling) and we can easily drift apart from someone not because we don't like them, but because we don't spend enough time together to feel really connected to them.

Our lives are crazy busy-- there's not denying that most people feel that way.  And if not busy, then at least full of our routines and responsibilities, which to step away from can feel challenging.

An Ancient Practice Called Sabbath

Enter the practice of Sabbath.

The practice of Sabbath is an ancient spiritual tradition of carving out one day a week to focus on that which is most important to human restoration.  For me, my Sabbath is filled with spaciousness--it's a day where only that which really matters is welcome: family, friends, long conversations, beautiful walks in nature, amazing food, spiritual growth, and acts of service.  It's one day a week where I get off the hamster wheel.

The word literally means "to cease or desist" so for thousands of years people have chosen to stop doing what they do every day: chores, work, errands, consumerism, to-do lists, TV,

Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often.

packed schedules, and rushed meals, in order to make time for that which feeds their souls. It's a practice that reminds me that I don't have to do in order to be be; that my worth doesn't come from what I accomplish; and that my value isn't connected to what I buy and own.  I rest from trying to "get ahead." I remind myself I'm good enough without needing to go buy more things.  I step away from stress and let my body restore itself.

More and more people are practicing mini-Sabbath's-- blocks of time where they engage in restorative acts, or practicing variations like "No Technology Sabbaths."  I practice, similar to Jews, a Sabbath from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night-- a full 24-hours of bliss at the end of my workweek.

The Invitation to Re-Orient Your Life

The invitation to step away from our emails, our productivity, and our household chores might sound nearly impossible for many of us.  But just because we live in a culture that runs on consumerism and productivity, doesn't mean it's the best way to live.

In fact, the more I researched the value of relationships in preparation for my new book Frientimacy, the more sad I felt that we don't live in a world that is oriented to that which we most need: love.  A few more hours of work hasn't made anyone healthier and a few more thousand dollars hasn't made most people happier, but the loss of time for relationships most certainly has made us less healthy and far less happy. Gone is the feeling that we can linger over long conversations, sit on our porches and talk to neighbors, or gather in our tribes every week.  We are strewn across this country, far too lonely, and missing deep and meaningful connection. It can break my heart if I think about it too long.

So for me, I can't snap my fingers and change the world we live in, unfortunately. If I could, I'd make sure we had more vacation days (and actually took them), longer hours to sleep, slower mornings for centering ourselves, spacious evenings with friends and loved ones, and weekends filled with laughter and amazing food. My tendency, if left unchecked, is toward being a workaholic, and yet I know that more work isn't the answer to feeling valuable. Being in connection with others is the only way to really know we're loved and feel seen and valued.  I know that.

So, for me, my Sabbaths are when I remember that truth.  I step away... in order to step in to something that matters more.  I can't reorient our entire culture (but God help me I'll keep trying! ha!) but we can each practice re-orienting ourselves toward that which matters most.  We can choose to let love and relationship be our focus.  We may not be able to do it all the time, but maybe we can do it one day a week?

Because you're right-- we don't have time for our friendships the way we're doing life now.  So we have to decide if we're okay with that.  And if we're not, then we have to stop doing something in order to make time for something that matters even more.  We can't just say yes to more love, without also saying no to something else.

For me-- a day dedicated to that which I most value helps ground me, heal my body,  re-focus me on my priorities, and remind me why I do what I do the other 6 days of the week.  What can you do that would help give you the space and time for your friendships? If you were to try it, what could a Sabbath practice look like for you?

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

Announcement: Inviting You to My Sabbath Practice!

You are invited to join me for 7 Sabbaths in a row where I will teach and inspire toward deeper friendships for one hour.  I typically don't work on Saturdays but I feel compelled to foster the space for us to spend an hour together reminding ourselves of how significant love is to our lives and what we can do to develop greater intimacy around us. The calls will be recorded so if you can't join us on Saturdays, then you can listen anytime in the week that's convenient to you!  Join me for 42 Days of Frientimacy!

42 days of frientimacy

When You're The Only One Making Time for Friendship

Dear Shasta,

I’ve been binge-reading your blog and very happy I discovered it. I think what you are saying mostly makes a lot of sense, but I’m struggling with something: It is so very hard to meet people who are open to new friendships. On the rare instances that I find people who seem like they are, it’s almost impossible to find people who have the *time* to get together regularly. It’s hard to move friends down the pipeline, so to speak. Everyone seems just so very busy.  I can’t find anyone to say yes regularly enough to build meaningful friendships. Heck, it’s hard to get anyone to say yes at all. What do you suggest in situations like these?

Dearest Willing to Make the Time:

First, kudos to you and your awareness, intention, and willingness to foster friendships!  It's awesome and it WILL serve your life.  I promise!  Guard that commitment-- don't let others who are less aware steal it; don't let anyone saying no rob you of it; and certainly don't let apathy drain it from you.  What you know to be true: that friendships are worth the time, will benefit YOUR life.  Regardless of the outcome or of anyone's responses-- you know the truth and it will bless you.  Stay with it.

