Friendship Accelerator

An Interview with Tiffany: Why I Love GirlFriendCircles.com

In talking to Tiffany this fall she kept crediting GirlFriendCircles with giving her a circle of friends who helped her through a health crisis. I'd say all credit goes to her for fostering friendly people into friends, but her story was so inspiring, I asked her if she'd be willing to share it with all of you! Tiffany was a member of GirlFriendCircles.com in San Francisco, CA for nearly 2 years and is still a huge advocate and ambassador.

So, Tiffany, this particular part of your story begins this last September...

Yes, it was right after Memorial Day and I ended up needing to go to the hospital because I was in so much pain.  I couldn't have guessed upon arrival that they would be telling me that not only were they keeping me there, but also that I needed emergency surgery.

And how did you respond? 

Well I immediately called two friends of mine (one whom I had met through GirlFriendCircles.com) and they put out the word about where I was and what had happened.

The response was unbelievable.

Anne, Julia, Tiffany, and Maurine-- once strangers, now good friends because of GirlFriendCircles.com

Three of our friends, who we had also met through GirlFriendCircles.com (GFC), came and spent hours with me in the emergency room so I wouldn’t have to be alone.  (What makes this even more special is that one of them is an avowed germaphobe who avoids hospitals!) My surgery ended up becoming a 3 ½ day hospital stay.  And there was honestly not one day that went by that this amazing group of women did not call, visit, text, etc. I am convinced that the love and support from them is what made the healing process go so quickly.

I spent two weeks recuperating at home and the “amazingness” continued.  People visited, called, texted, brought me food, took me to doctor’s appointments, stayed with me when I needed it…. It was a truly humbling experience to be on the receiving end of that much love.

Before all this happened, I had in my head that these women were my “village” and it was gratifying to know that it translated to real life!

Take me back to that moment when you realized you actually had friends who were supporting you through this crisis… what did you feel?

I felt incredibly blessed and grateful.  I met all these women through GFC.  The women who show up to GFC, and are intentional about making friends and building community, really do make the world a better place to live.

As a single woman who doesn't live near family, I basically lived through a crisis that would have been so much worse had it happened a few years ago, before I had built up a circle of friends.  We've all had times where we've wondered, "Who would I call in an emergency situation?" and this time, I knew the answer.

Oh that makes me so happy to hear! How did going through this together impact your friendships? 

The ultimate impact of this was that my FRIENDS became my FAMILY in the truest and best sense of that word.  Even though I was the one who was sick, we all now know that we have each other’s back when the chips are down.  We have a community where we lean on each other and celebrate each other’s wins.  We've proven it to ourselves!

It truly was an amazing experience to be a part of.  To me, it's not too big of a statement to say that none of it would have been possible without GirFriendCircles.com. To meet women who were ready and willing to develop meaningful friendships literally gave me a support system, a tribe in this city.

Anything else you want to say?

My take-away is that it is so worth it to invest the time and energy into building a network of female friendships.  I am convinced they are the root of a happy and successful life!

I hope I've been able to convey how amazing and special this group of friends is / has become and that none of it would be possible without us all meeting through GFC. I am so grateful.  Thank you Shasta for starting this...

You're so welcome Tiffany.  Thank you for jumping in, meeting people, and taking the time to foster friendships-- that's where the magic was!

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

Tiffany attended 8 Connecting-Circles & 1 Friendship Accelerator during her membership in GirlFriendCircles and that combination of involvement has given her a strong circle of local girlfriends.

Membership deal: Until Dec. 2, women can save 20% off a GirlFriendCircles.com membership, ensuring that your 2014 is filed with invitations to local ConnectingCircles. Promo Code: UPGRADE

Friendship Accelerator: And if you, or someone you know, lives in New York City, San Francisco, or Las Vegas-- I'll be in those cities in early 2014 offering Friendship Accelerators! More info here.

 Want more inspiring stories from real GFC members:

My Favorite Sharing Question of All Time

While I was teaching and launching 4 more Friendship Accelerator groups yesterday, I made a mental note to myself that I would put to written words all the reasons I gave the attendees of that workshop for regularly using my all-time favorite sharing question. Here it is for you! The Question:

Called the "High/Low" question-- it invites all participants to share a highlight and a low light of their choosing.

