How To?

5 Videos to Help You Make New Friends

I’ve been making more videos lately than I have been blogging (come join me on my YouTube channel to be notified when a new video goes up!) but here on one page you can see a collection of short videos I did to help inspire you to make the friendships that are crucial to your health and happiness!

xoxo

1) 3 Ways to Meet New Friends

We know we have to meet people before we can potentially become friends, but where exactly are we supposed to go to find new friends? While most common advice makes a list of places, that unfortunately isn’t super helpful to most of us if we don’t go to those places they suggest! Let’s brainstorm the places and ways that will be most helpful to each of us specifically! At the end of this video you will have a personalized list of the best methods for YOU!

2) How Many "Potential Friends" Do I Need to Make a New BFF?

We know we can’t just go out and simply place an order for a new best friend, but that rather we have to go meet a bunch of people first. But how many people do we need to meet? How do we go looking for a new BFF? How many people does it take to find one new friend?

3) How Important is Chemistry to a New Friendship?

Do you wish you knew exactly who you might bond with? Do you think you know who you’ll get along with best and feel like you’re on the look for a very specific person? Do you wonder what actually helps determine who we bond with? Here I lead us through looking at how friendships are developed and what healthy expectations will serve us as we meet new people! At the end of this video you’ll know the one thing we can practice that matters more than chemistry!

4) How Long Does It Take to Make a New Friend?

Do you find yourself wanting to feel close to people right away? Do you wonder whether you should be able to predict instantly whether the two of you will be friends? Do you want to feel close to people but then find yourself not wanting to put in the time? So often what we want is to meet someone with whom we instantly feel close but what we usually find is a stranger that we have to get to know, and it never feels as fun and easy and familiar as we want it to feel. Here I lead us through looking at how friendships are developed and what healthy expectations will serve us as we meet new people. At the end of this video you’ll know how much time it typically takes for you to make new friends!


5) How Can Introverts Make New Friends?

Do you worry that it’s harder for you to make new friends because you’re an introvert? Do you feel anxious when it comes to reaching out to others? Do you hunger for connection but feel weary and exhausted at how to get those needs met? At the end of this video you’ll have all kinds of tips and ideas for how to maximize your friendship time and decrease the energy output as much as possible.

Videos: The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Relationships!

VIDEO 1:

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

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

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


VIDEO 2:

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

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

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


VIDEO 3:

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

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

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


VIDEO 4:

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

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

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

Why We Should Care that Friends Day is February 4

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

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

Why Expressing Gratitude for Our Friends Matters

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

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

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

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

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

Fun Ideas and Ways to Show Gratitude to Our Friends

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

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

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

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


Join Me On My First Facebook Live!

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

How to Set A Monthly Friendship Goal

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

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

Here are tips and examples from our members:

Keep the goal do-able!

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

Be specific.

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

Hold a hopeful and open attitude: 

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

Choose to Take Charge of your Connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

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

Shasta's Tips for Starting Women's Groups

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matchmaker Advice: How to Attract & Bond

I am fascinated by the similarities, and differences, of romantic and platonic relationships. This Valentines Day, I thought it would be fun to inspire our friendships a bit by interviewing a professional Matchmaker to see how we can improve all our relationships. 

Joy Nordenstrom is the Founder of Joy of Romance, Inc. and Chemistry of Connection.  She’s a relationship coach, certified matchmaker, love story preservationist and romantic event planner. 

Shasta: We often treat romantic and platonic relationships as filling two different needs, but in some ways they can speak to the same human need, right?

Joy: Yes, all relationships speak to our need to belong.

Positive Psychologist Christopher Peterson’s research found having healthy relationships with family, friends, and coworkers turns out to be the strongest predictor of happiness, and often health, in most studies on human wellbeing. In a study detailed in an article titled “To Belong is to Matter: Sense of Belonging Enhances Meaning in Life,” the authors found:

“... correlational, longitudinal, and experimental evidence that a sense of belonging predicts how meaningful life is perceived to be.”

So in short, to belong equates in our mind to having meaning in life: If I matter to others, my life matters.

That sense of belonging can be found both in our intimate partnership and in our purely friendship driven relationships.

We've been studying and prioritizing romantic relationships for longer than friendships so I am always fascinated by the idea of what we can learn from those relationships that might be helpful to our friendships.

Anything that jumps out to you about how we attract others?

Absolutely.  Whether it's for romance or friendship, we still have to attract each other and connect. So when I work with my single clients to help them get ready for finding a partner, there is an exercise I have created to help them get into the right mental and emotional mindset to exude an air of self-confidence, positivity and receptivity.

It is inspired by my favorite quote:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Taking action in the direction of what pushes you a little, or a lot, out of your comfort zone helps create in your brain a chemistry similar to being in lust or the early stages of falling in love.

With the Scary Things’ Exercise, I ask an individual to work with the process for a minimum of 21 days in a row, in order to begin establishing a habit. The essence of the exercise is to be mindful and challenge yourself to do something a little out of your comfort zone every day.

All that we know about facial gestures and body language combined with neurosciences, shows us that what’s happening in our minds is being broadcast to others through our face and body. Once someone looks at us our spindle cells and mirror neurons wire us to connect and for them to “feel” to some extent what is internally happening for us.

