Vulnerability

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 Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Yesterday, I felt discouraged.

My Pain Blocked Me

Like, really discouraged. The kind where I start to question my capabilities and my worth. My voices of fear whispered, "You're never going to make it. You're a loser. You're a failure."

While there was a big part of me that wanted to retreat and be all by myself in my misery, there was also another part of me that desperately wanted to hear other voices besides my own.

I wanted to reach out and say to my friends: I need you to remind me that I'm not the loser that I feel like I am.

The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Friendships

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Definition of Friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you catch the three?

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

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

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

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

 

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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!

The Act of Vulnerability That No One Talks About

When we think of vulnerability, we all too often think of sharing our insecurities, anxiety, and stories of shame. But that type of sharing is only one out of the 5 ways to be vulnerable with others. It's certainly important to deepening relationships to know we can reveal what we fear is our worst and be reminded we're still loved and accepted; but it is such a limited definition of vulnerability.

Relational vulnerability, in general, is anything that exposes more of who we are to others; and specifically, the actions we take to share life more widely and deeply with others.

Perhaps the Scariest Act of Vulnerability?

And while I teach 5 different pathways, or acts, of vulnerability in my book Frientimacy; there's one of the acts, in particular, that I think could drastically improve our friendships, our self-esteem, our contributions in the world, and our joy, if we practiced it more regularly.  But not only do we not engage in it often enough with our friends, the truth is that most of us don't even know we should be!

What is this secret act of vulnerability, if it's not bringing our skeletons out from our proverbial closets?

It's the act of Shining in Front of Each Other.

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One of the most undervalued acts of vulnerability is supporting each other’s success in this world. Being willing to shine in front of our friends by sharing what is going well, why we are proud of ourselves this week, and what we do like about ourselves. It takes courage to be willing to shine fully in front of our friends, and take in their affirmation, cheers, and love.

And it takes just as much vulnerability to encourage our friends to shine in front of us!  Why?  Because often their shining may trigger our own feelings of insecurity or envy. It can be hard to cheer for her pay raise if we're barely paying the bills, and painful to celebrate her new boyfriend in the midst of our break-up.

But we're called to feel that vulnerability--both of sharing and cheering--and rise the occasion of being women who can shine in front of each other.

When we talk about feeling safe and loved by others we often say, we want to be accepted for "the good, the bad, and the ugly," but most of us actually feel more practiced and comfortable whining about the bad and the ugly, and not being as forthcoming with the good.

5 Ideas to Practice Shining With Our Friends

  1. CHERISH YOUR LIFE: While we want to be honest about the fact that some areas of life aren’t ideal, we also want to actively identify the areas that are good—and be honest about them. Practice saying, “I’m really fortunate that I don’t struggle with X, but I’m sensitive to those who do. And while I certainly struggle in other life areas, in this one I want to appreciate what I do have.”
  2. AFFIRM HER LIFE: Whenever you think of it, affirm everything you can think of about your friend. The number one value of friendship is to boost positivity by communicating acceptance—so cheer for her parenting style, her work ambitions, her beauty, her big heart. Everything.
  3. INVITE HER BRAGGING: We need to practice owning our strengths and joys, but we’re all scared to do it, afraid people will think we’re arrogant. So help encourage it in her by asking her questions that invite her to share what she’s proud of. (“When do you feel most powerful at work?” “What makes you feel the most beautiful?”) Encourage her to really feel her successes!
  4. INVOKE HER GRATITUDE: Women are known for brushing off compliments or dismissing praise. So, when our friend deflects affirmation, we can gift our friendship with positivity by playfully making her say “thank you” or by saying, “Wait, that was a huge thing you just accomplished; are you taking it in and really feeling it? Because you deserve it!”
  5. REVEAL YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Our friends should be those with whom we feel the safest celebrating our successes, so we need to practice sharing those successes—without being asked. Text her, “Just wanted to share: X just happened!” Or tell her, “I’m feeling more scared than excited that I just bought a house. Any chance you’re free to help me step into celebration mode? Takeout at my place?”

Why We Have To Shine

The biggest reason of all is that this vulnerability leads to greater intimacy and feelings of love with people because we'll feel more expressed, more seen, and more celebrated.  Sharing our woes, bruises, and disappointing circumstances can only take us so far-- it's when we start whispering out loud our biggest dreams, the difference we want to make in the world, and the personal growth we see happening in our lives that we become more of our best selves.