In fact it's your super power!  Not everyone knows they have it.  You're lucky you do.  SO many women are lonely (and the busier she is often means the lonelier she can feel!) and they don't have the energy, know-how, or motivation to change it-- but you do!  The ability to initiate repeatedly is a super power that will ensure you build meaningful friendships.

What Won't Work

Let's just be clear that what you secretly hope for isn't going to work:

  • Their schedules aren't just going to open up.  If I could wave a magic wand for you, I would, but it doesn't work.  So we can't wait for them to "not be busy."
  • Just because you initiated last time doesn't mean it's their turn.  A thousand potential relationships die every day because someone believes this myth.
  • Taking their silence, their no's, or their forgetfulness personally will never lead to friendship.  And the good news is that in the early stages of friendship-- we don't need to take these as a sign that the person isn't good friend material. No one can make everyone a priority in their schedules.  As your time together (even if it's at your initiation every time) becomes more meaningful, so will it get easier for her to commit her time to it.
  • Resenting them for not "stepping up." You're not initiating for their sake, but for yours! It's not a gift to them, but to yourself! So you don't ever need to resent them for not reciprocating-- this is your goal and need so you just keep leaning into friendships... and you will get what you crave.
  • Focusing all your energy on 1-2 people isn't enough.  Cast a net, not a fishing line, and be open to who might surprise you as a great friend down the road!

    Shasta and her friends

Ideas to Try for Building Friendships with Busy People

Instead of hand picking a couple of people and casually asking them to do something "sometime" and then hoping that *poof* a friendship will develop from that-- what we need to do is try everything and anything that will help us connect with as many women so we can eventually see who is responding with their occasional yes:

  • Extend an invitation to everyone you know for a standing girls night every Tuesday and be happier with the few who show up each week than disappointed with the many who don't.  But keep inviting the whole group each week (and tell them to bring a friend with them if you want more there!) and you'll see that those who show up most often will feel most close by Christmas!
  • Start a 4-week book club (long enough commitment to develop some friendships, but short enough for no one to feel stuck) as the excuse to gather everyone together. (My first book has a free 4-week guide, is written to help the group get to know each other, and has the extra bonus of reminding everyone how important consistent time is together!)
  • Ask for a commitment from a friend who says no. If she can't make the time we suggest, then follow it up with a "When works best for you?  Give me a date or two and I'll do everything I can on my end to make it work." Don't let the ball drop.
  • Build a relationship with unscheduled time. She's too busy to commit? Then just make a note to randomly call her every so often-- call her the first time with a follow-up reason: "Just wanted to call you real quick and hear how x went!" Another time call her "I'm just on my lunch break so only have a few minutes but was thinking of you and wanted to just catch up and hear how x is going!" Another time: "Hi! Hopefully this will just take a few moments but I had a question for you..."  Keep the calls short, ask a specific question to get the conversation started, and let her know you're thinking of her.  This does facilitate bonding and can ultimately make get-togethers more meaningful.
  • Try for spontaneous.  I've found that a lot of my friends feel overwhelmed with their schedule when they are looking at their calendars a week or two out, but that my odds go up if I am willing to try for day-of opportunities every so often. Text her-- "Hey any chance you're up for a 30 minute walk after work tonight?  I'm feeling the need for some fresh air and friendship!"  Or, "Hey, I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow near your office-- any chance we can sneak away for a bite to eat before or after my appointment?"  Or, "I know this is so last-minute... but just thought I'd try to see if there was any chance we could just stick our kids in front of a movie tonight for 45 minutes while we drink wine in the kitchen? Ha! You in?"
  • Invite on social media.  We may not want to post "I need friends.  Help!" but we can certainly post to our local friends: "I want to do x next week, anyone up for joining me?" Or "I'm tired of my walking route and am looking for someone who will take me on theirs! Ha! I'll drive to you!" Or "I'm thinking of having a decorating cookie party this holiday season-- who wants to come?" This helps expose you to possible friends who may not be on your radar, helps you see who might make the time, and shows you as an open and fun person who values friendships and enjoys life.

Do you see the patterns in those ideas?  Initiation With Many + Repeat As Often As Possible, with a Sprinkle of Fun and Lightheartedness = You Soon Having Friends.

The more we can call you "Making the Time" the sooner we can call you "The Girl With Healthy Friendships!"

Good luck, much love, and thank you for being a woman who prioritizes friendship!

Shasta

Update on 11/5: For more on this subject, in part inspired by some of the comments from this post, see the follow-up post: "If my friend really liked me then she'd initiate more..."

Top Three Tips for Making New Friends

In nearly every media interview I am asked, "What are your tips for making new friends?" and the reporters often are looking for specific ideas like joining clubs, hanging out at the dog park, or volunteering. But those aren't tips for making friends; they are just places to meet people. And there is a vast difference between meeting people and making friends.  Truth be told, most of us probably know enough people, we just don't feel close to enough of them. Even if we don't yet know people in a certain location, it's not because we don't know where people work, live, or hang out that we aren't meeting them, but rather because we don't know what to do once we meet them.

new friends

So as a friendship expert who has been thinking all things friendship for nearly seven years, here are the real tips.  You do these, assuming you're a decently nice and healthy person, you will have friends. Promise.

