You've probably already taken the Frientimacy Quiz which scores you in the three areas that are required for a healthy friendship: positivity, consistency, and vulnerability. (If not, take the quiz here!)
If positivity was your lowest score then today's blog post is for you!
The bottom line is that because our friendships are one of the only relationships we choose (unlike co-workers, neighbors, and family), we are going to choose to be with people who make us happy. And we're only going to want to do the other two requirements of friendship with people who make us feel good: we won't be as consistent with people we don't enjoy spending time with and we won't feel safe sharing openly with people who don't leave us feeling accepted and validated. At the end of the day, our job as a friend is to add value to the lives of those we love.
So today's post is super important as we learn from one woman who exudes positivity: Colleen Braun, a volunteer GFC Connector for GirlFriendCircles in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota! She compliments everyone on Facebook regularly, laughs quickly when you're interacting with her, and shows up ready to support and cheerlead on our GFC member pages.
I asked Katrina Emery to interview her so we can all be a bit inspired this week with how we might increase the joy around us. People like to be with people who make them feel good about themselves! -- Shasta Nelson
By Katrina Emery
Colleen has some stories to tell. A trained nurse, registered auctioneer and real estate agent, former wedding videographer, owner of two health clubs, and soon-to-be grandma, Colleen has a lot of balls in the air. But to get through the stressful times in life, she spends her time focusing on positivity. She calls it an art, something to flex muscles on. “If in most relationships you practice finding the good, pretty soon people around you make you smile.” She works hard to develop that skill, shining a positive light on situations she finds herself in.
Developing friendships is a vital skill, in her view. “It should be taught in school, right along with how to give birth and raise children and how to balance a checkbook!” she claims.
She’s worked hard to gain a group of various friends she nurtures, encourages, and enjoys life with. Boating, camping, concerts, annual spring vacations, or simply gathering at each other’s homes provides the activities to build memories around, and cultivate positivity. Colleen calls it a “mini vacation” just to be able to see her friends, or talk when them on a bad day. At the very least, they remind her that when it’s a bad day, “it’s not arms and legs and nobody died!” And to get through it, they focus on laughing, joking, and enjoying life together.
That isn’t to say, though, that she’s always happy. She’s had her share of heartache, like everyone. “Most of us endure many of the same woes in life. It just comes packaged differently. Happiness is something we will always pursue,” she says, emphasizing the consistent pursuit of the goal. Getting together with her friends provides the shoulder to lean on and tissues to catch the tears, but it invariably ends in laughter.
Like Colleen demonstrates, staying positive in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re always grinning or cracking jokes. Other aspects contribute, like feeling grateful, feeling proud of someone, feeling calm and centered, feeling in awe of something (that gorgeous view you’ve hiked to, maybe), or sharing a new interest. A strong relationship weaves in aspects of all of these, and Committed friends (on the Circles of Connectedness) share more of these than Common friends.
Much of staying positive is knowing yourself, and what you want. If she’s not finding that the relationship is working for her, Colleen isn’t afraid to speak up. She tells the story of a close friend who moved further away and started drifting. At Colleens’ suggestion, they agreed to make the relationship a priority and meet every week, talking on the phone in between. Then Colleen’s mother needed more of her time, so she had to pull back. “But that's the beauty of a good friendship.I feel that it is give and take.We have both acknowledged we need to get back on track!And that's ok--life happens!”
Colleen’s advice to others is to contribute to friendships with positivity. The research backs her up-- studies have shown that for a relationship to be meaningful and healthy, we must have 5 or more joyful, positive encounters for every negative one.
What’s the trick to staying positive? “Never stop learning,” Colleen says, “never lose that wonder for life.” She’s still learning how to be a great friend by actively participating in the monthly classes that are part of GirlFriendCircles.com and www.TheFriendshipUniversity.com. Of course, right after balancing her checkbook.
Katrina Emery writes for online and print publications about food, friendship, travel, and more from her home in Portland, Oregon. Find her at www.katrinaemery.com