5 Circles of Connectedness

The Ebb & Flow: Friendships Move in Both Directions

While teaching a Friendship Accelerator last weekend (sign up here if you're interested in me coming to your area to teach/facilitate) I made a note to myself, while standing at the whiteboard with marker in hand, that I wanted to remember to blog about how friendships move in both directions. Mental note remembered.  :)   We often talk about ending a friendship or drifting apart from friends as though they are being, or have been, "removed" from our lives.  But that's not usually the case.  Most frequently, our friendships aren't as cut-and-dry as someone simply being "in" or "out", bridges aren't always burning behind us, and there isn't always this declaration of the friendship ending permanently. The truth is, that for most friendships there is simply a shift that happens, often without intention or awareness.

I want us to visually see what that shift can look like.

Increasing Frientimacy with the 5 Circles of Connectedness

If you're a long-time follower of this blog, a past attendee of one of my workshops, or a reader of my book, then you know that I teach the 5 Circles of Connectedness as a visual tool for helping us see the movement of our friendships from those circles on the Left-Side to those circles on the Right-Side, from Contact Friends to Commitment Friends.  From the most casual of our friendships that depend upon a specific context for us to be connecting (i.e. work, association meetings, children's school) to the most intimate of friendship where we are confiding in them regularly, there are steps along the way.

5 types of friends image

For example, during my workshops, I find that the majority of women long for more Committed Friends when they find themselves wishing for more connection in their lives.  For them, it's not just knowing more people that appeals to them, but actually experiencing Frientimacy (the intimacy between safe and known friends) with a few of them that matters most.  Seeing where their current friendships fall on this continuum helps them assess which friendships could be moved to the right (from other Circles) to the far right where they want them, with an intentional increase in consistency, interaction, and revealing.

To be clear, all friendships start at Contact Friends.  We never meet someone and put them in any other circle, no matter how much chemistry there is, how much we like them, or how many things we have in common with them.  All friendships start on the left when they are new and then move to the right as we put into place the repeated positive behaviors that will become our friendship with that person.  Only as we get to know each other more (in new areas and in deeper ways), which comes with time together, will we move friendships to the right.

Decreasing Frientimacy with the 5 Circles of Connectedness

But most of that isn't new to you.  :) What I talk about less, but am determined to start talking about more, is that friendships go the other direction, as well.

This is huge for us because it gives us more options than to just ending friendships!  We now have a visual that illustrates for us that we can decrease vulnerability, time together, and ways of interacting to move friendships from the Right-Side to the Left-Side.

For example, women will often say to me a variation of "I'm going through a break-up right now... my friend is x (fill in the blank with any number of circumstances that aren't some obvious friendship failing but are exhausting the woman who has long called her a friend: having an affair, obsessed with losing weight, going through a divorce, dating some guy I think is horrible to her, or letting her entire life be run by her kids) and I can't take it anymore so, unfortunately, it's over."

But with the above Circles of Connectedness, we can mentally say, "X makes it hard to be close right now, with the amount of time we're spending together (or the limited amount of time I want to spend together right now), it's important for me to no longer see this friendship as a sustaining, meaningful, and supportive Community or Committed Friend right now so that I have appropriate expectations and boundaries with her.  With the decrease in time and pulling back of confiding in her right now-- she's probably more accurately in X Circle."

Moving someone to the left does two important things for us:

  1. First, it helps us acknowledge that something has shifted and the friendship isn't going to be as close and safe as it has been.  That means I don't need to feel guilty for not giving as much and I can definitely be more gracious to her as I won't be expecting as much. It means that we don't have to refuse to ever see her again, but neither do we need to pour energy into staying in touch with her as much as we have previously.  Now, just getting together once a month during this time is fine.
  2. And second, it helps us recognize that we need to make sure we have the close and safe friends in our lives that we need for right now.  It's not her fault for not being everything we wanted her to be as much as it is our responsibility for making sure we have the friends we need in our lives.  So if she left a vacancy when we moved her left, then we need to look for other friendships to nurture.  We need to start investing that extra time and energy into other friends.

This works for all kinds of circumstances-- even if it's a behavior of hers that isn't linked to a circumstance or isn't likely to change (i.e. talking about herself all the time, not opening up with you, gossiping about others, one-upping you).  Technically someone with behaviors that we can't stand shouldn't have made it over the Right-Side of our Circles, but if they did, then we can just as easily move them back to the Left-Side if we feel like our attempts to repair or enhance the relationship haven't worked.

There are many reasons to keep these women in our lives.  Just because she tends to squirm when the conversation gets too personal doesn't mean she isn't still a fabulous and thought-provoking museum date.  Just because she can get insecure and jealous doesn't mean she's not a super fun addition to your mom's night out group.  And just because she's not the person who responds without judgment to your secrets doesn't mean she can't keep you inspired as a fellow artist. In short, we can move the relationship back to where we're not over-sharing with someone we don't trust or spending too much time with someone who exhausts us, without having to let go of parts of them we do enjoy.

Our friendships don't have to be all-or-nothing.  This isn't "find one to be all to us" as much as "find several who can each meet different needs of ours." The most important thing being appropriate and healthy expectations of each other.

Relationships ebb and flow, wane and wax, drift and shift.

And you never know... someone you move Left today, may move back Right this time next year in a super meaningful way.... All things are possible on this Continuum!

