friends

Top 10 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2013

For all of you who joined us half-way through the year, missed a post here-or-there, or just want to re-read some of the goodies to see if they speak to you where you are now,  here are the most read, popular blog posts from the last year: 1.   Is "Get Rid of Negative People in My Life" Good Advice?

This post beat out the second place by 3 times!  Fortunately, it seems we are feeling a little conflicted with how much we keep hearing that we need to surround ourselves only with positive people.

2. How To Respond to a Friend in Crisis

The diagram in this post has served me over the year as such an incredibly helpful visual-aid for understanding how to help those in crisis without putting them in the place of having to comfort us, even though they're pain undoubtedly impacts us.

3.  Five Questions to Ask Before Ending a Friendship

If we're starting to entertain the idea of our friend being toxic or our friendships with someone feeling unhealthy, it's often because we haven't yet articulated our expectations and needs.  This post provides a thoughtful approach for making sure we've done our part to contribute to the possibility of a healthy relationship before ending it.

4.  Making New Friends in a New City

Christy Mims wrote this guest post about moving to a new city and having to start all over as she made new friends.  Most of us know that experience!  She shares candidly her feelings and the actions she took to develop the friendships that matter to her.

5.  What Do I Do With My Toxic Friend?

The concept I share in this post could save many a friendship from ending!  It's super important to clarify the 3 different entities in every relationship: her, me, and us; and step back to see if we can shift the friendship by focusing on the 2 entities we actually have some control over.

6.  Friendship Break-Ups 4: Letting Go or Holding On

Most of our friendships will end with us "drifting" apart from each other as life circumstances change.  This post helps ensure that we're not a victim to that process, but rather being women who choose to courageously and intentionally make choices about which friendships to be at peace with letting go, and which ones to invest the energy needed to survive the transition.

7.  This Friendship Is Going Negative: What Do I Do?

In this post I offer up two different frameworks for helping assess our friendships:  the 5 Circles of Connectedness and the definition of friendship.  Both tools can help us articulate what is wrong in the friendship, and based on what type of friends she is, can help us decide what approach might best serve our friendship.

8.  Reflections on My Katie Couric Interview

A highlight in 2013 was definitely being invited to appear on Katie Couric's afternoon talk show.  While filming it, I just kept thinking about all these comments I wanted to make as I listened to Katie and the other guests talk about their friendships.  But since they didn't ask me to comment on everyone else... I share those thoughts on my blog instead.  :)

9. Christmas Card Conundrums: Send They? Why?  How Many? To Whom?

We're past the season now for sending out our annual holiday cards, but bookmark this one for next December!  We're all trying to find that sweet spot between letting friends know we're thinking of them while not adding to our own exhaustion, guilt, or stress.

10.  Many Introverts are "Coming Out"

Reflecting back over an interview I did with Sophia Dembling, author of "The Introvert's Way," I am encouraged with all the press, validation, and visibility that introverts are getting.  We must keep seeking to understand how we (and our friends) are wired energetically.

** And I always pick out a bonus post to add to the list-- a post that may not have made the top ten, but that I personally think is important.  This one actually may have been one of the most "liked" post on Facebook and I think contains helpful sample scripts for learning How to Ask for What You Need in Your Relationships.

 

Want more popular articles?

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2012

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2011

Friendships in the Workplace

Lately I've been fielding more interview requests to talk about friendships in the workplace. Which for many women is still the number one place where you're meeting your friends. Work, much like school when we were kids, is the one place where the same people show up repeatedly without anyone having to initiate, invite, make plans, or schedule around, or follow-up with-- we're paid to be there and we both show up daily.  That consistency breeds friendships.  We report being 96% happier with our lives if we have at least three friends at work, and a whopping 30% of us end up establishing a best friend at work.

