New Friends

How Important Is Chemistry in a Friendship?

Ahhh the age-old question: How important is chemistry in a friendship? I love this question, but something tells me you're not going to love my answer.

Is Chemistry Necessary?

What you secretly hope I'm going to tell you is that it's super important and that you'll know in the first hour, or 5 minutes, of meeting someone whether you two could develop an awesome friendship.

You want me to say that because then it lets you of the hook for not yet having the all the good friendships you crave; you can just shrug and say, "Well I just haven't met them yet, apparently." You want me to say that because your ego wants to believe it's a fabulous judge of character and that like a good casting agent, it knows exactly who you're most likely to bond with down the road.  You want me to say that because you grew up believing that a good friendship is more about finding the right people than anything else.

But, give me a few moments of your time, and I'll tell you why you're going to be far happier telling you that initial chemistry doesn't matter nearly as much as you think it does.

What is Chemistry, Really?

Chemistry perhaps can best be defined as that moment when we realize that "click" with someone else.  And to "click" usually means we feel a meaningful connection of some kind with another person. And often we think that the more quickly we feel it-- the more genuine it must be.

Anyone who has dated remembers that there are some people you felt an instant attraction to who ended up going nowhere; and we all know people we've come to love who we wouldn't have been able to guess initially.

This is a picture from a recent Friendship Accelerator group-- I love watching groups of strangers create their bonds even if they don't feel them instantly with every single person in their group!

Similarly in friendship, we all have evidence of at least one woman we adored, but then never saw again, proving that chemistry isn't enough to create a friendship; and at least one friendship, usually someone we met at school or work where the frequency of interaction was automatic, that we ended up bonding with even though we wouldn't have been able to initially guess we would have.  In other words, think of some of your closest friends and try to image just meeting them at a coffee shop as strangers the first time, not knowing anything about them-- would you be so blown away by every single one of them, convinced you needed to see them again soon?  Not likely.  Especially if your life looks too different from theirs.  We love them now because we had the time to get to know them.

So we know that meaningful friendships get started without initial chemistry; and we know that having initial chemistry doesn't automatically translate into developing a friendship.

But How Will I Know Who I'll Bond With?

We also know from social science that we aren't that great of predicting who we're going to bond with or not.  We think we need someone else who votes for same political party, is a member of the same religious system, dresses similarly to us, or is in a similar life stage as we are; but hard data bears out that it doesn’t matter at all what parts of our lives are similar to each other, only that we end up finding those similarities.

The Brafman Brothers who co-wrote the book Click share research that reveals people bond more deeply over quantity of perceived similarities than over quality.  In other words, the number of similarities matters more than the content of those similarities. They wrote,

“Sharing a strong dislike of fast food, for example, was just as powerful of a predictor of attraction as favoring the same political party.”

What we consider as the “big” thing we think we need to have in common isn’t as effective at bonding us as having two or three “small” things in common. They said,

“You’d think that people who share the same religious convictions and political views, for example, would be more likely to hit it off than those who share only similar tastes in films and music… but it didn’t matter at all which topics underlay the similarity—it was the degree of similarity that was important.”

Crazy, huh? Of course now some of you might be thinking, "But everyone I'm close to is so similar to me... they're the ones I felt chemistry with." And indeed, if you look around at all your friends and they are similar to you then you'd be tempted to think that's how it works. But if all your friends are the same political party, race, religion, and life stage as you are then it could just mean you've limited who you've been willing to try to bond with because you believed you needed those similarities?

Some of the other research they share reveals that more often than not we end up becoming closest friends simply with those we see most often.  At one military base they tracked all the cadets to see whether they ended up bonding with others based what region of the country that came from (did Southerners gravitate to other Southerners?), what ethnic group they identified with (did Asians tend to friend other Asians?), or what life stage they were at (Did married cadets hang out more with other marrieds?).  Their findings?  They ended up becoming closest to others based on their last names. Because they were seated in alphabetical order-- the cadets bonded most with those they sat next to all the time.  We can think we know who we're drawn to, but in reality it usually comes down to liking those we become most familiar with an who we have the greatest chances of seeing most frequently.

So... we don't have to have this initial chemistry. And, we often don't even know what qualities will bond us as much as we like to think we do.

What Do We Need to Know About Chemistry

In short-- I'll say this: It is important that you eventually like each other and feel connected to each other. So, yes, chemistry is important in that sense.  But we don't have to feel it instantly, nor do we have to be limited by our false beliefs of what we need to have in common with each other.

We are actually able to bond with far more people than we think we can!  And that's good news!  It means you don't have to sit and wait for the "perfect person" to show up (who more often than not you think will look like your twin!) and you don't have to feel giddy with an instant girl crush to prove there is potential!

Instead, you get to be friendly with everyone and trust that as you keep getting to know people and finding the surprising things you have in common with each other-- that eventually some of those friendly relationships will develop into meaningful friendships! And in my humble opinion, that is far greater news!  It means we're not victims just left to waiting and hoping that this exact .0001% of the population needs to find us; rather, we are women who can choose to develop meaningful relationships from nearly any of the women we meet!

Advice & Encouragement from GirlFriendCircles.com Members

When I interviewed Shoshana a few weeks back about her personal experience in GirlFriendCircles.com down in the L.A. area, I discovered that a group of 11 women from GirlFriendCircles.com all went on an overnight trip together to San Diego, a couple of hours away. I was so thrilled at the idea of a group of women building their friendship in such a way that I immediately asked if a few of them would share their experiences with all of us so we might just see what is possible!  :) Not the best photo quality but at least all 11 of us are in this one!

How did this trip come about?

Shoshana: "I can't remember exactly how the San Diego trip came about, but after talking about going to Santa Barbara and maybe renting a house for the weekend, we ended up landing on San Diego since most of the girls could only do one night. I then created a Facebook page for the trip and invited everyone to join. Another one of the girls made the suggestion to take the train and we were off. I reserved rooms for us at the Hard Rock Hotel and for our dinner, collected everyone's money through Paypal or checks, and posted on our Facebook page all the info that everyone needed, including which train to buy their tickets for. We got seats together and talked for 3 hours the whole way there and back. It was definitely a great way to travel with 11 girls. I'm not so sure our neighbors on the train would agree!"

Dinner was so much fun after having talked all afternoon on the train!

What did you all do together on this trip?

Shoshana: "We hung out by the pool, had a great time eating dinner together, and basically just hung out together.  A highlight was definitely dinner! We were seated in front of a big window on a busy street so a lot of men enjoyed dancing for our big group of women in front of the window or ripping their shirts open which produced a lot of fun laughs. (We were in San Diego's Gaslamp district so it's a very fun scene.) After dinner we went to a place for dancing for a little while before hitting up a rooftop bar. But my favorite part of the trip was getting to know the girls better during the train ride down and back where we could all just talk.  The going out and pool part was fun, too, but the activities mattered less to me than the time I got to spend connecting with these great women."

Okay, bringing in a few other GirlFriends-- tell me what you were feeling on your way home from this weekend!

Yana: (a member since Dec. 2012, who first went on a one-on-one and then started meeting others through ConnectingCircles)  "On my way home from San Diego as I looked around at this group of women, I felt..... like part of a community and grateful to have these amazing women in my life! Why? It was such a diverse collection of women of all backgrounds/ages/professions and yet we all took the initiative to get together and go on an overnight trip. Eleven girls traveling could be a recipe for disaster but everyone had such a good time eating, dancing, and socializing."

Kelly: My first event with GFC was last October. I signed up for the site after Googling "how to make friends in LA." Moving from another state, I found it really hard to connect with people in this city.  But on my way home from San Diego, I felt really happy knowing I'd met an awesome group of women who are all interested in making friends and sharing new experiences. Looking at the group of women that spans the age range of 26-44, its amazing we all met over the past 6 months and have become friends that hang out all the time.  I've finally connected!

Nina: I feel like I'm super lucky to have gotten to know such a lovely group of women. Each and every one of them has been committed to developing friendships. They are an open-minded, kind bunch of girls who simply likes to have fun and experience life together. I moved to LA 7 years ago, and up until this point... I had really struggled with forming close friendships with women in LA. I had girlfriends, but hardly any of them were local. Now I have this group of supportive SoCal women in my life that I couldn't be more thankful for.

As for specific memories from the San Diego trip....when we were eating dinner, we kept drawing attention to ourselves b/c we were such a big group of women sitting by a window. People kept waving at us. A little boy even kept coming up to our table to perform dances for us. It was super fun to get away and spend time just chatting/ really getting to know the girls that I roomed with.