1)  Be Open.

Be mindful that research shows that we aren't all that good at predicting who we will bond with so be open to the possibility that your new friends don't need to be your same age, same relationship status, or a certain horoscope sign.

Let yourself be surprised by staying open and hopeful about women you're used to dismissing as not your type. My rule of thumb is to delay deciding whether someone is BFF material and just move the friendship as far as one can, as long as there are no big red flags (i.e. stealing from you).

I've matched up complete strangers and turned them into friends in my workshops and research bears out that bonding has less to do with being matched up with a certain person and more to do with how those two people interact-- so you can assume that most of the people you meet could be a good friend even if they have kids and you don't, even if they are single and you aren't, and even if their personality is opposite yours.

If this one tip were taken seriously, we would have a far less lonely world. (See also: The Myth that Keeps You Lonely for more on this)

2) Initiate.

Most of us are meeting people. Everywhere. Work especially. But also everywhere else you go in life.  And most of the people you are meeting could potentially add great meaning and joy to you life if you two really knew each other and spent time together.

To do that, you have two choices: get to know them in a setting where you both automatically are present (like work, church, a club--all the places that reporters want us to list as tips) OR you have to initiate with them in order to get that time logged.

Initiating means to be the catalyst to making the time together happen: striking up conversation, suggesting time together, and following up with specific ideas and dates.

Yes, it can feel awkward. Yes, it's hard if you're shy. But honestly, there is no way to build friendships without spending time together so someone has to make that happen. You're the one who sees the need so it's your job to do what you need to do to start the friendships you ultimately want to enjoy.

3) Repeat.

Falling for the myth that "if she likes me then she'll initiate next time" will kill the potential of many relationships. Instead, believe, "If she likes me then she'll say yes and try to get together when I invite her."

We all have stories of meeting someone we liked who didn't become a friend for no other reason than neither woman really followed up to make the time together happen repeatedly.

When it comes to romantic dating we intuitively understand that meeting for lunch once a month isn't going to be enough time together to really get to know one another, and yet that's all the time we often give to new friends! It will take a loooong time to feel close and supported in a friendship with someone we only connect with occasionally. Our goal is to eventually more toward familiarity-- becoming more of a regularity in each other's lives than a rare exception.

It takes most of us about 6-8 interactions with someone before we will usually start feeling like friends so the sooner we get those 6-8 times scheduled, the sooner we will be able to reap the rewards of our time!

Of course there are countless tips I could give in explaining each of these tips, but suffice it to say: every friendship you have ever formed has followed these three steps.

Don't be someone who just keeps meeting people; be someone who knows what actions to take to develop those people into friends.

-------

p.s.  And remember, GirlFriendCircles.com is a great way to meet new friends in your city since everyone who is a member is a friendly woman who values making new friends!

How I Can Be a Better Friend: Follow-Through

In the spirit of learning from our mistakes, two popular posts over the years have been when I admitted to my four personal biggest friendship failures and when I shared the five biggest mistakes I see other women make with their friendships. Today I add another of mine to the list. I Am Far From the 'Perfect Friend'

It started when one of my girlfriends was sharing with me her deep hurt at how a friend had disappointed her; she wondered aloud if it were a friendship worth saving.

The disappointment was so small thing: My friend had been in the middle of a big personal crisis, had reached out via text to a friend of hers with whom they have a several year history of talking about deep things even if they don't talk that regularly. Her friend immediately offered to call her that evening but later needed to reschedule, and then had never gotten back to her.  A month had gone by and my friend still hadn't heard from her.  "The last she knew, I was in crisis... but she hasn't checked back in," the pain was palatable.

Not a one of us would say that went down the way we'd want a friend to act if it were us in crisis. That hardly looks like "being there" for a friend.

And yet, I found myself sympathetic to this friend. We have all gotten swept up in our own lives and in the relationships and needs that are right in front of our faces. I felt convicted.

As she was telling me this story... I started thinking of far-flung friends that I haven't checked in on in a while.  I realized I hadn't remembered to send a note to a friend on the anniversary of a death that I knew was hard, I hadn't texted my friend who had applied for a big job to see how the interview went, and I hadn't yet reached out to one of my girlfriends who I saw on Facebook had to take her little girl to the emergency room last week. Granted, if any of them had written me I would so be there for them, but.... I wasn't initiating.

I first felt guilt. Then overwhelm. Then some defensiveness.  Then some regret. Then some sadness. And then I felt panic: What if any of them felt neglected the way my friend is feeling about her friend?  What if one of my friends took my lack of follow-through personally?  Or needed me to reach out and I hadn't? Do any of them feel less loved by me? *gulp*

How I will Practice Follow-Through

I've never had any fantasy that I am the perfect friend--and seeing how I can be so present and available to you when you're in front of me, but then not show my love by following up with you--confirmed that I have a lot of room for growth.

Here are the two commitments I have as I embark on focusing more on becoming a friend who follow-throughs when I know big things are happening in the lives of my friends.