But there can also be some mine-fields.  I hear women repeatedly say to me that they don't feel comfortable making friends at work for various reasons and to that I want to gently say: "Hey, we live in a world where we all need more good friends, so take them where you can get them!" In the interview below, I hope I can squelch some of your fears by helping you see how you can build friendships appropriately!

For my blog post this time, I thought I'd re-publish an interview where Jennifer Merritt of  Levo League (a professional community for Gen Y) asked me some work-related questions.  Hope my answers are helpful to some of you!

Jennifer: If you really feel a connection with a co-worker, is it a good idea to try to deepen that relationship? Or should “office life” and “real life” be kept separate? Shasta: No, I don’t think they should be separate at all! In fact, that really is one of the last places to make friends where we have one of the biggest friendship challenges taken care of for us—consistency.  That’s why it felt easy in school–we saw each other every day. In “real life” it’s actually much more difficult to see each other regularly enough to build up that familiarity and comfortableness. The office is perfect, since you both have to spend so much time there. I’d definitely try to deepen that relationship, so much so that I’d encourage you to practice being friends outside of work, too, so that when one of you leaves the job you already have other structures in place for your friendship to continue.

How concerned should you be about making friends in the office, even at the basic level of casual friendship? People who have friends at work are way more inclined to report job satisfaction and companies recognize that that’s one of the best ways to retain employees. We will put up with a lot of stress, lower pay, and non-ideal job descriptions if we like the people we work with, so I’d say it’s worth being a pretty high priority at work. Plus, this is where you spend most of your time, so it make sense that at minimum you want to be surrounded by people you’re friendly with, even if they don’t all turn into consequential friendships.

Are there any “rules” to making friends in the office? I’d say two good principles are to, one, take it slow, and two, don’t let your friendship ever make others feel excluded in the office. The first one is super-important: don’t over-share with someone. Vulnerability—sharing more about yourself with less of a filter— is one of the actions that develops a friendship, but I encourage everyone to engage it step by step so that really you’re never taking a big risk, as much as you are many, many small ones. But that’s even more important at work, where you don’t want to share too much with someone before you’ve co-created a trusting relationship with each other.  And the second rule speaks more to making sure your friendship is adding to the office dynamics, not excluding others or making people feel wary, left out, or suspicious. While at work, invite more people to join in your friendly relationship—invite others to sit with you at lunch—and try to do more of your eventual secret-sharing outside of the office.

What are some good ways to explore deepening a relationship with a co-worker? Probably starts with friendliness and chit-chat, talking about the weekend, and what TV shows you’re watching. Then the next goal is to find a way to spend more substantial time together, so usually an invitation to grab lunch together, attend an event together, or meet for drinks after work will help make that happen. And this is where it may stay for a while—friendliness in the office, friendship for an hour here and there outside the office.  In fact, if this is as far as it goes—it’s an incredibly valuable relationship that will increase your happiness at work. In some cases, you may want to grow it to the next step and that means eventually starting to get together when it’s completely unattached to work, such as brunch on the weekend, a double-date with the boyfriends on a Friday night, or getting together to watch your favorite TV shows one night.

Can you — or should you — ever be friends with your manager? Or, if you are a manager, friends with your subordinate? This one can be tricky because there is not a “one size fits all” answer. Our personalities, company culture, and individual job descriptions will inform the decision. But in theory, I’d say yes. We can be friends with people even if we have different roles at work. Obviously it requires both people respecting the other so much that neither one shares confidential information or asks for favors at work. And the two rules I mentioned earlier–taking it slow and not letting your friendship make others uncomfortable–are even more important. But the first two steps of friendship—being friendly and starting to spend more considerable time together—is definitely appropriate, in my opinion.

Fights among friends are inevitable, and can become even more hot-button if that friend is also a co-worker. What is your advice for dealing with conflicts with friends in the office? This goes back to the second rule—don’t let your friendship make others uncomfortable in the office. That means they shouldn’t know you’re fighting. You don’t gossip about her, talk about her, or take it out on each other. Maturity means trusting each other so that even when we’re mad or disappointed,  we can still trust each other to have our backs. It also speaks to the “taking it slow” part—you should never have shared more than you felt the relationship was ready to support. By the time you fight, you should have some considerable history between the two of you where you can trust you’ll both make up and be closer than ever.