But honestly, another motivation for me is because our world desperately needs more people willing to shine!  And if we can't practice it with our friends, then what chance do we have of feeling more comfortable doing it in this world that desperately needs the best of all of us?  If I can't admit where I think I'm amazing, to the people who claim to love me, then chances are high that I won't be able to fully own that amazing-ness and shine it to a world of strangers and doubters.

This holiday season when you see twinkling lights and shiny stars-- I hope it'll remind you to think of something good in your life that you can share with someone!

xoxo

Shasta

P.s. I'm also teaching a 1-hr class called "Vulnerability: The 5 Pathways to Deeper Connection" (complete with a bundle of friend-u-vulnerabilityresources, such as a personal application worksheet and monthly challenge) for all members of GirlFriendCircles.com this month so feel free to join us (for only $20!) and access the class with your membership!  In a month where we can feel inundated with busy-ness and people, it's ever more important to practice adding Meaningful Moments to our interactions!

 

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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!

How Do YOU Feel Loved?

Do you know what it feels like to feel loved? Most of us are familiar with the 5 Love Languages--acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, gift giving, and quality time-- as different methods of communicating love with others; but another one of my favorite ways for identifying what I need from others in order to feel loved is asking myself what I most need to feel in order to feel loved.

In this 3 1/2 minute video I share why it's absolutely necessary to identify what we each most want to feel in our relationships.  Every January on the New Years retreat that I facilitate, I guide the participants through a process to hear their intuition peak to them about what they most want to feel in the upcoming year.  It's so powerful, life-illuminating, and hopeful  to those who come, and while all our words are so different based on our current life experiences, without fail, the desire to feel "loved" is one of the most expressed feeling words.

We all want to feel loved, right?

But what does that really mean? To one of us it might mean feeling heard while to another we need to feel actually feel more expressed?  Or are we really saying we want to feel supported? Or believed in? Or encouraged? Or uplifted? Or trusted? Or trusting? Or resonant? Or valuable?

You can hopefully feel the difference in some of those words? The nuance matters.  How I go about increasing the chances of me feeling heard will look different, and invite something different out of me, than if I want to feel expressed.

When we know what feeling words lead us to feeling loved-- we then will be more available, aware, and ready to lean toward the people and conversations that will increase our likelihood of feeling what we most want to feel.

What feeling would lead you to feeling loved? Are you willing to share with us? (Note: we're not listing what behaviors others could do for us, but rather, what feeling helps you feel loved?)

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

To say that I am impressed with the work of the acclaimed "sex therapist"--Dr. Esther Perel-- would be an understatement. And seeing that she's a New York Times bestseller and viral Ted Talk presenter, I clearly am not alone in my esteem.  She is known for her research and work around sex, infidelity, marriage, and the difference between desire and love. Esther Perel

While I am constantly reminding all of us that we need to expand our understanding of the word intimacy to be about more than sex (we all need far more intimacy in our lives than any romantic relationship--or act within that relationship--can provide!), that's not to say that the principles of healthy romance can't inform healthy friendships!  Intimacy-- the act of being close and feeling bonded-- might look different in specifics with a romantic partner, but the general values are similar in any relationship.

Esther Perel's 7 Verbs for Better Relationships

Sitting in the audience of one of Esther Perel's talks this last Sunday night inspired me in many ways, but one idea I knew I had to share this week with all of you was her 7 verbs to healthier relationships.  Similar to how we might learn the same core verbs when learning a new language (e.g. to have, to want, to be), she offers up 7 verbs that she feels are core to sustained love.

Obviously in a sexual relationship, the verbs might be more specific to how you behave in the bedroom, but those same verbs can be incredibly powerful and convicting when we think about how we practice them in any realm of life, including our friendships.

When looking at these seven verbs, ask yourself: How comfortable am I at practicing this verb? How hard or easy are each of these actions for me?