  1. Put it in my Calendar or smartphone Reminders. She's

    I'm going to try to show my love more tangibly by putting reminders in my phone!

    scheduled to have a hysterectomy next month? Set a reminder a week before and a week after to check in with how she's feeling.  She called me and confided in a fight she's having with her husband? Set a reminder next week to check in with her.  She mentions how much she hopes she'll get a raise next month? You know the drill. It's no less sincere; in fact I'd argue it shows just how much I care. I will calendar in what matters. We don't feel less thought of when someone has our birthday in the calendar, why would we if they decided we were important enough to remember?

  2. Be as gentle with myself and others as I can be.  Guilt, defensiveness, and remorse don't foster healthy friendships.  I will do what I can, when I can, but it's also not my entire responsibility to initiate; it's also theirs for reaching out and keeping me updated, asking for what they need. I will remind myself to be no more hurt by their silence in the gaps than I would want them to feel by mine. Therefore, I will take every opportunity to tell them I love them and apologize when necessary to ensure that while we may be disappointed by each other occasionally, we hopefully never question whether the other person loves us.

It's that last one that guided me to say to my friend who was struggling with her friend, "Do you believe it was malicious? Was she trying to hurt you?" (A new favorite question of mine to help put into perspective the difference between someone hurting us vs. us feeling hurt by someone!) She immediately knew it wasn't.  I encouraged her to reach out; we can't end friendships every time someone isn't amazing.

They had an amazing talk.  Her friend, of course, felt awful and was so apologetic.  And they built their friendship stronger because they were both willing to show up with honesty and compassion.

I feel a little scared to put this expectation on myself (and am hoping not too many of my friends read this and get their hopes up! ha!) but I'm committed to growing and becoming a better friend when I can. Even if I have to schedule it in to practice.

Wish me luck!

Now, I wonder how my friend who recently filed for divorce is feeling... I'll go shoot her a little note! Anyone you want to reach out to?  :)

Are You Motivated Toward Pleasure or Away From Pain?

A guy giving me a sales pitch last year said to me,

"We've found that only about 20% of people are what we call 'Toward People'-- the ones who move toward pleasure; the other 80% of people are 'Away People' who move away from pain."

How Are You Motivated?

Am I able to see what I want and go after it or do I wait until the pain of what I have is so heavy that my motivation comes more from avoiding discomfort?

Any parents, teachers, managers, or other professions that necessitate motivating others know first-hand that this rule holds some truth. With one kid you have to promise ice cream to get the desired results; whereas with another it's not until you threaten to take away their TV privileges that they feel inspired. With weight loss as the example, some friends are chasing a goal--say posing in a bikini-- that motivates them; others, if honest with themselves, are just tired of feeling shame and would give anything to stop feeling that way.

It seems important to know which one we are. The last thing we want is to be in a bikini and still feel shame.

Why Do You Want to Make Friends?

Are you seeking new friends because you know how much fun it will be? Are you already looking forward to the activities, the sharing, and the bond?  Are you motivated to invite now by thinking about what you can be experiencing a year from now?  Are your eyes on the prize? Are you moving toward the pleasure you want?

Or... are you seeking friends because you're tired of feeling disconnected? Are you feeling the loneliness, the ache, and the angst of what it feels like to not have the friends you most want?  Are you motivated to invite now because you want to stop feeling the pain of feeling unsupported or unknown? Are your eyes on the pain? Are you moving away from the pain you feel?

Of course the two are interconnected: accomplishing one hopefully impacts the other. But that's not always the case, is it?  The strategy and results might look different based on which one is the primary motivator.

  • For example, if you're a Toward Person then you probably have a vision of what you want. Perhaps it's sitting in your backyard with a friend watching your kids play, meeting up with a group of friends for lunch downtown where you can talk work and vent, or having one person who knows everything going on in your life because you're both texting each other all through out the day?  Knowing the picture you want-- gives you instant information about the strategy you will want to employ, whether it's finding other women who work nearby or other women who have kids who will play with yours.
  • Whereas, if you're an Away Person then you could theoretically reach any of those visions listed above but still feel angst if you didn't first identify what pain you're trying to avoid.  Maybe it's the pain from being mad at someone, the pain of feeling misunderstood, or the pain of feeling isolated.  Sitting in the backyard watching your kids play may not be the answer?  In fact it may exacerbate the pain because you'll be confused why you still feel mad, misunderstood, or lonely if you didn't figure out why you were feeling those things and articulate what you believe would help you move away from that feeling.

I don't actually think one is worst than the other as much as they both just describe human nature and how we're wired differently. What could be damaging is not knowing which path feels most motivating to you.

Questions to Lead to Your Own Motivation

It's undoubtedly not as easy as an either/or answer for you, but I challenge you today to try to answer these following questions:

  1. Do you most need to move toward something or away from something?
  2. Based on that answer, write at least one full paragraph articulating either the feelings/experiences you want to pursue or avoid.
  3. Now let an image come to mind of you reaching your goal (what does it look like if you're not feeling that way, or what does it look like for you to reach the experience you're pursuing) and describe or draw what you see.  What are you doing? What does your face look like? Who else is there? What are you feeling?
  4. What does your voice of wisdom and maturity say is your take-away from this exercise? Is there an action you want to take? Is there something you want to remember?