Note that as humans, we gravitate towards individuals who are fascinating, curious and have a zest for life. In short, whether for romance or friendship, we want to be in relationships with those who are interesting and happy.

Love that!  That philosophy of staying engaged with life so that we're "more interesting and more interested in others" leads to a mindset that opens us to more connection.

And then, when we're with someone we are open to connecting with, what is one behavior we can be mindful to practice that can help our interaction?

Well, one easy tip is to know the impact of left eye gazing because our success in bonding resides in our ability to put others at ease.

You mean looking at their left eye?

Well if you gaze from right eye to right eye, it activates the left side of the brain, the side that analyzes, picks things apart, and looks for ways to get something out of the person or situation. Your facial expressions harden and become more intense. I call this the used car salesman gaze. Subconsciously, it makes the other person uncomfortable. This may be good as a tactic for hardcore negotiation but not for the art of connecting.

But when you engage in a gaze with someone utilizing your left eye you are tapping into the right side of your brain allowing you to access your full emotive self. With a left eye to left eye gaze, your mind will concentrate on where there is synergy and how you can work together. By gradually turning your face to the right, even by 5-10 percent, your left eye becomes more dominant. When you gaze at someone with your left eye, the corners of your mouth and the wrinkles around your eyes soften making the person you are looking at feel more at ease.

Again, the more someone is at ease, the easier it is for two people to feel safe, accepted, and be receptive to bonding.

Joy, thank you for sharing this wisdom about how we can attract others by paying attention to our own growth and exploration and connect with others by something as simple as left eye gazing.

May we all continue to pursue our human need of belonging in the healthiest and most intentional ways possible!

Want to connect more with Joy? Follow her on Twitter at @JoyofRomance or on her Joy of Romance Facebook page.

Shasta's Sharing Questions for Group Get-Togethers

This month, in GirlFriendCircles we're teaching "How to Plan a Meaningful Gathering" because we all know that there is a BIG difference between entertaining vs. engaging.

Why We Need Sharing Questions

What we don't want are more stressful or small-talk filled nights with people.  What we do want are more gatherings where we feel "When planning a gathering, always start by asking "how do I want it to feel?" and then plan to that desired outcome.seen, loved, and connected.  But, unfortunately, those are too far and few between these days for the vast majority of us.  So this month we're all committing to plan one meaningful night with friends we want to know better! (You can join us-- a class, supportive community, free advice, etc.)

A really important part of helping women connect is giving them the time and space to do it in a meaningful and structured way. For that reason we love Sharing Questions—they allow everyone to share, provide a focus of what to talk about (otherwise we end up talking about politics, TV shows, or the weather, instead of about us!), and help ensure that women start to feel like they know each other (as well as allowing each woman to be heard and feel seen).

Answering these questions is fun! They not only ensure that each of us has the opportunity to share, but they also focus our conversations on us rather than about celebrity gossip, news, movies, or our jobs and families.

How to Facilitate Group Sharing

Our sharing is shaped by so many things: how well we already know each other, the size of our group, the purpose of our gathering, and how much time is available, but here are a few fun ways to add Sharing Questions into your gatherings:

  1. Pick one question and go around the circle for everyone to answer.
  2. If your group is small and there’s plenty of time to share, have each person pick one question that everyone answers (so you’re answering as many questions as there are attendees, with everyone picking one question and answering all of them).
  3. Print and cut apart the questions and put them in a hat that is passed around the circle with each person drawing out a different question to answer.
  4. If the group is large, invite women to get into groups of 3 and give them 20 minutes to answer as many of the questions together as possible.

(Here are other tips for facilitating a group discussion.)

Sample Sharing Questions

If you're with people who know each other fairly well, here are some of my favorites:

• What is the one thing you want less of in your life right now? And one thing you want more of?

• What title would you give to the current chapter of your life? Why?

• What is one thing you love about your current job/role and one thing you would change if you could?

• In what way(s) are you similar to and/or different from one of your parents (or other family member)?

• What were you like in high school? And if you could go back and tell yourself one thing-- what would it be?

• What is one thing coming up in your life that matters?

• And, of course, my all time favorite question: What is a highlight and low light in the last week/month?

If you're with people who don't know each, here are some of my favorites (best ones are loosely connected to why the group is getting together):

• Share with us your name and how you know _______  (i.e. me--the host, the birthday girl, the bride-to-be) --where we met/how we've become friends.

• Share with us your name and one thing you did this last summer (or over the holidays/fall/spring) that stood out.

• Share with us your name, and tell us what you do for work, but more importantly, tell us what part of your work/job energizes you the most these days.

• Share with us your name, and because we're here celebrating x holiday, share with us one memory you have of a previous one. (St. Patrick's Day, Valentines, etc.)

•Share with us your name, and because we're gathering to meet new friends, share with us how one of your closest friends would introduce you-- how would they describe you?

• Share with us your name , and because we are all ____ (i.e. on this sports team, on PTA, part of this association) tell us what inspired you to join this group and why it feels important to you.

The real value of a Sharing Question is less about the exact question and more about letting everyone share and be seen-- it helps us feel closer to each other even if we don't end up having a 1:1 conversation with each person.  Plus, it gives us the beginning of a conversation thread that we can pick up and continue when we run into that person later.

