Circles of Connectedness

This Friendship Is Going Negative: What Do I Do?

So my last blog post obviously hit a nerve. It is now the #1 post of the last 3 months, beating out popular posts--such as Reflections on my Katie Couric Interview and What Do I Do with My Toxic Friend?-- two posts that have been up for months.  We are apparently very interested in this subject of how to respond to the negative people in our lives!

Two Different Frameworks for Evaluating the 'Negative' People in Our Lives

So, as promised, I am going to share with you two frameworks of how to deal with the friendships that feel negative in our lives. This is a long blog, but I really wanted to cover at least two different paradigms and examples... hope it's helpful!

While we feel so much more mature than we were as children, the truth is that we still get on each others nerves.  Now we use language like toxic, negative, and un-healthy to label each other. *photo from irisclasson.com*

Just so we're clear-- I'm not writing about criminals, drug abusers, mental issues, or those who are willfully hurting us; but rather the vast majority of women that we've called friends at one time or another but now tend to use words such as toxic, negative, or selfish to describe them.  While we can all point out that there will always be a very clear "black and white" to the two extremes of who we can each have in our lives at different times, my desire here is to challenge us to look at what Kathy, in her comments on the previous post called, the "gray area."  The gray area being people who may not be un-safe to us, but certainly may be annoying, depressed, insecure, self-obsessed, distracted, or negligent.

1.  FRAMEWORK 1: Know the Different Types of Relationships So You Create Appropriate Expectations

I don't have room here to cover the entire 5 Circles of Connectedness which highlight the 5 different types of friendships, but basically our most casual of friendships are on the far Left-Side (Contact Friends) and the most intimate and consistent of our friendships are on the far Right-Side (Commitment Friends). I cover this in the most depth in my book but a quick overview can be found on this blog.

5 types of friends image

What's helpful about understanding the various types of friends is that when we do an honest assessment of whether our friend is truly a Committed Friend (someone we've built up meaningful history with over a long period of time, they are active in many areas of our lives, we are as transparent as possible with them) or perhaps is a Common Friend (maybe someone we've only known for a couple of months, someone we are only close to in one area of our life, etc.) it helps us answer the question: Do I have unrealistic expectations on this friendship?

I've observed many women not having a strong Right-Side of close friendships who then place those needs onto friendships on the Left-Side.  In other words, just because she's one of your closest friends doesn't mean you've developed the friendship that warrants the expectations and demands.  A good question to ask: "Am I blaming her for x because I want her to be a Committed Friend but in reality we are still Common Friends?"

Furthermore, it helps me see my commitment to the relationship.  If she's in a dark and needy space and she's my Committed Friend then I am truly committed to going through that phase with her even if she doesn't act healthy, positive, and supportive for a long season.  I can do this because we have a history together that reminds me that this isn't who she is permanently and I know that this is the call to relationships-- to be there for each other, even when it comes with some drama and emotion.  But if she's a Contact or Common Friend acting this way then a)  it may seem more like a red flag because we don't have enough history for me to accurately assess how she's acting now from how I know she's capable of acting, and b) we, quite frankly, don't have the same obligation/commitment to each other to be there for each other in the same ways.

Being clear what type of friendship the two of you have developed helps you better see how invested you are in this relationship and what expectations are fair. What you are willing to give, or put up with, in a Committed Friend might be different from what you are willing to do for a Common Friend.

For me, if whining and complaining is the grievance, for a Committed Friend it would be completely appropriate (though maybe not enjoyable or energizing-- so I need to make sure I'm getting enough of that in other close relationships during this season) for them to call me any time of night or day and sound like a crazy person sobbing and saying irrational things.  But while that would not be acceptable behavior for any friend of mine on the Left-Side, I would be willing to give them the space to monopolize the conversation during a scheduled lunch get-together and I'd give them a pass on complaining... for a time.

Does that differentiation make sense? It means we don't have to cut everyone out of our lives when they are needy and depressed and hurting, but neither does it mean that we're expected to put up with everything from everyone.

