Group Friendships

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Yesterday, I felt discouraged.

My Pain Blocked Me

Like, really discouraged. The kind where I start to question my capabilities and my worth. My voices of fear whispered, "You're never going to make it. You're a loser. You're a failure."

While there was a big part of me that wanted to retreat and be all by myself in my misery, there was also another part of me that desperately wanted to hear other voices besides my own.

I wanted to reach out and say to my friends: I need you to remind me that I'm not the loser that I feel like I am.

Shasta's Tips for Starting Women's Groups

I love few things as much as gathering women together.  There's often more laughter in groups and more diverse sharing and feedback. Plus, it also saves time being able to connect with a handful of friends at once, and it's more of a sure thing even if 1-2 people end up not being able to come. But there are so many kinds of groups to start! Your first question to answer is: What do I want the focus of the group?

  • Our Lives: This is one of my favorites-- basically we know that we are getting together in order to stay in touch, support each other, and invest in our relationships. We are the subject and ideally each person has time to share with everyone else what matters most in her life right now.  These groups should be started when you primarily want to bond by sharing your lives with each other.
  • A Theme/Subject: This category is one of the most popular types of groups because it includes such things as book clubs, support groups, entrepreneurs circles, mom's groups, Bible study groups, and political gatherings. These groups should be started when you primarily want mental stimulation, resonance in shared interests, and advice or support in a specific area.
  • An Activity: This category of group is primarily for gatherings where an activity is the focus whether it be a cooking club, a dining out group, a hiking group, or a group dedicated to training for an event. These groups should be started when you primarily want support/accountability in doing an activity, to experience new things, meet people with similar activity interests, desire more fun and socializing in your life, or to expand our horizons.

Of course there can be some cross-over, but it's important to be clear what desire is prompting your group.  If the focus is on hiking then one is less likely to leave feeling disappointed if no one asked her about her life, or if the focus is a mom's support group then we can put less attention to coming up with new activities and changing locations and devote more planning to conversations that matter to mothers. Knowing the priority serves as a filter for planning!

 

Another question that must be answered: Who is this group for?

  • Is there an ideal size? A minimum? A cap? If it's conversation-based it may help to be small enough to give time to everyone to share. If it's meal-based, do you want everyone to fit around a table? If it's networking based then maybe the more the merrier?
  • Is there something that everyone has to have in common in order to attend? Do they need to live in the neighborhood, have kids, or attend a certain church?
  • Is this an open or closed group? Can attendees invite others to come with them? Do you want to keep meeting people or go deeper with the same people?
  • What level of commitment is needed? Can attendees simply come when they want or is the intention that they come regularly?

I'll make a note to write more specific blog posts addressing some of the different types of groups since they will each have different needs.  But here are some of my overall tips:

  1. If you already have a few specific people in mind that you want participating-- then invite them to give input to such questions as 1) What type of group interests you the most? 2) Do you have others you'd like to invite? 3) Knowing we'll feel closer the more often we meet-- how frequently would you be willing to commit?
  2. Unless the focus is specifically to "try new restaurants in the city" or "explore new hiking trails" then keep the location as consistent and easy as possible. Every time you "switch" places it takes more brainstorming, planning, and communicating; plus attendees will be more likely to cancel if it feels like it will take a lot of energy.
  3. Similarly, come up with a "routine" and repeat it as often as possible.  People want to know what is expected of them and what to expect. My girls group "routine" is to chit-chat and catch-up while everyone arrives and before we put dinner on the table, but once we all have food on our plates then we switch gears to "going around the circle and each person sharing their highlight/lowlight." Maybe your book club talks about the book and then ends with mingling? Or is it the other way around? Aim for consistency.
  4. Keep the dates set even if someone can't attend.  Groups turn into a logistical mess when we start trying to change dates to accommodate different people. In general, it's best when the group can set their dates ahead of time (either the same day/time every week/month OR set their dates far enough out as a group so that everyone can plan around them) and then stick to them.  Every time you change for one, you risk messing it up for another, plus add to the communication weariness.
  5. Make sure everyone is given time to "be seen."  I'm a big fan of "going around the circle" so that each person has a chance to share--whether it's as small as an introduction before an activity or as big as giving each person 15 minutes to share on the topic of the evening.

What other tips do you have that you think would be helpful to others who are planning group gatherings?

Or, what other questions about group events do you have that I might be able to answer in a future post?

The Key to Starting a Women's Group

By: Katrina Emery Katrina Emery, a freelance writer from Portland, OR, occasionally interviews a member of GirlFriendCircles and writes a guest post about their friend-making journey so we can all learn from, inspire, and encourage each other in our own quests for better friendships.

It was while she was volunteering at her local hospital that retiree Kris Trainor knew she needed to focus on friendship more. Her role was to talk and sit with people before they go into the Cath Lab, sometimes helping them fill out forms. “Many of them didn’t have anyone reliable to put as a contact on the form. This is Prescott, Arizona--we’re friendly. People know their neighbors,” she recalls. “but then I thought,

‘Who would I put down?’ And I had to admit that I needed somebody.”