If you're not practiced at leading Sharing Questions it might feel uncomfortable at first. But remember: feeling awkward doesn't mean it's "bad" to do it-- it just means we're not very practiced yet.  So let's practice!  :)

What have been your experiences in groups that initiate group sharing vs. just mingling or letting only a few share? And please share other questions you've used and loved-- let's compile a list!

Top 10 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2016

Every year I round-up my top ten most popular friendship articles and share them once more.  Many of you joined us half-way through the year, missed a post here-or-there or just want to re-read some of the best ones to see how they resonate with you now. 1. In Sickness and in Health: 5 Things I Wish My Friends Knew About Friendship and Illness

With nearly 1 in 2 of us suffering from some form of chronic (often invisible) illness, we all want to become more sensitive and thoughtful in how we interact with one another. This blog talks about how to make and keep friends when energy and health often feels limited, challenged or uncertain.

2. How much do you REALLY want good friends?

What price tag is friendship worth to you?  Unfortunately, the actual process of making friends includes activities and feelings most of us would rather avoid.  This blog challenges us to ask ourselves how much we value friendships and what we are willing to invest for the outcome we desire.

3. The 7 Verbs for Better Sex, Works for Friendships, Too

The acclaimed “sex therapist”, Dr. Esther Perel, offers 7 verbs for healthier relationships and these apply to platonic friendships too!  This is the perfect blog post for reflection on the year 2016.  Ask yourself how comfortable you are at practicing these verbs, how hard or easy these actions are for you, and what you want to work on in 2017.

4. 2 Ways to Respond to Friends Who Annoy or Frustrate

This amazing video blog talks about how to respond to frustrating friendship experiences and taking steps to build upon what you have rather than giving up and walking away when your needs are not met.   While these steps won’t fix every situation, they are certainly the first two steps we should practice in our attempts to repair or enhance a friendship that isn’t feeling super meaningful.

5. Do You Talk Too Much?

Your friendships are at risk of not reaching “frientimacy” when your friends aren’t practicing speaking up or when you’re not listening as much as you’re sharing.  This blog post helps us identify if we are giving our friends the space they need to be seen and provides over-talkers with 5 practices to pave the way for deeper and more meaningful friendships.

6. How to Respond to a Friend’s Pity Party

I think it is safe to say we have all had moments where we feel our inner mean girl come out and our self-doubt, fear, personal gaps and a general feeling of failure takes over our brains.  In this blog post, Shasta shares how her friend responded when she felt under-attack by herself so we can all feel inspired to show up for each other.

7. A Practice for “I Don’t Have Time for Friends”

Lack of time for friendships is one of the most common complaints when it comes to doing what we know would develop our friendships toward greater fulfillment.  We know that time together bonds us, but where does one find that time?  This blog post talks about an ancient practice called Sabbath and invites you to re-orient your life.  Cease and desist for one day to focus on you!

8. The Cost of the Constant Catch-Up Cycle

Are your friendships caught in a vicious cycle of not spending enough time together to feel really meaningful?  This blog post helps us understand the price of the Constant Catch-Up Cycle and invites us to move beyond just catching up and achieve the frientimacy we crave.

9. The Other 3 Most Powerful Words

These 3 words can open up repairing conversations with a friend where we might feel some tension, distance, or frustration.  Therapist, Tricia Andor, reminds us how simple and easy it can be for all of us to take on an awkward or uncomfortable conversation that may help deepen the friendship and grow our emotional muscles.

10. The Verdict: Can Men and Women Be Close Friends?

Our lives can be enhanced from all types of relationships.  The goal isn’t to limit what type of love and community we can create in our lives, but rather to do so in ways that are healthy and honest.  This blog post challenges us to reflect on your cross-gender friendships and take a deeper look into how meaningful and supportive they are in your life.

A huge thanks to all my GirlFriendCircles.com members and readers of my blog!

May we continue in 2017 to honor all that is right with friendship, committing ourselves regularly to the practices of healthy personal development and relationship joy.

- Shasta

p.s.  As always, I welcome your comments!  Share with me which one is your favorite!

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How to Say "Not Interested" Nicely?

I'm often asked "What do I do if someone wants more of a friendship with me than I want with them?" Or, "How can I tell someone, without hurting their feelings, that I'm not interested in spending more time with them?" Most of us need more community in our lives, but some of usShasta Quote need to say no to some people in order to say yes to others.

I'm not gonna act like this is an easy question to answer... I still struggle with it and sometimes find myself sitting on a coffee date simply because I found myself agreeing before I could figure out how to decline the invitation.

In romance, we tend to eventually find a way to say, "Thanks, but no," but rarely do we give that gift to other women.Most of us just play nice or just go MIA.  There has to be another way.

Simply ignoring women or continuing to act interested even when we're not isn't being honest with them, isn't leaving us feeling aligned, and it's contributing to our collective fear that if someone isn't reaching out to us that it means they don't like us, which isn't always the case.

Principles for Saying No to Others

Our goal in life is to live as aligned as possible: having our insides (feelings) match our outsides (situation/circumstance). Which leaves us with the options of either saying yes and truly being open to it, or saying no instead of just ignoring someone.