A few of us waiting for the others while enjoying drinks!

Stephanie: My first event with GFC was only a month or two before this trip! I went to a happy hour in Venice, organized by Shoshana, in the first part of June and met half a dozen women, most of whom came to San Diego.  On my way home from that trip... as I looked around at this group of women on the train with me I felt a few things:  Very proud of myself that I had reached out, risked being vulnerable and asked for friendship, and also lucky to be in the company of women who are making their way with courage, openness and a sense of self that just nice to be around. We had all had fun in the group as a whole, but some of us had broken off into smaller groups and done our own thing.  It seemed like everyone was content with the weekend happening whatever way made everyone comfortable. We all had each other's backs at the clubs and if someone needed out of a situation, there was someone there to extract them.

Shoshana: Yes! One of the important things we learned about group travel was to give everyone the freedom to do things in their own way.  For example, the distance from the train to the hotel was about was a mile so some of us walked and some of us took a taxi. We then all had a late lunch all together, but then again some of us lounged by the pool while some went to go get manicure and pedicures. At around 6pm we all headed to our rooms to nap/relax/get ready. And again, a few of us were ready first so we went downstairs to sit outside and grab a drink before the others joined us. The wonderful thing about a group that size is that we don't all have to do everything together, but that we could break into smaller groups when appropriate!

So many of us would love to go on a trip with friends... what so you think specifically helped you build these relationships?  In other words, how did you get to this place?

Yana:  I moved to L.A. due to a long distance relationship and a year and a half later still found myself unable to make the city my home. I took the initiative to search for websites to find friends and dove right into making connections and going to events.

What specifically had to happen to create these friendships? Not being afraid of rejection and making the time and commitment to nurture and grow these relationships. I feel like at this point in my life (engaged, new puppy, planning wedding, working in finance) I just don't have the luxury of being in high school and surrounded by people also ready and willing to make that connection. As I didn't go the traditional going away to college and living on campus route, I don't have those 4 years to go back to for friendships. As I get busier and busier it's important to make time for building a foundation of friendship in a new place without the luxury of old friends and family to have my back.

Kelly: We got here because a lot of the girls in the group were proactive in creating their own group events on the GFC CalendarCircles. That made a huge difference. People started inviting other girls from the site they had met individually and pretty quickly there was a larger group of girlfriends.

Nina: My first event with GFC was a Connecting Circle in November at Cafe Gratitude in Venice, CA. I believe there was 5 other girls present, 4 of whom have become close girlfriends of mine. My first impression was something like "Wow! these girls are really nice and normal!"

I was pretty skeptical going into the whole process since I had previously tried to meet some girls in LA via craigslist and had some issues with flakiness, lack of commonality, etc. I was assuming GFC would be more of the same.  But I knew from the very first night that my experience with GFC would be different. The girls were intelligent, sweet, funny and truly open to making friendships. I reached out to a couple of the girls right away after my first Connecting Circle to meet up for coffee or dinner. I think this was the most important step I took, because it ensured that I began to form relationships with some of the girls.

Stephanie: I could see myself being friends with some of these women for a long time.  Some I will perhaps get closer to, and some will come and go.  I think acceptance of each other for who we are is very important, not having too many rules for others to follow, and knowing what my own expectations are from the friendships are important.  I didn't expect to come away with a new BFF - but I may have found a friend or two who I would like to travel with in the future or have other adventures with.  I really loved that so many of them were like me - okay doing things on their own but also happy to be in a group.  It's been a long time since I've had a weekend with women that I came home and felt like the whole thing was a great time.  A very nice memory and (hopefully) the beginning of some new friendships.

Any advice would you have for other women just joining GFC?

Yana: Sign up and reach out to people out of your age range/economic background/likes. It's a bit more difficult to do that in L.A. due to the city being so big and traffic dictating what one does during the week, but weekends are the best. Go to events and make events of your own and don't be afraid to mix your "GFC" friends with connections you've made outside of the website.

Kelly: Try to go to as many of the CalendarCircles and ConnectingCircles as possible because you will meet many different kinds of people and are bound to eventually find one or more new girlfriends you really connect with.

Nina: Even though I met amazing women at the first event, I also continued to attend ConnectingCircles to meet more girls. Once I started to get to know the girls more, I simply made sure that GFC and these ladies were a priority in my life, by attending as many group/ individual get together's as I can.  I even set a specific goal to make sure that I got together with at least one of my new GFC friends at least once/ week and chatted with other girls in between. After awhile, the friendships became more natural. I would definitely recommend taking initiative in reaching out to girls you click with. I also would make sure you make time/ prioritize your new friendships as well.

A huge thanks to Stephanie, Yana, Nina, and Kelly for being willing to share a little of your experiences, and a HUGE thanks to Shoshana for being a catalyst.  What a gift you gave, not just to yourself, but to all these women.  May we have more women like you who are willing to put events out there to help women connect.  There will be friendships formed because of your initiative.  THANK YOU! 

 

 

Why I Started GirlFriendCircles.com

My Story...

When I was new to San Francisco eight years ago, I still remember standing at a café window on Polk Street watching a group of women inside, huddled around a table laughing. Like the puppy dog at the pound, I looked through the glass, wishing someone would pick me to be theirs. I had a phone full of far-flung friends’ phone numbers, but I didn’t yet know anyone I could just sit and laugh with in a café.

It hit me how very hard the friendship process is. I’m an outgoing, socially comfortable woman with a long line of good friendships behind me. And yet I stood there feeling very lonely. And insecure. And exhausted at just the idea of how far I was from that reality.

I knew I couldn’t just walk in there and introduce myself to them. “Hi! You look like fun women, can I join you?”

I would have been met with stares of pity. No one wants to seem desperate, even if we are. We don’t have platonic pick-up lines memorized. Flirting for friends seems creepy. Asking for her phone number like we’re going to call her up for a Saturday night date is just plain weird. All the batting of my eyelashes wasn’t going to send the right signals. I wanted to give them my friendship resume, my vast references from past friends who adore me, assuring them how lucky they would be to call me a friend.

But it doesn’t work that way. And so I turned away from the scene of laughter and walked away.

No, unfortunately, friendships don’t just happen.

Her Story....

So several years later when one of my coaching clients said to me in exasperation, "Ugh!  I can line up three dates on Match.com for next week if I wanted to, but far be it from me to figure out how to meet new female friends," it tapped a chord in me.  I remembered the feeling.

I went to bed that night just trying to thinking of who I could introduce her to that I knew, and woke up with the entire GirlFriendCircles.com concept in my head.

I woke up and wondered what it would be like if all of us could share our friends who live far away from us with other women who needed them in those new cities.  I woke up wondering what it would be like if none of us felt any embarrassment at all about fostering the friendships we need.  I woke up wishing there were a way for all of us who were open to new friends to raise our hands and find each other.  I woke up and wanted to make it easier for women to find new friends.

Our Story...

And I knew I didn't want it to be like match.com where we were left picking our best friends from profiles.  For seriously, how many of my current friends would have made that cut?  It was time together that made me love them, not their cute photo or what they did for a job. Besides who wants to be left relying on awkward emails back and forth to set up a first date?

And I knew I didn't want it to feel like big happy hour parties where rooms full of women mingled, shook hands, and made small talk.  Shivers.  I'm an outgoing person and I still hate working a room.  I hate that feeling of looking for the next conversation... feeling like everyone else knows someone except me.  No thanks.

So I decided that the way I wanted to look for friends would be in small groups.  Over real conversation. In casual cafes and wine bars.  With a format where we all got to share a little and hear a little of the stuff that matters.  So we do ConnectingCircles-- small groups of women matched up in local areas for an evening of conversation.  And we provide sharing questions so that everyone gets to participate. (Because trust me, while it may feel awkward to pick questions, it's waaaay more awkward having one talkative woman monopolize the conversation or having everyone talk about their favorite movies all night or having the shy girl leave never feeling seen.)  So it's become our popular process-- 3-6 women connecting, talking not about the weather, their jobs, or the news-- but about themselves.  Love it!

Thus GirlFriendCircles.com was conceived.  It would be a good seven months before I launched the first online version.  And several months from that before I felt like it was working.  And several months after that before I started blogging.  And another six months before we got any press.  And many months later before we were improving our systems based on what we were learning.  And many more months.... you get the idea.  We're still growing and becoming.

