looking for new friends

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!

 

 

 

Go Friend-Fishing With a Net, Not a Line!

It's been over two weeks since I've blogged... mostly because I was on a retreat to plug away on my book manuscript all last week and a girl can only produce so many scribbles at a time!   I'm still trying to replenish my ideas and words. woman with net

While on a a group coaching call on Monday night for my 21 Days of Friendship Curriculum-- during the live Q & A I found myself saying to the women on the call "If you are looking for new friends then put away your fishing line and pull out a net." So welcome to today's rant.  :)

A Friendship Fishing Line

Friend-Fishing with a line is where a woman stands on her metaphoric boat, with her limited bait (time/energy), and hopes someone swims by and jumps on her hook.

This method could work if you have a wide repertoire of friends in your life, feel fulfilled with the depth of multiple relationships, and are looking for one specific type of person (i.e. someone to go running with me around the lake twice a week, someone else who is going through a divorce right now too).  With that kind of specificity-- you can strategically pick the bait that attracts that particular type of fish... er, uh friend. Meaning you'll know exactly where to go to cast your line: Where do those type of people hang out?  How can I increase my odds for meeting her?

Then in these cases of line-fishing, you'll care less if she isn't the same age as you, sharing similar religious beliefs, and claiming the same interests as you... because what you were looking for was someone to run around the lake with you, not to become your BFF.

A fishing line allows one fish at a time.  You stand there and hope.  And then you either need to be okay with pretty much whatever you hook, or you have to be ready to make quick judgments and throw them back in the water to go free. And then stand there some more, throwing your line into a big ocean.

It's not an impossible way to find friends, but it's time consuming and rarely effective for the majority of women who actually have room in their lives for a couple of really close friendships. Research shows most of us have only one person we're confiding in, but that we'd be happiest if we had a small handful of people. While we feel time constraints-- we actually need several more varied friends in our lives.

If that's true for you.... you can't hook 3 people and expect those three people to become BFF's.  That's like saying you're only going to go on one date and expect that person to be the one you choose to marry.  It can happen, but it's not likely.  What we need is a wider approach.

A Friendship Fishing Net

A net approach invites us to recognize that we will need to meet many, many different women, experiencing a pile of options, before we will know which ones have the potential to become the friendships we're hoping to develop. Like a funnel, we can invite in many and trust that the narrowing down process will happen as we move forward. Our odds increase exponentially based on how wide of a net we start with!

A net approach reminds us that we need more than one friend so we can practice saying yes, more than we say no. Yes to events. Yes to new things. Yes to doing things in groups. Yes to her even if we don't see the obvious commonality yet.  Yes to people who are different from us.  Yes to her even if she is a different age, a different life stage, or a different personality.

As one of my clients said on the phone "The truth is I could talk myself out of not asking just about everyone I meet, if I let myself." Isn't that familiar?

But it doesn't have to be.  If we change to a net approach then we start giving ourselves reasons to talk ourselves into people.  At least temporarily.  We don't have to be able to see the end with them (are we going to be BFF's?) in order to start the journey.  We can almost always find something curious about the other.

A net approach reminds us that we can be more expansive, ratter than more selective.  That we can withhold the need to make immediate judgements.  That instead of showing up with a "Prove you're worth my time/interest" approach, we can show up with a "I want to see what's interesting about you" approach. That we can let more people into our lives, not less.  That we have room.  Room for more love, not less.

We hold the wisdom to know that the more people we meet and the more we try to connect with them in meaningful ways will produce more consequential options for us down the road.

Be Expansive, Not Selective.

At this stage in our lives, when we know how important it is to invite friends to journey beside us-- we have to keep telling ourselves "I don't have to say no to everyone who doesn't immediately seem to fit everything I'm looking for."  I can say yes to several and trust that collectively, my needs will get filled.

Maybe right now you don't need one person to be everything as much as you need a few people to share the job description?  The good news is that we don't have to be all-knowing right now.  We don't need to know if they will say yes before we ask them, if they will like us before we know if we like them, if they will have enough in common with us before we get to know them.

All we have to do is say yes to finding out.

May you put your net out, saying to the Universe that you are more open than you've ever been to the platonic love that is waiting for you.

Happy Fishing!

 

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!

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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.

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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.