A highlight can be: an event, a milestone, a decision, a choice for self-care, an accomplishment, a goal achieved, a moment appreciated, or a cherished conversation.  Anything that produced feelings of positivity... joy, contentment, serenity, gratitude, pride, or inspiration.

A low light can be: a tough conversation, a disappointment, a heartbreak, a loss, an unmet expectation, an obstacle, an insecurity, or something that is causing anxiety and worry.  Anything that produced feelings of negativity... fear, loss, sadness, anger, or disillusionment.

I call it the "High/Low," one of my workshop attendees in Chicago says she calls it "Thorns & Roses."  I like that, too!

Applications of The Question:

One of the four Friendship Accelerator groups yesterday that shared their answers to my Favorite Sharing Question!

If it's with friends you see regularly, such is the case for my weekly girls group or with family that comes over most Friday evenings, then the question can be limited to the short time period since we've last seen each other: "What was a highlight and low light from this last week?"

If it's with friends we haven't talked to in a while, such is the case with my "SoCal girls group" who is scheduled tonight for our first quarterly phone call, 2 months from when we were all together for our annual weekend trip, then it becomes more of a "What is one "high" going on in your life right now, and one "low?" giving the freedom to name a biggie that happened last month or to pick the thing that matters most this week.

If it's with a friend I haven't seen in ages, then the question might be bit more broad to encompass more time, "So in the last year, what would you say has been a highlight and low light for you?"

If it's with my husband who I see every day, and already happen to know most of what his day looked like, we still ask this question in a variety of ways.  If before bed, we might say, "So what was one of your high moments and low moments today?" as a good way to reflect on the day.  And I'm still surprised sometimes the impact one email can have... showing up in either category.  If it's after a trip, "Looking back on the trip, what would you say was one of your favorite highlights and low lights?"

The question is even great within themes, not necessarily constrained by time.  Yesterday, in the Friendship Accelerators, I asked the women to share with each other, "What is a highlight/low light for you in your current relationship status?" Or it can be in your job, where you live, about your body image, or any other subject.

Here's Why I Love The Question SO Much:

  • Honors Real Life: There's a time for hypothetical, but it's not when I'm wanting to connect with my friends and find out what really matters in their lives.  This question reminds all of us that there is ALWAYS a duality to life-- when you're in a season of uncertainty or grief, there are still moments of good to be recognized, and when you're in a season of recognition, goal achieving, or ease, there are still unmet expectations, stressors, and new worries.  And, sometimes, more-often-than-not, the very same thing that is a high can also be a piece of our low.
  • Decreases the Chances of Jealousy:  It's all too easy to see the highlights of each other's lives-- the marriages, kids, fancy trips, and awards-- and end up feeling less thrilled with our own.  But when I journey over the long-haul with my friends, seeing the lows and highs, I really think it reminds us that no one's life is perfect. We stop begrudging each other for what we each have.
  • Increases our Ability to Celebrate our Wins & Cheer for Each Other: For many women, we're more comfortable sharing our lows, than we are our highs. We don't want to be seen as bragging, and we've picked up intuitively that others seem to like us best when our marriages aren't amazing, our kids aren't perfect, and our career isn't rocking.  But if we can't practice our greatness and capacity with friends, then who do we get to practice owning our light around?  We need to be able to say, "I'm proud of this part of my life," and we need to keep practicing telling our friends that we're proud of them, too!
  • Puts Control into the Hands of the Sharers: By asking for a high/low there is enough structure to prompt and direct our thinking (as opposed to just saying "So what's up?" "What's new?" or "Tell me what's going on these days.") but it's also broad enough to let each person choose what they share. If one low light feels too vulnerable for that occasion-- pick another. On the other hand, if something happened that you secretly wish people knew and could support you in-- this is your chance to let them in.  Your choice!
  • Invites Honesty: You ask someone how they're doing, and they'll say fine.  You ask them what's going on, and they'll inevitably give you a summary of the kids or work.  I've noticed entire groups of people--even people who consider themselves close-- can spend the entire evening giving updates, talking about what they saw in the news, or telling a story they know will regale everyone. But if you give them permission to share two specific things that matter in their lives then the conversation changes to what they want to share, not just what they were asked about or what they thought would make entertaining conversation.
  • Protects Space for Each Person: I really believe most people want more substantial conversations, we just don't feel comfortable taking over the conversation and offering up some things that feel mundane, feel like downer-subjects, or could be perceived as bragging. But that doesn't mean we don't want people to know us. By asking this question to a living room full of people, we may sure that the introvert has protected space to share without her having to fight for the floor.  We make sure that the extroverts aren't just entertaining, but really sharing.  We make sure no one leaves saying, "No one even asked me about..." and feeling as though they weren't even seen.
  • Develops Intimacy: When done regularly, as each Friendship Accelerator will do in the ensuing four weeks when they get together, this question can build a real sense of connectedness.  We worry less that our highlight this week doesn't feel huge in contrast to someone else when we can see the pattern over time that all of us have joys and all of us have pain-- our turn for each will come.  In the meantime, we feel seen.  We know that someone knows that we're stressed about money, fearful about not getting pregnant yet, or worried about our grown son's latest seemingly-destructive choice.  We admitted it in a safe place because everyone else was sharing, too.  We weren't left "out there" feeling like we're the only ones with a problem.  And simultaneously, we didn't fear what others thought when we shared our pride or joy-- because they did it too.  We feel supported.  And we can support.