2.  FRAMEWORK 2: Know the Definition of Friendship so You Can Repair and Assess

This evaluation method also helps us decide which relationships to move along the Continuum so that you are choosing to nurture the friendships that are healthiest, minimizing the chances of having high-drama and unhealthy behaviors in your Right-Side friendships.

The definition of friendship, put out by Dr. Paul Dobransky, that I highlight in my book on pages 128 & 129 is  that friendship is "consistent, mutual, shared positive experience."  He says that when a friendship is failing it is because one of these four required qualities is missing.  I have almost an entire chapter devoted to each of those concepts but basically a friendship needs to have repeated time together, be seen by both as a friendship, include increased vulnerability, and ultimately add more joy than stress to your life.

For our purposes here, how this definition helps me is to realize at least two things:

1) These are not simply qualities that she possesses or not, but they are behaviors that we together have either developed or not. Here, we are evaluating the friendship-- the pattern and dynamic between the two of us-- not the person.  We're recognizing that something doesn't feel good between us-- but that's not the same as saying that every relationship this person has in their life is identical to our experience.  While we may find that they do something annoying, it's also possible that had we been more honest up front or set different expectations, that this dynamic wouldn't have been created. We hold for that possibility by assessing the interaction, not the individual. Which means it's possible we could do something different and shift the experience of the relationship.

2) It also informs me that if there are relationships that don't meet those requirements then it doesn't necessarily mean that I can't have those people in my life, rather it just means I don't want them to be on my Right-Side.

How These Frameworks Inform My Response

Knowing these two frameworks (both in greater detail in my book) helps us:

  1. Assess the current relationship experience-- what type of friend is this and which of the 4 qualities are most lacking?
  2. Figure out what needs be repaired so we can show up differently to see if that helps.
  3. Identify the investment/depth of the relationship so we can decide if it's worth an honest conversation (confrontation though awkward can be the best gift we learn to give to friends on our Right-Side where we should be willing to try "everything" before letting the friendship just dissolve.
  4. Decide if we can just move these relationships to the Left-Side (see them less often, confide in them less, have fewer expectations) rather than cut them out of our lives.

That's all I have time for today (You'd think I was writing an entirely new book with as much as I have to say! Ha!) but I'll keep writing on this-- next time I'll share 5 questions you should ask before ending a friendship.

Have a great weekend!

Are these helpful? What jumped out at you? How have you seen these concepts play out in your life? How could these have helped your past relationships? I love hearing your feedback so it's more of a conversation.  Jump in!  :)

 

 

How to Find a Best Friend

In teaching the 5 Circles of Connectedness last night for a room full of women, I was reminded again how seeing the varying spread of our different types of friends can prove so insightful.  There are countless friendship principles that emerge when we can begin to answer questions by looking at the model.  One such question is "Where do we find a BFF?"

Where do we look for our Best Friends?

When you see that a Best Friend is someone who is on the far right-side of the continuum, in the Committed Friends Circle, and you acknowledge that every friendship starts on the far left-side in the Contact Friends Circle-- then you quickly see first that every BFF is developed, not just discovered.

Even if you both fell in platonic love with each other upon meeting-- you did not meet as Committed Friends.  These Circles don't speak to how much we admire each other or have in common, but rather to how much consistency and intimacy we have practiced with each other.

It is possible for two of us to meet and both want to be best friends with each other-- but that does not make it so.  For just as often as that happens, if we never get together again, a friendship we do not have.  Time engaging with each other, not just good intentions and high hopes, is a prerequisite to a friendship.

So you've heard me say that every friend begins in the Contact Circle. And that is true.  Then, as we practice being together-- initiating consistency over time and incrementally increasing our vulnerability--we move our friendships from Left to Right.

But one mistake I think many of us are making is that we're "auditioning" women in that far-left circle for the job of the far-right circle-- and that is the wrong place to be looking.  While all friendships start in the Contact Circle, that is not where we go picking who we think might someday be our closest confidantes.  No, all we should ever be evaluating our Contact Friends on is, "Am I curious enough to keep leaning in?"  In other words, is there enough there to keep me open to grabbing coffee with her one more time? Sitting next to her during that class again? Finding her after church to say hi one more time? Making sure I walk by her desk today to ask about her weekend?