And if it's been a while since you've visited our website, we welcome you to come sneak a peek as we just gave her a bit of a makeover today.  :)  And please, help us tell a few more women to raise their hands with us if they want a few more meaningful friendships in their lives.

new site

Today, I'm thrilled that we have had nearly 15,000 women sign up for female friendship in over 35 cities across the U.S.  And we're preparing for our biggest year yet.  Thanks to all those who have journeyed with us, even through growing pains.  We're honored.  We haven't given up on you!  We are looking forward to some fabulous highlights in 2013!

To all of us who have known that feeling of being ready for some good friends but felt at a loss for knowing how to develop them-- this one's for you!

 

 

 

Three Things I Wish I had said To Kathie Lee and Hoda on the TODAY Show

We Interrupt this Programming I'm currently in the middle of a series about friendship drifts and rifts with so much more to say (and I know I specifically  committed myself last week to writing another blog about how adultery can impact our friendships-- I won't forget!) but in honor of our 500 new members in the last week, I'm interrupting my own series.  :)

My Trip to the TODAY Show

Last Thursday I was sitting in a plane on the tarmac at the JFK airport at 9 am-- the exact time I was supposed to be arriving freshly showered to the TODAY show green room for make-up and prep.  The production team had arranged for me to fly from San Francisco to NYC on a red- eye because I had a commitment the evening before that I didn't want to break. My plane had been delayed over 2 hours and my chances of arriving at the studio in time for my 10:14 am segment were diminishing rapidly.I had stopped caring about looking under-slept and un-showered on national TV and instead just hoped I'd even make it to the studio with five minutes to change out of my jeans! Sitting in Manhattan gridlock en route to the studio, I whispered the serenity prayer-- the part about giving me peace about the things you cannot change-- and then simply hoped for the best.

Two minutes before we went on air--I hadn't gone to the bathroom, sipped any coffee,  been prepped by any producers, or checked myself in a mirror--I stood as ready as I was going to be.  Three minutes later we were done. With four women sharing moments of rapid fire conversation, one simply cannot say much or say it all the way they wished they had.  Even if I had been more fully awake!

today show clip

Here are Three Things I Wish I Had Time to Say:

1)  Confirmed Friends: When Kathie Lee asked me if it was common to have a wonderful friend that she only talks with once a year since they can pick up where they left off, I wish I could have said, "Yes!  That is common.  And incredibly meaningful. Those friends from our past (Confirmed Friends: the middle circle on my Circles of Connectedness), who we may have intimacy with but lack consistency, play a significant role in our lives with many benefits.

But they are only one of the five types of friends. If we don't realize that, then what else can become too common is a sense of not feeling known, supported, and connected if we haven't also built up the Community and Committed Friends on the right-side of the Continuum--the friends who we consistently make time for and share vulnerably with.

2)  Where do women go to make friends? Way more important than where we meet each other is how we turn our friendliness into a friendship.The truth is we can meet people anywhere.  And we do.  But without starting the five steps of friendship with them-- they risk simply becoming a nice person we meet, rather than a potential friend.

The first two steps of friendship are to 1) be open and 2) initiate contact repeatedly.

The importance for us to be open to new friends cannot be underestimated.  We all too often dismiss people if we can't see us having big obvious things in common-- like both being mothers, both being retired, or both being single. But in the book Click-- the Brafman brothers say that the quantity of things in common is more important than the quality we assign to those commonalities:

"Sharing a strong dislike of fast food, for example, was just as powerful of a predictor of attraction as favoring them same political party."

In other words, if we find out we both enjoy hiking, turn our noses up to Top 40 music, and love to eat kale-- those three "smaller" things will actually increase our bond more than any of those biggies we think we just have to have in common.  We can be so much more curious and open-minded about people than most of us are. (In fact, we need to be since it takes a little longer for kale to come up in our conversations!)

And the second step of building a friendship--repeated initiation--is where many possible friendships get stopped in their tracks.  We like each other, or are at least open to getting to know each other more, but if we don't make those next few connections happen sooner, rather than later, we lose any momentum we could have had together.  We simply have to be the ones to email and say, "So great to meet you-- I would love to get to know you better, maybe we can connect for dinner after work one night next week.  Any chance you can do  Tuesday or Wednesday? If not, let me know what dates work for you and I'll schedule in the time!"

My best friends aren't always the ones I simply liked the best initially, rather they were the ones I saw regularly, giving me the chance to feel comfortable with them and fall in love with them.

3). Is it okay to let go of some of my friendships?  I stand by my answer on this one but wish I had more time to explain how friendships shift.  My gut reaction to this question is that we are all getting a little too trigger happy in ending friendships before practicing ways of showing up differently.  Our tendency is to get more and more annoyed with certain people for their behaviors until we can't take it anymore so then we just cut them out of our lives and justify it with a "they were unhealthy or toxic." Whereas most of our friendships could not only be saved, but strengthened, if we learned the skills of asking for what we need from each other, withholding judgment, working on our own self-esteem so that jealousy is inspiring, not frustrating, and learning to forgive each other.

While Kathie Lee joked that usually "it's not us, but them" who is at fault, I actually disagree.  Yes they can be annoying, insensitive, and selfish.  But who among us isn't those things? (And how easy is it for us to interpret their actions with those words when it simply means they just make different choices than we do!)  The truth is that when we can't stand someone-- it's usually showing us something about ourselves.  In those moments of blame we can see more clearly what skills we need to learn in order to best hold our peace and joy no matter what they are doing and figure out to practice showing up with different responses that might yield different results.

With that said, friendships do shift.  In my 5 Circles of Connectedness, just as people we meet can move from the far-left with Contact Friends (the least intimate) to the far-right with Commitment Friends (the most intimate and consistent) so can our friendships move the other direction.  There are good chances that several of the women we feel closest to now might someday shift to circles where our friendship isn't as vulnerable or consistent.  That is normal.  Our lives do change.  But even then, we don't need to replace all our friends with every baby, divorce, marriage, annoyance, frustration, or move.  Our call with some of those women is to figure out how to show up in those awkward transitions, hold what we've shared with an open hand, and work at co-creating something new together.

So until they make time for me to give at least a 20 or 30 minute interview-- I'll just keep blogging!  :)

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

A most sincere welcome to all our new members who joined after seeing me on the TODAY show last week or read about us in the New York Times style section.  Blessings on you as you courageously connect with new women, consistently choose to show up with honesty and positivity, and as you turn the friendly people you meet into friends who matter in your life.

Pre-order my Book: Also, my forthcoming book is all about how to meet people and turn them into friendships that really matter, including the skills of forgiveness, asking for what we need from our friends, and how to appropriately increase our vulnerability.  You can pre-order it now on Amazon!

Three Friendship Inspirations from a 7-Year Old

It has been a record 22 days since I've blogged!  I guess you can't complain you're ever getting too many e-mails from me!  :)  My excuse for my negligence is two-fold: First, I sent off the complete draft of my book manuscript "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" to my publishers in the beginning of May so all my daily writing time was focused on getting that done instead of blogging! And my second reason is that the day after I e-mailed those 80,000 words, my husband & I flew out to Tampa, FL for 12 days to babysit my 7-year old niece and 4-year old nephew while my sister and her hubby enjoy their first long get-away without kids. So as a substitute mom I've pretty much limited my work to the bare bones while I'm here playing!   

Three Friendship Inspirations We Can Learn From Kids

But now the kids are happily playing in a homemade fort we built in the backyard so I thought I'd share my musings about three moments of beautiful friendship I've witnessed from my first-grade niece, Naomi. The first example comes from her meeting a stranger at the beach over the weekend, then I share two moments with her best friend (known in this post as T.) who lives down the street.