  1. To Ask: What do we need? Do we ask for it? Instead of telling people what we don't want or being hurt when they don't meet our needs-- are we becoming more practiced with requesting what we want and need? This is so crucial-- I talk about it a lot in Frientimacy because so many friendships experience misunderstandings simply because we didn't ask for what would have felt good.What do you need to ask for from your friends?
  2. To Give: Are we generous? Do we enjoy bringing pleasure and joy to others? Can we give without strings attached? Do we notice opportunities for giving and then take them?  My guess is that most of us do this one pretty well-- at least most of us report that we feel like we're the "givers" in our friendships, but maybe an inquiry is whether we are doing it with joy and generosity? What do you need to give to yourself and/or your friendships?
  3. To Receive: Are we quick to receive what is given-- be it offers to help or compliments? Do we say thank you, instead of brushing the gifts away? Do we let others give to us without fear, score-keeping, or feelings of inferiority? Can we sit back and take in the generosity of others? Again, in Frientimacy I have a whole chapter talking about this because for those of us who feel like we give so much, the answer may not be that we need to give less, but that we need to receive more? Women, especially, find this one hard because we like how it feels to be the giver and we're afraid of having needs or being seen as narcissistic or arrogant. What do you need to receive from yourself and your friends?
  4. To Take:  Can we take what we need without needing to wait for others to grant us permission or offer it up? Are we empowered to identify what feels good and pursue it? I LOVE that this is a different verb than to "receive." For many of us, we need to say "yes" to help or "thank you" to an affirmation, but there are so many things we need to "take" that we can't wait for someone to offer.  Some of us need to take more days off, some of us need to take control of our work, some of us need to take the time to have a courageous conversation, and some of us need to take the initiative.  What do you need to take that would matter to you and/or your friendships?
  5. To Imagine:  We don't talk about this one much, but what do you need to imagine in your relationships? How comfortable are you at thinking outside the box? How willing are you to fantasize about what you could experience? How willing are you share your dreams and hopes with others?  Obviously in a sexual situation, to be able to share one's fantasies with a partner looks different from sharing our dreams, ideas, and hopes with a friend-- but they both take vulnerability as we risk sharing "bigger" and "more" with another.  Where do you need to imagine? What imaginations might want to be shared with another?
  6. To Share: hmmmm.... this is a powerful word, different still from giving and receiving, huh? Whether it's the picture of a child who is sharing a toy (not giving it away) or the idea of sitting on a couch and sharing stories with a friend, the idea of sharing is that we are doing something together, not just doing it beside each other as we each do our own thing. The dictionary defines it as "having portion of something with another." How well do you share with your friends? How does sharing look different from giving to you? What could you share that would feel bonding?
  7. To Refuse: Esther made the statement: "If you've never had the freedom to say no, then you've never had the permission to say yes." Wow, let that one soak in.  Are you comfortable saying no to your friends? Are you willing to refuse what doesn't feel good? We often feel like we have to always say yes "because they're my friend" but I actually teach the opposite: It should be with our friends that we can practice this verb most safely! We need to practice saying no and trust that our friends will trust us more when we say yes because we've proven we can say no. What do you need to practice refusing? Where do you need to say no?

Aren't those powerful? Which one is the one that is most difficult for you or the one you do the least often?  Which one do you need to practice more within your friendships?  Which one is calling out to you say "Pay attention to opportunities to act on this verb!"

Improving our friendships, and feeling greater intimacy, might not be doing "more" of what comes easiest to us, but it might be doing "more" of that which feels the most difficult?

As your muscles get more practiced at all seven of these verbs-- I hope primarily for more meaningful platonic friendships, but I would also be thrilled if it led to better sex, too.  May you develop greater intimacy in all the relationships you crave! xoxo

 

The Cost of the Constant Catch-Up Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constant Catch Up Cycle

What is the Constant Catch-Up Cycle?

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

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

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

The Price of Catching Up

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

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

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

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

The Invitation to Move Beyond Catching Up

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

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

How to Respond to a Friend's Pity Party

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

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

The Five Amazing Responses of My Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo

 

 

 

Do You Talk Too Much?

My favorite part of all my events is when it’s time for live Q&A. (There’s still time to come meet me on my book tour if you live in NYC, Denver, LA, Riverside CA, or the San Francisco Bay Area!) And as we’ve been talking more about the importance of vulnerability in our relationships (one of the 3 non-negotiables I discuss in Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness) it seems a question I’ve been getting a bit more lately has to do with our friends who are “the talkers.” If You're NOT the Over-Talker:

Their long-winded stories and external processing may have been survivable when we thought we were being a good friend by letting her go on-and-on, but as we realize that we’ll never develop frientimacy with someone unless there is mutual vulnerability--with both of us sharing deeply and feeling seen by the other—the realization that this imbalance must change is sinking in. We won’t ever feel close and supported by her if there isn’t the space in our relationship for us to confide and reveal.