In this Circle someone can be twice our age, vote our opposite, or have more kids than we have dates-- and that's okay.  We know we want good friends down the road, but we don't really know who that will turn out to be, and the role of a friend in this Circle isn't for them to be just like us. (Read #2 of this blog that talks about what commonalities we need to have.)

Contact Circle Friends can only "apply" to become Common Friends-- the friends where we practice getting to know each other better in whatever commonality brought us together.  They don't get to skip to any other Circle.

Found them!

If we want more women in the Committed Circle, then it's only one Circle toward the left, in our Community Circle, where our future BFF's can be found.

Women have made it into our Community Circle because we've been practicing the dance of friendship together over some time and in some different ways.  Something originally brought us together--i.e. work, a mutual friend, a class, an event--and from there, we have not only taken our conversations deeper, but we've gone beyond that original commonality.  We may have met through an association, but now we get together on our own. We may have met when our kids went to school together, but now even if one of them switched schools, we still get together for coffee.  We may have met through a mutual friend, but we feel comfortable calling each other directly now.

Our Community Circle has a handful of women-- that given just a wee bit more consistency and/or intimacy could develop into the Committed Circle.  If you want a few more women who are 9's and 10's in your life, then go looking at those who are already 6's, 7's and 8's.

Why This Matters:

Understanding that relationships are developed makes all the difference.

For one, it allows you to show up with less judgment in the early stages of a friendship.  We don't need to dismiss someone because they don't have kids and we do, or because they're retired and we're not yet.  We can welcome them into our Contact Circle and just keep leaning in with curiosity.  We don't need to know now, nor could we know, whether this person might someday be on our Right-Side.  For now, we can welcome as much diversity into our lives as possible, letting go of the need to weed people out.  That's not our job at this point.  We are invited to open our arms wider on the far Left-Side.

Second, this helps us hold healthy expectations about each Circle of Friends. Seeing the development reminds us that we can't compare people on the Left-Side to the friends on the Right-Side; being disappointed when a new-ish friend doesn't act like the BFF we're looking for.  Just because a Contact Friend doesn't call you as much as you wish doesn't mean she wouldn't if you two developed the friendship into Community or Commitment Friends.  We can't dismiss people for not acting like the friend we hope to have when we're not yet anywhere close to having earned or developed that kind of attention, time, and vulnerability.

And third, it showcases how important it is to constantly be inviting people into our Continuums, moving some of them along into more intimate circles.  Our Circles shift, people move, life happens.  To build a strong social support in our lives, we will need to not just foster the friendships we love right now, but we will also want to continue connecting with others that may prove meaningful down the road.

We want to know that when we are in the market for adding another close friend into our lives (as we are more often than we want to admit!) that we have nurtured the possibilities that will make that search a little easier.

 

 

 

Common Friends: My Savor the Success Mastermind Group

I'm dedicating two postings this week to my left-side friends.  :) This is my second one. I've found that most of us fall into one of two camps when we look at the 5 Circles of Connectedness.  We either tend to have so many friends that our left side is super full, but we feel a lack on the right side where the intimacy, comfortableness, vulnerability and acceptance happen with real confidantes.  Or, the other imbalance is to only have a few close friends (a strong right side) and dismiss any relationship that doesn't feel BFF-like.

My previous post introduced you to the Friendship Circle women who are some of my Contact Friends, meaning that we don't really know each other well but we feel connected in some area, referring to each other as a friend, someone we're friendly with. This post is dedicated to the next circle, some of my Common Friends.

Common Friends:  We share occasional time spent together in the area we have in common. The difference between this quadrant and the former is that we have actually spent time together in a way that connects us deeper, we have our own one-on-one relationship with these individuals. It can be in our mom’s groups, because we work together, sing in the same choir, belong to the same club or we are frequently in the same social circle but we know these individuals well within the area we have in common.