  1. I love how kids don't need a ton of warm up to play with others: We weren't at the beach for even an hour before Naomi and another little girl introduced themselves to each other in the water. They were inseparable the rest of the day as they practiced standing on boogey-boards, jumped on inflatable toys, and collected shells. I just shook my head in awe.  Never in a million years would I be making friends on the beach.  Not because all the other women didn't look friendly, but we simply don't walk up to people sun-bathing, introduce ourselves, plop down on their towels, and spend the afternoon together. But that's not to say we can't learn from her. I love that kids value the moment, playing with whomever is there, caring more about having fun now than trying to figure out whether they have a future together or not. We all value connection and there are a lot of activities in life that would be enhanced with new friends even if we don't know it will only last an hour or a day.
  2. I love how kids easily express adoration:  We arrived a few days early so we could attend Naomi's 7th birthday party.  Her BFF made her a card where she wrote: "You and I have been best friends since I moved. I wish I knew you since I was a baby. You are the bestest friend anyone can have! I wish in my next life we can be together." Wow! That they don't yet filter their adoration is such a sweet gift of childhood.  They aren't consumed with worrying about whether they'll look desperate, whether the other feels the same way, or whether it's 'too soon' to say it yet. They just proclaim the friendship into eternity.  Some of us adults can do that with friends we've known forever, but I've noticed we become much more guarded as adults, taking much longer to tell each other "I really like you!"
  3. I love how kids steal extra moments together: Naomi quickly informed me upon my arrival, "You know Aunt Shasta that T. and I play together every day, right?" Her face looked a little worried that when her parents were to leave that maybe I wouldn't know the routine.  I smiled and said, "yes" thinking this is exactly why friendship felt so much easier as kids-- we had every day together! Now I'm lucky if I see new friends once a month! Then a super precious moment came when T.'s older sister came to tell T. that she had to come home one day when they were playing over here. Next thing I know T. is running away from her sister, refusing to go home, not wanting to leave her BFF.  Her older sister began chasing her, begging her to obey.  T. then runs to Naomi for help; they stand there clinging to each other, refusing to end their time together without a fight. I'm sure if I were the mother who had to put up with that often then I may not find it as charming, but as the visiting aunt who knows the value of friendship I loved it! In our adult lives we schedule each other in, fitting our friends between this-and-that appointment, rarely giving each other an entire afternoon and then begging for more time together! It inspired me. To watch kids get together with no plan for what they will do ahead of time, play for as long as they can, and still wish for more time together-- that is as good as it gets!

I do believe that there was an ease in childhood friend-making that we can't always repeat as adults.  In fact, my book is all about how to meet people and develop them into meaningful friendships because I find that we often, as adults, just keep waiting and hoping that friendships will one day feel as easy as it did back when we were kids.  We may not now have the repetition of school or an open schedule to play every afternoon as we did back then, but we need friendships all the same. 

Naomi inspired me, reminding me that it doesn't always have to be complicated.  When it comes down to it, if we just 1) played with the people we met, 2) told them we liked them, and 3) tried to spend as much time together as possible-- that really is the bulk of friend-making. Even as adults.  

What do you miss about childhood friendships? In what ways are friendships the same or different as kids from adults? What observations have you had about friendship when you watch kids play?

Shaping Serendipity as a Way to Make New Friends

If serendipity is the aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident, then trying to increase that encounter with luck would be what we call "shaping serendipity." John Hagel, one of the authors of The Power of Pull, spoke last fall at the monthly SF Coaches association meetings I attend.  He spoke of shaping serendipity as a decision we can make to pull the people, ideas, and objects into our lives that we need.

Serendipity Poster

In other words, if you want to start a career in fashion then there are certain cities you could live in where the "serendipity" of meeting the right people, getting invitations to the right events, and learning the ins-and-outs of the industry might increase more than the plains of Kansas. If you wanted to marry another Jew, then you're chances of "serendipity" increase in synagogues, Jewish dating sites, and through relatives than they do by hanging out at the bar down the street.  If you want to get pregnant then there are certain times every month where your "serendipity" improve. If you want to win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket. You get the idea.

Shaping Serendipity as a Way to Make New Friends

There are three levels of pull that Hagel breaks down, but I'm basically going to give my own definitions to tailor it to our subject of friendship.

1)  Access: Let's start with the obvious: You have a higher likelihood of meeting new people at an event than you do on your couch with a remote control in your hand. That's called accessing serendipity!  By showing up at something your chances have just gone up that you could make a new friend.

Where we spend our time affects our choices. How scheduled or open we are affects our availability. How much we're around people impacts our options.

2) Attract: The next level up is recognizing that some events are more likely than others to be filled with the kind of women you want to meet and could be conducive to your purposes than others.

For example, I've found that small groups are easier for me than large networking events.  Something about a small group gives permission to everyone to introduce themselves, whereas at a large mixer one person has to be very willing to walk around introducing themselves.

I've also found that it's easier to show up to something where interaction is expected such as at an entrepreneurs network, church community, or mothers/toddlers play group than it is to attend something where we're all there for the concert, lecture, or workout class.

I've also found that my chances for connection seem to go up if I'm either by myself or with someone else who is also committed to meeting people.  Otherwise it's too easy to stand there with my friend and talk all night to her.

I've also found that events or networks that cater to women increase my odds of meeting other women than events that are co-ed since we're not there to flirt or show off our husbands.

What you want to do with your female friends can also give you information about where you have the best chances of meeting them.  If you are hoping to find someone to hike with-- a hikers group ups your odds exponentially.

Joining a female friendship matching community like GirlFriendCircles.com is obviously one of the most strategic moves you can make since you know that everyone you meet is open to new friends and wants to connect. It's hard to get better odds than that!  (But then it goes back to Step 1 where you have to show up for it to work!!!)

3) Achieve: This is the step where we maximize the serendipity, pulling out the full potential of the experience.  This is where we smile and make eye contact with others, lean in toward the person we're talking to to hear everything they're saying, ask questions that communicate our interest, assure them how happy we are to have met them, exchange our contact information, and follow-up.

That is no small list.  But without this third step then all we're doing is networking up the wazoo, making small talk, and exhausting ourselves.

It's how we engage and take advantage of the opportunities that will determine our ultimate success.  We could be in the ideal group of women, all engaging in meaningful conversation, but if we never followed up to repeat the experience then we haven't achieved our serendipity.

One of the most powerful ways to do maximize serendipity is to care less about impressing those we meet and more about loving those we meet.  Sometimes our insecurities get the best of us and we erroneously think we need others to be wowed by us.  On the contrary, most people aren't drawn to people they are intimidated by as much as they are drawn to people who seem to care about them.  Our odds of building friendship escalate when we show up caring more about how they feel than how we look. 

Vulnerability elicits trust. One of the things John Hagel said when he spoke was "we can't invite serendipitous moments if we don't expose our needs, problems, and struggles." It's so true. It's when we risk showing our need that solutions are most offered.

A secret of neuroscience is found in what we call mirror neurons which ensures that what we give is the same as what we receive.  It's why we yawn when we see someone else yawning. It means when we smile, we're more likely to get a smile back.  When we're vulnerable, we're more likely to encourage their sharing.  When we tell them we like them, they're going to like us more. When we seem excited to get together again, they'll also feel more excited.

May making friends not just feel like pure dumb luck, but rather may we end up feeling lucky and knowing we helped produce the outcome.

 

 

 

Are We Competitors? Or, Can We Be Friends?

The moments I love the most in life are when a veil is lifted, reminding me that what I thought was true, wasn't. Just because my feelings told me one thing didn't make it so. Such was the case with Chris.

Christine Bronstein and I both had heard of each other. Numerous times. We both founded women's communities that are rooted in the SF Bay Area so it seemed we were destined to be competitors. Our names appeared simultaneously in articles and we both kept tabs on each other from a distance. Not proud of it, but I'll just come right out and admit that I was jealous of her.

In my jealousy I never wanted her failure, nor did I ever think there wasn't enough room in this city for both of us to succeed.  But, nonetheless, it still put up this silly imaginary wall.  It still triggered my insecurities. It still made me wonder if I was good enough, or if my company was a good enough concept. The belief that we were competitors left me feeling wary of her successes and slightly threatened by her legions of fans. It's nearly impossible to view someone as competition without also stepping into jealousy and judgment.

Competition, Jealousy & Judgment

The spiritual teacher side of me genuinely believes there is no real competition in this world for the things that matter.  That there is enough love, joy, and peace in this world and that as I offer it, I will receive it.  I don't have to push someone down to go up. I don't have to beat someone to feel worthy. I believe there is no one else like me in this world (or like you!) and so I trust that as we live from our authentic places that the world needs both of us doing our things differently. I can cheer for you even as I run beside you.

However, the very-real human side of me still feels threatened sometimes. In part because jealousy never feels good. I often interpret that feeling as me not being good enough or somehow feeling less-than.  And of course, when we feel attacked (even by ourselves!) we defend. We then devalue the other or inflate ourselves to try to feel better. Judgments roll off our tongue. I sometimes fall for the lie that only one of us can win this race and feel "good enough."

