Guest Blogs

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 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!

Moving and Making New Friends: Embracing the Change

When we want to make new friendships, we're often dismayed at how challenging it can feel. Katrina Emery, a GFC member who lives in Portland OR, recently interviewed Maggie Chang about how she ended up seeing a move as the best excuse to start over with greater intention!

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by Katrina Emery

Maggie Chang had lived in New York City all her life. Her big move had been from Queens to Brooklyn, and that was far enough. But moving to California? Terrifying.

“My husband made me do it!” she laughs. At first she had scoffed at his suggestion. She was perfectly fine, had family and friends nearby, and California was so far away!

Maggie Chang-- thank you for sharing a glimpse of your journey with us as you continue to develop the friendships that matter most to you!

Gradually she warmed up to it, though, and two years ago she, her husband, and her then-9-year-old son found themselves new residents of San Bruno, right outside San Francisco.

She tackled the move by pursuing new interests and passions, which was also a way to make new friends. After adopting a dog, she started volunteering at SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). She’s gotten outside more: hiking, beaches, dog parks, camping, exercise, yoga.

Her yoga passion actually led her to a deep friendship journey, in a roundabout way. In researching a yoga retreat, she ended up at Shasta’s New Year Retreat (“Reveal: A weekend where good friends dream up a great year.”). “It definitely wasn’t yoga!” she laughs, but she ended up loving the chance to delve thoughtfully into her own wisdom and intuition. The retreat offers women a beautiful place for guided personal reflection and facilitated group connection designed to reveal the themes and feelings that will best lead each person in the year ahead.

Shasta's Reveal Retreat at Mayacamas Ranch in Calistoga, CA

Maggie used the intention created at the retreat to focus on her relationships, and it was there that some realizations about her life in Brooklyn came up. “I was not actually happy in NYC,” she says, “not very connected to the friends and family I had there.” She hadn’t realized it at the time, but there was a distance growing in her old friendships that wasn’t being addressed or augmented with new ones. She discovered she had been suffering from a lack of meaningful healthy friendships for a while, even before moving. The research that shows we replace our friends every 7 years was especially striking to her. “Nobody teaches us these things!” She had been stuck in past versions of friendships that had changed. “There was some shame connected to it,” she admits, noting that since she claimed she had current friends (even though the dynamics had changed), she felt uncomfortable searching for “new” ones.

It wasn’t until the move forced her into new relationships that she suddenly felt ok pursuing them. Now, she was new to an area and had practical reasons for making new friends. The need to reach out made it ok to try. She joined GFC as a GFConnector last December, and committed to facilitating events for a period. “That’s helped. Not that it’s been easy or I’ve made a lot of friends, but it’s like I’m strengthening that muscle.”

Since moving to California, Maggie describes herself as being more intentional and more mindful of friendships. Her son, now 11, has his own friendships at school. “I’m now encouraging him, making it an actual goal.” she notes. “I want him to know that it’s important enough to work on.” She hasn’t found the perfect way to be vulnerable to him about her own friendship struggles, but hopes she can keep working on that. “One new struggle that has popped up is: Should I be making friends with moms of kids his age?” she wonders. More requirements for hopeful friendships (that they live close, that the kids get along, etc.), though, just ends up adding extra layers of complications.

Two years in, and Maggie still feels she’s in the middle of the transition. Her advice is to embrace the uncomfortable: “You’re going to learn and grow from change, so let it happen.” With the freedom of a new location, the pursuit and opportunity of new relationships is an important part of her life. “I’m not saying it’s easy or doesn’t take work, but I’m starting to meet new people and start new relationships.” She sounds hopeful. And proud of herself.

And she did find an actual yoga retreat to go on recently. An intense camping-and-yoga experience, the women there naturally bonded, and Maggie is hoping they can continue to form some meaningful friendships. She’s also already signed up for Reveal Retreat again this January, looking forward to connecting with other personal-growth minded women!

**By the way, if you’re interested in more information on the next Reveal Retreat, January 20-22, 2017, in wine country, CA, check it out here! http://www.shastanelson.com/retreat/ There are still a few spaces left!

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In Sickness and in Health: 5 Things I Wish My Friends Knew About Friendship and Illness

Several months ago, I received a thoughtful email from a reader of this blog who asked me to write a blog post that helped people like her-- people who have chronic pain or illness-- to figure out how to make and keep friends when their energy and health often feels limited, challenged, or uncertain. Not entirely sure I felt qualified to give tips to this heroic population, I asked her if first she'd be willing to share, from her perspective, what she wishes the rest of us understood about our friends (or potential friends) whose health issues might impact how we befriend each other.  With nearly 1 in 2 of us suffering from some form of chronic (often invisible) illness, we all want to become far more sensitive and thoughtful in how we interact with one another.

Thank you Lucy Smith (pseudonym) for taking the time and energy to share with us what you've learned since being diagnosed a couple of years ago with a debilitating neurological condition.  Her ability to participate in the activities she used to do with friends became very limited and the challenge of maintaining and making friends while also dealing with major illness has been difficult. She knows she's not alone as she's found some connection with others in similar situations and I'm so grateful she's excited to get a conversation started with this blog post.

When struck suddenly with a debilitating neurological condition a couple years ago, Lucy Smith's (pseudonym), ability to participate in the activities she used to do with friends became very limited and the challenge of maintaining and making friends while also dealing with major illness has been difficult. She knows she's not alone as she's found some connection with others in similar situations. So she's excited to get a conversation started with this blog post.

We welcome the stories, tips, and encouragement from others who have found their health or pain impact their friendships--  we all have much to learn from each other. -- Shasta

In Sickness and in Health: 5 Things I Wish My Friends Knew About Friendship and Illness

When serious illness or disability strikes, especially at a relatively young age, your whole world gets turned upside down.  Unfortunately, at a time when you need the most support, many people--both family and friends-- don't know what to say or do and, in the wake of uncertainty, err on the side of not reaching out.

After several years of dealing with debilitating illness that completely changed how I was able to interact with friends, here's what I wish they knew:

  1. Let's Talk About It!  It is ok to not know what to say, how to act, or what would be helpful.   But I'd wish we could have a conversation about it instead of wondering how my social circle could evaporate almost instantaneously.
  2. Please Keep Reaching Out: I still need friends, actually more than ever.  However, I may not be able to do what we used to do together at all or I may not be able to do it if I am unwell that day.   It is tough enough to lose the activities that I once enjoyed.   I hope that doesn't mean that I lose you too because I can't do them with you.   Additionally, I need friends who understand that I may not be able to initiate as much (or at all).  Friends struggling with illness may not have any energy or brain power left to initiate and organize but often are feeling lonely and isolated, so initiate more than you might otherwise, even if you've gotten turned down several times.   It is really nice to be thought of and included, even if I don't feel well enough to attend a particular get-together.   If we do plan something ahead of time, I may not be feeling well when the time comes to get together, so I need understanding about adapting plans or canceling.
  3. Practice Empathy, Instead of Sympathy or Encouragement. Empathy is really helpful for maintaining connection.  Brene Brown has some great work on how empathy is different from sympathy.  Empathy fuels connection, while sympathy drives disconnection.  It is a "me, too", rather than "that's too bad".  This 3 minute video gives a great overview:  As she mentioned in the video, rarely does empathy begin with "At least...".  Well-meaning friends often want to cheer you up by essentially saying "it could be worse", but sometimes that just makes you feel like you haven't been heard or understood.
  4. Small gestures mean a lot. A. Lot. This can be as simple as offering to help with some chores as part of hanging out - for example, maybe cooking some good food together so I have healthy meals that are easy to reheat when I'm exhausted and in pain.   Or it might be a call to ask when you could drop by for a quick visit.  Or it might be noticing that a friend couldn't participate in something and asking if any modifications could be made so she could join you next time.
  5. Keep on Sharing Your Life! I really want to hear what is going on in your life - both the difficult parts (even if they seem not to be as difficult as mine) and the successes.   I still care about you and want to celebrate your trials and successes.

Here's the next post in this series, featuring some principles and tips for making friends, even in pain and loss.

 

Hosting a Friendship Book Club

Huge thanks to Kristen Baker for writing up her experience with hosting a book club about my last book, Friendships Don't Just Happen, so her story might inspire a few of you to do the same!  Imagine having a fun evening together and engaging in conversations about your friendships while all learning together what it takes to create healthy and meaningful connections? Win:win!If you do decide to try it, I wrote up discussion guides you can download for free whether you want to do a 1-time book club or a 4-week book-club. Not sure who to invite? Read this post for ideas!

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Girlfriends, I had a blast leading a book club gathering around Shasta's fantastic book Friendships Don't Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Friends.

I read Shasta's book after hearing her guest interview on Christine Arylo's class  (Me before We) on self-love and just loved her content. As I poured into FDJH, I started to see

Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!
Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!

patterns from my past emerge, patterns in my friendships, family relationships, even dating. It was truly a book about connection, intimacy, and vulnerability. I had so many "ah-has" and "Ohhhh that's why that happened," moments while I was reading. My eyes even welled up with tears as I read the chapter on forgiveness - releasing some past feelings of rejection.