Here are my guidelines to practice saying no:

  1. Always affirm.  Affirm how much it means that they invited us; acknowledge how much you admire them.
  2. Then say no. Then check in with yourself so you can clarify your no. "Is it not now?" Or "Not as often?" Or "Not ever."
  3. End with thanks.  Thank them for having thought of us, for reaching out, and encourage them in any way that feels kind.

In most areas of life I encourage women to simply practice saying "no" more often as a complete sentence without needing to explain or justify. But because in these situations it feels like we're often saying "no" to a specific person and because everyone's greatest fear is rejection, I think we can err on the side of showing as much value to the other person as possible, while also gifting them with our honesty so they aren't left wondering in uncertainty.

Sample Scenarios

Of course this is a hard question to answer because there are so many levels of friendships and varied reasons why we're saying no, but hopefully if I can give a couple of examples of how I'd say it, that might help get the ball rolling.....

  • To someone we don't know well, but we don't feel like we have time for more friends.  "That is so sweet of you to ask me and typically I'd be quick to say yes as you are definitely someone I'd love to get to know; but unfortunately I feel like I am barely making the time to give to my current friends so I've been having to say no to other fun people in order to love those people well. But tell me what kinds of relationships you're trying to build and maybe I can help introduce you to people?"
  • To someone we'd consider a casual friend but we're not convinced we want to invest more time than we already are making.  "I'm always so impressed with you for reaching out and inviting me to things-- I know that's hard to do and I really respect that gift you've given.  And I feel like I've had to say no a bit, and while I don't see that changing anytime soon, I wanted to make sure you knew that I appreciate the friendship we do have when we see each other at x (church, work, MOPS). I used to think every friendship was supposed to become a best friend as though it had to be all or nothing, but I'm learning to really value that while I can't be close and intimate with everyone I like, I can still be happy they're in my life. Thanks for being such a positive person when we do see each other."
  • To someone we'd consider a casual/close friend but we don't really want to connect with much anymore. Basically if you're thinking about "breaking up" then I invite you to read these posts about The Five Questions to Ask Before Ending a Friendship, this post about how we can decrease the frientimacy in a friendship by decreasing consistency and vulnerability without having to break up, or this post helping identify if this is a friendship rift or a drift might help, too.  Because ultimately, we have to ask ourselves: is this a relationship I want to completely end (in which case I am a strong believer that we owe it to them to explain why) or is this simply a relationship I don't want to keep investing in a ton but am more than happy to still see her at parties or at the places we both frequent and keep up with her here and there? Knowing our desired outcome will help us shape that conversation where we can communicate the value of what we have shared and hopefully help establish expectations for both parties.

I often compare these conversations to going to the gym.  We don't get physically healthier by avoiding sweat, exertion, and stretching; and neither do we practice being our best selves (which includes honest communication and expressing value to others) without it feeling awkward, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable.

Let's become women who value each other so much that we'll line up our words to match our actions rather than just keep saying no or avoiding phone calls....

Have you been on the receiving end?  Do you prefer them just neglecting you or do you prefer their honesty? Have you had a conversation with someone you consider a success?  Share with us!

Dopamine: Relationships are "Supposed To" Give Energy

We keep hearing how good relationships are for us, but what do you do when relationships drain you, scare you, or exhaust you? Or maybe life just feels so blah now that you're left feeling lethargic, stressed-out, weary, or flat? Maybe the idea of peeling yourself off the couch to connect with someone just sounds like way too much work? Maybe you're not getting enough life-enhancing dopamine?

In my latest class for Friendship University I had the awesome fumc-dr-amy-banksprivilege to interview the foremost authority on the combined fields of neurobiology and relationships.  Dr. Amy Banks, the author of Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link Between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships, walked us through the four ways we can improve our brain function in order to improve our relationships.

Science is continuing to reinforce that every single one of us is hardwired for connection.  Which means that when we feel loved and supported: our immune system is healthier, we recover from surgery and sickness faster, our bodies protect us from the impact of stress, we feel happier, and we live longer. And... in light of our conversation today: we feel more energy when we connect.

How Do Relationships Give Us Energy?

The human brain is designed to give us a dose of dopamine--the  chemical that not only lights up our pleasure center but also helps give us the energy to move toward rewards--every time we do something life-sustaining.

Dr. Banks says:

"Eating, drinking, water, exercise, sex, and healthy relationships are all supposed to trigger feel-good sensations, to make us want to do the things that are good for us."

She is quick to caution us that we "all live from one dopamine hit to another" (because it's natural for us to want to feel good!) but that if the human brain can't get that hit in healthy ways this is what drives so many of us to look for substitutes: shopping, gambling, over-eating, or anything that leads to addiction.

But What If Relationships Don't Give Me Energy?

In an ideal world, as babies we received love, touch, and connection that paired those actions with our dopamine producers.  Studies shows that when that link between relationships and reward was reinforced, it set us up for improved social status and social support.

But for many of us, if our childhood relationships were stressful or harmful, or if we were taught to be fiercely independent or perceived as weak for wanting connection, then relationships didn't get paired with our dopamine reward system as they were supposed to.  Which, according to Dr. Banks, means that "instead of becoming energized by friendships--even good ones--they are drained and depleted by the interaction."