If we’re not the one who is over-talking, we still have to practice figuring out ways to share. It’s not necessarily their fault that we’re not jumping in and sharing and talking—chances are they aren’t waiting for us to ask them questions, they are simply sharing whatever comes to mind and probably assuming we will, too. The invitation is ours to recognize that a friendship needs us to share if we’re going to feel closer to each other. So I do so hope you’ll try to interject your presence whether it’s by saying, “Hey before we finish our meal, I wanted to make sure I told you about x,” or by initiating a phone call with her and shaping expectations by saying, “I wanted to call you to see if you had time to listen and support me through something that’s going on at work?”  Being asked isn't necessary.

But while it’s not necessarily their fault that we’re not taking up our space, this post is directed at the over-talkers as it most certainly is their opportunity to make sure they are doing whatever they can to make their friendship a safe place for you to share.

Are You The Over-Talker?

How do you know if you are an over-talker? Well an easy, though imperfect, rule of thumb is to assess each phone call or get-together with the question: “What percentage of the

We love our friends who talk freely but we may need a few conversation pauses to help ensure we both leave feeling heard and seen.

time was I talking?” and if it’s frequently over 50% then it’s time to open up more space for your friends. Because while you may feel close to her, if she’s not sharing herself then chances are high that she won’t be feeling as close to you.

  • It doesn’t matter if you have more going on in your life—her life still is valuable and matters just as much.
  • It doesn’t matter that you’re witty and entertaining and she seems to like your stories—friendship isn’t about performing but about you both feeling seen and heard.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert and she’s an introvert—her feelings and stories still need to be validated and witnessed.
  • It doesn’t matter if you can pat yourself on the back for asking her a question or two, if you’re then interrupting her or using her sharing to remind you of another story to tell.

Five Practices For Over-Talkers

Perhaps you've resigned yourself to “that’s just who I am” or maybe you beat yourself up regularly for not being able to stop talking, either way I’d like to share a few ideas. This is important to keep practicing. 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.

  1. Choose reminders that will help trigger you to stop talking and listen.  Most women who over-talk simply do it because they’re used to doing it. They don’t even realize they’re doing it. How can you increase your awareness? Maybe wear a ring or bracelet that you associate with “Ask questions” so every time you see it—you pass the conversation off. Or devote a month to listening so you have reminders on your morning mirror every day.  Or set an alarm on your phone for half way through the night that reminds you to assess how much you're listening.
  2. Invite your close friends to support your intention. Tell your friend, “I am sorry I over-talk sometimes because then I miss out on so much of your life. Let’s get in the habit of starting with your life before I start sharing mine. Are you willing to share with me some of the important things in your life right now?”
  3. Always ask at least 3 questions on the same subject before you give yourself permission to share what’s going through your head. After asking, “How’s work?” follow up with two more questions related to what she shares. Go deeper. Show your interest. Many of us will only give the polite short answer until we’re convinced you really care.
  4. Validate what they share before rifting on what they shared. Women often share their “similar” stories in order to bond with each other but it can feel like one-upping or taking back the conversation. It’s okay to go back-and-forth, but make sure you communicate you heard their feelings first. Instead of “That reminds me of…” start with something that has the word ‘you’ in it such as “Wow you handled that so well, which can’t be said about a time when I was in that situation…”
  5. Affirm, affirm, affirm. If you know you tend toward over-talking, then also be known for being someone who over-loves. We can all put up with talker when we have no doubt that they have our back, love us, adore us, and believe in us. Make sure we leave your presence feeling good about who we are and we’ll be more likely to look forward to hanging out with you again!

We so love you our dear talkers.  You bring us joy, laughter, and we learn so much from you.  Thank you for sharing your heart with us so freely and for modeling how we can trust each other with our lives. You inspire us, you pull us in, and you make time together stimulating with so many ideas and stories.  We do so love you.

May we all feel seen in our friendships, whether we're the talkers or the ones who need to talk up more!

xoxo

Shasta

p.s.  What other tips do you have?  Non-talkers-- what would mean the most to you?  Talkers-- what works for you?

With Whom Should I Be Vulnerable?

Relationship stress, parenting disappointments, financial scarcity, career failures, crippling fears, health challenges, exhausting depression, unmet expectations, identity crisis, paralyzing indecision ... There is so much in this life that hurts. As if those aches weren't enough, compounding the fear and angst, far too many of us suffer alone.

Heart and Key

Why We Don't Reach Out

We stay quiet for any number of reasons, including (but definitely not limited to):

  • It's harder to stay in denial if we have to speak it out loud.
  • We've been hurt before when we've shared honestly so it feels far too risky now.
  • It's important (to our job, to our ego, to our spouse/family) that we keep up a certain image.
  • We can hardly manage our own shame/grief around the situation that we doubt we could handle anyone else's feelings, too.
  • Our greatest fear is being rejected or judged so why would we ever want to look less than perfect to someone else?
  • We don't really know anyone well enough to share deeply.