Is it appropriate to get into a friendship with someone who is in a romantic relationship? Basically, should you pursue a friendship with a co-worker if it could be misconstrued by his or her significant other? Wow you’re asking the toughies! Good for you! Again, though, this is not an easy answer. Cross-gender relationships are a wholly different animal in this setting. If the friendship could hurt people— in the office or in either of your lives—then one has to ask whether there are other feelings or motives at work. Because mature friendship wouldn’t want to jeopardize our friends other relationships. At the least, recognize this relationship has a whole different level of complication and drama that may best be avoided simply by fostering other friendships even if there isn’t as much chemistry.

What should you do if you don’t feel a connection with co-workers, on even the most basic level? (Assuming that you enjoy your job.) Bonds can always, always be developed, in some form or another. The best place to start is with having enough conversations that you can start seeing where you both have similarities or where you “get” each other. We all have more things in common that we realize—even if we have a 40-year age gap, opposite political views and are in completely different life stages.  I believe that those who seek, find; which means that if we say to ourselves, “I am choosing to like you, now I’m going to keep looking for the reasons,” we will always find them!

 

I'd love to hear from some of you-- have you met one of your closest friends at work?  What helped foster the friendship?  What advice would you give?

Throwing Myself a Birthday Party of Gratitude!

My birthday was last week and I lived it up this year with a retreat-day (complete with a massage, soaking in a rooftop infinity hot tub, and journaling), an afternoon of shopping with my husband, 3 days of play, America's Cup races, and yummy food with my parents who came into town, and on the actual day of my birthday I threw myself a little birthday party with some of my girlfriends. One or two people made comments like "You shouldn't have to throw your party!" but I smiled and said, "That's what I want to do!"  And indeed it's exactly what I wanted to do.  Why leave it to chance? Why risk it not being fulfilling in the ways that only I could possibly know I need? Why not create the evening I most wanted to experience?  Besides, life has been full with so many different events and groups the last couple of years that so many of my friends hear me talk about each other but haven't actually had the privilege of meeting each other. I could think of nothing I wanted more than to be surrounded by some of my friends and showing them off to each other, possibly even launching a few new friendships among them!

We live in a world where there is only a 50% chance that any two of our closest friends know each other! It's so easy to meet people from here-and-there, giving us the feeling, at times, of having lots of friends but not really having a "group" of friends.  I've realized recently that I have several amazing groups of friends, but that my worlds hadn't collided in a little while.  It was time! A birthday is a fabulous excuse to bring the people we love together! (And with my birthday being on 9/11 I feel an ever greater joy and honor to spend that evening celebrating life and friendships!)

So I made my dream list of local friends. They were quite varied: one has been a friend for the entire 8+ years I've lived in San Francisco and another I just met in May; one was in her early 30's and another in her early 60's, one came in fierce stilettos & fashion garb and another one was make-up free and walking around in her socks; one is traveling around the world on a mission with her life-changing book and another one who isn't quite sure what she'll be doing next; one who has created and celebrates her financial abundance and another who isn't exactly sure how to pay next month's rent; half are mothers, half are not; one has been married over twenty years, another is happily single... And those are just some of the differences between those who could come!

The night was SO very special. I kept the planning easy (tacos!) so that hosting was a breeze.  I wasn't there to impress anyone with my party throwing skills as much as I was there to make sure everyone felt loved!  I don't think anyone who came knew more than 2 other people, some didn't know anyone but me.  But by the end of the evening, I couldn't have been more blessed by the loved felt in the room.  Email addresses were being exchanged, photos texted to each other, and I just sat their gleaming in pride at how amazing my friends are!

