Irene Levine

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!

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

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!

 

6 Books to Help Your Friendships

I often quote the research from BYU that revealed just how important friendships are to our health.  The sentiment of the research didn't surprise me at all, but what they compared it to sure did! After compiling extensive relational studies, researchers revealed that if you feel disconnected-- it is worse for your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, twice as harmful as being obese, and as damaging as being an alcoholic. What shocks me most is how little training and teaching we get, outside of our own experience, in this ever-important life area of relationships.  Compare how much attention your teachers and leaders have given to the three things listed as less significant than your relationships: obesity, drinking and smoking.  Seriously! We have laws against smoking and drinking, yet it's never been illegal to be isolated! We have  billboards and commercials showing the effect of smoke on our lungs and the aftermath of driving while buzzed, but I've never seen one showing the effects of loneliness.  Even if your nutrition and physical education classes in school left a lot to be desired, at least they had them.  I never took a class on healthy relationships.

In an area that is touted to be most significant to our health, happiness, and longevity-- we just hope healthy relationships comes naturally. Unfortunately, with 85% of us admitting to having toxic friends, I'm not blown away by how well we've taught ourselves.

6 Books that Teach Healthy Friendships

Here are six books I think could help us start being more intentional in our healthy friendship education:

  1. Consequential Strangers, by Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman, Ph.D.  As the tagline suggests, "The Power of People who Don't Seem to Matter But Really Do," you may not feel inspired to buy this book because you may not realize just how significant your connections through out the day can be in your life.  However, this book is hugely revealing and has much to teach us about our wider networks. For those of you familiar with my 5 Circles of Connectedness, this book is all about just how important the left-side of our continuum can be.
  2. A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.  The middle third of this book is one of the most impressive visions of healthy relationships on the market, not just friendships. While her field is spiritual growth, her case is that all our personal growth happens in our relationships.  She showcases the importance of every interaction we have, from what seems inconsequential to us all the way to the people with whom we have lifetime assignments. Her call to us to give love rather than project fear is inspiring.  To show up with others on a soul level rather than ego level would change the world.
  3. The Power of Female Friendship: How Your Circle of Friends Shapes Your Life, by Paul Dobransky, M.D. This book goes way past warm-and-fuzzy to give you really fabulous scientific charts, graphs, and formulas. His definition of friendship ("Friendship is consistent, mutual, shared positive emotion") is still one I use in my teaching-- helping women know the 4 things that must be present in a healthy friendship. He breaks up friendship in some of the most thought-provoking ways teaching psychology, boundaries, emotional health, and brain function.
  4. Best Friends Forever, by Irene Levine Ph.D. This tagline will sell the book: "Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend."  She's quick to remind you that it's an unhealthy myth to believe that your friendships should last forever, with most of us staying in touch with only 1 out 12 of our friends.  She's also quick to sympathize with why it can, ironically, sometimes be harder and more painful to end friendships than it is to end our romantic loves.  Her guide will help you thoughtfully process which friendships to let go, how to do it, and how to heal.
  5. The Friendship Fix, by Andrea Bonior, Ph.D.    This recent book is a fast and fun read as it aims to help women in their "choosing, loosing, and keeping up" with their friends.  I'd recommend this book especially to those in their 20's and 30's still trying to figure out how to do friendship as adults beyond college. Her style is witty and helpful in identifying what kind of friend you are, how to transition friendships through the marriages and pregnancies, and how to think through friendships with exes, family members, and work colleagues.
  6. Find Your Strongest Life, by Marcus Buckingham. This book isn't about friendship per say, but is about how women can live successfully and happily by leaning into your strongest role (9 options, we all have 1-2 primarily).  I put this book on the list for those of you who already have a fulfilling circle of friends as I think this is a fun way to get to know each other better.  The five-minute online test is free, but unpacking the results and learning about how you each give differently in the friendship is priceless. This is a great book to go through with a group of girlfriends as you all commit to cheering for each other as you seek to live your strongest life.

I'm holding spot #7 for a book that is to be released in January (you can pre-order) titled "MWF Seeking BFF" where the author, Rachel Bertsche writes about her year of weekly friend-dating as she went from friendless in Chicago to establishing a local circle of friends.  This will be an inspiring read for most of you who know what it's like to need to make new friends but feel the fear and insecurity of actually starting friendships from scratch.

And then spot # 8?  Well maybe I should write one?  :)

So there you have it.  Gold stars for those of you who actually decide to read one of these!  I really want to remind you that to simply sit back and hope for more friends isn't going to do it. Much like the fact that you have to get off the couch to get healthy, we're truly going to have to learn to keep making and fostering healthy friendships throughout our lives.

To reading that can change your life....