Types of Friends

How to Find a Best Friend

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

Where do we look for our Best Friends?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Found them!

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

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

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

Why This Matters:

Understanding that relationships are developed makes all the difference.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Friendship Break-Ups 3: "Was She Really a Friend, Anyway?"

The other night I was out with some new friends and, as often happens when someone finds out that my work is all about female friendships, women I barely know start to tell me their friendship woes. One very friendly woman in her mid-forties was explaining to me that she doesn't have time for friends anymore now that she's a mom. (sound familiar? read this post.)  She went back-and-forth between defending her perceived reality and also sounding incredibly wistful. Like many of us in denial, we try to convince ourselves we're fine while simultaneously wishing things could be different. But then, her closing lines were, "Well I found out most of my previous friends weren't real friends anyway or they'd still be around.  So who needs them, right?" She tried to laugh as though she didn't care.

A Refresher on Shasta's Circles of Connectedness

One of my favorite things to teach in workshops, which is also a big part of my upcoming book, is about the Five Circles of Connectedness.  It's most often put to use when it comes to evaluating our current friendships or figuring out how to add new ones or deepen others.  Today, I want to talk about it in the context of break-ups and unmet expectations.

You'll want to go catch up on the abbreviated definitions of Shasta's 5 Circles of Connectedness if you're not familiar with them already: Watch YouTube or Read a Previous Post.

But basically, the friends on the Left Side in the Contact and Common Circles are friendships where we more-or-less have one way of being together, one commonality holding us together. That is to say our friendships are largely dependent upon the fact that we both attend the same church, are part of the same mother's group, are both single, or because we work together.

To move someone over to the Right Side in the Community and Committed Circles means that we have added new ways of being together (i.e. brunch on the weekend in addition to whatever our original commonality was), have spent considerable one-on-one time together, and have increased our intimacy.

Confirmed Friends in the middle are for the women who used to be in our Committed Circle of best friends, but we no longer have the consistency with them that our Right-Side friendships require.

If we mistakenly believe that all our friendships are more-or-less the same then we may not have realistic expectations in place.  Unmet expectations lead to disillusionment, and possible blame and anger toward the friends who aren't "there" for us.

There are SO many applications to our friendship Rifts and Drifts in these 5 Circles, but in the sensitivity of article length, I'll just mention the two most common misconceptions that can disappoint us if we don't understand our different types of friendships.

Two Common Misunderstandings in our Circles that Lead to Disappointment:

1)   Assuming a Common Friend is a Commitment Friend. We can feel so close to someone at work, church, or our mothers group and mistakenly believe that they should "be there in big ways" for us just because we both really like each other, get a long well, and see each other consistently in that common setting.

But the truth about Common Friends is that unless we have co-created a friendship that extends beyond that shared commonality-- when that commonality ends, the friendship will inevitably Drift apart if someone doesn't intentionally try to create a new way of connecting. And that doesn't always work due to time, priorities, interests, etc. These friendships don't end because we don't like each other, but because we haven't yet practiced being together in new ways, outside of that commonality.

We get our feelings hurt when we stop attending church or change jobs and no one calls us anymore-- but if that place was what we had in common, then no matter how close we felt, we're the ones who left that friendship structure. If the thing we have in common is getting our families together on the weekends to go camping, but then we go through a divorce, unless we had another way of being together just as women, we risk Drifting apart when it's our ex-spouse who has all the camping equipment.

It's not her fault, even if the changes were in her life.  In a friendship-- when we blame, we risk a Rift; if we decide we want to initiate consistently, we may be able to avoid a Drift.

If we can be honest in these moments and see them for what they are-- losing structures or commonalities that connected us-- then we can either find more peace in the Drift without us taking it personally or we more clearly see that we'll have to co-create new ways of being with that person. Which doesn't happen automatically.

2) Not realizing a Confirmed Friend is no longer a Commitment Friend. The other misunderstanding that can get the best of us is not realizing that just because we used-to-be-best friends, that while we still love each other so much, we no longer live near each other, talk regularly, or are present for each others lives in the same ways.

And if we haven't fostered new Commitment Friends where we now live, we're likely to make the mistake of wanting those Confirmed Friends to act like them.  We'll be hurt when they don't know what's going on in our lives, forgetting that it is our responsibility to build up local friends who can care for us on the consistent basis.

Because of the intimacy and trust we've built with these women back in college or in a previous life phase, we certainly make decisions to call our Confirmed Friends to stay in touch with them better to support us through a season or to tell them honestly what we need.  But hopefully they've developed close local friends that they are giving to so we want to be careful to not blame them for not reading our minds or knowing how to help us.