That's me in the white tank--the little black lines read love...love...love...:)-- surrounded by some of the women I'm lucky enough to call friends.  Call me a grateful birthday girl!

In fact, one might think that to sit in a room with amazing women who are showing up in this world in such big, beautiful, authentic, and deep ways might be intimidating.  But on the contrary.  As I went around the circle describing each friend to the others I kept hearing myself use words such as "truth speaker," "strong," "independent," "a fierce protector of causes and people," "living out her mission," and "generous." Those words kept coming up over-and-over, and I slowly realized that even while we all couldn't be more different from each other, in other ways we lived out the truism that "You are the sum of your friends."

These ladies have rubbed off on me... been contagious in their courage.  I've not only been more inspired to be those things I admire because of watching them be those things, but it has given me permission to be those things without fear of failure, judgment, or jealousy.  We see each other all doing our best to be the blessing in this world we feel called to be and we cheer each other on. They give me confidence.

My take-aways for you:

1) Throw your own party! I am proud of myself for planning the party I most wanted.  And I ended the night with satisfaction that I was surrounded by the women I wanted around me and that I could run the party how ever I wanted! (complete with sharing questions and stories about each woman!)

2)  Show your gratitude!  I actually named mine a Girlfriend Gratitude Birthday Party, went around the room and bragged on each women in front of everyone, and sent them each home with a card telling them what I admire about them.  (You can get more ideas from my book on page 134-135.)

3) Don't be afraid to collide your circles! I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I felt a small pang of worry the afternoon of the party wondering if my circles of friends  were just too different from each other to really connect, but deep in my heart I knew they'd all rally and fall in love with each other, just as I had.  And it was magical!  Now I feel more joy knowing that many of my friends have met each other.  (And it makes me want to throw myself a monthly birthday party just to do it all again!)

The season of thanks is coming!  So you don't need a birthday to plan your own little soiree.  Just pick a date in early November for a Girlfriend Gratitude Party of your own, make a list of girlfriends and start inviting!  :)

 

 

This Friendship Is Going Negative: What Do I Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 types of friends image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How These Frameworks Inform My Response

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

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

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

Have a great weekend!

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

 

 

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

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

 

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making New Friends isn't as Easy as it Sounds

And then it hit me.

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

The truth is that it was awful.

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

I was lonely.

I was sad.

And I felt so lost.

But I Made My Friendships Happen!

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

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

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

And I kept doing it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I kept going back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Moms: Please Model the Friendships You Wish For Your Kids

Before I jump into the subject I really want to share today, I want to post some links to the 2-3 minutes videos that have been playing all week over at the Dhana EcoKids blog. Today ends a 6-part video series I did in collaboration Shamini, the CEO, a woman who knows the value of female friendship. She interviewed me talking about the friendship challenges that her audience (primarily mothers) face as they engage in friend-making:

  1. Intro Video: Meet Shamini & Shasta--read a summary of the whole series.
  2. Day 1: The Three Challenges Moms Face in their Friendships
  3. Day 2: 1st Challenge: Being Friends With Women at Different Life Stages
  4. Day 3: 2nd Challenge: Not having the Time or Energy for Friend-Making
  5. Day 4: 3rd Challenge: My Kids Friends and My Friends Aren't Related

And today, is the last video of the series: Model the Friendships You Wish for Your Kids

One of the exercises I used to have women in my friendship programs do was journal about what they remember learning from their mother about female friendship.  I encouraged them to try to go back through all their memories to see what was spoken or modeled to them-- do they have memories of mom going out for girls nights? What did their moms say or imply about female friendships (worth it? not trustworthy?) Do they remember seeing their mom gab on the phone with girlfriends in the evenings?  Did their mom have friends over frequently?

And while this isn't scientific polling, I'd estimate that 7 out of 10 women ended up confiding in me that they were shocked that they couldn't remember if their mothers even had close friends.