(Note: I'm not dissing all competition-- I appreciate what I learned on the basketball court, felt motivated by sales contests that pushed me, and still love talking trash to my sister when we play games. In fact, competition is a strength that many incorporate into their lives in ways that help them excel. Rather, what I'm speaking of is our tendency to see others as opponents when they aren't, feeling as though our self-worth is tied to specific results when it never is, or believing that we have to elbow our way through life to win something that someone else told us mattered.)

Competition is a loaded word, bringing out our desire to win and be chosen, and also stirring up our insecurities and greatest fears.

  • Some of us get married or have kids just so we don't feel "behind."
  • Some of us count money and possessions as mile markers of our success in some race we have assigned meaning.
  • As girls we've been raised to see our appearances as a way of winning attention and yielding our power, so our worth goes up and down with the scale or as we compare ourselves to those around us.
  • Some of us feel threatened if we feel our kids aren't winning their metaphoric races for popularity, achievement, perfect obedience, or any other finish line we imagine, as though it reflects on our race as mothers.
  • Some of us see our claws go up in the workplace, connecting our value to dollars earned, hours put in, and titles bestowed.
  • Some of decide we can't be friends with her because she's beautiful ("so she must be vain") or because she makes too much money ("so she must not have the same values I have") or because any other dozens of reasons we dismiss each other because we might feel threatened or risk rejection.

We all want to feel enough. I get that. I know that feeling.

But I also know it's not in winning the race that we will ever feel enough.  There will just be another race in front of you, another goal you have to reach, another win you will need in order to keep proving yourself.

There's no end until we can hold our worth right where we are today. Rather, it's in calling the race a bluff that we ironically start feeling "enough."

The Gift I Now Have

I now count Chris among my friends. And I couldn't be more proud of the work she is doing in the Bay Area for women through her network: A Band of Wives.  She practices what she preaches-- creating a culture in her community that promotes one other, lifts each other up, and helps give attention and voice to all that we're each trying to do.

Kindness begets kindness. Generosity breaks down imaginary walls of division.  Respecting each other makes us want to help the other succeed. Love overrides fear.

Owning my worth invites me to see it in others, realizing it's not something we win or bestow, rather just something we acknowledge. She has always been enough. And so have I. And seeing it in each other doesn't lessen it in either of us, it actually heightens our awareness of our own.

I'll have to blog sometime about the process, but for now, I can attest that I'd much rather have her as a friend, than as an imaginary competitor.  I shake my head to think what we might have missed out on co-creating had we stayed in the race we thought we were running.

I challenge you today to keep stepping into the personal growth of seeing your worth.  I also invite you to be someone in our GirlFriendCircles.com community that helps affirm that worth in others around you.  As we acknowledge the value of others, we will genuinely feel our own more truly and be able to help them see theirs.

A veil lifted where I can see how amazing she is without it making me feel any less so. And that is a gift I wish on everyone.

ABOW logo

For more reading on this blog about jealousy and competition, click here.

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

p.s.  Registration on the "A Band of Wives" site is free and you'll be wowed by the events they host, the groups you can participate in, and the opportunities for partnering with amazing women. It's for women of all ages, as single and married women commit to being supportive "wives" to each other.  I hope to see you at some of their events.

p.s.s.  Speaking of events, if you live in the Bay Area-- I hope you'll come to Sausalito on Thursday night for an "All-Kinds-of-Love Pre-Valentines Bash" hosted by A Band of Wives. I'll be guiding everyone through speed-friending so it's a perfect first event to come to for meeting the fabulous women in that community!  It starts at 6 pm at Wellington's Wine Bar (300 Turney St.).  There are already 70+ RSVP's so come meet up with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Required Reading for Women Looking For New Friends!

Rachel Bertsche called me nearly two years ago wanting to get my take on how to meet new friends.  She had recently moved to Chicago for marriage and soon realized that while she had met quite a few people at work and through her husband, she hadn't yet been able to develop local friendships that felt consequential.  Especially compared to the BFF's she knew from childhood and college. (No matter our age, the dilemma sounds familiar, huh?)

She told me she was blogging about her journey along the way, and working on a book about her personal project to find a new BFF by committing to one-year of friend-dating with a new potential friend every week.

That book is now published.

I just finished reading it.

And I wish I could make it required reading for my entire community of women who value new friends. Seriously.  Reading this book will revolutionize your expectations, inspire you with ideas, and renew your commitment to the initiative you've undertaken!

MWF SEEKING BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

One new friend date every week for a year: Fifty-two dates!  And that's not just showing up at a restaurant fifty-two times to hold conversation with near-strangers.  That would be impressive enough, but she also had to figure out how to meet those people, acquire their contact information, initiate the invitation to go out, coordinate schedules, meet somewhere, and then also follow-up with all of them!

Add to that the fact that if she wanted to actually develop some of them into friends then she'd have to schedule them in many more times on top of still meeting new ones every week!  Crazy!

Her book, while lough-out-loud hilarious, is also incredibly informative and inspiring.  Her voice is that of a late-twenty-something, but her journey and life lessons will be valuable to you at any age.

You'll resonate with her fears and self-doubts, her wish that she didn't have to put this much energy into it, her loneliness for her long-distance BFF's, her disappointment (and acceptance) that she seems to always have to be the one to initiate, her surprise at how flattered and willing other women are to meet with her, and her joy at how much her world expands along the way.

She describes all her dates--some you'll groan at the awkwardness of the encounters, others you'll wish you had met yourself.  You'll be amazed at how courageous some of her actions were when she asked for set-ups from friends, picked up on her waitress at a restaurant, and joined several book clubs and classes to meet more options; but you'll also see that courage doesn't mean without fear or personal discomfort as she vulnerably shares those, too.

Included at the end of her book are all her statistics of how many potentials she ended up meeting, how many turned into second dates, and how many she now claims as friends. And importantly, along the way you'll get a better sense of why some worked and didn't from someone who has done it enough to teach the rest of us now.

I dog-eared many pages, underlining all along the way. Here are but a few:

"Most people lump bestfriendship in with love, one of those you-know-it-when-you-feel-it intangibles.  But I can't continue blindly on this quest looking for something I can't define.  I'll wade though the year like Goldilocks--this one was too grumpy, that one was too old."

"In all these cases we vowed to get drinks "one day" and never did. So I remind them. "We talked about getting drinks together, which I'm finally making good on." That's not desperate, that's follow-through."

"According to psychologists Debra Oswald and Eddie Clark's research, there are four necessary behaviors to make a friendship stick. Self-disclosure, supportiveness, interaction, and positivity."

"The next day, I'm on a post-date high. I'm so pleased with how my evening went that I'm not even fazed when Hilary texts me to bail on yoga. Something about dinner plans she couldn't change. I should be disappointed--our first follow-up and she's already canceling--but I'm too encouraged by the fact that my Judgy McJudgersonness was off base.  For the past seven weeks I've been sizing up prospects before we'd even met: She lives in a fancy neighborhood, must mean she's trendy and too high-maintenance; she posts smiley faces on Facebook, must be a saccharine dud. The fact that Hilary turned out to have big-time potential makes me think that my having so many preconceived notions of who my BFF would be is exactly why she doesn't exist yet."

"I thought overtures of friendship would be received with suspicion rather than appreciation, so I hung back for fear of being the weirdo. Now I think I was wrong. It's not that people are less civilized now, it's just that we think they are, and so we act accordingly. We don't reach out unsolicited for fear of being rejected. We don't talk to new people because we assume they don't want to be bothered. But as I continue to pursue friendships, I'm constantly surprised at how receptive people are."

"After months of being the initiator, invitations now come my way, too.  I'd been waiting for the tides to turn, for my friendships to become universally reciprocal, and in the past few months the shift has now become obvious."

"'It takes a lot of work,' I say. 'You've got to say yes to all the invitations that come your way.  The more you say yes, the more invites you'll get. You have to follow-up with all those meetings where you say 'We should totally get together!' instead of just saying it to sound nice. And signing up for things helps. Oh, and asking for setups. You know, basically all the things you do when you're dating.'"

You can buy the book here.  Subscribe for her blog here.  Go to one of her book signings here.

It's worth it. I promise.  If she can do all the asking and dating, the least we can do is learn from her so we don't have to do it 52 times ourselves!