So naturally, I had to share it with my group here in Houston. I lead a sisterhood for self-exploration, a coaching community - the Divas, here in Houston (and online) and we have a monthly book club, so I added FDJH to the docket. A small group started trickling in, and we started sharing our experiences from the book. The beautiful irony was experiencing these Divas sharing their struggles with vulnerability WHILE BEING VULNERABLE. While being authentic. They showed up, shared their struggles, we connected. It was magical.

The common themes that came up for us:

  • Our right-side friends (the deeper friendships) were not as full as many wanted.
  • We practiced gratitude for the left-side (we even had one ah-ha that if one of the women went back and re-did her circles again and added her male friendships - it would have been a much fuller chart!).
  • We talked about friendship and how it impacted our life goals, how friendship fit into the greater context of our life. We contemplated: how does it all fit together?
  • We talked about the overlap in romantic relationships, family relationships, dating, to what we had learned in the book.
  • We talked about what gets in the way of vulnerability: messages from our parents, past rejections and disappointments, rejection of self, approval-seeking.
  • We talked about opening up the possibilities of WHO we would pursue friendships with.

Some ah-has from our group:

  1. "Accepting yourself is the key to building intimacy"
  2. "Friendships don't just happen" (yes, this was an ah-ha! ha)
  3. "That I am not as vulnerable in my current relationships as I would like to be"

My personal takeaways:

  • I love connecting over a book club. So, yes, check - I want more of that!
  • I continue to deepen my understanding of friendship, and frientimacy as a practice of self-love, self-trust, self-acceptance. And really enjoy deepening that awareness.

I am so glad I chose this book for discussion, I may have a round two because there is so much richness in the book, it is chock full of insights and I could talk about relationships, intimacy and vulnerability for HOURS. And it is really beautiful to watch people open up about their experiences with friendships.

All in all, a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it.

Love,

Kristen

Kristen Baker is a life and career coach, find out more about her here.

Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships!  :)
Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships! :)

Don't yet have your own copy of Friendships Don't Just Happen!-- Buy it here!

Did you read the book or lead a group? Share with us in the comments a bit about your experience.  Or feel free to ask any questions about how to host-- we'll help!  :)

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!

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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.

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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! :)

Hands & Hearts: Women in Nicaragua

I'm actually in Greece with 10 women this week on a TravelCircle trip.  But before I left, I scheduled this post from the group of women that just returned a few weeks ago from Nicaragua.  Pulled together by Michelle Scott, one of our TravelCircles ambassadors for GirlFriendCircles trips around the world (she's also leading the one to Chile & Argentina this November!) she asked her fellow travelers to also contribute to the story. This group of 4 women was significantly smaller than most of our trips (which typically average between 8-12 women), but they proved that all it takes to have a good time are amazing women, an amazing country, and an amazing itinerary!  :)  Welcome home, GirlFriends!

Hands and Heart – Manos y Corazón

Four ladies chose to travel through Nicaragua on a GirlfriendCircles’ eco-adventure. None could have predicted how they would bond, how much they'd enjoy traveling together, or how inspired they would by the beauty of the country and people.

Chance, Wren, Erin, and Michelle travel Nicaragua together, coming home as friends.
Chance, Wren, Erin, and Michelle travel Nicaragua together, coming home as friends.

Chance: I met Wren through Girlfriend Circles a couple of years ago, and she encouraged me to travel with her to Nicaragua. Though I have traveled extensively, no trip has changed and inspired me like this trip. As we flew into Nicaragua, the clouds parted to reveal a vast lake (Managua Lake) and its many volcanoes; it was breathtaking and a perfect welcome to this enchanting country.

2014-Nicaragua-403
2014-Nicaragua-403

Soon, we were lunching with a famous Nicaraguan feminist leader and learning about the women’s rights’ movement and its interplay with the revolution - over fresh tortillas and gallopinto (red beans and rice).

Some of my favorite experiences were visiting an active volcano, a powerful waterfall, and touring two farms. We cooked nacatamales and tortillas over a wood stove in Doña Elsa’s open kitchen, toured the coffee, bean and rice farm, and received a hands-on botanical medicine tour.

The people of Nicaragua were the highlight. Our local guide, Nohelia, told us that Nicaragua is built (and rebuilt) with “manos y corazón” – hands and heart – and I witnessed this.

The four women who bonded through travel-- hearts and hands!
The four women who bonded through travel-- hearts and hands!

People work toward betterment for their communities and country, with pride, humility, and a focus of purpose that is tender and passionate. Nohelia is one of the best examples of this. As a young woman driven to improve her community, she saw the illiteracy in her neighborhood, designed and launched a radio show to teach literacy – a program that continues to graduate a class every three months and has made her a sort of local celebrity.

So, how was I changed through this trip? I took an open heart to Nicaragua, and throughout our journey, it was filled with love, inspiration and care. I hope I left love and respect there, and a deep caring for the people and places I saw, along with some deep friendships – with both my fellow travelers and citizens of this amazing country.

2014-Nicaragua-459
2014-Nicaragua-459

Wren: I wear a black rubber bracelet, which states “No a la trata de personas” – No to trading people. I received the bracelet from Casa Alianza, an organization that provides food, shelter and essential services to homeless, trafficked and exploited youth. As a former teacher, children hold a special place in my heart. I wear this bracelet to remind me of where I’ve been and the people I’ve met. Nicaragua’s people and landscape hold such beauty, simplicity and friendliness that one cannot help but fall in love and promise to return.

Michelle: There are few places and people that sneak into your heart and forever change you. I went to Nicaragua to be re-charged and inspired and received that and so much more. Chance, Wren, Nohelia and Erin will be my lifetime friends. We are bonded through our experiences, our love for each other and the people of Nicaragua, and a fundraising project with Grupo MOES, an organization committed to respectful empowerment of women, affected by poverty, violence and exploitation.

Erin: Prior to this trip, I was asked, "Why go to Nicaragua?" My photos partially answer this question - trotting horses through a Nicaraguan jungle, while monkeys swung overhead, standing next to a smoking volcanic crater, and hiking behind a waterfall.

2014-Nicaragua-326
2014-Nicaragua-326

A few of the amazing moments included careening through a mountain town with my new girlfriends and a Bolivian man, who owns a waterfall and cemetery (neither of which I knew were things one could own), leaning over the edge of a boat and dipping my fingers into the world’s only freshwater lake with bull sharks, and hiking steep uphill climbs to meet an 85-year old artist, known as the hermit stone carver, who guided us through the jungle to his carvings, reciting poetry and picking mangos for us along the way.

2014-Nicaragua-481
2014-Nicaragua-481

But the true answer to “Why [I needed] Nicaragua?” has more to do the spirit of the people we encountered than the adventures and excursions. I went to Nicaragua to learn that inspiring and world-changing people see a problem and work towards a solution. They teach literacy over the radio. They build a home and school for young survivors of abuse. They begin a sewing cooperative with women constructing the building from the ground up, where each worker is a co-owner. They realize that handpicking coffee beans allows them to organically remove bugs and guarantee high quality.

I went to Nicaragua because I needed to be reminded that you don't have to live in a tropical paradise to live a beautiful, fulfilling life. All you have to do is work with your hands and heart towards resolving a problem that matters to you.

All women over the age of 21 are invited to join any of our TravelCircle groups where women travel together to connect with one another and to go experience together the life and voice of women in their destination country.  Every trip has so many special elements in it including a local female guide, visits to NGO's to learn about the issues facing women in that country, cooking/dance/art classes, and a GFC ambassador to help foster connection among your group. 

Trips by women, for women, about women.  :) 

More info: www.WomensTravelCircles.com

How GirlFriend Circles Saved My Soul

Note from Shasta:  I would love for you to meet Kathleen Kinney, a teacher in Kent, WA, outside Seattle. I first met her when she approached me at an event in Seattle in early June where I was speaking, and with two women in tow, announced to me, "The three of us are friends because of GirlFriend Circles!" My heart melted; these are the moments I live for.  This is Kathleen, her membership profile picture that pops up whenever she writes her notes to new members!  :)

I asked her if she'd be willing to share a bit about how she came to joinGirlFriendCircles.com, and more importantly, some of the tips she does that makes such a difference to her success.  She truly is source of light in the Seattle area as she seeks to make others feel better about connecting.  I hope as you read her story that you'll be inspired to RSVP to a Circle, reach out to other women on the site, or even become an Ambassador-- all actions that will not only make a difference in your life, but could also bring joy to others!

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By Kathleen Kinney

GirlFriend Circles saved my soul.

In the last couple years many of my BFF's moved away leaving a huge void in my life and soul. Around the same time, More magazine ran an article on the importance of friendships on women's health, and mentioned GirlFriend Circle (GFC) as a place to meet woman in my area. It would be a couple of years later before I actually signed but, eventually I really felt the need to become a member and establish girlfriends.