It was a rare woman who said that her mother had what she'd call healthy friendships, the kind of community she wants to replicate in her own life. I've had only a handful of women say to me, "I had great modeling."

Unfortunately, most of the women have this ah-ha that says "Oh, this may speak to why this is so hard for me... I never had healthy friendships modeled to me."

Now, I want to give the benefit of the doubt to most of those mothers and hope that their daughters who I'm working with in my programs simply don't remember.  I want to believe that their mothers really did have meaningful friendships that mattered to them.  But it still raises the question about modeling.  If your child didn't see it-- they didn't pick it up. If it all happened when they were really young--they won't remember it.

If we don't have it modeled to us, then how are we supposed to learn it? We certainly aren't taught any classes in school. We end up just thinking we're supposed to just naturally be good at female friendship-- instinctively knowing the different types of friends, what healthy expectations look like, how to transition relationships through various life changes, how to foster them through the five stages, and how to ask for what we need--while rarely having our teachers or mothers explain to us what's normal, healthy, and meaningful.

More than wanting our kids to have healthy friendships, we have to show them that it's a priority in our lives.  We have to kiss them good-bye in the early evening and say "Tonight is when I get to go be with my friends-- see you in the morning."  And we can't just do it once.

  • I think of my friend Daneen who leaves her daughter every Tuesday evening for girls night-- her daughter knew that mommy was playing with her friends and that she was going to have a special night with Daddy.
  • I think of my sister who, with her best friend, gets their families together all the time-- not for the sake of the kids, but for the sake of the moms.
  • I think of my own step-mom who left me with memories as a little girl of her going shopping on Sunday afternoons with her girlfriends.
  • I think of the time I walked down the stairs late one night to see my mom and her friend Ellen eating a whole pot of tapioca pudding and giggling-- to this day it's one of my favorite memories.
  • I think of the women in my girls group--Val, Karen, and J'leen-- who, every spring, tell their kids that they are going away for a girls weekend with their girlfriends, and then leave their kids with spouses, parents, or friends.

Hard to do? Absolutely. Important, though? Absolutely.

My invitation to you is not an easy one.  But I implore you to picture the friendships you want your kids to have when they are adults.  And model that to them now.  There is simply nothing more powerful than modeling-- you are the most influential person in their lives--you showing them how important those relationships are will serve them their entire life.

And the good news? It's not just for their benefit that you are prioritizing time with friends. The gains will be worth the time and energy.

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Speaking of Girls Night Out-- I'd LOVE to have you join me at one of my upcoming book launch parties from Feb.4-Feb.8. For the price of my book, you'll also get goody-bags, wine, treats, and get to hear me read and share from my book before I sign them!  I'll be in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago.

 

I Feel Insecure and It Shows

While describing my life to one of my closest girlfriends yesterday, the metaphor of a crab came to mind. That's a first.

Feeling like a crab...

But it captured my feelings, "I feel like a crab who has outgrown her shell but doesn't yet have a new one to protect me.  Like I'm this little naked, vulnerable, soft animal waiting for my new shell to harden."

She laughed, but understood completely.

hermit crab

I googled crabs after I hung up the phone.  Apparently some crabs wait in their outgrown shell until they find a bigger one that fits them.  That's not me.  I don't feel like I yet know what the new shell looks like or feels like. I don't feel like I'm shopping for something new, rather I feel like I'm becoming something new. But some crabs, like the Fiddler Crab simply have to be reclusive and hide until their new shell hardens.  Yes, that's me.  Soft and vulnerable waiting for my new shell to harden.

But I can't be a recluse and hide like they do.

Feeling insecure about my new projects...

My life is anything but hiding under a rock right now. In fact, I feel like I'm being called to step out of my comfort zone in ever-expanding ways--fundraising for my business, developing a book club campaign, scheduling my book tour in February, and just continuing to dream about new ways of fostering meaningful friendships among women.  Which sounds so good, but still feels scary.