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

SAN FRANCISCO EVENT INVITATION: And if you're anywhere near San Francisco-- I'm co-hosting an event with her in two weeks (during the Super Bowl-- since my 49-ers aren't in it anymore!) at Book, Inc on Van Ness.  She'll read from her book and sign copies, and Ill host some fun speed-friending to ensure it's also an afternoon where you meet some other awesome women!  Hope you can all come!  Sunday, February 5, at 4 pm at the Opera Plaza Books, Inc at 601 Van Ness.

p.s.  Just in case my opinion doesn't rank high enough for you when it comes to purchasing new books-- I thought I should let you know her book has been featured in the likes of People magazine & O Magazine, recommended by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) and Jeffrey Zaslow (author of The Girls From Ames), and it's been selected as one of the lucky books to be available at Target.  Like I said, it's good.  :)

p.s.s.  She tries GirlFriendCircles.com-- I love her description of it! LOL!  I may have to change the table tent concept now!  :)  She also tries and loves speed-friending.  Weird reading about myself as a character-- but I'm honored!  A hearty welcome to all of you who have joined our friend-making community since reading about us in her book!

 

 

New to the Area: No Friends Yet, by Katrina Emery

Note from Shasta:  This is a guest blog from... (drum roll please).... my little sister, Katrina Emery! She's a fabulously talented writer (see her blog link in the bio at the end) and her experiences going from having tons of friends in Portland to knowing no one after a recent move overseas are feelings we all know well!

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

In April this year, my husband was accepted to study at the University of Amsterdam in Netherlands, a long way from our hometown of Portland, Oregon, USA. We packed up and arrived here in August, quickly falling in love with this city of canals, looping bridges, water, and bikes.

Jesse and I have been here for two months now, and I can sputter a sentence out in Dutch, find my way without a map, rattle off my favorite cafes, and giggle if someone confuses a coffeeshop for a cafe (coffeeshops serve the stuff you don't tell your boss you tried). I've developed a taste for gouda and Dutch gin. I've almost mastered the graceful bike dismount. I judge tourists that stand in the middle of the bike path.

I haven't made any good friends.

Shasta likes to point out the health risks of being lonely and not having local friends, and while she means for it to motivate us, usually it just scares me. Great. I can't speak the language and I'm going to die young. It's a lot of pressure! We're only here for a year, and we're already two months in. That leaves only 10 months to find a friend, get to know her, have the time of our lives, and cement best friend status before I leave next summer. Ideally, she would have family in Sweden and invite me over for a Scandinavian Christmas celebration where we would eat homemade food, drink mulled wine, learn to say "cheers," laugh, knit big sweaters, and have that long happy movie-montage moment. I've got it all planned out.

While walking around a few weeks ago, I saw a girl that seemed nice. She was sitting on the steps in the sun, reading. Possibly Swedish. I went through the scenario in my mind:  "I see you're reading. I like to read. May I sit by you? And could we be friends?"

I kept walking. Sweden for Christmas seemed a bit further away.

Another option was a girl I'd met in Portland, who, of all things, was also moving to Amsterdam so her husband could study. It was meant to be, I knew it. When we arrived and felt settled, I sent her an email....and never heard back. "Maybe she didn't see the email. Maybe she's just busy right now. Maybe she's preparing a surprise party for me," I told myself, thinking about the likelihood of pinatas at the party. Then my husband said, "Maybe she's just not that into you." Oh. Right.

Not having friends just doesn't fit in my plan of being here. I'm here to create solid friendships with people who live all over Europe, thus ensuring free places to stay and awesome company for all my future travels. And I've got those all planned out, too, along with my weekly meals and what restaurants I'd like to try in town. A friendship is just one more thing that fits into that plan, right? Not so far. And imagining it hasn't helped yet.

So instead of dreaming, I'm trying to relax. I'm trying to stop counting down the months, worrying about the health risks of being lonely, and instead enjoy my time here, the people and friends I do have, and all those Belgian beers that I get to try. While I do that, I'm trying to smile, be friendly, and talk to people without worrying about what they think of my mono-language upbringing.

Instead of sitting at home planning, I'll get out there more. I'll rely on time, happy coincidences, repeated invitations, and slightly lower expectations. Maybe I won't find a best friend, but I could find someone who'll show me the best Indonesian restaurant in town, or help improve my Dutch vocabulary, or admire Van Gogh paintings with me. And those are the things, amazingly, that are slowly happening in between the time I spend planning.

Just yesterday as Jesse and I were sitting in a cafe, our table-neighbors heard us speaking English and struck up a conversation. They're from Montreal, and visit Amsterdam every year. We're going out for a drink with them later in the week.

And two weeks ago, I forced myself to go to an expat hiking group. I had almost backed out due to nerves and feeling shy, but it turned out to be a beautiful day, and I met a lovely couple from Copenhagen, Denmark.

Which is pretty close to Sweden.

Not that I'm planning or anything.

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

Katrina Emery enjoys writing, traveling, cooking, sewing, and riding her bike. Currently she is doing all those things, Dutch-style, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. You can find her musings on her blog at The Penny Farthing.

Stages of a Friendship

I'm trying to find vocabulary that increases our awareness of the stages of becoming friends. Romance Stages and Friendship Stages

When it comes to marriage, we know that there is a lot of ground between being interested in someone and getting married to them.  We have terms like "going on a date" which we know is different than "dating."  We implicitly acknowledge that it takes time before we can both simply assume that we're hanging out this weekend without asking each other.

With female friendship we lack non-romantic language to articulate those stages.

Our expectations also seem to be a bit skewed of how fast we should progress. We appear to be at great risk of thinking we need to feel like BFF's within the first couple of conversations, forgetting that there are stages. We neglect the evidence in our memory banks that show us repeatedly that most of our friends developed over consistent time together (i.e. work, school, weekly gatherings).

In romance we know that, on average, it takes 1-2 years from meeting to marriage, but there are always some couples who elope after knowing each other for 2 weeks and others who date for ten years before getting married. In friendship, it's more-or-less the same.  There will always be exceptions due to personality, life timing, willingness, etc.  But more-or-less-- we'd be wise to set our expectations for the journey, even if it means it may take a year before I get to where I want to be with someone.

5 Stages of Friendship.  In Rough Draft Form....  :)

So here are five stages that I've identified so far.  I'd love your input on whether you think this helps capture the process?  What stage am I missing? What has been your experience, over the long-haul with your friendship development?

  1. Curiosity. This is where every friendship begins.  There has to be something that attracts you, gives you a sense of willingness and increases your desire to have more. It doesn't have to be conscious or obvious to us, but at this stage we have to have reason to lean in, even a little, if the stranger we're meeting is going to have a chance of becoming a friend.
  2. Exploratory. Every potential friendship requires time together.  For some of us, that time happens automatically (at a play group, a choir rehearsal, yoga class or work), but for many of us, we'll have to initiate it and pursue it.  For it doesn't matter how much attraction you may feel in that first stage-- if you don't show up for time together-- a friendship it will never become.
  3. Familiarity. This is the stage we often want as stage one.  :)  We frequently want to experience this comfort level with someone upon first meeting them, forgetting that it takes time to build.  In my experience, I find that it takes most women 6-8 times with someone before they reach this stage.  Of course that depends on what you're doing during that time and how you're sharing, but at some point you reach this familiarity.  A trust that you can assume she wants to talk with you when you call.  An ease where you're okay just hanging out spontaneously together without it taking two weeks to schedule.  A sense that you are beginning to be able to predict how they will respond to different life events.
  4. Vulnerability. This stage is tricky since there is a ditch on either side: rushing to it too quickly or avoiding it all together.  Some women rush to this stage early on because they feel closer once they have shared their pain.  But healthy friendships need the commitment to grow in conjunction with the intimacy. We should not be emotionally vomiting on someone in order to feel closer.  It should not be our expectation that friends who are in the first couple of stages need to prove themselves and be there for us in extreme ways.
  5. On the other hand, at some point of consistent time together, if you're not willing to share beyond your PR image, laugh at yourself and express insecurities-- the friendship will stall or disintegrate.  This is where we earn the right to "cry on each others shoulder."   This is where we are bonding in deeper ways, increasing our commitment to each other.

  6. Frientimacy. This last stage is for those who are your BFFs.  And notice that I made that plural.  :)  Best doesn't speak to quantity as much as quality. It's like when a magazine says "Best moments of last year" and lists ten.  There is enough research out there to suggest we need between 3-7 people in this category. Don't limit yourself.  On the other hand, not everyone you interact with needs to move into this last stage.
  7. This Friendship Intimacy stage is my category for the people I trust implicitly.  We trust each others boundaries, have proven to show up as emotionally healthy people for each other and are willing to go out of our way for their benefit.  We love them.  This stage takes time.  Lots of it. For most of us, while you may see the potential and some of the benefits of it 6-12 months into the relationship, it may take even longer than that to really build the required trust and intimacy.