One of my Common Circles: Entrepreneurs/CEO's

Last January we all committed to journeying together as a way of supporting our roles as entrepreneurs and CEO's of our own companies (our area of shared commonality). But what makes this group different than my Contact Friends is that we met monthly, shared our vulnerabilities, brainstormed solutions for each other, and offered to help whenever we could.  These women became friends of mine- I feel like I know them and they trusted me with the highs-and-lows of their businesses. (But note that they stay on my left side since we haven't necessarily bonded/socialized outside this area of commonality.)

One of the things I love about our friends in our Common Circles is that we may only have one obvious thing in common (i.e all entrepreneurs, colleagues, same pilates class, or all trying to lose weight) but we can all be so different from each other outside of that area.  In other words, we allow for friendships in this Circle with women of different ages and backgrounds far more than we do when we're out looking for a new BFF.  And it's the diversity that can add so much, often unexpectedly!

Before you meet them, I want to tell you what this group did for me, that my BFF's couldn't have done (since they aren't all running their own businesses).  These women, who were strangers to me a year ago-- have since then given feedback on my web site, introduced me to my lawyer, reminded me how far I've come on goals that felt like they were never going to happen, cheered for me when I shared my wins, talked me off the cliff when I felt overwhelmed, and brainstormed ideas with me for various projects. Those are no small things! My life is richer for having connected to this group!

Now I'll let a few of them speak for themselves!  They will each tell you what their business is and how they specifically benefited from this belonging to this group.

Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa: Founder of PixInk Design - San Francisco Bay Area's premier digital design agency focused on brands marketing to women.

"This fabulous photograph was inspired by the Savor SF Mastermind Group. Having had the privilege to lead this amazing group of women in 2011, I really wanted a photo memory that celebrated our journey thus far and the future successes to come. I was thrilled with the support and enthusiasm with which everyone in the group helped make this happen. Special thanks to Sonya Yruel for the great photography and Kat Gordon for the captions and Shasta Nelson for showcasing us in her blog! Like Kat said "Behind every successful woman... are others lifting her up."

Shamini Dhana:, Founder of Dhana, a new Eco Brand for kids is the lifestyle brand for tween boys and girls that is eco-conscious, ethically sourced, cool, outdoorsy, and exudes that pizzaz of fun and green, inspired by international artists. Available for purchase online and through selected retail stores.

"Connecting with people like Kat Gordon of Maternal Instinct and Ayesha Mathews of PixInk allowed me to gain insight into the world of women, how they were influenced by brands using different strategies. This was such a huge gift as understanding this behavior was exactly what I needed considering the market Dhana was serving – mainly mothers and women. Additionally, I would like to add that it truly helped having a group of women to trouble shoot, de-stress and share the lonely and challenging road that all entrepreneurs experience – great group of friends and a testament to Shasta’s GirlFriendsCircles concept."

Mary Irving: Founder of Maris, Botanical skin Care Products.

"Participating in the Mastermind helped me to keep moving forward with my business.  I committed to a new website and new versions of my products so every month I'd provide updates and sample products that kept me accountable to my goals."

Cindy Lin: Founder of Staged4more Home Staging celebrated revenue growth, working with great clients, different project opportunities within the visual industry and expanding our networks. We've also added new retailers to our fun environmental real estate good luck charm: EcoJoe.

"I loved having a sounding board of people who know what I'm going through over a consistent period of time and who can grasp the business scenarios I face. While my friends are supportive, they don't necessarily understand because they work in a corporate environment, unable to understand what small businesses go through on a day-to-day basis. This group knew how stressful having your own business can be!"

Kat McCaw Gordan: Founder of Maternal Instinct: Creative Problem Solvers for Marketing to Moms. This past year we invented our MBA Program product which stands for Mom Brand Audit. It enables us to truly move the needle of the mom friendliness of any brand of any size from any industry. That's really gratifying.

"More than anything, what I valued most about the Mastermind was having access to a range of perspectives. Countless times when I was reporting my biggest challenge, someone in the group would re-frame the issue or ask a question that allowed me to unlock a solution I never would have thought of without their input."