___________________

Other pertinent blog posts:

Five Questions to Ask Before Ending a Friendship

Friendship Break-Ups 4: Holding On or Letting Go?

This Friendship Is Going Negative, What Do I Do?

Best Girls Night-In Idea: Host a Friendship Book Circle

A book club can be a fun way to get to know other women better, but I have something even better than that!

Host a "Making Friendships Happen!" Book Circle

Sure, discussing a novel can be fun, but what about getting together with a group of women and making a fun night where you grow your friendships while learning more about them? Way better!

I’m looking for 100 women to lead local Making Friendships Happen Book Circles in February 2013 to facilitate sharing among groups of women around my new book:

Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends.

Far more than just talking about friendship, these groups will be designed to help create more meaningful friendships among those attending and benefit all their other friendships!

Will you sign up?  We want you!  All women are welcome-- from any state or country (note that the book is only in English though!) and any age group.

  • It's easy!  Schedule a date in late February, start inviting women to join you, open up your home (or pick a cafe!), and follow the provided discussion guide to create a fun and memorable evening.
  • It's full of possibilities! Instead of just reading about friendship on your own, use this Circle to help you foster your current friendships and/or get to know new women who could potentially be friends!
  • It's temporary! Instead of committing to monthly get-togethers, this is just a temporary commitment in February.  Then you're done.
  • It's meaningful! Instead of talking about characters in a novel, talk about yourself and get to know the other attendees better.

How to Invite Members to your Circle

Maybe you're already part of a book club and can be the point person for your group?  Awesome!

But if not, and you're wondering who you'd invite, here's a list of possibilities:

  1. Invite the women you want to know better. Just make a list of women you’ve met from various places and shoot them an email invitation: “I’m inviting a handful of women I admire and inviting them all over for a book circle about female friendship. Hope you can come!”
  2. GirlFriendCircles.com. Post it on the GirlFriendCircles.com calendar. All posted events are sent to all local members every Wednesday. And be sure to send personal invitations to other members you’ve met or want to meet.
  3. The Contagious Invitation. Invite 2-3 women you know and invite them to each invite 2-3 more women they know so you’re all meeting new friends!
  4. Recruit at work. If appropriate, share the invitation at work: “Research shows that having friends at work does more for our happiness than getting a financial raise! Let’s get to know each other better!”
  5. Consider existing groups. What organizations are you already involved in that you can host this as a way to deepen connections? Church. School. Mothers Group. Club. Gym.
  6. Use Social Media. Make an event on Facebook and invite everyone nearby. Post a shout-out on Twitter and use the hashtag #Shastasbook to see if anyone else is looking. Reach out to contacts on LinkedIn!
  7. Tell the Men. Don’t be shy about letting the guys in your life know about this event—most of them have girlfriends or wives who want more friends, or they may know of a female friend who just moved to the area and doesn’t know anyone. Ask them to help spread the word.
  8. Post online everywhere. Post in any online forums you belong to—there are always people online who want to meet offline (i.e. mom’s boards, networking groups, women’s organizations, meetup.com, craigslist.com)
  9. Bookstores and libraries. Ask your local bookstore and/or library if they help advertise book clubs.
  10. Offer to your Clients/Customers/Readers/Community. Depends on your business, but this could be a fabulous way to get to know your clients and help build some community for them through something they already all have in common. It can be an extra perk you offer while increasing brand loyalty.
  11. Invite the neighbors. Make up a flyer “It’s time we met our neighbors. I’m hosting a book circle for any women on the block (on in the apartment building) who’d like to meet each other!”

Who's the Book For?

This book is written to women ages 21-70 who value healthier and more meaningful friendships. From how-to meet new friends to how-to foster deeper friendships with the women we already know-- this is a guide for healthy female friendships.

The book is divided into three main parts:

  1. “From Loneliness to Frientimacy” helps us evaluate our individual relational needs using Shasta’s 5 Circles of Connectedness so we can better see what types of friends we already have and which ones we might want to add. Another unique paradigm offered in this book is that of Frientimacy—Friendship Intimacy—that articulates the closeness we crave, the awkwardness that can come from it, and the 5 developmental stages of relationship that we must cultivate.
  2. “Five Steps to Turn Friendly People We Meet into Friends Who Matter” covers the 5 Steps to Friendships, taking one chapter to cover each step: Be Open, Initiate Consistently, Add Positivity, Increase Vulnerability, and Practice Forgiveness. Each chapter is filled with personal stories, research, practical tips, reflection questions, and personal growth concepts. Chapter 8 includes the Frientimacy Triangle that illustrates how to increase our vulnerability in a way that is constructive, meaningful, and safe.
  3. “Friendships Don’t Just Keep Happening: Be Intentional” covers the Five Friendship Threats—jealousy, judgment, non-reciprocation, neglect, and blame—and healthy suggested responses to each of them so we can ensure that our friendships continue to grow in maturity and meaning. The book ends with a clear plan of how to move toward the friendships that matter most to the reader.

The Sign-up Details

I can't wait to collaborate with all one hundred of you as we foster healthier friendships across this country!  Won't be it be exciting to know that anywhere between 600-1000 women could be learning how to show up with more confidence in their friend-making process?   I'll be offering exclusive calls for the leaders and we'll be providing you with everything you need along the way to ensure that you feel part of the momentum.  Hope you can join us!

We want 100 women to commit by December 31, 2012.  Sign-up here.