While few of our relationships will ever have clear lines between these stages, does it help to visually see that friendship is indeed a progression?  Is it valuable to differentiate between seeing the potential of a BFF and putting in the time and vulnerability required to foster it?  In general, does this align with your experience? And, if this were true, how could you see it helping you as you start new friendships?

 

Is Showing Up the Hardest Part?

One of the hardest parts about friendship seems to be simply showing up for it. That sounds silly, but I've been engaged in this subject long enough to know that showing up truly seems to be the defining issue between those who have a circle of friends and those who don't.

It's the difference between Intention and Action. Desire and Doing. Hope and Reality.  The little thing that differentiates between your heart whispering that you're lonely and your soul feeling fed and connected.

The Importance of Showing Up

It's much easier to sit on the couch wishing I was in better shape than to show up at the gym to make it a reality. 

It's much easier to say I want a better job than to take the risks necessary to pursue that career fulfillment.

And, it's much easier to say I want friends than it is to meet strangers who have the potential to become those confidantes.

We simply want the results: the lean body, the dream job and the circle of friends without being willing to keep showing up along the journey.

Sometimes we muster up our courage and buy new running shoes, update our resume and sign up for a women's friendship matching site.  Which is a great first step.  But it's not showing up for the dream.

Showing up means to be present. To commit. To be on time. To RSVP. To walk in the door to meet a group of potential friends. To risk feeling silly. To be tired and do it anyway.  To want the end result enough that it's worth the present energy expenditure. To follow up because it's important to you.  To schedule another get-together to build familiarity. To not only show once and expect to see results. To show up again.

Showing Up Doesn't Guarantee Immediate Results

Yes, getting on the treadmill is tiring and defeating when your body doesn't seem to change. Yes, sending out that resume is discouraging when you don't hear back.  Yes, a ConnectingCircle is scary to RSVP for since you don't know who else will be there and chances are high that you won't leave with a new best friend.

You have to show up again.  You have to go to the gym 3 times this week.  And you have to send out hordes of resumes before you get a call back.  And you have to meet several women at least 3-5 times before you'll feel the bond of familiarity.

And sometimes you'll go to the gym faithfully for a month and not see the scale move.  And sometimes you'll look for a job for months and not see doors open.  And sometimes you'll attend a ConnectingCircle where you didn't like anyone you met.

But that doesn't mean it was in vain.  Your showing up is moving you closer.  When it's easy to give up-- you have to keep showing up. Our bodies do get healthier, our jobs do change and we do build friendships. All require you to show up though.

Our Showing Up in GirlFriendCircles.com

It's intriguing to me how many women sign up and pay to participate in GirlFriendCircles but then seemingly never attend a ConnectingCircle.  Fortunately, the vast majority do.  And of those who do, nearly 90% of those who have attended at least 3 ConnectingCircles have reported that they are now following up with at least two potential friends.  Three nights of your life-- meeting somewhere between 6-12 women-- and they now feel that they have 2 friends.  Those are some good odds!  Way better than the lottery or romance!

  1. But you have to show up.  Which first starts with RSVP'ing for a ConnectingCircle in your area.  Even if it's ten miles away.  Even if no one else has signed up yet.  Even if you're nervous.
  2. And then you have actually show up.  Follow through on your RSVP.  Feel the hesitation in the parking lot and still walk in the front door.
  3. Then you have to show up with specific women after meeting them.  Writing them a follow up email.  Deciding to all RSVP for another ConnectingCircle again. Scheduling a brunch.
  4. And you keep showing up.  That's how it works.  :)

Showing Up or Saving the World

In January we implemented a Show Up or Save the World campaign where we decided we'd make donations every time we didn't show up when we said we would. And I'm pleased to announce that it reduced our no-shows and cancellations.

The cool thing is that even if you didn't show up-- no matter the reason-- you contributed to our non-profit pot.  Thank you!  Thank you for not whining, but engaging & giving!  For letting the small $3-$5 donations inspire you and help us do something together. Thank you!

To that end, because in three months so few of you didn't show or cancel, I'm going to match the amount raised to give double our amount.  GirlFriendCircle members contributed $183 in our first quarter.  CARE, our chosen non-profit for this quarter, can train a teacher to provide hundreds of girls with an education for $170.  You bought one.  I'll buy another, on your behalf.  :)

That amount won't teach the whole world, but it leans us into what's important to us.  And we'll show up again this way.  We know that one donation doesn't make all the difference.  But we do believe that showing up each quarter with a check to a different non-profit will slowly change us to be more generous and will compound the results on the other end. We showed up.  And we'll do it again next quarter.

I want to show up where my company gives back.

You want to show up for friendship.

Let's show up!

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

I welcome all suggestions for your favorite non-profits that give to women.  I'll be picking the next one soon!  And, I hope I wasn't too hard on you in this post...I know it's easier said than done! Courage!

 

 

 

 

Used-To-Be Friends or Still Friends?

We all know those fabulous women we have loved over the years, the ones where our shared history with them puts them in that special category of proven friends. When we talk to them, we  pick up right where we left off.  They're the kind of women we don't have to explain ourselves to, apologize for the time lapse or call them all the time to know we're still loved. So certainly it pains me to pop that bubble of idealism, but sometimes it must be said: Just because you can call her and know she'll be there for you doesn't mean you do.

One of the most common traps that keeps us in denial about needing more friends is that we used to have good friends.  And, the greatest risk happens when we think of them still as our closest friends.

Used-To-Be-Friends Or Still Friends?

This trap throws off the best of us.  We can quickly name 5 amazing women we call friends, and often feel better with our sense of connectedness. But then we still hear that nagging voice whispering that we think we need more friends. We feel lonely.

If you’re only sending Christmas cards, seeing each other once a year, calling every couple of months and giving little sentence updates on facebook—that may be why you still feel a sense of loneliness?

Risking redundancy, it stands to be pointed out that your current loneliness is not because you haven't had amazing friendships before. Rather, it's because you may not be engaging in them now.

I know for me, when I moved to San Francisco, I pushed away my awareness that I needed to make new friends by telling myself how awesome my friends were.  And yet, even though they were only a phone call away.  They were still a phone call away.  A phone call I didn't make with most of them frequently enough to keep it intimate and easy.

southern cal girls

And I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have these "former" friends.  (And by former, I only mean that the intensity & consistency may have been more in the past than the present.)  My girlfriends from Southern Cal lived through some of my worst and best moments with me-- I will always want to stay connected with them.  Those friends give to us in many ways by knowing who we used to be, giving us a sense of a wider net in our lives and helping us feel less alone in this world.

It's life-changing to know you have these friends you can call if you are diagnosed with cancer. You need to know you have people you can count on in the "big things."

However, I often talk myself out of calling these friends because while I know I can pick up where we left off... that's part of the problem.  I have so much updating to do with them to catch them up to life right now, that I often decide I don't have the time for a long conversation.

What Do We Most Need to Add to our Connectedness?

But what most of us crave are the kind of friends you can call to just ask her what she's making for dinner. Or how her day went. Or what she bought over the weekend. Or whether she wants to go get drinks tomorrow night. The "small things."

We usually feel more intimate with the people we can talk about nothing with as easy as we can talk about something with.

For the truth is, fortunately, that we make dinner more than we get cancer.

No matter how many women you used to be close to—you can still feel lonely now. And sometimes just knowing that you can call isn't enough. To abate loneliness we actually need friends we can go live life with, not just report life to.

SF girls

I ended up having to start over with local women.  It doesn't mean I don't still meet up with my used-to-be-friends every year for a weekend together.  Or that we don't call when the big things happen.  But it means I now have friends to call for the small stuff.  The small stuff that actually feels more important on a day-to-day basis.

So by all means, love those used-to-be women for the history they hold and the way they make you feel known, and by all means stay in touch with them!  But I invite you to own the fact that your loneliness may be your hearts way of saying “I would like some women who can journey with me more regularly.”

And perhaps 1-2 of them can step into that role. I called up one of the women in this circle for me a few years ago, told her how much I missed her and asked if we could schedule a weekly standing phone call to live life together a bit more.

But maybe that's not enough.  Maybe you still need new friends?

But either way, don’t confuse who used to be your best friend with the fact that you might need additional ones (or rekindled ones?) in that place now.