Not scary because I'm uncertain about my path. No, I feel quite sure that I am meant to have stepped out of my last shell, which felt comfortable but was limiting my growth.  But scary in the way it always feels when you're somewhere you've never been, doing things you've never done.

Little voices whisper haunting questions in my ear, "What if you can't pull this off? What if you're not the right person to be doing that?  What if you fail in front of everyone?"  And my little critical voice is quick to take advantage of my insecurity as it senses that I might listen more closely now than I normally do, "Shasta, you're not even a business person, you don't know the right people, you don't have the money or the platform that this project requires."  And there I am, a little crab running around on the sand naked.  Squishy. Vulnerable.

But the reason I thought it was worth sharing my vulnerability with you today was because I've observed something else that accompanies these feelings of insecurity: comparison.

Feeling jealous, going into comparison-mode...

When I'm my healthiest, I rarely feel a need to compare myself to others.  Ingrained in me is the strong belief that we're all wired to fulfill different functions on this earth so I don't need to be jealous of someone else's path.  I know that I am the best person in the world to do my purpose and that I am not lacking anything I need to fulfill my contribution.  And that the same is true of others.  Also, having been a pastor and coach, I've seen the underbelly of a lot of lives that would appear perfect to others.  I've sat with women who others envy and seen the secrets they hold and the pain they hide.  I know that their journey is theirs and mine is mine-- no need to compare and contrast and covet.

But that's when I'm at my healthiest. When I start feeling insecure, all bets are off.

I've observed this partnership between my insecurities and comparisons of others with curiosity this time.  I've noticed that as I wonder if I have what it takes to, say, launch a book successfully, that I begin to compare myself with others who are seemingly successful at this very thing.  And as anyone who compares, my only choices at the end of that line of reasoning is to conclude that one of us is better than the other.  Neither result feels all that good.

It hit me today, again, what a huge connection there is between our own personal health and our ability to engage in healthy relationships. The more insecure we feel, the more we'll walk around trying to impress others, or worse, devalue them and try to make them feel bad about something.  I haven't gone there yet. I think just noticing this in me-- that I'm more prone to feel jealous right now-- is helping me show up with a bit more intentionality than at other times in my life.

Feeling hopeful...

This time, I'm trying to breath deeply and remind myself that it's a good thing to outgrow a shell.  And that it's normal to feel vulnerable in between the shells--in between the jobs, the relationships, and the goals we take on.  So I can be gentle with myself. I can nurture myself with more self-love and grace.  I can forgive myself generously for not knowing all the answers, having "enough" money, or being as amazing as I see everyone else being.

And I can be mindful of not letting my own insecurities bleed into my interactions with others.  I will keep cheering for them.  I will be inspired by them.  I will give to them when I can.  I will keep giving time to helping others on their journeys.  I will remember that we all feel insecure in some place-- maybe I can help someone else navigate the waters that feel new to them.  We all have something to give.

And I will remind myself that it's when I'm most vulnerable that I actually have so much to gain by having friends and people around me.  I need them.  I mustn't risk pushing them away or letting my fears bleed onto them.

My shell is soft, but that's okay.  Being a naked little squirmy thing has its advantages too.  :) I can get closer to people, feel things more freshly, move more quickly, and see the world in a different way.

Today, even without a shell, I am as I am meant to be.

 

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?

It's Hard to Maintain Friendships Through Stress & Change

I'm tired. May was one of those months for me. A month where so much energy was spent planning, thinking, deciding, wondering, processing and aligning. Change, Stress & Transitions

I'm sure you've had those life phases where there is just a lot going on?  Sometimes your call to change is prompted by something external (job loss, break-up, lack of funds, a move, a death), but sometimes it just starts inside as a whisper, a question you ask yourself about your own life.