Other members of the group include: Cristina Moe, Founder of Moe Media Marketing that helps women-owned businesses with marketing and SEO, April Yarahmadi, Founder of April Reno Jewelry creating timeless and bold fashion pieces, and Erin Shields, Founder of Green Carpet Limo, Bay Area's premier eco-friendly chauffeured car service.

Makes you want one, huh?  Yeah, me too.  I'm so sad this group is ending!

I'm already thinking ahead for what I need to do now to make sure I have this in my life next year.  My biggest piece of advice in participating in any group is to make it as regular and consistent as possible, at least monthly.

Who is in your Common Circle? What area of your life needs focused friends (business? motherhood? divorced women? politics?) Do you need to create one or search one out for 2012?

 

An Example of Contact Friends: "The Friendship Circle"

I love watching little light bulbs go on when I talk about my 5 Circles of Connectedness.  It's not that describing different types of friends is revolutionary, but I love how seeing the spectrum validates us both for the amazing circles we do have, and acknowledges why we're sometime craving more, different experiences in our friendships.

In this blog I often talk about the far right-end of the spectrum-- as most of us are craving more Frientimacy, deeper connections, and confidantes.  But I want to dedicate my next two blog posts to some fabulous women on my left-side--the friends whom we share something in common, cheer for each other, and provide resources and support as we can in that context.

Contact Friends: We share a casual connection with these friends that is limited to one area of our lives. This is not the same as ALL acquaintances.  For example, we may know the names of all twenty people in our monthly association meeting or at church, but these are the 2-3 that we gravitate toward, considering ourselves friends when we see them even though we don't get together with them on our own, outside the shared context.

One of my Contact Circles: Twitter & Female Friendship

In the last couple of years as I've dived into social media, I can honestly say that building up some Contact Friends on Twitter is the only way I was able to stay engaged. Otherwise, it could have just felt pointless and exhausting-- too many people talking, too few listening.  But in the exchanging of some introductions (in under 140 characters), I now claim to have friends in that world.

These are friends in the loosest term of the word in that I have met only one of them in real life, know next to nothing about their personal lives, and we connect only in the area we have in common which happens to be twitter and the subject of female friendships.

But don't let the fact that it's casual imply that it's not meaningful! They do for me what my dearest, closest friends couldn't do.

These Contact Friends connect with me in different ways; they help me feel heard when I send out a tweet, offer to partner up on projects, congratulate me on my business wins,  and share with me the resources on our shared subject that they come across. Those are no small things!

Introducing the Friendship Circle

We've banded together and created the Friendship Circle.   Since they are all aficionados of female friendship-- they have a lot to offer the readers of my blog.  I want to introduce you to these friends of mine... that they might be yours too!

  1. Business: Tell us what you do and why you love it!
  2. Gratitude: What would be #17 on your list of gratitude?  :)
  3. Friendship: Give a shout-out to one of your GirlFriends you appreciate!

Cherie Burbach (aka @brrbach), Friendship Guide at About.com

I'm a freelance writer and author, and I celebrate the fact that every single day I get to do something I absolutely love. The days fly by when you love your work. My #17 is that I have creative hobbies (crocheting, painting, mixed media) that I can lose all track of time in. It helps me recharge my batteries and reminds me of the blessings I have. My GirlFriend: Debby Mayne. She's a writer I met online and has been a source of encouragement and cheerleading all year. I am very thankful for her generous spirit.

 

 

Rachel Bertsche (aka @rberch), Author of MWF Seeking BFF (blog & book)

Mine isn't a business, per se, but my book and blog are how hard--and hilariously awkward!--it is to make new friends as an adult. Last year was my second year at it, and I think last year I got really good at embracing the "you never know if this will be your next BFF" attitude in my life. #17: I am SO GRATEFUL for the fact that I'm someone who sleeps through the night. I hear about others who wake up every three hours and I always think, "Thank God for my lucky sleep habits!!"  Random, I know. GirlFriend: I can't pick just one! I have so many wonderful friends, and I'm so grateful for the new friends I've made over the last two years. Specifically, the new pals who've supported my writing--especially when I'm writing about them!