Why We Must

Unfortunately I have to stay brief on this part since what I really want to talk about is how to determine who to talk with, but it's worth reminding our brains that external processing is crucial for growth.

Self-reflection is limited to that which we are already conscious of in ourselves; interacting with others is what pushes us to new ways of thinking.

Even for people who prefer internal processing (a descriptive of many introverts), they are limited only to their own thoughts (which often just keep spiraling and spiraling) and can't access all the new inspiration, ideas, resources, awareness of blind spots, and reminders of love, acceptance, and normalcy that others can give. (Similarly, I'd tell those who prefer external processing that there is also a huge need for them to spend time checking in with themselves and reflecting more! Both are needed!)

Furthermore, oxytocin, the hormone that helps us feel safe, connected, and loved flows through us when we are sharing, touching, and being seen.  This powerful chemical also prohibits cortisol which is released by our stress, so engaging with others actually protects our bodies from the impact of whatever is causing us pain or stress. Our stressors deplete us, but relationships fill us up. (We can't always eliminate that which is draining us, but we can always be responsible for adding more of the things that energize and heal us.)

So Who Do We Share With?

  • Do we share with the people we like the best?
  • Or the ones who we've known the longest?
  • Or the ones who have been through something similar?
  • Or the ones who appear to not struggle in this area?
  • Or the ones who have opened up and shared with us in the past?
  • Or the ones who seem to have time?

The answer is: none of the above.

While the person we practice opening up with may fit 1-2 of those descriptors-- in and of themselves, they are not a reason to be vulnerable with someone. The chances of backfiring are high with any of them if we don't take into account the real reason to choose someone.

In short the answer is: The person we practice being vulnerable with the big stuff is the person we have been practicing vulnerability with on the small stuff.

What does that mean?  Let me give you an example:  If you'd rate your pain/fear as a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1-10, then you're better off sharing it with someone whom you've shared with before and appreciated their response.  So hopefully there are a few people you've practiced being vulnerable with regarding matters that you'd consider 5's or 6's? The jump from a 5/6 to a 7/8 really isn't that risky.  You have a history of practicing vulnerability with them in a way where their response was meaningful or helpful so while it may still feel scary to share, you don't need to fear their response or wonder if they will still love you.

You two have practiced vulnerability so it's not a new dance, but rather just a more experienced dance move.

What If I Don't Have Anyone?

The other option if you don't have people around you whom you've practiced vulnerability with already is to intentionally and incrementally start deepening some of the friendships you do have. Think of the scale in your mind and make sure you're sharing only a little bit at a time to then have the opportunity to step back and assess how it feels before sharing more.  In other words, if your pain is an 8, share as much as feels like a 3, before jumping up to 5, and before eventually sharing the 8.

What does that look like? Maybe you're struggling with a possible impending divorce. Before you pour out your heart and dump on someone, see how it feels to share a small piece of it: maybe just a fight you've recently had or acknowledging in broad strokes how hard marriage can feel sometimes. Does she meet you there? Does she judge? Does she listen and ask questions? Does she validate your feelings? If she responds in a way that feels safe to you, then you can up the ante a bit and maybe share something more specific or deep.

But I'd caution you that if you've bottled up a lot and haven't shared too deeply with others, it's probably wise to not go from 1 to 8 in one sitting with someone, even if she is responding kindly and encouragingly. My best advice would be to see it a bit like a first-time at the gym-- don't overdo it; you can always do more next time, building up to higher numbers as you engage more often.  Your goal isn't just to find someone to vomit on, but to build a lasting relationship that can support both of you so make sure you ask about her life, share something positive, and be someone who she would look forward to getting together with again. (If you NEED to talk and don't have those friendships in place, it's usually wise to realize that what you need might be a therapist, pastor, or other professional whose goal is to help you, not to build up a mutually confiding friendship.)

I'm excited for my next book to come out next Spring (the title is Frientimacy) where I talkFriendship cover in-depth about how to deepen friendships, but if you want more now then see pages 163-168 specifically about how to share when you're feeling broken and hurt (and all of chapter 8 on vulnerability for more general sharing) in my book Friendships Don't Just Happen!

What I want for all of you, eventually, is the awareness that you have developed a net of supportive relationship under you, made up of people who have practiced going as deep as possible with you... so that you live with confidence and peace that when the 10 hits (and chances are high it will), you have a couple of people who can support you through it.