We are called in these times to invite alignment in our lives.  Whether it's catching up our heart/mind to wherever our bodies are, or influencing life events to align with whatever internal decision we've already made--we're trying to line up life with what we feel. And while it all sounds important and valuable, that doesn't mean it's not mentally, physically or emotionally tiring.  Even good change can exhaust us. (I posted on Huffington Post last week that a move across town takes 6 months for your body to recover from the change!)

For me, this month to step into alignment meant making some tough decisions.

I know from my own life experience as a life coach and pastor that many people pull away when they have stuff going on in their lives.  It's always struck me as unfortunate that sometimes when we need people the most is when we withdraw.  And yet, I get it.

The Toll Our Stress Can Have on Friendships

Loss of Energy: For me, the most obvious was that as my energy flagged, it was harder to keep engaging with everyone.  Even a very social person, I kept feeling a need to pull away, conserve, withdraw.  Having commitments on the calendar felt stressful to a life that felt up-in-the-air. Hard to keep up friendships, or forge new ones, when my energy feels used up in other endeavors, real or imagined.

Unsure of What to Share: I think part of the hesitation to "get out there" was connected to the fact that my ability to engage in small talk decreased during this time.  When you have big things going on-- everything else seems to pale in comparison.  Harder to flippantly answer "fine" when people ask how you're doing. And yet, sometimes those big things aren't ready to be shared with the world, are still being processed or simply aren't appropriate to talk about with every person.  And so the conundrum-- if I don't want to talk about the small things or the big things-- what do we talk about?

Self-Focused: There's no question, when you have things going on that matter-- it's harder to be present for everyone else.  Which is understandable-- you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.  But still... hard to show up on their doorstep with the proverbial chicken noodle soup when you're sick in bed yourself.

My Stuff Brings Up Their Stuff: Undoubtedly, this is one of the hardest part of being in a relationship. We're so inter-connected that it's difficult to have a conversation about anything that matters without it reminding us of our experience or feelings on that subject--divorce, having kids, career choices, dating, retirement, health. My friend talks about moving away... I just think what I'll lose if she does.  One friend decides to take a job for the money and it makes me re-evaluate my own career.  When I went through my divorce-- it brought up all my coupled friends greatest fears.  When we're under stress-- it invariably will be felt in their lives.

I'm sure there are so many other ways our stress impacts our friendship and countless nuances to the ones I've named. (feel free to name others in the comments!)  We simply show up differently when we feel insecure, scared, and tired.

The Commitments that Helped Me

If left to my own feelings this last month, I surely would have been inclined to be a bit more of a hermit.  And to be sure, I certainly did pull back.

But there were some commitments in place that provided me the support of friends whether I had the energy for them or not.  Which was a good thing.  For friends, even though they take energy, end up giving us more energy.  The investment is worth it-- you stick five friendship dollars in the stock and you'll ten back.  (Compared to say, watching TV, where it might only cost one dollar of energy, but neither will it give you more than one dollar back, if that.)

And by the word commitment, I mean things that are routine in my life.  The things that I have put in place because they are important so it's never based on my mood whether I engage or not.

For me, talking on the phone every Wednesday at noon to my girlfriend in Texas is one of those things.  It's not that I wanted to call her those days when I was tired.  It's that I didn't even ask myself if I wanted to.  Hanging out with four friends (we didn't all start as friends!) every Tuesday has taken on sacred significance-- we schedule our lives around that night.  We show up-- no matter how yucky our day was or how intense our PMS symptoms.

My friendships were still impacted by my stress, undoubtedly.  But I still showed up.  (granted, not always full of energy, but still...)

In Latin, the word crisis means "to decide."

Which is ironic because usually in a crisis-- we are prone to feel like a victim, not necessarily someone ready to make choices.  Yet, choices we do have. We still get to choose-- no matter what we're grieving, deciding or feeling-- how we want to navigate it, and with whom.

As you encounter your stresses and life bumps, may you build in the routines that can help sustain you!

p.s.  In the ebb & flow of life, I'm thinking I'm headed back into the flow... :)