During the Friendship Accelerator, after I have all the groups share their high/low with each other, I ask the women to raise their hands if they would have voluntarily offered up what they just chose to share.  In other words, would they have guided the group conversation to that story, had the space not be made for it.  I'd guess about 15% of them raise their hands.  Indeed, sometimes the high or low is such that we might offer it up without being asked, but more often than not, we need someone to ask us before we gladly share.

I'm already looking forward to tonight's call with my 4 girlfriends who live in Seattle, San Antonio, and Southern California.  I genuinely want to know what's mattering to them.  And I'm glad I don't just have to leave it to chance that it's shared....

Here's a list of more Sharing Questions-- these are the ones we use in our ConnectingCircles (small member-led gatherings of 3-6 women in local cafes) in the GirlFriendCircles.com community.

 

 

 

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

Note from Shasta: I've been writing so many guest blogs to celebrate my new book "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" that I decided I may need to have a few women guest blog for me until I have more words to share!  :)  Soon, I'm goingto start blogging about any questions you have as you read the book, concepts you wish I would unpack more, or anything you wished I would have highlighted-- post those questions on our Facebook page and I'll answer them here! For now, this is Christie Mims-- a brand new mover-and-shaker here in the San Francisco area. (Her bio is at the end.) Christie Mims

 

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

I like to think of myself as a fairly cool person who is easy to get to know. I shower regularly, I smile often, I like dogs (I distrust people who don’t like dogs), and I have a passionate love for 1981 (3?) killer movie: “Staying Alive.” There may have only been about five actual pages of dialogue, but boy do the large hair and hand gestures make up for it. John Travolta, you have my endless thanks.

I also love my friends.  Friendship, for a long time, has been one of my most important life values. My friends are like my family. They are my sanity, and the people who give me joy. I try to write, reach out, communicate, drink, and play with my friends as often as possible. And even when they are scattered all over the world,

I will travel to see them when I can. They matter to me.

So, when I decided on a bit of a whim to uproot my revolutionary Career Coaching business from DC to San Francisco, I thought I would be fine.  My business is global, so it would be easy, right?

Sure, a lot of my friends were in DC, “but - I’ve got friends all over the world!” I thought to myself jauntily as I packed up my car, fresh from a trip to Germany to see some of said friends.

“I’ll be fine!” I said as I drove across country with my mom “I’ve got two amazing friends already in SF, plus all the people I’m sure I’ll meet. It’ll be great!”

“I’m good at staying in touch over email!” I said as I unpacked my stuff, alone in my new apartment for the first time.