Naming which one resonates with us might give us some ah-ha into how to best keep ourselves motivated.  It also hopefully helps us reach our real goals--whether it's the obtain something or avoid something.  Both are important.  But which one matters most?

If I could wave my little magic wand then I'd hope for you both the joy of pursuing pleasure and the peace from moving away from pain.  But since I can't find it right now, what I want for you is your clarity in knowing which one matters most to you right now so that your chances of success increase.  May you feel more relaxed in your friend-making journey as you sense that you have landed on what really will keep you motivated.

And, by the way, I bought the software from that sales guy. He won me over. Ha!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  I finished my next book manuscript!  Woohoo!! This was a case of first being a Toward person as it was the joy of writing and teaching that motivated me to write a book proposal last summer for my agent to start pitching to publishers.  But then, in recent months I was definitely more motivated by recognizing that there was pain I wanted to Avoid.  When the book felt hard-- and oh this one was squeezing me tight and pounding me with pressure--the only thing that kept me going was not wanting to miss a deadline or disappoint my editor.  I was all about the avoiding pain! Ha!  So sometimes we can use both to our advantage!  :)  I CANNOT wait to share this book with you... as soon as I know the publication date-- I'll let you know!

No Excuse! Commit to a Girlfriend Weekend!

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

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

So Many Excuses to Not Get-Away!

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

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

Kids and Girlfriend Get-Aways

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo,

Shasta

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

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

5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend!

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

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

The Friendship Formula

On Sunday I sat at the front of the room, with my phone in my hand keeping time, and I looked out a room-full of women laughing, talking, and leaning in toward each other. Only an hour earlier they had arrived as strangers, here they were looking a lot like good friends.  I knew that given a few more hours... I'd see women hugging each other good-bye with words like "See you next week!" excitedly hanging in the air.

Friendship Accelerators Bonding Women

There are actually few things more gratifying than facilitating Friendship Accelerators. Undoubtedly, speaking and writing are two of my favorite things since I love communicating and teaching, but the Accelerators give me a chance to go beyond inspiring and instructing an audience to actually helping cultivate the very connection people crave.  They're magical for me. All the motivational speaking in the world can't deliver friendships to people... but the Accelerators can; and for those results, I love them.

I, in fact, have joked that I feel a bit like a scientist in a lab inventing friendships.  Like any passionate scientist who might pour a little of this concoction, a dash of that, and a sprinkle of something else to create something greater than all the individual elements, I have learned that the very high possibility of meaningful friendships is something I can create.  Over the years I am perfecting the recipe, but the fact that the results are more predictable than ever has never dampened my glee when I watch it work, again and again.

Is there a Formula to Love?

Perhaps because I've been vocal over the years that I believe there is more of a formula to friendship than most of us want to believe, several women sent me the recent article in The New York Times titled, "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This" and said variations of "This reminds me of what you do with friendship!"

In the article Mandy Len Catron shared the story of falling in love with someone through answering the same 36 questions that researchers had used in a study to analyze what helped people feel close to each other.

In that study, they developed a list of questions that were designed to help two people self-disclose in increasing intensity and included questions that helped the subjects talk about their relationship and each other.  The connection to each other was big enough for the researchers to conclude:

"One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure."

Notice that the basis of the connection is self-disclosure and sharing, but that it also has to be consistent, mutual, and incremental.

Just as interesting as what did work in bonding people in a lab is what didn't work that they also tested:  1) leaving two people to engage in small talk for 45 minutes didn't work, 2) being matched with people who agreed with you on important views didn't result in an increased connection, 3) being told the goal was to feel close didn't make a difference in helping the pair reach the goal, and 4) being led to believe that mutual liking was expected based on them being a good match didn't help it pan out.

Think about how much of our dating includes those four things: hoping it will work, believing we're a match, both having the goal of finding someone, and spending time on a date talking... but none of those factors lead to intimacy as much as intentional and personal self-disclosure that escalated incrementally.

Is there a Formula to Friendship?

Similarly, while their research was more focused on romantic intimacy, it confirms what I have long known to be true in friendship, as well:  There are actions we can take to foster a bond.

In other words, it's not just "chance" that will determine whether we'll feel a connection, nor is it only if the other person proves to have the "right" qualities we think we want in someone.  Bonding has far more to do with the verbs we engage in with someone than the adjectives they possess.

It's why the women who join GirlFriendCircles.com attend ConnectingCircles: small groups of 3-6 women who gather at a local cafe and pick questions off a list of Sharing Questions to ask and answer.  We have found the success rates of women feeling connected to others increases when they engage in sharing questions about themselves rather than just let the conversation drift from movies to men to jobs.

And it's why I developed the Frientimacy Triangle which teaches that all relationships start at the base of the triangle and bond when they increase both their time together and the self-revealing they're willing to do. (Read another post or buy book for more explanation.)

Regular time together (leading to commitment) and increased vulnerability is what will help two people bond.