The Mistake That Cost Me a New Friendship

On Saturday morning, a beautiful girl stood on the Spark & Hustle stage.  She was the only speaker of the 3-day conference to wear tennis shoes and jeans.  Her stylish t-shirt proclaimed "Save the Ta-tas." Julia Fikse

Julia Fikse's presentation, which was to challenge the 100+ female business entrepreneurs to consider how their companies could contribute to non-profit causes, began with words of vulnerability.  She applauded the attendees for their courage in coming to a conference, admitting how hard it can be show up in a room full of strangers.  To illustrate that point, she shared an experience from the evening prior that happened to her in the hotel restaurant.

It’s a story I regret to share.

Julia’s Honesty

Upon her late arrival to the conference, she approached a table of three attendees during their dinner to inquire about the conference schedule, since registration had already closed. She wondered what other programming was happening later in the evening and what time the conference started the following morning. They answered her questions. She thanked them and went back to her table for one.

What they didn’t know, and what she didn’t say until the following morning, was how much she had wished those three women had invited her to dinner.  In that moment of not being included, she joked about feeling like she was back in junior high school days with the sting of wanting to fit in.

My Honesty

The story obviously touched me.  Indeed, two days before, in speaking at the same conference, I had shared similar words. Hoping to normalize the experience for all attendees, I acknowledged the courage it takes to come to conferences where we always wonder if we'll fit in. The two of us were the two speakers to acknowledge that fear publicly.

That's what makes this next ironic sentence hard to write:  I was one of those three women at that table that triggered her feeling of rejection.

Three Reminders I Take Away

Ugh!  I feel embarrassed to admit it.  And certainly don't have to, but obviously feel that the learning potential of the moment outweighs my own regret.

  1. It’s Always Better to Give Her the Option. After she returned to her table, the question was asked at ours: "Should we invite her to eat with us?"  We turned around to look for her and saw that she had a glass of wine in front of her and that she was scribbling in a notebook.  We concluded "She's working on her talk for tomorrow morning" and decided to not interrupt her.  We assumed that we’d be a distraction or that she wouldn’t be interested. In hindsight, what would have been the harm in us asking her anyway? How ironic that she wanted to eat with us and we wanted it too—and yet it didn’t happen for lack of asking.
  2. Feeling Rejected is Rarely About Us. You need to know—Julia seems like one incredible woman. The kind of person I would definitely want as a friend.  I mean, anyone who is so passionate about a cause that she’s willing to sign over half her paycheck to making a difference; and do so in a humorous and fun way—I’d count myself lucky to know her.  So here is a clear example that while she felt the rejection, I can assure you, being the other person, that it was nothing about her.  It was our own distractions and assumptions that prevented the moment.  I know what it’s like on the other side, taking it personal, so it’s good to have reminders that our feeling of rejection is rarely about us.
  3. Defaulting to Yes! Akin to walking by a brand promoter on the street, only to realize I don't even know what I just refused, I realize that sometimes my default response pushes me to say no before I even evaluate the option. It's often only after passing the moment that I realize I never even asked what they were giving away. We say no so easily. I, in essence, said no to someone I very much wish I had said yes to.  My default needs to be yes.  My default needs to be looking for people to meet.  My default needs to remind me to have eyes to see the potential around me. I wonder how many of us miss moments with new friends for lack of simply not jumping on the moment?

The truth is that we all want to be accepted.  No one wants to risk feeling rejected.  We often think that it's the shy-est, most vulnerable in the room that we need to be sensitive to, when in fact it's also the well-known speaker who is out saving the world and running an impressive company.  No matter who we are, we want to be included.

Julia, I am so sorry.  It is my loss.  You are the kind of woman I want to know.  I'd be honored to take you to dinner the next time you're in San Francisco or I'm in L.A. Or, should we ever find ourselves in a hotel restaurant again-- please know, you are most welcome at my table.  :)

Our Greatest Fear: Rejection

A few nights ago I attended a lecture by Rabbi Harold Kushner, who's probably most well known for his best-seller "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" but whose subject this evening was his most recent book release: "Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World." The introduction caught my attention when it was said that more people have died of fear caused by 9/11 and the idea of terrorism after the fact (anxiety produced complications and deaths) than the number of lives actually lost by the events that day. Wow.

Our Greatest Fear: Rejection Interestingly, terrorism is not our greatest fear. Nor is the economic recession. Nor is it the reality of aging or the thought of someday dying. We hear a lot of about those things; the news is consumed with those subjects. But, truth be told, the most paralyzing fear we experience is rejection.

Sitting in that auditorium, that observation resonated. How much of my life choices are impacted by that fear? Whether it's doing something to try to get someone to like me or not doing something to avoid someone not liking me. Whether it's not trying for the promotion, the new job, the business idea development or the sale for risk of failure or pursuing them only to try to gain approval. Whether it's acting uninterested when I really am. Or acting interested when I'm really not. How much of our lives are influenced by the desire to be accepted or the desire to avoid rejection?

"Whether it's losing a job or being rejected in a failed romance, it can pull the rug out from under peoples' sense of identity," says Kushner. Indeed. I've been through a divorce. I know it takes a while to rebuild the self-confidence, to hold the belief that someone else could possibly someday like me. And that, coming from someone who considers herself quite self-confident! I can only imagine how difficult it would be to take risks if you've had multiple experiences of rejection that you had taken personally or if you were raised not ever experiencing real acceptance.

How our Fear Impacts our Forming Friendships I came home from that lecture thinking about how important GirlFriendCircles.com can be in this world-- an opportunity for people to connect and build a sense of belonging. Surrounding themselves with friends that remind them of their acceptance.

But on the reverse side, I thought about how hard it can also be to actually take steps to creating that community if one's greatest fear is rejection. It's a double-edge sword. We feel lonely and crave connectedness and yet can't pursue it because we fear no one will actually like us. And so we stay lonely. We hunger for acceptance, but avoid giving people that opportunity.

In our GirlFriendCircles community, there are hundreds of women who have signed up and paid and yet, haven't attended their first ConnectingCircle where they can actually meet friends. For some it comes down to scheduling, but for many it comes down to fear. We wanted friends enough to sign up, but when it comes to actually putting ourselves out there, the discomfort is too great. And so we just put it off.

And for some, we have gone to one or two events, met a few people and used our experience to confirm our fears. Someone didn't write back so instead of concluding that it might be her issue (she's flaky, her spam filter got it) we conclude that it's our issue: no one likes us. And we give up.

Or, worst, we assume someone is going to reject us because we're different and so we self-reject and project it onto them. This happens all the time. We assume since none of them have kids and we do that they wouldn't want to be our friend. Or that because they're older that they probably think I'm too young. Or she's more stylish, has more money, seems more popular, looks more beautiful, etc. so therefore.... you get the idea.

How does fear of rejection impact you in your journey of making friends?

Overcoming Fear For Kushner, conquering fear requires a combination of "rational awareness of potential consequences complemented by the willingness to reach out to family, friends and community for help."

That makes sense to me when the fear is, say, a natural disaster. But it's a tough formula if our greatest fear is rejection. For what do you do if the very medicine (reaching out to friends) is also your greatest fear?

And how I wish I had an easy answer to this. I do not. I only know that in my line of work, I often see people choose the fear of loneliness over the fear of risking rejection. The one thing we crave-- to be accepted-- sometimes isn't a strong enough desire to push us past the risk. And it breaks my heart.

All I can do is try to create a community where you know it's safe to try. Where you are reminded that no matter how wonderful of a person you are, there are simply going to be times where, to no fault of your own, you need more friends. Where you are surrounded by other women who also value friendship and are willing to risk for it. Where you have permission to take your time and do it in your own way. Where you know it's okay that you don't connect with everyone, nor does everyone need to connect with you-- that doesn't speak less of either, it simply acknowledges that the fit wasn't there and it doesn't have to be anyone's fault.

And perhaps that's all we can do-- engage in the fear together, as a community, so no one goes it alone. "If you can't solve the problem by yourself, you do a worse job when you're afraid," Kusher said. "You make things harder if you try to do it alone."

For if we can engage in relationships even in our fear. (Wasn't it Mark Twain who said courage isn't the absence of fear but rather valuing something else as greater than the fear?) Then, we're that much stronger against any terrorist, disease or crisis. And together, there is so much courage we can offer this world.

What is one step you can take today to pursue what's important to you regardless of your insecurities and fears?