Debba Haupert (aka @girlfriendology), Founder of Girlfriendology

My business is my passion - inspiring women and their friendships. Girlfriendology started with a couple girlfriends dealing with cancer and grew to a community of over 40,000 women. I celebrate the joy of hearing women's stories and giving them a platform to share them. #17 Being born in this time. I'm not a 'ride across the prairie in a covered wagon' kind of girl and I'm definitely a technology and social media maven. I'm thankful for being alive in the time of iPads and WiFi (and, to be honest, indoor plumbing, gorgeous/easily-accessible shoes and coffee shops!). My beautiful GirlFriend Deana has has a rough year - including losing her BFF. Yet, through everything, she is always there for her friends and family - and with a gorgeous smile on her face. She inspires me and makes me very, very thankful that we met in college a long time ago.

Irene Levine (aka @irenelevine), Author of Best Friends Forever

I am trained as a psychologist and work as a full-time freelance journalist writing about a variety of topics including travel, lifestyle and friendship. The nicest part of my work is getting letters from people who say that my book changed their lives as well as their friendships! #17: I'm grateful to all the friends and mentors who helped shape my life---even though I've lost contact with many of them. My GirlFriend Linda listens, understands, and is always there for me. I'm lucky to be able to call her at any time or hour when I need advice.

 

Britt Michaelian (aka @MamaBritt) and Dabney Porte (aka @DabneyPorte), Co-Founders of #SMgirlfriends

Girlfriends Productions, LLC is our business and one thing that we are celebrating is that we have reached over 30 million people in 18 different countries and over 250 million impressions of support in the first 6 months in the Social Media Girlfriends community! Our #17: We are so grateful for the many people within our communities who are cheerleaders and who support one another without us asking for them to do it! GirlFriend: It is so hard for us to thank one person because there are so many to choose from and no one is more important than the next, so if we had to choose one person to thank it would be… our entire community.

 

And then there's me: Shasta Nelson (aka @girlFRNDcircles), Founder of GirlFriendCircles.com

My favorite aspect of GirlFriendCircles, the women's friendship matching site, is talking and writing about friendship.  This last year I was excited to expand this blog (subscribe top right corner if you're new!) and for the Huffington Post. My #17 is weekends with my husband-- the restorative time when I remind myself that my self-worth is not tied to my business worth. And a GirlFriend I want to shout-out to is Daneen for being willing to keep investing in our friendship even though the mom/non-mom difference between us can feel vast.

A pretty amazing round-up, huh?  :)  How much more enjoyable my social media experience  has been because of these women!  Follow all of us on twitter by following this list: @Girlfriendology/friendship-circle

Your Contact Friends?

What worlds are you a part of where building some new friendships would be meaningful? Where do you need inspiration? Resources? Encouragement?

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2012? Weight loss? Business growth? Home-schooling your kids? Involvement in a church? Hanging out with more singles? Where can you find those people? How can you start the connections?

All friendships start here with your contact friends. Put yourself out there and introduce yourself!

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p.s. And huge thanks to Girlfriend Celebrations (Dawn Bertuca & Tina Bishop) who were founding members of our Friendship Circle, helping get us all together!

 

Our Used-to-be-Closer Friends on YouTube

New YouTube Clip:

This video explains the value of both our current and our "past" BFF's. In this 3rd video of the series, Shasta Nelson, life coach and CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com dives deeper into her Confirmed Circle.

Often a move, a job change, or a life shift will put women into our Confirmed Circle-- meaning we can pick up where we left off with them, that we know they'd do anything for us, and that we still consider them our friends, but we are no longer in a consistent friendship with them, seeing them regularly and sharing life along the way.  It is different to have friends we update every several months from the friends who actually know our day-to-day lives.  We need both.

It also give two ways to make sure you create a current, meaningful and consistent group of friends for wherever you are now.

An overview of Shasta's 5 Circles of Connectedness is a video titled: "What Types of Friends Do You Need?" The 2nd video in the series is titled: "Who Are Your BFF's?"

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Huge thanks to everyone who has subscribed to my YouTube channel to help me get started this month! There's a random drawing for a Flying Wish Paper gift every Thursday in September so subscribe today for 2 more chances to win this month!