Far too many people say, "When I went through such-and-such, I learned who my real friends are" as though it's an indictment against all those who didn't stick by them, but often it says less about the people, and more about what level of relationship was developed.

We owe it to ourselves to develop the relationships that incrementally and intentionally foster safe and mutual sharing. I want that for you!

Leave a comment!  Does this make sense? What questions do you have? Do you have any experience with sharing too much/too fast or not sharing enough to feel supported? We'd be honored to learn with you!

The Friendship Formula

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

Friendship Accelerators Bonding Women

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

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

Is there a Formula to Love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there a Formula to Friendship?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Two Necessary Ingredients in Bonding

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

If you want meaningful connections:

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

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

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

 

Grateful for My Own Life

It's so common to look at the lives of friends (or celebrities) and wish we had their lives.  Facebook exacerbates this yearning as we constantly see the highlights of each others lives at times when our own lives are most boring (since most of us are only browsing news feed when we have a dull moment). Feeling Jealous of Our Friends

I know I've felt the pang of jealousy.  Recently, in fact.  Someone I admire posted "So excited!  My retreat just sold out in 20 minutes!" and the critic in my head whined, "Why didn't your retreat sell out? Do people not like you?" Insanity, really. My head can quickly jump in and cheer me on: "Shasta, be gentle on yourself.  It's your first retreat!" but my heart will feel the sting of failure and jealousy will have poked her head into my day.

So when one of my dear girlfriends Krista posted on our group page (a Facebook group page that 5 of us use to stay in touch with each other in between our quarterly phone calls and annual get-togethers) her own twinges of jealousy-- I understood immediately.

"The other day, when I was telling {husband} about your new book, I was saying, "sometimes I feel a tinge of envy looking at Shasta's exciting, glamorous life..."

We can first talk about the fact that 98% of my life is hardly exciting and glamorous... but the bigger issue at hand is how easy it is for us to compare ourselves to each other.

My darling friend Krista living her dream...

And these are with girlfriends who go far beyond cherry Facebook posts with each other.  We have witnessed each others tears, we send texts saying, "Ugh! I am so mad right now at x," and when we give updates to each other we share highs and lows so we are always hearing each others pain, tension, and stress, too.  So we can't just blame Facebook. This feeling reveals that even with friends who we share deeply and intimately with-- we're still tempted to want their high points even when we know their whole life isn't that way.

I can point to every single one of my friends and pick something from their life that I wish were mine: be it their home, their financial stability, their joys of motherhood, their beauty, or their ability to make people laugh.

Choosing Our Own Lives

When Krista bravely posted her honest twinges of envy for each of us, she also posted a recent Facebook post from Liz Gilbert (so worth reading) where Liz shared all the dreams of others that she is saying no to:

"I was thinking today about all the other paths that I did not take in life, no matter how shiny and appealing they may have looked. I've had the possibility of living so many different kinds of life that could have been a dream for somebody else. I never choose those lives. I've never lived the dreams that other people wanted for themselves — nor have I lived the dreams that other people may have wanted for me. I never had children...because that's somebody else's dream. I never took the opportunities that were offered to me after the success of EAT PRAY LOVE to have a TV show of my own...because that's somebody else's dream.... I turn down 99% of the invitations I get to attend to fancy parties and stellar gatherings...because that's somebody else's dream...."

And she goes on-and-on with all the lives she could have had....

Liz Gilbert "living her dream" researching her books, knowing that by picking this dream, there are others she is saying no to.

With this post, she shared a picture of her with "greasy hair and tired eyes" researching her most recent book, saying this is me living my dream: "going down the rabbit hole of research."

While there are plenty of us who might look at her and wish we could write best-selling novels... I'm left asking, would spending years researching a book actually be my dream? It's too easy to want the outcomes of each other's choices:  wealth, flexible schedules, reputation, or a big family; but not necessarily enjoy the journey that leads there or what we'd give up to choose that.

By her choosing to live this dream of having the time to write and get lost in "rabbit holes" she is living her dream which means saying no to many other valid, wonderful, and meaningful dreams that she could have chosen.

Where Our Jealousy and Our Peace Can Intertwine

Had Krista just admitted to occasionally feeling jealous that would have been impressive enough... for most of us don't stop to acknowledge our feelings to ourselves, let alone share them vulnerably with our friends; but she look how she continued:

"The other day, when I was telling {husband} about your new book, I was saying, "sometimes I feel a tinge of envy looking at Shasta's exciting, glamorous life...