What's so encouraging is that these actions are within your control!  You can 1) initiate time together with people you want to bond with and 2) you can ask questions and share about yourself in a way that helps the two of you bond.

It has far less to do with you both needing to be moms with kids the same ages, both needing to be retired, or both single 30-somethings-- you can build a close connection that is meaningful with far more people than you believe you can.  I've seen it time and time again.

And that's why the Friendship Accelerators work: they commit to a whole day together that I facilitate to help create intentional sharing and then they commit to 4 weekly get-togethers where they will increase their time together and continue to share their lives.

Last summer I was invited to attend the one-year anniversary of a Friendship Accelerator group who was still getting together weekly 52 weeks after they met. I went to a birthday party last month where three women there had all met at one of my Accelerators a couple of years back.  I regularly see Facebook photos of another group who seemingly gets together all the time for fun stuff all over the city.

Last week I received an email from a woman who had been in one of my Friendship Accelerators a couple of years ago who said, "Two of the friends I met at our Accelerator 3 years ago are still very dear to me and an important part of my life.  Even though one moved farther away, we are still in regular contact and get together often.  In fact, I had dinner last night with one of those friends and the 3 of us are going to the theater to celebrate the other one's birthday next week. Thank you!"

The Two Necessary Ingredients in Bonding

Indeed, whether it's romance or friendship-- they both are built upon helping bond people-- we all too often expect more from the things that don't work and are too busy or too nervous to try the things that do.

If you want meaningful connections:

Time together + Intentional Self-Revealing = Feeling Close to Others.

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

p.s.  If you want me to come to your city to lead a Friendship Accelerator you can add your email and zip code to our list to be notified when we schedule one in your area!

 

Choose Friends. Make Time. Repeat.

We've all heard the stories of people on their death-beds saying things like, "I wish I had made more time for my family and friends," or "I wish I had played more, not taken it all so seriously."  We pass around inspirational blog posts on Facebook of experienced mothers saying things such as, "I wish I had worried far less about keeping the house clean and far more about playing," and from the wise women who reach the maturity to be able to say, "I wish I had eaten more ice cream with friends instead of forever trying to lose those stubborn 5 lbs. What a waste of energy my entire life!" We hear the wisdom.  And we resonate.  We know deep down that it is truth.  But knowing 1468613_10151969864577435_82284094_nsomething and having it change the way we live our lives are two very different things.

It's past time, my GirlFriends, that we choose friendship even when it feels inconvenient, expensive, and time-consuming.  Even when we think we prefer sitting on the couch.  Even when we think we don't have the money to visit her.  Even when we think we don't have the time to call.

It's time to choose friendship in higher doses.  It's the medicine our bodies and souls are dying without.  It's the cure to that which ails us.  It's the love that will remind us how connected and supported we are.  It's the peace that comes with knowing we are not alone.  It's the safety net that will protect us when the storms come... and they always do.

What Could Choosing Friendship Look Like?

Choosing friendship means not missing the weddings, the birthdays, the big moments. We do whatever we can to be there even if it means buying a cheaper used car, forgoing a shopping trip, or putting off the new dishwasher.

Choosing friendship means we get on a plane and go see her.  Just because you miss her.  Even if the plane ticket goes on the credit card. We put far less important things on there and the investment is well worth it.

Choosing friendship means we tell our spouses, our kids, and our bosses that our annual girls weekend away is a non-negotiable.  We are going.  Every year. We don't ask if we can afford it this year, have the time, or if it's convenient on everyone else-- we say yes and figure it out. That's how we roll; that's what we do.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to a spontaneous invitation.  Or better yet, being the one to give a spontaneous invitation! I made a pot of soup-- can you come over tonight?

Choosing friendship means not allowing "tired" to be an excuse (the only exception is if you really will sleep during that exact time!) as whatever else we go home and do instead won't make us less tired, but it will make us less connected.

Choosing friendship means buying a random card at the grocery store, writing a few lines of love, and mailing it out to someone who pops into your heart. $4 and 10 minutes is always worth it.  Always.

Choosing friendship means initiating with new friends.  Even when the time together isn't yet as easy, meaningful and intimate as you would like it to be.  You initiate in faith that some of them will one day be your best friends. Much like we work out not because we see the difference in each work-out, but because we know we will over the long run.

Choosing friendship means telling your kids, "Just like you played with your friends today, it's time for mommy to go play with hers" even when they beg for you to stay home.  (And the more regular you are with going out, the easier it will be on everyone else!)

Choosing friendship means not letting your pouting lover dissuade you from going out... but saying, "I can't wait to come home... but I know if I want meaningful friendships that they require time together.  Thank you for supporting that!" And then kiss him/her on the mouth so hard that they recall just how much you love them... and then walk away for a few hours with women who will love you in different ways.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to more sleep-overs, more weekends away, more dinners around your table with friends, more evenings out, and more hours spent in conversation.