This is what my profile says:

My friends have moved away...and my son is past the play group stage. I am looking for a few friends that like a bit of adventure without kids. It is time I find some girlfriends that are outside of my mom role. It would be nice to have a stimulating conversation, and enjoy some outings with a friend once or twice a month. I enjoy walking almost everyday!

At first, I was discouraged because there were so few women signed up on the GFC site in my area. But, this last winter I decided to check out GFC to see if the site had gained in popularity. Am I ever so happy I did!! First, I noticed that a woman named Cindy, consistently offered a calendar circle outing. I took a deep breath, and plunged!! Our first outing together was the Seattle Art Museum. Next, another museum outing. So begins my relationship with connecting to other woman.

After attending a few GFC gatherings I was encouraged to become an Ambassador. I thought, "What could I possibly offer GFC?" The answer was really simple, love. Love for friendship, connectedness and most of all companionship!!

So begins a second phase of my journey with GFC. Ambassador. Hmm, what does that really mean? It is not complicated, really. It is about building connections and

I was honored to meet these three women last month in Seattle when I was visiting.  Starting on the far left: Julie opened her home to our gathering, Kathleen is the author of this story; and on my right is Cindy, the woman who kept hosting events in the Seattle area helping give women activities to do together!  Thanks to all three of you for the joy you're bringing to that area!

relationships with other woman!! What does this look like? When a member RSVP's to an event, I almost always send them a private message thanking them for joining the event with an expression of enthusiasm. If they cancel, I thank them for contacting me, give an appropriate response, AND tell them I will miss them at the event (if they have attended before). If I have not previously met them. I usually say, "I look forward to meeting you in the near future." If a member is a "no-show" I message them, tell them I missed meeting them or seeing their beautiful face and inquire if everything is okay. Really, my goals is about building CONNECTIONS and RELATIONSHIPS.

Quite frankly, some woman are scared of building relationships because they have been emotionally wounded. Sometimes, all it takes is a little effort to reach out to a gal and say "Welcome. I am so glad you are part of GFC."   In my life experiences, some woman have been deeply wounded and need TRUST, encouragement, love and acceptance. I LOVE that Shasta asks woman to say, "Thank you for sharing." Not all woman want advice or judgment, they just need an empathic friend!!

Nothing makes me happier than women becoming friends!

What has GFC done for me? For the first time in my life, I have been called an athlete. I am training for a bike event with a group of women from GirlFriendCircles.com! I NEVER saw myself doing this 6 months ago, and have realized that it is FUN!! I have a circle of GirlFriends's that are gold!! What makes them gold? COMMITMENT and TRUST!! They truly are my touchstones in what can seem like a crazy world!! For the first time in my life, I can honestly say, I am so proud to be a woman! I am strength. I am a friend. I am committed. I need woman. GFC saved my soul.

Kathleen-- we're honored to have you in our community, but want to assure you that women like you ARE the soul of GFC-- so really you saved yourself.  :) 

And Cindy-- if you hadn't been faithfully posting events-- she wouldn't have had anything to RSVP to attend-- you are a hero to us!  Thank you!!!!

 

Men Really Need Intimate Friendships, Too

It's a great honor for me to feature today's guest post on my site--the author is not only one of the most emotionally healthy men I have ever met; a dynamic speaker, pulling people in on any stage; a wealth of wisdom on matters of purpose, spiritual growth, and energy management; a transformational consultant, leading teams to function from their strengths; and one of the most intuitive life coaches out there; but he also happens to be my husband.  And I couldn't be more proud. (We each happen think we're the lucky one in the marriage... but between you and me... I definitely was the one who won big time!) I've long wanted to share his blog with you: Soul Ballast.  You really should subscribe if you are interested in living your life with spiritual depth, aware of your strengths, and with intention, but when he wrote a 2-part series on men's friendship, I knew it was time to introduce you to him.

On my book tour I had so many men express to me (almost with embarrassment!) their desire to have friendships the way women do that I am thrilled that research is now confirming what I believed:  the stereotype of men's friendships being different from women's is often more descriptive (what they had modeled and what they thought was appropriate) than prescriptive (what they actually crave and would benefit from.)  I hope you'll share this post with your husbands/boyfriends, male friends, and sons.

Are Male Friendships Different From Female Friendships?

by Dr. Greg Nelson

My wife Shasta Nelson is one of the leading friendship experts these days, especially in the realm of female friendships.  Her book Friendships Don’t Just Happen:  The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Two Greek men having conversation in a cafe in Agiassos on Lesvos Island in GreeceCircle of Girlfriends is one of the most complete and profound explanations and prescriptions of the multifaceted dimensions of healthy friendships – why it’s important and how it can be developed and sustained in deep and meaningful ways.

As I’ve read her book and listened to her speak to multiple audiences, I’ve thought how much men need and crave this kind of friendship intimacy, too.

It’s been a fascinating experience bringing this view up in conversations with men and women.  Invariably, some people respond by saying that male friendship looks different and men approach relationships from a completely different standpoint, their needs simply are different – as one male expert puts it, men’s friendships are more “shoulder to shoulder” compared to women’s which are “face to face”.  Men bond over activities as compared to women who bond in conversation and self-disclosure.

For some reason, most likely a lot from my own personal experience as well as all my work as a coach and pastor with both genders, I’ve had a difficult time with that stereotypical and simplified depiction of male friendship.  I reject the notion that men don’t crave intimacy  (which includes the need for honest and authentic self-disclosure and empathy) as much as women in our friendships.

When I have coaching conversations with men and create a safe space in which they can share their lives deeply and authentically, I’m finding that men are as fully capable, and in fact as sincerely interested, in full disclosure and admittance of the need for intimacy and honest sharing.  They are craving the same kind of depth and closeness in their friendships as women do, but for the most part they’re simply not getting it.

Latest Research on Men’s Friendships:  How the Shift Happens

Turns out, research is now showing this craving for depth and intimacy is absolutely true about men and their friendships.  Men are in fact wired with not only this same desire but also the capability for the same kind of intimate, deep friendships.

According to a recent article in Salon (“American Men’s Hidden  Crisis: They Need More Friends!”) New York University psychologist Dr. Niobe Way studied and interviewed boys in each year of high school.  What she found was fascinating.

Until the age of 15-16, all the boys she interviewed described their friendships with other boys using the same vocabulary as the girls used about their friendships:

“Younger boys spoke eloquently about their love for and dependence on their male friends. In fact, research shows that boys are just as likely as girls to disclose personal feelings to their same-sex friends and they are just as talented at being able to sense their friends’ emotional states.

Then something happened.  From the age of 15-16 on (right at the same age that the suicide rate of boys increases to four times the rate of girls), the same boys talked about their guy friends far differently.

One of the boys described this shift the way almost all of those boys who were interviewed did:

When he was 15:  “[My best friend and I] love each other… that’s it… you have this thing that is deep, so deep, it’s within you, you can’t explain it. It’s just a thing that you know that person is that person… I guess in life, sometimes two people can really, really understand each other and really have a trust, respect and love for each other.”

But when the same boy was a senior in high school, notice the shift:  “[My friend and I] we mostly joke around. It’s not like really anything serious or whatever… I don’t talk to nobody about serious stuff… I don’t talk to nobody. I don’t share my feelings really. Not that kind of person or whatever… It’s just something that I don’t do.”

Why the Shift Happens

So what is happening?  As researchers are noting, as boys get older they are becoming conditioned to disassociate from what are often seen as more feminine qualities in order to be manly, macho, accepted in the male places of our world.

For example, why is it that sports coaches or military sergeants, in trying to motivate guys, call them “girls” — as if somehow that demeaning use of a perfectly neutral term is supposed to inspire guys to be stronger, try harder, be more of a man?

So men learn early on to disassociate themselves from anything feminine–which unfortunately leads to a distancing from the experiences and expressions of need for intimacy, closeness, self disclosure, empathy, and other feelings.  Which in turn serves to isolate them from developing meaningful and close friendships with other men.

But as research continually reveals, this dissociation is actually distancing us as men from our complete selves by cutting vital parts of ourselves out.

Tragic Consequences of This Shift

Here’s the way Lisa Wade, in her Salon article, reflecting Dr. Niobe Way’s significant research, describes the tragic outcome:

“So men are pressed — from the time they’re very young — to disassociate from everything feminine.This imperative is incredibly limiting for them. Paradoxically, it makes men feel good because of a social agreement that masculine things are better than feminine things, but it’s not the same thing as freedom. It’s restrictive and dehumanizing. It’s oppression all dressed up as awesomeness. And it is part of why men have a hard time being friends.”

Two Things Men Need to ReShift and ReFocus On Who They Really Are

First, men need positive male role models to show the power and transformational experience of intimate friendships with other men – friendships built around mutual self-disclosure, honesty, authenticity, empathy, caring for each other, and yes, sharing good times with each other, too.  Male friendships are not an either/or proposition.  It’s both/and.

