meet 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!

 

 

 

6 Books to Help Your Friendships

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

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

6 Books that Teach Healthy Friendships

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

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

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

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

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

To reading that can change your life....