Feeling disconnected provokes our stress response systems which raises our anxiety, provokes irritability, and leads us to assuming that we're being left out or rejected, even if we aren't. Which means what we need the most--connection--is unfortunately not only what we probably fear the most but also what we're least likely to feel energized to pursue.

But Dr. Banks and numerous other voices out there are encouraging us: we can heal our damaged pathways.  (If you haven't yet watched Johann Hari's TED talk reminding us that the opposite of addition isn't sobriety, but connection-- then it's a must see!)  In the book Wired to Connect she says,

But there is plenty that you can do to nourish your neurological pathways for connection. If they are damaged, you can start to heal them. If they are neglected, you can cultivate them. And if they are stressed, you can soothe them."

How To Move Toward More Energy in Relationships

Dr. Banks gives so many brain exercises and activities in her book to practice reconnecting the dopamine reward system to healthy relationships, and our GirlFriendCircles.com community is so enjoying the class, our worksheets, and our conversation this month as we dive deeper on the subject, but let me leave you with just one of her very practical ideas to try.

  1. Identify the relationships that give you energy.  Who are those people for you?  With whom do you feel the safest? What relationships in your life give you some sense of reward or pleasure, even if small?
  2. Try to spend more time connecting with those people. For many of us, depending on our jobs, we might be spending the bulk of our days around people we didn't choose, or with people who drain us. It becomes even more imperative to try to lean in to more time with anyone who does energize us.  It might mean calling our mom a bit more often, initiating time with a friend, or practicing more conversation with a safe person.

It seems counter-intuitive that when we lack energy that we need to then identify relationships to seek out, but Dr. Banks assures us that identifying our "strongest sources of relational dopamine" will give us our best shot at repairing our reward systems. Perhaps knowing that as you reconnect those wires, that what costs you energy now will reward you with energy down the road, will give you courage.

I do want to point out, what I hope is obvious, that "more relationships" aren't the answer to everyone's weariness. Much like how food is good for us and also gives us energy-- the answer isn't just eat more food! Over-eating can make us lethargic, too!  Or not eating the right food.  Or not having a good relationships to food or our bodies.  Or maybe your food is perfect and what you need is more sleep!  :) But please, when you're avoiding people because you don't have the energy, consider the possibility that sometimes, counter-intuitively, we need to connect instead of withdraw.

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Interested in the Friendship University class? It comes with membership to those in GirlFriendCircles.com.  Every month we offer a new theme, a new teacher, new worksheet, and new friendship actions to practice-- join us in October and get access to this class immediately!

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How to Transform Disappointment into Feeling Loved

In my last video post I talked about how we can feel more loved.  It's SO important, because if we don't take the time to really articulate what makes us feel loved, then the outcome is DISAPPOINTMENT.  :( In this 4-minute video I talk about how we can transform our disappointment, and unmet needs, into clarity and fulfillment by sharing a ritual that I do on my birthday every year (and when I facilitate my annual New Years retreat) to help identify how I most want to feel.

When we articulate what feeling "loved" or "successful" means to us--because it actually feels different on each of us and can change at different times of our lives--then we can better collaborate with shaping our lives to result in the feelings we most want.

In my relationships, I assume that my friends and family DO love me... if I'm not feeling loved, then what do I need that is different from what I am receiving?

I want, more than anything, for you to KNOW what makes you feel loved and to focus your life saying yes to the things that will bring you closer to the love we all want.

xoxo

If you know what feeling leads you to feel loved, how can you see that helping prevent disappointment for you? What can you do to help facilitate that feeling?


 

 

3 Tips for Successfully Making New Friends

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

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

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

In this video I reveal:

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

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

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

Shasta

CEO, GirlFriendCircles.com

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

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

2 Ways to Respond to Friends Who Annoy or Frustrate

While these two steps won't fix every friendship, they are certainly the first two steps we should practice in our attempts to repair or enhance a friendship that isn't feeling super meaningful. All too often we become increasingly frustrated or hurt by the actions of a friend-- albeit that she only calls us when it's convenient to her, that she talks too much, that she isn't vulnerable enough, or that she hangs out with a mutual friend and doesn't invite us.  In almost every friendship, there will be certain things that we believe could improve the depth of our friendships IF that one action were changed.  Certainly it's our responsibility to examine what meaning we assign that behavior, where that need comes from, and recognize it's our responsibility to get the need met as opposed to someone else's job to automatically know how to meet it... but there is also room in there for us to learn how to ask for what we need.

Having a need isn't the problem... we all have needs.  How we go about getting that need met can be what hurts us and our relationships.

In this video blog I share what I think should be the first two steps to having our needs met and I apply it to three different examples to help us see how we can apply these steps to our own friendships.