And Second, men need to be given permission that it’s not caving to a stereotypical feminine way of being by wanting and engaging in deeper, caring male friendships.  Men need this permission from the women in their lives and from other men.  The media isn’t helping at all!  So others need to step up and openly talk about what it means to be a male with all the multifaceted qualities men have inside them that need to be expressed and that contribute to building deep and lasting and meaningful friendships with other men.

Because the truth is, men are hardwired with a yin-and-yang of qualities:  we are both “soft” and “hard” — we crave strength and power, and we also long for warmth, intimacy, caring, and empathetic nurturing and sharing.  Men have been cultured to neglect one for the sake of the other.  But it’s both/and.

And the sooner we men embrace this truth, the healthier we will be emotionally, mentally, physically, and relationally.  We will be living in alignment with who we truly are.  And that’s always the place of greatest authentic power and well-being.

To sign up for Greg's blog or to read his second post on this subject, go here: "Reclaiming What It Means to Be a Man"

Why Travel with GirlFriendCircles?

Michelle Scott-- the beautiful GFC TravelCircle host and author of this guest post.
Michelle Scott-- the beautiful GFC TravelCircle host and author of this guest post.

Welcome home to the 15 women who just returned from our 2nd TravelCircle to Cuba!  And a huge thanks to Michelle Scott for not only being the GFC ambassador on this trip, but also for writing this guest blog that gives us a glimpse into the amazing experience you all had!

Also, Michelle is leading TWO of the 9 scheduled TravelCircles in 2014-- GirlFriends Eco-Adventuring in Nicaragua in August and the Women Dancing & Sipping through Argentina & Chile in November. Check them out--you'd be lucky to be in her care!  (All trips are highlighted at the end of the blog and can be found at www.WomensTravelCircles.com)

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by Michelle Scott

Planning an adventure is an interesting thing. You can spend months preparing an itinerary, but you never know when those magical moments will occur, or how, and with whom connections will develop. Such was our experience in Cuba.

Our first morning in Cuba, we sat in a circle, looking at 15 unfamiliar faces. Who were these women, who had made group travel to Cuba a priority?

One of many amazing meals we shared, talking and laughing, with the yummy Cuban drinks!
One of many amazing meals we shared, talking and laughing, with the yummy Cuban drinks!

Each of us had chosen to invest and engage in this particular adventure at this specific time. Most came to learn, some came to be inspired or to find direction, and at least one came to honor the memory of a loved one, who valued travel and culture. All were united in our value of friendship and adventure.

GirlFriendCircles (GFC) began TravelCircles this year. While each trip is unique, all focus on two main components. 1) We travel together with the intention of connecting with each other in a meaningful and honoring way. 2) We learn about the lives of women living in that particular country/region.

Our Travel Through Cuba

Because GFC teams with Altruvistas, we are able to experience Cuba or any country we travel to in a deeper, more connected and invested manner. In other words, we’re not there as passive tourists. We show up, ready to engage and build relationships with the people we meet.

A dance class where we got a chance to watch the best perform and then learn to do some of the steps ourselves!
A dance class where we got a chance to watch the best perform and then learn to do some of the steps ourselves!

On this particular trip, we learned from Cubans with firsthand knowledge of history, architecture, politics, healthcare, literacy and education, music, art, community development, and social services. At times, our role was more like new students, soaking up information. Other times, we were colleagues, processing what we were learning and integrating it with previous knowledge. Because there was mutual respect and interactive conversations, it was an engaging way of learning.

We learned about The Cuban 5 and how Cubans view the U.S. embargo/blockade. We learned about diversity and prejudice. We gained new appreciation for murals and the value of art within a community. We learned how to make our own perfume. We learned to dance, laugh and fan our way through Cutumba. While much of our itinerary was full (because learning hours are required for our visas), there were times, when we practiced slowing down enough to listen, engage and experience. And we loved those moments that unified us with little to no effort on our part other than being present in the moment and accepting its gifts.

“Why are you glad you went on this trip?”

But don't just take it from me, I asked some of the other women on the trip to answer the question: “Why are you glad you went on this trip?”

  • Kate S. from Chicago shared, “I have never been on a trip where I connected with so many different people. This trip provided the ability to have personal interactions with Cubans in a way that would not have been possible had I traveled independently. The stories we heard, the culture we experienced, and conversations we had will stay with me forever. The group of girls from GirlFriendCircles were the best people to share this experience with; I truly believe some of the friendships we made will last a lifetime.”
  • Our group!  We love each other.  What fun!
  • Amy from North Carolina responded, “I'm glad I saw Cuba just before what I anticipate to be a period of great change. It's amazing to be surrounded by such history and so little of our ubiquitous consumerist culture.”
  • Jennifer from Wisconsin replied, “I loved the feeling of truly being lost in another time. Some of my favorite moments were in Old Havana, with the bustling streets, amazing cars, music playing in the air, and the colorful patchwork textures and buildings all around. It was a treat for my senses. Cuba has a kind of raw energy that you don't see much elsewhere.”
  • Kirsten from British Columbia shared, “Cuba deserves so much credit for surviving as it has for so long against such overwhelming odds. I was grateful to be exposed to a different truth than the one many of us have learned. In the end I think there is truth on all sides. I was impressed by a different value system, one that places the emphasis on taking care of each other, rather than on individual achievement.”
  • Kimberly from Florida responded, “Mostly glad to meet such an amazing group of American women, but so glad to have seen the resiliency of the Cuban women and people. The countryside and architecture were beautiful!!”

Are you considering travel with GirlFriendCircles? Now is the time to express your interest. Many trips are planned for 2014. (See the list of all 9 trips below!) These adventures are full of great activities and opportunities to meet wonderful people, who also value friendship. What could be better than experiencing a new culture while building connection and friendship?

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travelCircle
travelCircle

Ready to Travel, GirlFriend? 

Scheduled TravelCircles that Still Have Availability in 2014:

GirlFriends Eco-Adventuring in Nicaragua August 2-11, 2014

For adventurous and active women this trip is filled with hikes, learning, and beauty! (Also, optional 2-day surfing lessons)

Women and Goddesses in Greece Aug 29-Sept. 9, 2014

Ready to explore the Parthenon, Acropolis, and the Temple of Zeus? This is trip with spirituality, myths, beauty, art, and the divine feminine.

Women of Compassion on Safari in Kenya September 27-October 6

Combine the best wildlife of a Safari with amazing opportunities to learn about social causes and regional issues affecting women in Africa.

Women & Current Affairs in Afghanistan October 4-13, 2014

Ready to understand a country in a more real way than just what we see on TV?  Watch history unfold in an intimate and local way.

Women Dancing & Sipping through Argentina & Chile Nov 1-11

Get ready to dance, cook, sip wine and inhale all the beauty, culture, and history of two amazing countries: Argentina and Chile!

www.WomensTravelCircles.com

brought to you by:

GirlFriendCircles_logo
GirlFriendCircles_logo

A Success Story: Shoshana is Making Friends in L.A.

From Shasta:  This is a blog post written by Shoshana K., a member of GirlFriendCircles.com, who is 30, lives in Venice Beach, CA with her boyfriend and two dogs. She runs two charitable foundations and volunteers her time with Big Brothers Big Sisters and developmentally disabled adults.  I think it's so important and inspiring to share our stories with each other! Searching for Friends Online?

While on vacation in Mexico last October celebrating my 30th birthday, my boyfriend and I were discussing how hard it was for me to not have my friends living nearby. I grew up in Orange County, but have been in Los Angeles for several years--it's amazing what a little distance can do to friendships. Between graduate school and working full-time for many years, with no time to go out or to meet people/foster new friendships, I was feeling the absence.

My boyfriend has nice friends who I enjoy spending time with, but I really felt like I should have my own friends as well. He jokingly suggested there should be a site that exists to make friends similar to a dating site (we met on Jdate almost 4 years ago). So I pulled my iPad out and searched on Google. I found GirlFriendCircles.com, liked what I saw, and decided that I would join when I got back to LA.

"This picture is from Isabel's birthday that celebrated at Malibu Wines with our GFC friends. We all brought components for a picnic and hung out there most of the day sipping wine and listening to music." --Shoshana (in the red dress, back row, far right)

I approached the whole experience in a positive and open-minded way. I knew I had a lot to offer potential friends and knew what I was looking for in a group of friends.

Getting Started on GirlFriendCircles.com

My first event was a ConnectingCircle [small group gatherings of women organized by GFC] at Cafe Gratitude in Venice a few blocks from my house. I was looking forward to meeting new women so I was excited, but definitely also a little bit nervous.

Once I got there though I was very comfortable and had a great time talking to the 5 other women I met. The event was a lot of fun, I found it easy to find things to talk about, and the whole thing felt really natural and relaxed.   Afterward, I was definitely looking forward to getting together with some of the women I met and also excited about attending another ConnectingCircle.

After my first event, I attended another ConnectingCircle.  It was at this one that a few of the girls reached out to get phone numbers and to meet up afterward. I ended up meeting one of those girls for dinner the following week (this was back in November) and we have been friends since. (Also, from my first ConnectingCircle, while we did not make immediate plans, there is one girl from my first meeting whom I see regularly and another I see from time to time.)