If we don't have strong relationships on the Right-Side, it becomes so easy to look to our other friends in the other Circles and begrudge them for not "being there" for us. It's so easy, when our life changes, to want everyone to be there for us that we sometimes forget that we never practiced that with each other beforehand or had yet built up to that Circle of Commitment.

If "she" wasn't "there" for you, was she really your friend?

To the beautiful woman who wondered aloud, "Well I found out most of my previous friends weren't real friends anyway or they'd still be around.  So who needs them, right?" and to all of us who ask a variation of that rhetoric question, I say this:

I am so sorry that you were hurt and disappointed by what you hoped someone would be for you.  That sucks. However, we don't have to devalue who they were or what we shared together.  It's entirely possible they were a "real" friend, even if they weren't the Committed Friend we had hoped they were.  Furthermore, the answer to previous disappointments isn't to give up on friendships altogether, but rather, to be sure to take responsibility for co-creating even stronger--more consistent and intimate--friendships this time around.

 

If you have questions-- ask them in the comments.  It's sometimes impossible to be comprehensive on such a big subject in one posting! Hope the outline at least helps though?

 

 

 

Our Used-to-be-Closer Friends on YouTube

New YouTube Clip:

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

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

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

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

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

 

What I Wish I Knew Then About Friendship... by Cherie Burbach

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  I'm honored to host this posting by Cherie Burbach, one of the most prolific writers online about friendship (bio at the end!). Thanks Cherie for all you're doing to encourage healthy female friendships! ------------------------------

What I wish I knew then about friendship that I know now...is that friendships aren't always meant to last forever, and that's okay. When I was younger, it pained me to lose a friend to the point where I would beat myself up it when it happened.

Now, don't get me wrong, we definitely want to maintain our friendships whenever we can.

Cherie Burbach

But the reality is that sometimes friendships end. People make different life choices, they move, they grow apart, develop new interests, and through it all they change. When a friendship ends during this point, you may experience feelings of guilt or be stuck in a place wondering "why" over and over again. This perception that friendships should last forever comes from a few different places. Ever heard of the term "BFF"? Best friends forever might be a cute saying but it isn't the reality. Or how about people that talk about their long-term friendships? You don't often hear, "I've had three great friends that were in my life for five years" but you will hear someone talk about their "life-long friends" pretty often. If you don't have a life-long friend or two, hearing that may make you feel inept at friendship. But don't buy into that.

Some of my friends have lasted decades, while others have been brief. Most of the time, friends are not going to stay in your life forever, and even if they do, your relationship will probably change over the years. Having one true-blue best friend is great, and if it happens to you be thankful. For most of us, however, there are times when a really great friend only stays in our lives for a short time. After they go, what usually happens? You beat yourself up and wonder what you could have done differently.

But you see, that's the point of friendship: It teaches you about yourself. Instead of beating yourself up, learn from the experience. Being with your friend taught you a few things about yourself. Are there areas to improve on? Work on that. Were there areas you really rocked? Do more of that.

Each friendship you have will mold you into a slightly different, more confident, person, but don't go over the past and wonder what you could have done differently. You might have done everything you could have done at that point in time. Talking about "what could have been" is pointless and a waste of energy. You never know, even if you had done that one thing differently it doesn't mean that it would have prevented your friendship from ending. Sometimes the end of a relationship really is them and not you! If you feel like you would have done something differently with an old friend, use that knowledge to help improve your current friendships.

The point is, a friend can come briefly through your life and that's okay. Embrace each friendship, because there is no one-size fits all when it comes to our pals.

Cherie Burbach is the About.com Guide to Friendship and has written ten books and ebooks. She writes about dating, relationships, health, sports, and lifestyle. You can follow her on Twitter at brrbach.

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Note: I posted a new video blog on YouTube this morning: "Who Are Your BFF's?" that talks briefly about how many confidantes you may want, the importance they play in your life, and how you can develop these meaningful friendships.

Subscribe on my YouTube Channel (ShasGFC) as I'm picking a random winner every Thursday! Congrats to Tamisha Ford-- this week's winner!

 

 

What Types of Friends Do You Need?

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

Not All Friends Are the Same

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, go back to the middle:

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

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

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

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

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

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to receive updates of any future video posts.

Last Week to Sign Up for the August "Assess & Attract Friendship" Journey!

This has been an eye-opening experience for most participants since so few of us ever actually have been taught much about friendship! Whatever was modeled to us or was part of our own experience tends to be all we know. Sign up for this 1-month tele-class to actually better understand what friendship is, how it's defined, what types of friends there are, what type you are, and how to create more meaningful community in your life!

Enter Discount Code "Blog" for $10 off!

Details and Sign-up: http://augustfriends.eventbrite.com/

 

8/1/11 UPDATE:  The next one will be in September for Friendship Month!  Send me your email or leave a comment here if you want to be notified of when the details are available.