 

The Other 3 Most Powerful Words

One of the highlights of being on book tour (for Frientimacy: How to Deepen Your Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness) is meeting so many amazing women across the country who resonate with the need for healthier friendships. I've learned so much from all of you-- from your questions, from your stories, and from your own powerful work in this world.  Your encouragement, resonance, and conversation feed me. One of those amazing women I met is Tricia Andor (her new blog), a big-hearted and fun therapist. While I was thrilled by her passion for learning more about friendship, moved by her affirmation of my work, wowed that she attended 3 of my 4 book events in Denver (driving nearly an hour each way, every time!) and touched that she brought me a goody bag that included snacks for the road... (great illustrations of how we can build friendships with positivity!) what I really wanted to share with everyone was a comment she offered during the Q&A time at the end of one of my presentations.

Her words reminded me how simple and easy it can be for all of us to practice opening up conversations with our friends where we might feel some tension, distance, or frustration.

The "Other" 3 Most Powerful Words

Certainly we know that saying "I love you" can be three of the most healing and transformational words on the planet; but what do you say when you're actually feeling anything but loving?

women talking

During every Q&A we all hear stories of women who are feeling disappointment with their friends: we wonder what to do when we learn the 3 actions that build friendships but are then dubious that our friends will contribute as much as we will, we feel frustrated that long-time friendships aren't feeling meaningful anymore, and we feel angst with our friends whose annoying habits have put distance between us.

As I highlight in my book that maturity and spiritual growth are connected to our willingness to lean in to our friendships with honesty--as opposed to our default mode of simply tolerating something for as long as possible and then just giving up--our palms can start to sweat at the thought of actually confronting our friends.  When it comes to our romantic relationships-- we are far more practiced at having the conversations where we talk about our relationship: whether it's meeting our needs, whether it feels fair, or what we feel needs to change.  But when it comes to our friendships we all too often withdraw.

And that's where Tricia's three magic words can help us!  :)

She offered up an easy and beautiful way that has helped many of her clients over the years as they engage in repairing conversations:  "I've noticed that..."

  • "I've noticed that we don't talk with each other as much as we used to..."
  • "I've noticed that when we get together I sometimes leave feeling like I didn't get a chance to share with you what is going on in my life..."
  • I've noticed that when we make plans I feel worried about whether it's really going to happen since you've had to cancel several times..."
  • I've noticed that I tend to be the one reaching out trying to get our time scheduled..."

"I've noticed that..." is:

  1. Casual sounding (as opposed to "I need to talk with you about something that's bothering me.");
  2. Uses non-blaming language (as opposed to you "You never...");
  3. and Focuses on an observation (as opposed to assigning a motive or starting with a tough feeling)

Additional Tips:

Starting a conversation that shares an observation is an awesome way to open up a dialog with a friend.  Here are a couple other tips, I'd offer:

  1. Get to a question as quickly as possible. The goal here isn't to dump on her, give lots of examples, or share all your feelings, but rather it's to start a conversation. Therefore, in order for it to be a conversation, we need to invite their sharing early. After sharing the observation, consider asking a question like, "Have you felt that, too?" or "Have you noticed that?" or "Do you have any ideas of how we can improve this?"
  2. Avoid using global language such as always or never.  Even if it feels like always or never, if this is one of our first times approaching this subject, it invokes less defensiveness to underplay it a bit and leave some grace in the air by saying, "Sometimes" or "a couple of times."
  3. Assume the best--give them grace.  As we all practice having honest conversations, I find it feels best to speak as though we assume the best of the other. We may feel like it's the last straw, but if we haven't broached the subject before then we have to realize this is the beginning of the repair work and treat it gently and with hope. After making an observation, statements like "I'm sure that's not what you intended" or "I know you've been so busy" helps us extend an olive branch and increases the chances of them feeling safe enough to be vulnerable.  Our friends need to feel our love if they are going to own their failures or share their own hurts with us.

So those three magic words could lead to something like:

"I've noticed that we don't get together as much as we used to.... I know we're both so busy and you've been working so hard on such-and-such, so I don't want to put any pressure on you or your schedule, but I do miss you!  Do you feel like there's a way to connect more frequently that would work for you?"

Or,

"I've noticed the last couple of times that it feels like there might be some tension between us. I don't know if I did something to frustrate you or if I'm just imagining things, but I'd love to talk about it if anything is in between us. Do you feel like anything has changed?"

It's not our responsibility to have it all figured out or solved, not worth the time and energy of writing out some long script with all the grievances and feelings, and not our responsibility to guess how they are feeling.  All we are being invited to do in our relationships as we practice speaking up is to lean in a bit more and at least get the conversation started.

May many meaningful and restorative conversations occur in all our lives,

Shasta

p.s.  I have lots of other scripts, tips, and ideas for how to open and facilitate awkward, but courageous conversations in my book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.

 

 

 

 

Tips for Small Group Facilitators

A group facilitator can make or break a gathering.  We've all been in a group where the facilitator thought she was the teacher and talked ad nauseam, and we've also been witness to the run-away train where they take such a back-seat role that the conversation just blows with the wind.

But hopefully we've also been in groups where we feel supported, guided, and nurtured as part of one big awesome conversation. There are few events more powerful and energizing than being in a group of women engaged in deep conversation and connection!

Getting together with women to share and connect can sometimes be easier and more fun with a book as our excuse!

To that end, when I wrote up a book club guide (which we loving refer to as BookCircles) for my newest book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness I also included some tips for anyone who wants to host one.