I think GirlFriendCircles.com clicked for me really quick. I have always had big groups of women in my life: girl scouts, teams, clubs etc. So it was very natural for me to meet women in a group setting. I have found that so many women are just looking to connect so GFC has been the perfect vehicle for me to make new friends. I will say that actually not being afraid to follow-up and call or text or e-mail another member is huge. I think getting over that initial fear of rejection is a big step.

My Friends Now!

"This is a photo of four of us who met through GirlFriendCirlces who joined a group of others to hike in Malibu together, followed by lunch at Neptune's Net. The hike was really challenging--I think it was about 7 miles--but we pushed through and finished!"

Now my friendship circle consists of about 13-15 women I have met from the site. There are a handful I have seen more frequently than the others. We have done hikes, fitness days, birthday celebrations, meals, and many more activities together.

When I first met with Nina for dinner after my second ConnectingCircle we had a long conversation about our love for reading and expressed that we both wanted to be a part of a book club.  She suggested starting one so we got a few other girls interested. We started with maybe 4 girls and have added a few more. She really was the catalyst that started all of this and she continues to maintain the Facebook page and list of potential books. Additionally, she just organized a comedy event and has also talked a group of us into doing a 5k with her in a few months!

I have put together a few fun nights out/in, as well. The first was just at a fun restaurant/bar that about 15 girls attended and then I had a wine night at my house. I am hosting another wine/game night in a few weeks that about 10 girls are attending so far.

It's just amazing to me that I met so many really great women through this community. I might not have everything in common with every single one of them, but I have more than enough things to connect on and we have had so many great times together. I feel like they are there for me and are understanding and supportive and most of all fun to be with.

The beauty of GFC is that we are all on the site looking for the same thing.  And we found it in each other.

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Want to inspire others? Share your friend-making story with us at shasta@girlfriendcircles.com! What has worked?  What hasn't?

Want to see other inspiring stories from our members? Here's one from an Ambassador in Chicago (we recently begged Kathy to become our Ambassador director in case you want to get more involved in that way!) and here's two real stories from NYC!

Note from Shasta:  Over 80% of our members who have attended at least 2 ConnectingCircles say they've made at least 2-3 friends.  The odds are good... what I love about Shoshana's story is that she went to more than one ConnectingCircle, found more success when phone numbers were exchanged and follow-up plans made, and she continues to post and RSVP to events where she not only keeps fostering her newly made friendships for herself, but also keeps giving the opportunity for others to join and connect!  Thank you Shoshana for sharing your story!

 

What is our Response-ability in Relationship?

While I'm in Cuba with a GirlFriendCircles.com travel circle, I'm posting this thoughtful guest blog from Susan Strasburger, an integrative counselor who works with individuals (and couples) who struggle with self-criticism, are in the midst of transition, or feel stuck in a decision process.  I requested permission to re-port this article of hers since it speaks so beautifully to what we've been talking about the last few weeks on this blog about dealing with negative friendships.

Thanks Susan for sharing your wisdom with us as we seek to grow more loving, healthy, and responsive!

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Two women were discussing recent experiences with their ex-partners: One had wanted her partner to be able to see that she had “turned a corner” in relationship to him, and felt frustrated that he engaged with her as if she hadn’t changed. The other woman was confused by her partner’s actions, and “wished he’d been more overt about telling me his perspective had changed.” Their combined question became:

Questioner: What is our responsibility in a relationship to get a friend or partner up to date on specifically how our perspective has changed?

Susan: The answers to this are actually embedded in the question. If there are “specific” changes about ourselves that we want our friends to know, it’s our responsibility to tell them (unless you have friends who can read your mind). And/but… if we are noticing something different about our friend, and they haven’t spoken to us directly, it’s also our responsibility to tell them our experience and ask to understand what’s going on for them.

At this point, you may be saying, “Wait, wait! You mean, either way, it’s my responsibility?!” Yup! Hopefully you won’t see this as a burden, though, if you’re willing to re-frame what “responsibility” means. The ability to be responsive, rather than reactive, is a cornerstone to our well-being, in any relationship. We want to make conscious choices about how we speak and act, rather than defaulting to defensive or accusatory behaviors. Having this intention means taking responsibility for the quality of our relationships. Of course, we get to feel disappointed if the other person isn’t taking as much responsibility as you would ideally like them to take. All we can do is keep modeling what it is we want, make requests of the other person, and see what unfolds.

Questioner: I really love the wisdom in your response. I find the connection between “responsibility” and “response” evocative, and sense that hearing a little more about this would be very helpful to me!

Susan: Ok, stick with me for a minute, while I dip into semantics: Dictionaries attribute many meanings to the term “responsibility.” I’m choosing: “the act of being answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control or management” rather than other definitions that include words such as “blame” or “moral obligation.”

With this definition, we no longer default to: “You’re responsible for my heartache!” We may feel that phrase, and even want to say it! Yet that would be what I call “reactive” behavior.

Being “responsive” requires us to stretch beyond blame, shame-turned-inward, or just leaving without communication. We know that the other person stimulated something in us that we call “heartache” – perhaps we didn’t feel seen, respected, or loved in the ways we were hoping for. If we’re being “responsive,” we’ll find within us what is most self-caring to do next. That is, we claim responsibility for what we do with our feelings of heartache. It might still be to leave, yet first tell the other person “I’m feeling too overwhelmed to speak right now, I need a little space, and I’ll come back when I’m ready to talk.” Or it might be to engage with the person, knowing we’re “accountable” for what’s “within [my] power” which includes the words and actions I choose. This route of course takes skill, compassion and a lot of practice!

Are we then responsible for the outcome of that conversation? Ahh, semantics again: we’re responsible to each other, but not “for” each other. Perhaps another blog post?!  :)

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

Note from Shasta: I've been writing so many guest blogs to celebrate my new book "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" that I decided I may need to have a few women guest blog for me until I have more words to share!  :)  Soon, I'm goingto start blogging about any questions you have as you read the book, concepts you wish I would unpack more, or anything you wished I would have highlighted-- post those questions on our Facebook page and I'll answer them here! For now, this is Christie Mims-- a brand new mover-and-shaker here in the San Francisco area. (Her bio is at the end.) Christie Mims

 

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

I like to think of myself as a fairly cool person who is easy to get to know. I shower regularly, I smile often, I like dogs (I distrust people who don’t like dogs), and I have a passionate love for 1981 (3?) killer movie: “Staying Alive.” There may have only been about five actual pages of dialogue, but boy do the large hair and hand gestures make up for it. John Travolta, you have my endless thanks.

I also love my friends.  Friendship, for a long time, has been one of my most important life values. My friends are like my family. They are my sanity, and the people who give me joy. I try to write, reach out, communicate, drink, and play with my friends as often as possible. And even when they are scattered all over the world,

I will travel to see them when I can. They matter to me.

So, when I decided on a bit of a whim to uproot my revolutionary Career Coaching business from DC to San Francisco, I thought I would be fine.  My business is global, so it would be easy, right?

Sure, a lot of my friends were in DC, “but - I’ve got friends all over the world!” I thought to myself jauntily as I packed up my car, fresh from a trip to Germany to see some of said friends.

“I’ll be fine!” I said as I drove across country with my mom “I’ve got two amazing friends already in SF, plus all the people I’m sure I’ll meet. It’ll be great!”

“I’m good at staying in touch over email!” I said as I unpacked my stuff, alone in my new apartment for the first time.

“I’ll hang out with my friends here all the time!” I thought, as I sat around wondering what to do with myself...knowing that one of my friends was a new mom, and the other was deep in the throes of an all-consuming start-up.

Making New Friends isn't as Easy as it Sounds

And then it hit me.

I was alone in a new city, far from home and in an inconvenient time zone.  When I was lonely at night in my new home, my east coast friends were fast asleep (to say nothing of the Europeans).  And my friends here, while AMAZING, are pretty busy and not that close to me in terms of location. The bay area is bigger than I realized (I’m really terrible with geography...I blame the US school system. Also, who needs algebra? Really?).

The truth is that it was awful.

Weekends were the worst - I had full days stretching in front of me with nothing but time, and no one to share that time with.  And, I was also working hard on my business, stretching out of my comfort zone, building up my visibility in San Francisco, and learning about the city and the culture.  It was exhausting, and at the end of the day, I just wanted to be with someone who knew me. Who would come over for a glass of wine and watch bad tv and talk about boys or shoes.

I was lonely.

I was sad.

And I felt so lost.

But I Made My Friendships Happen!

So I did what I know how to do.  I networked (I’m from DC, it’s what we do). At events with women.  Hoping that maybe I would meet someone cool, and at minimum I would make business connections.  I reached out.  I introduced myself awkwardly and invited people to lunch or coffee.

I stalked some people over email if I thought we would hit it off.