...it would be total hell for me" because that is her dream and not mine. Getting up doing Improv is not my dream. Giving a graduation lecture is not my dream. Singing in front of people is not my dream. Those dreams belong to you girls and you do them with grace and authenticity.

With my career, I sometimes look at other doctors and think I should be publishing more or trying to advertise more. The truth is I love taking good care of my patients. As long as I know I'm doing a good job and they know it, I could care less if I'm voted "top doc in Seattle." That is somebody else's dream. I love having a husband to come home to and plan grocery lists and dinners and organize our lives together and share hikes and road trips. Vegas weekends and fancy dinners are somebody else's dream. I'm not a stay at home mom - that also is somebody else's dream. I love that you all have supported me in finding and living MY dream. xoxo

What I Love About that Exchange

So much to love about that posting, but notice these things:

  • She was honest... she brought us all together, more willing to admit where we feel jealousy as we look at each other.
  • She was self-reflective... she may like the idea of what she calls a "glamorous" life but she then uses the words total hell!--Ha!-- to describe that she knows the difference between the idea of something and the actuality of it for who she is.  She then goes on to name the things she loves about her life... you can almost feel her peace returning as she reminds herself that she is, in fact, living the life she chose.
  • She affirmed... Improv comedy, singing, graduation lectures-- those are amazing accomplishments of her friends and she's acknowledging how cool they are. It's tempting to downplay or criticize something that isn't our dream, but she's not saying there bad dreams... she's wowed by them and says "you do them with grace and authenticity."
  • She accepted... I absolutely love that she gave voice to the expectations and standards of what she thought she was supposed to want (i.e. being top doc in Seattle) and realized that she really didn't need that (nor was willing to do the things it would take since it either would take away from things she values or wasn't in alignment with who she is) to be happy.  It was "someone else's dream."
  • She inspired us... When the five of us were on our conference call yesterday, we talked about it a bit--each acknowledging how much we can want pieces of each other's lives.  Her posting inspired us to talk about it and reflect.  One friend said, "It helped me realize that what I was jealous of wasn't actually the thing I thought I wanted, rather it was the feeling of taking a risk and pursing a passion.  And then I realized I am doing that! I don't need to be jealous!"

To have friends we admire means we have friends that will wow us, which means chances are high that we'll sometimes feel less-than-wowing. To be human means we will sometimes compare and feel jealous.  To have healthy friendships means we do the ongoing work of living our dreams and cheering for theirs. To grow deeper means we sometimes talk about it.

Thank you, Krista, for sharing this post with us, your girlfriends, and for kindly giving me permission to share it with a few of mine via this blog. ;)  The good news is that if we both keep sharing our lives with each other, then we can live a wee bit vicariously through each other... I am cheering you on and love the life you've created!

This Thanksgiving... what would it look like for each of us to let go of one "dream" that is someone's elses and instead choose peace and acceptance for one of ours?  And who do you sometimes feel jealous of that you could write a note to them this month and tell them you're thankful for them, their accomplishments, and how much they wow you?

5 Types of Vulnerability: It's Way More than Skeletons in Your Closet!

I believe that our greatest fear is rejection-- the worry of what people think of us, the desire to be accepted, the craving to feel like we are good enough. So anything that risks us possibly feeling rejected is going to feel vulnerable.

What is Vulnerability?

Vulnerability, as defined by the dictionary means "capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt."

Some psychologists use words like disclosure, sharing, uncovering, and revealing to describe the act of being vulnerable.

One of my friends the other day described vulnerability as the willingness to let someone else impact us. A willingness, then, to actually be touched or moved by others.

Brene Brown, the Queen of Vulnerability (author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead) defines vulnerability as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure."  After decades of researching shame she has helped make the connection in our culture that if we shy away from vulnerability (thinking that it protects us from shame) that we are, indeed, shying away from the core of our feelings, including many of the "good" feelings we want to feel!  She says,

To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.

For me, I often think of vulnerability as showing up with less of a filter on expressing who I am. I recognize that it's not appropriate to share everything with everyone, but by the same token, I believe I can always share parts of me with everyone, and I strive to share more of me with a few, worrying less about what they will think of me as we built a mutual and safe relationship with each other. (Here is an old post that gives a visual for how we can incrementally increase our vulnerability in appropriate ways.)

Whatever words we use to define vulnerability-- more importantly, is what it looks like when we practice it.