 

What Types of Friends Do You Need?

As we start Friendship Month, I'm stepping into my commitment to start vlogging too!  I'm planning to regularly upload up a clip on YouTube since sometimes it's easier to teach on video than in writing.  (I'd be honored if you'd subscribe to my channel!)

Not All Friends Are the Same

Recognizing that we have different categories of friends is not to minimize the uniqueness that each one brings, rather it helps us both to honor how we’re energized in different relationships and identify where some of our hunger for more belonging might be coming from.

I developed a Connectedness Continuum that I use when I'm coaching women to help provide have a visual snapshot of our sense of connectedness. Here is a very brief outline of the five different circles of friends we all need to foster.

The Continuum begins on the left with the most casual of friends and moves to the right as the bond and commitment deepens. While there are some parameters to each quadrant, much of it will be subjective based on your own sense of bond.

Contact Friends:  We share an introduction with these friends. We are somehow linked to them whether it’s through facebook, because we went to school together, because a mutual friend introduced us, because we met them while doing something we both participate in, because we have at least one thing in common, etc.  This is not the same as ALL acquaintances.  We may know the names of all twenty people in our association meeting or at church, but these are the 2-3 that we gravitate to and would consider ourselves friends when we see them.

Common Friends:  We share occasional time spent together in the area we have in common. The difference between this quadrant and the former is that we have actually spent time together in a way that connects us deeper, we have our own one-on-one relationship with these individuals. It can be in our mom’s groups, because we work together, sing in the same choir, belong to the same club or we are frequently in the same social circle but we know these individuals well within the area we have in common.

I’m going to come back to Confirmed friends in a minute: There are two things that begin to shift when we cross that center line: the regularity with which we spend time together and the broadening of what we share together.

Community Friends: We share regular time spent together beyond the area we have in common. When we enter into In-Community Friends we have crossed the lines of our original relationship boundaries, whether it was your gym-buddy, a fellow mom, a scrapbook partner or a work colleague—we now share our lives beyond our original shared common interest.  We may be meeting people from other areas of their lives and revealing life stories beyond the original bonding subject.  (Note: we can be “intimate” with people on the left side—AA friend, weight loss buddy—sensitive subjects, but they stay on the left side as long as our area of connection is limited to that original bonding area.)

Commitment Friends: We share our lives with each other and our commitment extends beyond the things that hold us in common. The far right quadrant is reserved for the friends we regularly share our feelings with and have a commitment to be present for each other, no matter what. You may have bonded as “In-Common” friends because of your kids, you worked at the same place or you were both single, but these are now the friends that if those original common categories were to change it would no longer risk your relationship—they could switch jobs, get married, change interests, move away or the kids could all grow-up, but you will still be in each others lives.

Now, go back to the middle:

Confirmed Friends: We share a history with these friends that has bonded us but our connection is not regular. These are the friends that we used to live close to and love but we only talk occasionally now. This middle is reserved for the friends that go much deeper than the left side—we in fact would have at one point placed them on the right side of our spectrum—but we no longer have the regularity with them that we reserve for our right side. These are the women that we know we can pick up where we left off, they are dear to us and we will stay in touch occasionally with them, but they are not engaged in our day-to-day lives and in the creation of regular new memories together.

We all tend to find some circles come to us more naturally. Some of us love socializing and meeting tons of Contact Friends but have a harder time building enough consistency with a few to move into the real intimacy of Commitment Friends, whereas others of us have a few close friends but hate going out and meeting people.  But we all need people in every circle.

Write the names of people you consider your friends along the Continuum.... where are you hungry for more relationships? What types of friends do you most need right now?

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Update on 10/18/2011: There ended up being 5 short videos (3-4 minutes each) to this topic series:

  1. What Types of Friends Do You Need? (Overview of Circles)
  2. Who Are Your BFF's?(Commitment Friends)
  3. Our Used to be Closer Friends (Confirmed Friends)
  4. Four Values of New/Less Intimate Friends (Contact & Common Friends)
  5. Five Common Imbalances in our Circle of Friends (Assessing Your Needs)

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