If you feel so inspired--be sure to download the Frientimacy gift pack on my website which not only walks you through 1-4 evenings of connecting but also guides you in figuring out who to invite and how to plan. The only thing better than inviting a group of women over to connect with each other is also having them talk and learn about friendship at the same time!

Tips for Facilitating:

Whether you're leading a BookCircle for Frientimacy or find yourself hosting a gathering or circle some other time, may these tips inspire you to remember what matters most.

  • Your Focus: Always remember that the focus isn’t to impress those who come or to have a “perfect” party; but rather it is to help facilitate love and connection. I always say a prayer before everyone arrives “Help everyone who comes through that door to feel loved and seen.” Exhale any worry about how others perceive you and instead focus on making sure everyone leaves feeling your warmth. People won’t remember what was said or how you looked—they’ll remember how they felt.
  • Timing: I think it’s respectful to start and end on time so I always plan out my evening starting from the end time. If I want to end by x time then I to be starting the goodbyes and announcements 7 minutes before then, which means asking the final question, 10 minutes before that, etc. I write in little suggested times throughout my itinerary so that at any given point I can quickly assess if I have extra time or am short on time—allowing me to make decisions about what to prioritize with the given time. Similarly, we need to think through how much time we want to allot for certain sections: For example, if you have 6 women all introducing themselves for 3 min each then it will take about 20 minutes to do introductions. Do you need to model a shorter introduction so it only takes 15 minutes?
  • Modeling: Our role as facilitators is not to teach and monopolize the conversation but to help facilitate everyone else’s sharing. Many people process the concepts as they talk and listen so we want to encourage the diversity of sharing from as many voices as possible. However, when it comes to going around the circle, I always share first to buy everyone time to think and to model vulnerability and timing. We want to keep our answer as short as we want everyone else’s to be. We also want to answer with as much authenticity as possible as that gives permission to everyone else to answer with honesty as well. We are setting the tone: what you put out is what will get duplicated.
  • Format Variety: You’ll notice I mix up many different ways of facilitating, including: group discussion where anyone can talk or not, go around the circle where each person shares once, partners where two people share with each other, and small groups where the group is split into 2 or more smaller groups. This helps ensure that the talkative people don’t monopolize the evening and that everyone gets chances to share and talk, it keeps everyone more engaged and prevents boredom, and helps people bond with different people. Follow my suggestions or experiment on your own as timing limitations and group personalities inspire you.
  • Beginning and Ending: It’s important to begin and end every group with circle sharing—everyone going around the circle to check-in and be seen. Be diligent about starting and ending well—with warmth, vision, and an invitation for everyone to enter and exit the circle with love and grace. The questions can change depending on the event or how well everyone knows each other-- but they can be as simple as "What interested you most about coming tonight?" as a way of each person introducing themselves; and ending with a version of "What is one thing you're taking away with you tonight?"
  • Names: Nothing worse for bonding than not remembering each others names. Erase any fear anyone might have of not remembering someone’s names by always reminding women to state their name when they talk if there is any chance that someone in the group may not remember or know everyone. I’d rather error on the side of saying names one too many times, than not enough times. When people are nervous it’s harder for them to recall names. Consider using name tags every week if it’s a group of people who haven’t all met before.
  • Responding to Sharing: One pitfall of many groups is that they chase rabbits—one thought reminds someone of a story which triggers someone else to remember what they read once which gets someone else going on a rant. What we want to do is try to keep the focus on whoever’s turn it is to talk (gently give the floor back to them if/after someone hijacks it—i.e. “Danielle... was there anything else you wanted to say about what you were sharing?) and try to keep the sharing on the question at hand (i.e. “oh that sounds so interesting... but in trying to answer this question specifically, what would you say?"). I implement a “thank you for sharing” rule in most of my groups which means we are mindful that our collective jobs aren’t to give advice, interrupt, or recall stories after someone’s share but rather we all say “Thank you for sharing!” before going to the next person so we can acknowledge we heard them without having to respond to all the details they shared. (Especially helpful in a “go around the circle” or “partner” format.)
  • Affirming: One of the best gifts we can give is affirming our guests through the evening—reminding them we value them and see them. It can be as easy as saying “oh great thought!” after they share or as intentional as telling them what we appreciated about their involvement before they leave.
  • Logistics and Roles: One of the most important roles we play as a facilitator is providing the container for the experience. The container includes overseeing logistics—location, reminders, clear instructions, etc. But it doesn’t mean we have to do everything—provide food/drink or facilitate every time. It just means we’ll make sure it happens. In fact, attendance is improved when people have a role—even if it’s just to bring napkins. We are more likely to show up if we think our presence will be missed; so more important than impressing everyone with doing it all is often our willingness to let go and let others. Maybe see if anyone else wants to facilitate different weeks (and share this guide with them!) or have everyone volunteer to bring different food items, or be in charge of different tasks (posting photos, starting a Facebook group page, or sending out reminders).

And I welcome you adding to the list by suggesting other tips that matter to you either as the facilitator or as one of the attendees-- what do you most appreciate?

May we continue to find ourselves gathered in meaningful ways....

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

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

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

An Ancient Practice Called Sabbath

Enter the practice of Sabbath.

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

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

Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often.