I signed myself up for Shasta’s Friendship Accelerator (Note from Shasta: see below for description of these workshops!), hoping that I would at least kill some time on a lonely Saturday, and thinking it would probably teach me something interesting. I told myself I needed to smile a lot and enjoy the city that I chose.

And I kept doing it.

It was not easy.  Most of the time, especially in the beginning, it wasn’t even particularly fun.

But I was open to it.  And cognizant of the fact that friendship has to start somewhere - and I needed to keep pushing myself out there so I would go from random coffees to full on friends.  Friendship, as Shasta sagely says, is based on consistency and intimacy.  You need to have both to have close friends.

So I threw myself into weekly dinners with my accelerator group.

I set up regular card nights with old and new friends (trying to integrate groups!).

I asked friends to introduce me to their friends in the area.

I joined new meetups and  organizations such as A Band of Wives (abusing google search in my attempts to find all possibilities).

And I kept going back.

I’ve been in the Bay Area now for roughly four months.  My social life, which felt a little like a broken puzzle when I first arrived, is now starting to snap into focus.

I’ve got friends, and plans, and some consistency with the friends and plans in my life. It matters. I remember when I had a week in the fall where I spent time with old and new friends almost every night, and at the end of it I felt like a new person.  It honestly impacted my health, and made making friends here an even bigger priority in my life.

I feel like I finally made it...and I’m so grateful to be building a life.

I know how difficult it is to just land, so, if you are new to the city - shoot me an email, I’m happy to have a glass of wine and say hello!  And if you are in another city, spend some time to get out there and connect with interesting new people.  Most importantly don’t give up - you’ll get there.  I did (and if I did, anyone can do it. I mean, I love Stayin’ Alive, so that is one strike against me :))!

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About Christie:  Christie holds a BA from the University of Virginia, a MA from the University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies, and is a certified mediator and certified professional coach. Feeling stuck in your job and want free concrete ways to get UNstuck? Get Christie’s free kit here at The Revolutionary Club! And see what else she’s doing that is unprecedented over here!

About Friendship Accelerators: I (Shasta) facilitate Friendship Accelerators which are small groups of  women that I've matched for potential friendship who commit to attend seven hours of a friendship-workshop and group-bonding day, followed by 4 weekly get-togethers as a group. In one month, these groups experience more bonding than what most of us can do over a year with women we've met. They've been fabulously successful with the majority of women saying the value of the workshop alone was worth it, but how thrilled they are that nearly 80% of the groups are still meeting months after their commitment ended!  This is by far the most effective way I've yet seen to introduce women to each other and give them the best chance ever to foster local friendships that matter. I'm considering possible Accelerators in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle the coming months-- but will decide bases on where I have the most interest so sign up here to indicate your interest in being notified if I host a Friendship Accelerator near you!

 

New Friendship Making in NYC: Two Real Stories

Note from Shasta: This week's blog highlights two short pieces from actual members of GirlFriendCircles.com in New York City.  They have hosted events on our calendar and started many new friendships, including with each other. I asked them both if they would share a bit of their experience for you.... My Experience With GirlFriendCircles.com

This post is written by Laurie Wicksman, an active member of GirlFriendCircles.com.

Wow, I met Shasta Nelson (who's a knockout by the way) at a Channel 7 news interview, along with Kelly (aka. Nashville) and Michelle.  Besides her successful career as a life coach, Shasta is responsible for connecting me and thousands of others with some talented and sincere women, such as Michelle (a PHD student), Laurence (a French Professor) and Larice (Coordinator at Prominent Broadcast Cable Company).  Unlike, Kelly and Michelle, I wasn't starting over in a new city.  I longed for quality friends, not simply the people I was friends with purely because we had a shared history.  My boyfriend, Tim, and I had gotten "pre-engaged" for our four year anniversary in September.  At last, I had found love.  Now, I needed a real friend.

Michelle, Kelly and I originally met at the first event I had attended.  Although my palms were sweaty and I was nervous, it opened doors to a whole new world.  Being that my fiance, Tim (my mad scientist), is away quite often at MIT, he suggested that I throw an event of my own.  As mentioned on my GirlFriendCircles.com profile, Max Brenner's is a NYC hot spot.  He asked me, "What do women love?"  That was obvious.  "Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate."

Using her great social and organizational skills, Michelle brought a successful turnout of an event to life, at my favorite restaurant. Thanks Michelle, for making it happen!  For those of you who don't know, Max Brenner's specializes in chocolate dishes, including cocktails.  So of course, as I had said to my fiance earlier, nothing comes between a girl and her love for chocolate.  There was nothing more thrilling for me than seeing thirteen women from very diverse backgrounds come together, sharing two common interests: dessert and finding friendship. I finally felt like I was part of something fun and exciting!

At the end of the day, however, what truly matters isn't who did or did not come to the party and why.  Nor is it, marital status, religion, or income level that is relevant.  But, meaningful relationships are inspiring one another to be the very best that we can be and not letting each other down.   That's what friendship means to me.

Laurence, a lovely woman of French extraction, attended my Serendipity event as well, and loved both events!  These are two amazing women that I've met through GFC, and hope to stay in touch with for a long time.  This was just the tip of the iceberg, however.  GFC has opened the door to countless other possibilities and friends for me.

Most importantly for me, it's about sharing those life experiences, that although alienating and painful, ultimately, have changed my life.  What I've learned from GFC is that we're not alone in our unique situation.  Whether you've lost a loved one or suffer from chronic pain, like myself, there is someone out there who has gone through it too.  Somehow, you meet that person who brings you out of the isolation to simply let you know that you're not alone in your physical or mental challenges.  They can provide you the strength to go forward.  I am reminded of a quote from my friend Larice, who inspires me everyday by overcoming obstacles, achieving success and persevering in her own life.  “The deeper your scars, the more room there is to fill them up with love.  Don’t hate your scars, appreciate their depth.”

What’s next in the chapter of life?  I don’t know but, GFC has certainly helped me along.  How many of us have a true friend?  "A diamond in the rough" is priceless and difficult to come by.  You just have to keep looking and you'll get lucky.  I did.  Thanks, GFC!  I'll never forget you!

Note from Shasta: It was a privilege to meet you Laurie! I'll never forget that you brought me a bag of yummy snacks (including chocolate!) while I was traveling-- your heart is made of gold. Thanks for sharing.

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A Year After GirlFriendCircles, I Have Real Friends

This post is written by Michelle Scott, an active member of GirlFriendCircles.com.

Last year was the most challenging year of my life for a number of reasons. I moved from the Midwest to New York City to live with my husband, who had already been living and working there for two years. I moved away from a home and life we had built together. I left a fulfilling job in which I felt valued and needed. I left wonderful neighbors, long-term friends, and family. I knew life in the big city would be different. I knew selling and giving away the majority of our possessions in order to live in a small, furnished NYC apartment would be quite an experience in surrendering and adapting. I knew making new friends would be a critical part of enjoying my new life in this new city.

One surprise was my first-ever challenge in finding a job. With a graduate degree and over halfway through a PhD program, I thought landing a job would be a cinch. Enter the importance of encouraging friends. When I preferred not to express my frustrations to my husband, I could seek the advice, comfort, and encouragement of friends. They helped with networking and shared stories of how they and their friends had struggled and succeeded in the Big Apple. It was a camaraderie that I did not expect. While my friends “back home” were encouraging, there is something unique about leaning on those who live and strive in this city that never sleeps.

Almost a year after the move, I am working various jobs, nearing the finish line of my education, and am better settled in New York. I now have several circles of friends I can call on to meet for coffee, share a laugh, or ask for prayer or advice. Unless you have lived in New York City, especially Manhattan, you cannot understand the pull for and limitation of time. As a student, working multiple jobs, volunteering and attempting to maintain friendships can be challenging. How does one find enough time and energy for everything that is important?

My main goal this year is to be more generous with my time and my heart. I believe Woody Allen is credited for saying “90% of life is just showing up.” While showing up is extremely important, it is not always enough. I need to be able to give of myself to others. It is possible to show up and still be stingy with our time. It might come through with checking our watches or phones, giving the impression that something or someone else holds a priority over the current activity or person with whom we are engaged.

A secondary goal for this year is to become more organized. Glancing through the 2012 IKEA catalog, I came across a small quote: “Fika (fee-Ka) is something all Swedes love to do. Simply put it means grab a friend, some coffee or tea, and something sweet to nibble on.” This little quote jumped out at me in the midst of the kitchen section. I’ve never been to Sweden, but I think this is what we long for: joining a friend for coffee, a sweet, and a time of togetherness. No matter your challenges or what you hope to achieve this year, let’s join together in our intentionality to show up for our friends and treat them and ourselves to the joys of great friendship.

Note from Shasta:  Michelle-- thank you for being a Connector in New York City, a woman who joined and immediately started scheduling events and reaching out to other members. Thank you for helping foster friendships right where you landed.  Best to you in your goals for the upcoming year!