Choosing Friendship From a Place of Love and Hope

Yes we need boundaries,

yes we need to listen to our bodies,

yes we need to say no more often to some things,

yes we need to take our temperaments into consideration,

yes we are busy,

yes we don't want to rack up credit card bills,

yes we have more meaningful relationships to consider besides our friends...

yes, there are always ifs, and's, & but's....  

This isn't a post about draining yourself more and giving more when it feels yucky... no, this is a post about saying yes to people who have the highest likelihood of loving you in meaningful ways.

This is a post that reminds us that if we want to feel known, then we want to say yes to more conversation.  That if we want to feel supported, then we want to say yes to more vulnerability. That if we want to feel joy, then we want to say yes to more moments that make memories.  That if we want to feel connected, then we must fly, call, and talk more.  That if we want good friendships then we will want to invest whatever we can today knowing it will come back to us in fabulous ways.

It is all so very easy to get used to the routine, the slow drain on our lives, the ongoing stress of our finances, the burden of everyone needing more of us... but that is not the way we choose to live.  We want more.  WAY more love and laughter and connection and joy.  Way more!

And you, and only you, can choose to say, "I will not let a year pass without us getting together.  I will not let this week pass without meeting a friend after work.  I will not let this evening pass without calling a friend and telling her that I miss her."

We do it not from guilt, but from love.  From the whisper of our future self saying to us now, "You won't regret having more love and connection in your life.  Do it.  Say yes."  We do it because we know this is what we value and how we want to structure our lives.

We will probably feel busy, tired, and broke whether we reach out or not... at least if we don't use those as excuses to not then we will at least have the friendships in our lives that energize us and protect us from the effects of the stress!

Choose Friends.  Make Time. Repeat.

Always in love,

Shasta

Leave a comment:  what excuse do you most consistently use to not spend more time with friends?  What would it take to not see that excuse as a limitation or justified reason to not pursue more love? Are you willing to consider that you might feel that way no matter whether you do or don't spend more time with friends but that one option might leave you with more love and joy, too?

 

Friendships Don't Just Happen - for Guy Friends

From Shasta:  I've long-held that most men crave more meaningful friendships and while I don't have the same expertise and experience in teaching men as I do to women (that won't stop me from trying though! ha!) I have been long interviewing men about their friendships because I think there is a lot there that we aren't yet talking about, and need to be.

Greg Tjosvold has preferred friendship with women much of his life but is grateful to be exploring meaningful friendships with men now.

One of the men whose opinions and experiences on this subject has impressed me greatly is Greg Tjosvold, a middle-school teacher, husband, father, and author living outside of Vancouver, Canada.

Greg's story is poignant... as he comes to have faith in other men wanting and willing to grow in closer friendship with each other.  I hope that as we keep modeling men having deeper friendships and giving more permission (as a culture) to men to get together to talk and share life (without sports being the only acceptable excuse) that we will see that frientimacy is something that enhances all of our lives, regardless of our gender.

Huge thanks Greg for sharing the story of the Barley Brethren with us!  :)  Love it!

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

Friendships Don't Just Happen - for Guy Friends

by Greg Tjosvold

He stopped trying to shove my head in the toilet when I started to cry. Grade 8 boys weren’t supposed to cry, but it worked.

Most of my interactions with guys have been like that. Until I was 14, I was very small for my age. I was an easy target for wannabe bullies trying to establish themselves. I was not athletic, so I was always picked last, if picked at all. And if I was on the team, invariably the captain would call me out in front of my peers for my less than stellar play. Being small gave others the chance to be “big.”

As a teen, I didn’t drink, tinker with cars, or “chase tail” - the favorite activities of most of the guys I knew in my small Canadian logging town. I was attracted to solo adventures like fly-fishing and astronomy. Those were safe for me. And so were girls.

My best friends have always been women.

In school, the girls I hung out with never attempted to give me a “swirly.” In fact they told off people who tried. I was always included by my amazing girl cousins whom my family visited frequently. My best friend in high school, a wonderful young woman of Japanese heritage, always kept a seat free and a meaningful conversation ready for me on the bus ride home. I played flute in band, but rather than shunning me, the cool girls in the band, the “Fearsome Five-some” I called them, made time for me. Girls were there for me; guys were not.

Things have not really changed much for me as an adult; by comfort and profession, I am still surrounded by women. My wife is my absolute best friend and soul mate. My BFF is a former teaching partner; I was her “man of honor.” As a teacher in the lower grades, I once found myself working in a building where everyone other than me, from janitor to principal, was a woman. And I was OK with that. I still feel safest in my female connections.

So I was as shocked as anyone when I said yes to an invitation from a colleague to join the founding chapter of “The Barley Brethren.” I am the rebel seventh – the lone non-drinker in a group of men coming together each week to share each other’s journeys over a six-pack of quality craft beer. For the first time in my life I am hanging out with guys and enjoying it.

What happened? This new adventure, this new friendship experiment, is a happy byproduct of navel-gazing, need, and Shasta.

Navel-gazing

As I approached my 50th birthday, I became very self-reflective. One of my realizations? That it is hard being a married, middle-aged man with female friends. On more than one occasion an outside observer has assumed I’ve been up to something. Or that I’m gay. Sometimes, I just don’t fit in with my friend’s activities (e.g. having a guy at a bachelorette party is lame!). Still other times, my offered friendship has left the other person's spouse feeling threatened and jealous. I’ve even had people tell me outright that married men should not have close female friends. Period.