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

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

The Invitation to Re-Orient Your Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Announcement: Inviting You to My Sabbath Practice!

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

42 days of frientimacy

When You're The Only One Making Time for Friendship

Dear Shasta,

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

Dearest Willing to Make the Time:

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

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

What Won't Work

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

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

    Shasta and her friends

Ideas to Try for Building Friendships with Busy People

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

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

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

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

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

Shasta

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

Loving Kindness Meditation for Friendship

Once a month, for the last three years, this group of amazing women has gathered together to share their lives, to practice cheering for each other, and to ask for help from the group. This last Monday was our May gathering. One of the women shared a situation with someone they were having a hard time with at work and she so wisely said, "I don't think I want advice for how to handle her because then I'll go into defensive mode trying to explain more about what I've tried or why that wouldn't work. I guess I just wanted to tell you and ask for your support." (What maturity to be able to articulate what she didn't need!)

We all thanked her for sharing, validated what we heard her say, and promised prayers and thoughts for her patience and wisdom.  Then a wise sage in the group said, "Are you familiar with the Loving Kindness meditation? I just wonder if that would feel grounding for you?"

The sharer expressed interest and wanted to know more. So this practice was described for those who weren't familiar with it and I watched as everyone scrambled to write it down, oohed-and-ahhed at how meaningful it felt, and a few even vowed that they wanted to challenge themselves to try it for 30 days.

I knew right then what I wanted to blog about this week.  :)

The Loving-Kindness Meditation

What it is: It struck me how powerful this mediation could be in our community of women who are striving to have healthy relationships with themselves and others. It's often referred to as metta, which in the Pali language refers to an inclusive, wise, and compassionate love. From a place of meditation, we are choosing to practice love in our minds, not based on whether others, or ourselves, "deserves" it, but because we recognize that love is more healing in this world than judgment, hatred, or fear.

The words: There are many variations-- feel free to google to find the phrases you like the best or even write you own. I love the adaption that my friend shared on Monday night so I'll share that one with you for now:

May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be happy and free.

How it works: It works by offering loving-kindness to ourselves first, then extending out to people we love easily, then extending out to people we feel neutral about (or maybe people we don't even know), and eventually extending out to people who frustrate or disappoint us.

  1. So we want to find the time and place to sit comfortably in a quiet place and whisper the words slowly over and over about ourselves first.
  2. When we feel ready, we then can picture that love extending beyond ourselves to those we love with relative ease. For example, "May Lucy be filled with loving kindness..." We replace the I with either their names or we can say she or they if we're picturing different friends or our family in our minds. Continue doing this as different people you love pop into your mind.
  3. When we feel ready, we then picture that love extending out even more to the next circle of people-- whether that be people you work with, the people you have appointments with that day, anyone who pops into your mind, your neighbors, your family, etc.
  4. Then when you feel ready, invite yourself to think of people who trigger you-- people you're having a hard time forgiving, people who annoy you, people you're no longer friends with, and people who have hurt you.
  5. To end, I like to visualize my love as ribbons going out from my heart to surround the world. For one moment feel what it feels like to simply put love out there-- to everyone, to anyone. And pray that as you go about your day that you'd show up as as someone ready to see that everything said to you by others is either their love for you or their call to be loved. Hear it as a gift you can give to include that person in your circle of who you are willing to extend the loving-kindness meditation toward.

We can use the Loving-Kindness meditation on our friends--both the ones who are easy to say it about and the ones with whom it feels hard.

If it's hard to do: Quite naturally, sometimes these words are incredibly difficult to say about some people, possibly even ourselves. So it's important to be as compassionate and tender with yourself as possible when you feel constriction or panic. Try not to judge yourself-- it's like a muscle that needs to developed--most of us will struggle with judgments as we try to extend the words.

Some ideas when you don't feel the love:

  • One idea is to start the prayer with something like "To the extent that I am able..." or "I don't feel it yet, but I am willing to say it..."
  • Another practice some suggest is if you feel blocked then go back to saying it about someone with whom it's easy for you to feel it and say it several times for that person, then try--from that place of love-- to let some of it spill over as you return to the person that originally choked the words.
  • Depending on your tradition, another option might be to say it about God's desire if you don't yet feel you can say it from yourself, such as "God wants you to be peaceful and at ease."

It's crucial to realize that you don't need to feel these words to have them do their work on us. In fact, that's kind of the point.  We're slowly re-wiring our brain toward love so chances are slim that we already feel these things automatically. It will not feel easy or authentic. Keep in mind that we're not obligating ourselves to anything, letting anyone off any hooks, or justifying their behavior.

This meditation is more for us than it is for them. 

We are practicing becoming more loving people and this is how we get there.  We may not think we believe the words, but there is a voice in us, somewhere, that knows these words to be true. We are calling out to that voice and letting her be heard above the voices we all too often listen to.

We are choosing our peace over our defensiveness.

With so much big love for you,

Shasta

p.s. Do you practice this meditation? What's it been like for you? Share with us your tips or testimonies!

Are You Motivated Toward Pleasure or Away From Pain?

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

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

How Are You Motivated?

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

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

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

Why Do You Want to Make Friends?

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to Lead to Your Own Motivation

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo,

Shasta

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