“I’ll hang out with my friends here all the time!” I thought, as I sat around wondering what to do with myself...knowing that one of my friends was a new mom, and the other was deep in the throes of an all-consuming start-up.

Making New Friends isn't as Easy as it Sounds

And then it hit me.

I was alone in a new city, far from home and in an inconvenient time zone.  When I was lonely at night in my new home, my east coast friends were fast asleep (to say nothing of the Europeans).  And my friends here, while AMAZING, are pretty busy and not that close to me in terms of location. The bay area is bigger than I realized (I’m really terrible with geography...I blame the US school system. Also, who needs algebra? Really?).

The truth is that it was awful.

Weekends were the worst - I had full days stretching in front of me with nothing but time, and no one to share that time with.  And, I was also working hard on my business, stretching out of my comfort zone, building up my visibility in San Francisco, and learning about the city and the culture.  It was exhausting, and at the end of the day, I just wanted to be with someone who knew me. Who would come over for a glass of wine and watch bad tv and talk about boys or shoes.

I was lonely.

I was sad.

And I felt so lost.

But I Made My Friendships Happen!

So I did what I know how to do.  I networked (I’m from DC, it’s what we do). At events with women.  Hoping that maybe I would meet someone cool, and at minimum I would make business connections.  I reached out.  I introduced myself awkwardly and invited people to lunch or coffee.

I stalked some people over email if I thought we would hit it off.

I signed myself up for Shasta’s Friendship Accelerator (Note from Shasta: see below for description of these workshops!), hoping that I would at least kill some time on a lonely Saturday, and thinking it would probably teach me something interesting. I told myself I needed to smile a lot and enjoy the city that I chose.

And I kept doing it.

It was not easy.  Most of the time, especially in the beginning, it wasn’t even particularly fun.

But I was open to it.  And cognizant of the fact that friendship has to start somewhere - and I needed to keep pushing myself out there so I would go from random coffees to full on friends.  Friendship, as Shasta sagely says, is based on consistency and intimacy.  You need to have both to have close friends.

So I threw myself into weekly dinners with my accelerator group.

I set up regular card nights with old and new friends (trying to integrate groups!).

I asked friends to introduce me to their friends in the area.

I joined new meetups and  organizations such as A Band of Wives (abusing google search in my attempts to find all possibilities).

And I kept going back.

I’ve been in the Bay Area now for roughly four months.  My social life, which felt a little like a broken puzzle when I first arrived, is now starting to snap into focus.

I’ve got friends, and plans, and some consistency with the friends and plans in my life. It matters. I remember when I had a week in the fall where I spent time with old and new friends almost every night, and at the end of it I felt like a new person.  It honestly impacted my health, and made making friends here an even bigger priority in my life.

I feel like I finally made it...and I’m so grateful to be building a life.

I know how difficult it is to just land, so, if you are new to the city - shoot me an email, I’m happy to have a glass of wine and say hello!  And if you are in another city, spend some time to get out there and connect with interesting new people.  Most importantly don’t give up - you’ll get there.  I did (and if I did, anyone can do it. I mean, I love Stayin’ Alive, so that is one strike against me :))!

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

About Christie:  Christie holds a BA from the University of Virginia, a MA from the University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies, and is a certified mediator and certified professional coach. Feeling stuck in your job and want free concrete ways to get UNstuck? Get Christie’s free kit here at The Revolutionary Club! And see what else she’s doing that is unprecedented over here!

About Friendship Accelerators: I (Shasta) facilitate Friendship Accelerators which are small groups of  women that I've matched for potential friendship who commit to attend seven hours of a friendship-workshop and group-bonding day, followed by 4 weekly get-togethers as a group. In one month, these groups experience more bonding than what most of us can do over a year with women we've met. They've been fabulously successful with the majority of women saying the value of the workshop alone was worth it, but how thrilled they are that nearly 80% of the groups are still meeting months after their commitment ended!  This is by far the most effective way I've yet seen to introduce women to each other and give them the best chance ever to foster local friendships that matter. I'm considering possible Accelerators in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle the coming months-- but will decide bases on where I have the most interest so sign up here to indicate your interest in being notified if I host a Friendship Accelerator near you!