All of these things do not just affect me; they also affect any potential female friend. While I have to believe that I'm worth it, it is a special lady indeed who is willing to take on such a challenging friendship. In light of that realization, I started to toy with the notion that, if I was going to need a new friend, it might be better (albeit scarier) if that person was male.

Need

It turns out that I did find myself needing new friends. My best friend and teaching partner moved to the other side of the continent (following her husband's employment) and I had a rather painful falling out with another very good friend at nearly the same time. The full weight of my needs for companionship and camaraderie all of a sudden fell almost exclusively on my wife's shoulders.

Shasta

Fortunately, in the midst of all of this, I came across Shasta Nelson, friendship expert, via Twitter. While her company and mission, girlfriendcircles.com, wouldn't be any help to me, her book, "Friendships don't just happen!" was a timely godsend. So much of the book resonated with me, especially:

  1. Friendships come and go. Shasta references research that shows we are now replacing about half of our friends every seven years. It was reassuring to know that what I was going through was not unusual. It's hard on the ego to admit you need new friends.
  2. There are different types of friends. For many people, I suppose Shasta's five Circles of Connectedness are largely self-evident. However, for me, it was life-changing revelation. As someone who had very few friends growing up, I just assumed that the very definition of friend was someone who was a BFF - a "committed friend" per Shasta's terminology. I distinctly remember times in my life when the phrase "Everybody's pal, nobody's friend" hung over me like a black cloud of loneliness and unworthiness. I had never really considered the importance of my "left side" friends on the continuum - how they can be the seeds of deeper friendship and who are no less important to a rich life of connection all on their own.
  3. Friendships don't just happen. I spent most of my life with the unspoken assumption that people just connected or they didn't. The book challenged me to look back at the best friendships I had in my life and understand that they were the byproduct of gradual progression. More importantly, it made it clear to me that this progression was something that could be replicated; that I could start with "contact friends" and, given time, consistency and gradually increasing intimacy, there was hope I might be able to move friends from the left side of the friendship continuum to the right.

Enter the Barley Brethren

Retired school principal Phil Ballard started the Barley Brethren to a meet a perceived need; the need for men to have the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

Per his early notes, he envisioned the Barley Brethren as a "club of like-minded gentlemen in search of spiritual coherence. Membership in the Double B would involve a commitment to become a connoisseur of quality craft beer and would require the sharing of 'cicerone' duties for the weekly gathering. While quaffing their favorite brew, the brothers would discover meaning for their own lives while sharing in each other’s journeys. Meetings would be convened on the “MV Kairos,” a 45 ft. motor yacht."

While we couldn't come across any group photo-- this is supposedly Phil's hand holding one of the lucky beers.  Ha!

The concept of bros and booze in a man-cave should've sent me running, given my history. However, my desire to establish male friendships and the concepts in Shasta's book give me a framework for courage.

My BFF had moved (my committed friend would soon become a confirmed friend), so when a respected colleague (a "contact friend" worth investing in) asked if I was interested in joining a group planning to meet weekly (ingredient: consistency) to learn about beer ("common friends") and discuss life (ingredient: intimacy), what might have looked scary before, I now recognized as the perfect recipe for developing friendship. The fact that founding father Phil was a "confirmed friend" with whom I had lost touch over the years seemed serendipitous.

Note from Shasta: Greg, Gold stars for making the real life application to the concepts!  Love it!

Each week during the school year we meet.

Beer pours at 7:30 sharp. We spend time reviewing the beer, its history, and its characteristics. As a non-drinker, but a life-long learner, it has been fascinating learning the terminology of surrounding craft beer. I also know what sort of beer to bring to a gathering if I am asked.

The rest of the evening is a little less structured. In theory there is a go to study we listen to or read, but just as often as we just talk about what needs to be talked about. We talk, laugh, and yes, even cry about the things that are affecting our lives. Marriage, children, death, illness, work, retirement, faith... we all bring different perspectives and wisdom to what is important in the moment.

The Barley Brethren have been meeting for two years now... at least our first group. Somewhat ironically, the friend who initially invited me became the leader of a second group when the success of the idea and the need to open the concept up to more members became self-evident. (I see this friend outside the group now though.) For the first time in my life, I am hanging out with men on a regular basis. I still have my uncomfortable flashback moments... I'm overly sensitive to teasing about my beer selections, for instance... but I am so thankful for the growing friendships in the group built on vulnerability and sharing that, frankly, I didn't believe was possible among men.

Apparently friendships don't just happen. It's an important concept for guys too.

---

While "just a group of guys," for more information, there is a site under construction: http://www.barleybrethren.com, they are on Twitter @barleybrethren, and here's their un-official theme song that sort of encapsulates the Barley Brethren: Brother, by Need To Breathe.  :)

From Shasta: Bravo guys!  Well done!  May your willingness to engage be contagious! :)

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.

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

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!"