To that end, I want to emphasize five different expressions of vulnerability that are crucial to building healthy relationships.

Five Different Expressions of Vulnerability That Are Important

These five expressions all take practice.  None of us is immune from them feeling like a risk.  By definition, the very idea that we could get hurt will cause some of us pause.  Like I say in my book, it's valuing the connection, intimacy, and meaning on the other side that helps us value the possible gains over the possible disappointment.

I invite you to look at these five and ask yourself the question, "Which one of these could I practice more of in my life?" Knowing that when we find the one that might be the most difficult or scary, we have likely also found the one that could be the most expanding, meaningful, and freeing!

  1. New Ways of Interacting: For many of us, this one is surprisingly hard, though we don't often view it as a new way to practice vulnerability since it's less about sharing something and

    All relationships start with a tiny circle and incrementally become bigger and more meaningful as we practice widening our circle by expanding the ways we interact.

    more about acting on something, but anytime we "put ourselves out there" and extend an invitation, it is an action of vulnerability. A growing friendship depends upon us showing up willing to keep pushing the friendship into new territory-- the first time we start texting each other, the first time we extend an invitation, the first time we meet each others families, the first time we get together outside of a business premise, or the first time we just pick up the phone with no obvious excuse. The gift in initiating these new ways of being together is that these courageous actions are necessary to build the meaningful connection.  We initiate and our chances increase exponentially that we end up with more friendships that matter.

  2. New Areas of Conversation: This might mean adding topics

    Expanding what we talk about-- new subject matters become safe topics-- helps us widen the capacity of our friendships.

    such as politics, compassion, books, spirituality, body image, parenting, marriage, or goals to the conversation that is usually limited to the 2-3 safe topics already established. The gift in this type of sharing is it gives your friendship the chance to practice connecting on a wider range of life interests and experiences, helping you practice being interested even when it's not your thing, and glues the two of you together as more of your lives are shared.

  3. All relationships are rooted in us feeling accepted for who we are which comes when we share our insecurities.

    Areas of Shame & Insecurity: This is the expression we most often associate with vulnerability, but it's just one piece.  This certainly couldinclude the fear of revealing events from our past, actions we regret, and moments that made us feel un-lovable or unworthy; but far more significant than what happened to us back then, is practicing sharing where we feel insecure or worry with our lives now. There is healing in sharing these things with people who we have developed a safe relationship with as speaking our shame brings light into the darkness and disproves the voice that says those things make us less-than.  The gift is being reminded that we are worthy even when we feel shame.

  4. Accomplishments, Achievements, and Pride: I've noticed a trend among women that sometimes we're more comfortable sharing our complaints and frustrations (usually about others, than about ourselves) than we are to share our accomplishments and

    Just as it's important to go deep, it's also important to go high! Healthy relationships bear witness to our power, our happiness, and our talents.

    joys. We are so fearful of being seen as arrogant, or so desperate to want to fit in and relate (shouldn't talk about how fulfilling my marriage is when no one else seems happy in theirs...) that we minimize ourselves or dim our lights. We fear being judged for our positive traits as much as we do for our negative ones, frequently. I love asking my friends, "What's energizing in your life right now?" Or, "What are some of the highlights of your summer?" Or, "Tell me something that you've done recently that made you feel proud?" The gift is giving permission to ourselves that it's okay to shine, to choose happiness, and to love who we were created to be-- it gives permission to others, and helps us practice so we can shine brighter in this world."

  5. Asking for What You Prefer, or Need: For this one I draw a heart in the center because it starts with being in touch with myself

    It doesn't matetr how far out our circles grow or our arrows expand if we can't keep the core nourished with knowing ourselves and expressing ourselves authentically.

    to know what it is I need and prefer in any situation.  Sometimes it's as light as saying to anyone, "I so appreciate your advice, but what I really need right now is you to just listen and tell me I'm not crazy for feeling this way;" and sometimes it's an ask we make of some of our safer relationships, "Right now, I need you to come over here.  I'm falling apart.  I know it's a big ask as your life is full and busy, too, but if there's any way you can be here, it would mean a lot." The gift in this is learning to hear our own wisdom whisper what we need, what would be meaningful, and developing friendships where we don't have to be mind-readers but can come to trust each other to tell us how we can best love each other.

In my next post I want to show more how all these five areas work together, and are dependent upon each other.

But for now, are you willing to be brave enough (practice vulnerability!) and post a comment just sharing which of the five feels most important for you to practice right now in your friendships?