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If you aren't yet a member of GirlFriendCircles.com we invite you to join! And if you already are-- I hope you'll go RSVP for an event (even if you're nervous like Laurie admitted she was) or that you'll jump in and host an event like Michelle did!

New to the Area: No Friends Yet, by Katrina Emery

Note from Shasta:  This is a guest blog from... (drum roll please).... my little sister, Katrina Emery! She's a fabulously talented writer (see her blog link in the bio at the end) and her experiences going from having tons of friends in Portland to knowing no one after a recent move overseas are feelings we all know well!

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In April this year, my husband was accepted to study at the University of Amsterdam in Netherlands, a long way from our hometown of Portland, Oregon, USA. We packed up and arrived here in August, quickly falling in love with this city of canals, looping bridges, water, and bikes.

Jesse and I have been here for two months now, and I can sputter a sentence out in Dutch, find my way without a map, rattle off my favorite cafes, and giggle if someone confuses a coffeeshop for a cafe (coffeeshops serve the stuff you don't tell your boss you tried). I've developed a taste for gouda and Dutch gin. I've almost mastered the graceful bike dismount. I judge tourists that stand in the middle of the bike path.

I haven't made any good friends.

Shasta likes to point out the health risks of being lonely and not having local friends, and while she means for it to motivate us, usually it just scares me. Great. I can't speak the language and I'm going to die young. It's a lot of pressure! We're only here for a year, and we're already two months in. That leaves only 10 months to find a friend, get to know her, have the time of our lives, and cement best friend status before I leave next summer. Ideally, she would have family in Sweden and invite me over for a Scandinavian Christmas celebration where we would eat homemade food, drink mulled wine, learn to say "cheers," laugh, knit big sweaters, and have that long happy movie-montage moment. I've got it all planned out.

While walking around a few weeks ago, I saw a girl that seemed nice. She was sitting on the steps in the sun, reading. Possibly Swedish. I went through the scenario in my mind:  "I see you're reading. I like to read. May I sit by you? And could we be friends?"

I kept walking. Sweden for Christmas seemed a bit further away.

Another option was a girl I'd met in Portland, who, of all things, was also moving to Amsterdam so her husband could study. It was meant to be, I knew it. When we arrived and felt settled, I sent her an email....and never heard back. "Maybe she didn't see the email. Maybe she's just busy right now. Maybe she's preparing a surprise party for me," I told myself, thinking about the likelihood of pinatas at the party. Then my husband said, "Maybe she's just not that into you." Oh. Right.

Not having friends just doesn't fit in my plan of being here. I'm here to create solid friendships with people who live all over Europe, thus ensuring free places to stay and awesome company for all my future travels. And I've got those all planned out, too, along with my weekly meals and what restaurants I'd like to try in town. A friendship is just one more thing that fits into that plan, right? Not so far. And imagining it hasn't helped yet.

So instead of dreaming, I'm trying to relax. I'm trying to stop counting down the months, worrying about the health risks of being lonely, and instead enjoy my time here, the people and friends I do have, and all those Belgian beers that I get to try. While I do that, I'm trying to smile, be friendly, and talk to people without worrying about what they think of my mono-language upbringing.

Instead of sitting at home planning, I'll get out there more. I'll rely on time, happy coincidences, repeated invitations, and slightly lower expectations. Maybe I won't find a best friend, but I could find someone who'll show me the best Indonesian restaurant in town, or help improve my Dutch vocabulary, or admire Van Gogh paintings with me. And those are the things, amazingly, that are slowly happening in between the time I spend planning.

Just yesterday as Jesse and I were sitting in a cafe, our table-neighbors heard us speaking English and struck up a conversation. They're from Montreal, and visit Amsterdam every year. We're going out for a drink with them later in the week.

And two weeks ago, I forced myself to go to an expat hiking group. I had almost backed out due to nerves and feeling shy, but it turned out to be a beautiful day, and I met a lovely couple from Copenhagen, Denmark.

Which is pretty close to Sweden.

Not that I'm planning or anything.

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Katrina Emery enjoys writing, traveling, cooking, sewing, and riding her bike. Currently she is doing all those things, Dutch-style, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. You can find her musings on her blog at The Penny Farthing.

Healthy Friendship: How to Be the Best Friend Possible

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  Today I'm hosting two posts: one from a therapist highlighting four qualities of emotionally safe friendships, and the other from someone who has never written a blog but was willing to share how she's learned this in her own life. Thanks to both Lisa Brookes Kift and Kelly Cape! _____________________________

What is Emotional Safety?

by Lisa Brookes Kift

Emotional safety is the level of comfort two people feel between each other – and though I’ve written much about how couples can benefit from this, let’s take a look at how this translates to friendship and ways you can be the best friend possible.

Because emotional and relationship health are so intertwined it’s important to take stock of not only how you behave with your friends but how you feel around them.  Do you support and lift each other up?

Not everyone is clear in their understanding of what qualities make up a healthy, nurturing, supportive friendship.  This lack of clarity may be the result of never being modeled this type of relationship.  Whatever the case, it’s never too late to take stock of the people in your life – and how they experience you as well.

Emotionally safe friendships have some things in common.  These friends typically:

  • Listen well and attempt to understand where the other is coming from – rather than dismiss, appear disinterested or shift the topic back to them.
  • Offer validation and empathy when appropriate – rather than behave without compassion when sensitivity is required.
  • Respect each other and are supportive - rather than be competitive and undermining.
  • Trust each other and feel safe – rather than be unsure of whether the other is there only when it suits them.

Human beings are relational.  We are born seeking secure attachment with our primary caregivers and we continue to seek emotional safety through-out our lives, with our partners and friends.

I am very grateful to have a group of girlfriends who I feel totally at home with.  Some go back as far as kindergarten and a few I’ve made in the last five years or so.  The friendships I put the most energy into are the ones where there is a mutual felt sense of being able to truly relax, be ourselves and know that neither of us would do anything to harm the other.  It just feels safe.

It’s like being wrapped in a fuzzy, warm blanket on a cold, winter’s day.

This is a little of what emotionally safe friendships feel like to me.  Just like intimate relationships require effort to maintain, the same goes for friendships.  You get what you give.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the author of The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples and The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples.  She’s also the creator of The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com with tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health.  Lisa has a private practice working with individuals and couples in Larkspur, California. Twitter:@LisaKiftTherapy

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What I've Learned About Becoming Emotionally Safe

by Kelly Cape

When one friendship door closes, another opens.  But, unfortunately it has to hit you on the ass first.

I didn’t truly realize this until recently.  I’ve always hated goodbyes. And I cherish having lots of friends, especially close friends.  You know what I mean: the ones who know you in-and-out, and vice versa.

So naturally I felt reluctant to end a friendship even if I wasn’t getting anything out of it.  But because I never wanted to say goodbye, I confused myself into thinking that was because it was feeding me, even if it wasn't!  Hmm... a curious ego-driven, self-fulfilling cycle indeed. Sometimes, even as the friendships were in full swing, the connections I felt seemed forced or awkward.  Meaning that for me, I wasn’t getting exactly what I wanted in the way of a reciprocal friendship but I ignored my gut and just forged ahead making more plans for the next dinner or movie.  If these gals were spending time with me then I was getting something rewarding in return, right?

Well, it wasn’t until a fall-out with two separate friends in overlapping periods of time in my life that made me rethink what friendship meant to me and forced me to have my aha moment of discovery.  This experience took me down the necessary path of self-introspection, ultimately leading me to new enlightenment and more fulfilling friendships.  And most importantly, this included the most significant friendship of all—the one with myself.

I realized that I consciously contributed in the friendships’ demise because I felt needy (hence forcing myself even with internal alarms going off—danger, danger!) and desperate to keep these friendships at almost any cost.  In turn that fear gave off negative vibes.  Additionally, I was also unwilling to listen to my heart that told me I was putting in way more than what I was getting.

And it wasn’t just about ego.  I was keeping these friendships alive at the expense of my self-esteem and value as a person and as a friend. Which wasn’t doing service to them either because when I spent time with them, I wasn’t being fully honest or authentic.  I discovered that felt more awful than pretending I was their BFF.

After a lot of journaling, grieving and healing, I have since become not only a more grounded person, but also a more genuine and present friend, which naturally brings about positive and joyful reciprocity.  I listen to me more now and let go of forcing or acting like someone I’m not just to have friends, or to be invited to a party.

And as the Universe does so profoundly, I “coincidentally” and effortlessly have forged a wonderful new friendship that is both light-hearted and meaningful at the same time.  We are our genuine, honest selves with each other and we laugh a lot together.  My friendships of the past are gone... but never forgotten.  The lessons they taught me will live on and be carried in me with each new budding friendship.

Kelly Cape, 41-years old, lives in Campbell, CA where she consistently strives for an expansive life, including learning to follow her bliss—personally and professionally.  This is her first blog. 

Mixing Friendships and Work, by Dr. Christina Schlachter

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  I’m honored to host this posting by Dr. Christina Schlachter (bio at the end).  I met her at a conference last February and while we don't live near each other, we've become "business friends." I hardly ever write on friendships at work so I'm glad she took that angle! And I hope you'll all comment with things you've learned about work relationships! ---------------------------------------

When we were little girls, we would make friends with the girls in our homeroom class, play hopscotch together during recess, and pass notes during science class when we thought the teacher was not looking.

As grown women, homerooms have been traded for conference rooms, playgrounds for a morning latte at the corner coffee shop, and we text friends the latest gossip from our computers as we sit in our cubicles at work. It is amazing how things have changed, yet really stayed the same.

For those who work in offices, we spend over 8 hours a day with our “colleague” friends, so it makes complete sense that we would want to get to know and perhaps become close friends with those around us at the water cooler. But what do you do when your friend (or you) becomes the boss?

Or even for those of who work from home or run our own companies, we still create a business network that can become friends, or need our friends to help us with our businesses.  When I started my own coaching and training firm four years ago, I was thrilled to share my excitement and good fortune with friends by using them as vendors, partners, and eventually as clients. The last thing I needed to do was to partner with someone I knew nothing about – I had too much on my plate already! I trusted my friends’ opinions when it came to any problem I was having in my personal life (men, kids, diet, and everything else!), so I assumed I could work with them just as easily.

I happily report that most of my “business friends” have remained intact and many of my clients are also good acquaintances. But I also am sad to say that some of my long time friendships have soured because our “friendship” was used as “wiggle room” when it came to paying bills, providing a quality service, or getting things done on time.

Here's What I Have Learned About Friendship and Work

Alfred A. Montapert, author of The Supreme Philosophy of Man: The Laws of Life, is quoted as saying All lasting business is built on friendship, and while these may not be supreme philosophies, here are three lessons I have learned when I want to make my friendships and business grow together.

  1. State the obvious - QUICKLY!  I have never wanted to hurt a friend’s feelings, especially when it came to telling them they just are not doing a good enough job. Most of my soured friendships in business could have been saved if I had spoken up a little earlier, and I shall take that lesson to my grave. When a friendship is stressed I realize now I need to face the new situation head on and fast. First things first: State the obvious and if things are not working out perfectly, I have learned to let my friends know I value their friendship, and while there is work to be done, I know we can work it out together.
  2. Set clear objectives and timelines: Duh. Make that double duh. I would never have started a new relationship with a new contractor or vendor without having clear objectives, and I realized I was assuming my friends would just get the work done without the same courtesy I provided people I did not know. I was just as a guilty of using wiggle room with my friends’ objectives as my friends were on their end of the deal. While I have realized friendships will need a more “friendly” approach, I now kick off my new business relationship with clear objectives, timelines, and measurements. In a time of stress, there is nothing like clear objectives to keep everyone focused at the task at hand.
  3.  Set time a side for friendship. Just friendship. One mistake I made when I enlisted friends to work with me in business was to assume it was perfectly fine to move our gossiping happy hours to power lunches discussing the next greatest service offering or marketing approach. We used to hang around the water cooler, take long lunches, and instant message about the horrible outfits people wear to work, and all those times abruptly ended. I realized that while I was the boss, I still needed to put a little extra effort into scheduling NO-WORK-TALK coffee, after hours drinks, or just down time to keep my friendship going. It does take a little more effort, but I now know my friendships are worth it.

It is true, the top of the corporate ladder can be lonely. But it does not need to be. You need a team of people to help you get to the top of the corporate ladder, and wouldn’t it be nice if your team was full of people who really liked you and called you friend?

Dr. Christina Schlachter (@DrChristinaS) runs She Leads, an American Express M31000 award winning company providing training and coaching that helps teams & leaders communicate better and achieve their goals.  She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two sons.  Her book, The Change Plan: Your Guide to Transforming Your Career and Life in 12 Weeks will hit the shelves later this year.

 

What I Wish I Knew Then About Friendship... by Cherie Burbach

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  I'm honored to host this posting by Cherie Burbach, one of the most prolific writers online about friendship (bio at the end!). Thanks Cherie for all you're doing to encourage healthy female friendships! ------------------------------

What I wish I knew then about friendship that I know now...is that friendships aren't always meant to last forever, and that's okay. When I was younger, it pained me to lose a friend to the point where I would beat myself up it when it happened.

Now, don't get me wrong, we definitely want to maintain our friendships whenever we can.

Cherie Burbach

But the reality is that sometimes friendships end. People make different life choices, they move, they grow apart, develop new interests, and through it all they change. When a friendship ends during this point, you may experience feelings of guilt or be stuck in a place wondering "why" over and over again. This perception that friendships should last forever comes from a few different places. Ever heard of the term "BFF"? Best friends forever might be a cute saying but it isn't the reality. Or how about people that talk about their long-term friendships? You don't often hear, "I've had three great friends that were in my life for five years" but you will hear someone talk about their "life-long friends" pretty often. If you don't have a life-long friend or two, hearing that may make you feel inept at friendship. But don't buy into that.

Some of my friends have lasted decades, while others have been brief. Most of the time, friends are not going to stay in your life forever, and even if they do, your relationship will probably change over the years. Having one true-blue best friend is great, and if it happens to you be thankful. For most of us, however, there are times when a really great friend only stays in our lives for a short time. After they go, what usually happens? You beat yourself up and wonder what you could have done differently.

But you see, that's the point of friendship: It teaches you about yourself. Instead of beating yourself up, learn from the experience. Being with your friend taught you a few things about yourself. Are there areas to improve on? Work on that. Were there areas you really rocked? Do more of that.

Each friendship you have will mold you into a slightly different, more confident, person, but don't go over the past and wonder what you could have done differently. You might have done everything you could have done at that point in time. Talking about "what could have been" is pointless and a waste of energy. You never know, even if you had done that one thing differently it doesn't mean that it would have prevented your friendship from ending. Sometimes the end of a relationship really is them and not you! If you feel like you would have done something differently with an old friend, use that knowledge to help improve your current friendships.

The point is, a friend can come briefly through your life and that's okay. Embrace each friendship, because there is no one-size fits all when it comes to our pals.

Cherie Burbach is the About.com Guide to Friendship and has written ten books and ebooks. She writes about dating, relationships, health, sports, and lifestyle. You can follow her on Twitter at brrbach.

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Note: I posted a new video blog on YouTube this morning: "Who Are Your BFF's?" that talks briefly about how many confidantes you may want, the importance they play in your life, and how you can develop these meaningful friendships.

Subscribe on my YouTube Channel (ShasGFC) as I'm picking a random winner every Thursday! Congrats to Tamisha Ford-- this week's winner!

 

 

An Ode to Girlfriends, by Danielle LaPorte

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I've invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  We launch our guest blogs with Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth (bio at the end!). Thanks Danielle for giving voice in such an awesome way!------------------------------

an ode to girlfriends everywhere

girlfriend, i adore you. like, insanely, madly, infinitely, priceless diamond, cosmic shiny adore you. it's crazy how much i adore you.

you told me to dump the chump.

i cut my bangs way too short before a job interview. you told me to wear a low cut blouse to distract from the nasty haircut. i got the job.

you're happy for me. always.

you remember. everything. you're the encyclopaedia of...me.

you made the appointment for me. you waited in the car. we drove home in silence.

you make sure my burritos come with an extra side of sour cream, and you order pizzas with mushrooms only on half.

you took me to the coast when i needed it most.

when i thought the pain would kill me, you reminded me that i wouldn't die of a broken heart.

you told that bastard to fuck off so that i didn't have to.

you drove the moving van. in your first trimester. while barfing at truck stops. you never once complained.

you very gently suggested that maybe one pair of shoulder pads was sufficient.

you called in sick for me when really, I was partying on the band's bus headed for Buffalo.

you didn't make me wear taffeta to your wedding.

you lent me $200 bucks that made all the difference between rent and groceries that month. you tucked it into my purse when i wasn't looking to save me the humiliation.

you held my hand when i got my tattoos, and my wisdom teeth out, and my first really expensive pair of shoes.

you babysat so that i could be with my mother when she was dying.

you dared me and then said: if you don't trust you, trust me.

my baby was two days old. you came over and scrubbed my kitchen floor, made a lemon loaf, and rocked the baby so that i could take a nap, but i didn't sleep. instead, you and i just stared at the baby on the bed, together.

you bring me trashy magazines and don't judge me for loving them.

you coax me out of my own brain. make me stop working and have fun. and you have no idea what I do for a living.

you are how i know god is real. you are my heart honey. my harbor. my metric of faith. my fresh water source. my soul sherpa.

girlfriend, i could not, would not do this without you.

not ever.

you, girlfriend. you.

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Danielle LaPorte is the creator of WhiteHotTruth.com, which has been called "the best place on-line for kick-ass spirituality." She is the author of The Spark Kit: A Digital Experience for Entrepreneurs, an inspirational speaker, and a former think tank executive. Her next book, The Fire Starter Sessions: A Guide to Blazing Your Own Trail in Life & Work, launches in April 2012 from Random House. You can find her on Twitter @daniellelaporte