After 10 years of living in Prescott Kris had plenty of acquaintances, but not many close friends. Spurred on by GirlFriendCircles, she started a group dedicated to forming new friendships for older women. They meet at her local Starbucks for an hour every single week. Consistency, one of the three requirements of friendship, is the most important thing for them, since it's hard to get to know each other or built up trust without it. And as Kris says, “consistency can be the hardest to establish with new friends”  so the commitment to meet weekly has helped her group connect.

The ladies chat and share every week, using GirlFriendCircles Sharing Questions to dig deeper. Kris laughs that she often has to bring the topic back. “People want to have meaningful conversations, but they’ll drift.” To make everyone more comfortable and ease them in, she’ll often read a list of values and goals she wrote down when she started the group. “I wrote what I wanted to get out of this. It includes 1) don’t take anything personally, 2) practice being open and transparent, 3) learn to express my love and appreciation of others, and 4) be madly in love with yourself. Part of what we’re doing here is learning to be good friends with ourselves.” The first time she read it the group responded better than she thought they would, and now it’s a common way she starts. “They love it!”

It hasn’t all been easy for Kris. The group has been meeting since August, but she’s not sure she can claim any of the ladies in her Committed friends yet. “I didn’t expect it to stay this hard. I didn’t realize I’d have to be kind of like a mom, in a leadership role.” To help, she reminds herself of the natural ebbs and flows of groups, rather than take it personally. “It’s been winter lately--bad weather, sickness, holidays, and the group naturally shrinks.” Going back to her list of what she wants to gain from the group helps, too. “I figured out that I had to go back to my sheet to know what I want.” Even on her end, consistency is a must.

One of the reasons she’s committed to the group is a memory of when she moved to Prescott and was looking at other ladies’ groups. “When I asked to join, they said no!” She was shocked. Her group has committed to staying open for anyone interested in joining. “I’m serious about always remaining open to new people. We’ve got to continue to widen our personal circles.”

Because they’ve all committed to meeting every single week, they’re rapidly getting to know one another. Consistency is key, knowing that they’ll continue to see each other without having to match up schedules. Outside of their weekly meetup, the group has taken classes together at the community college. One makeup class, Kris recalls, ended up to be a thinly veiled sales pitch, but the ladies all had fun anyway and they now laugh at the experience. They’ve started planning other events amongst themselves. Kris loves that, since she doesn’t feel she has the capacity to plan more. “I couldn’t do a bigger event every month," she says, “but I know that it’s easy to get a friend to meet you for coffee.”

And that’s what she’s done, every week, consistently.

Let's cheer for Kris and encourage her as she continues this commitment! And let's take inspiration from her: What is one way you could increase the consistency (regularity/repetition/frequency) in one of your friendships?

Shasta's Sharing Questions for Group Get-Togethers

This month, in GirlFriendCircles we're teaching "How to Plan a Meaningful Gathering" because we all know that there is a BIG difference between entertaining vs. engaging.

Why We Need Sharing Questions

What we don't want are more stressful or small-talk filled nights with people.  What we do want are more gatherings where we feel "When planning a gathering, always start by asking "how do I want it to feel?" and then plan to that desired outcome.seen, loved, and connected.  But, unfortunately, those are too far and few between these days for the vast majority of us.  So this month we're all committing to plan one meaningful night with friends we want to know better! (You can join us-- a class, supportive community, free advice, etc.)

A really important part of helping women connect is giving them the time and space to do it in a meaningful and structured way. For that reason we love Sharing Questions—they allow everyone to share, provide a focus of what to talk about (otherwise we end up talking about politics, TV shows, or the weather, instead of about us!), and help ensure that women start to feel like they know each other (as well as allowing each woman to be heard and feel seen).

Answering these questions is fun! They not only ensure that each of us has the opportunity to share, but they also focus our conversations on us rather than about celebrity gossip, news, movies, or our jobs and families.

How to Facilitate Group Sharing

Our sharing is shaped by so many things: how well we already know each other, the size of our group, the purpose of our gathering, and how much time is available, but here are a few fun ways to add Sharing Questions into your gatherings:

  1. Pick one question and go around the circle for everyone to answer.
  2. If your group is small and there’s plenty of time to share, have each person pick one question that everyone answers (so you’re answering as many questions as there are attendees, with everyone picking one question and answering all of them).
  3. Print and cut apart the questions and put them in a hat that is passed around the circle with each person drawing out a different question to answer.
  4. If the group is large, invite women to get into groups of 3 and give them 20 minutes to answer as many of the questions together as possible.

(Here are other tips for facilitating a group discussion.)

Sample Sharing Questions

If you're with people who know each other fairly well, here are some of my favorites:

• What is the one thing you want less of in your life right now? And one thing you want more of?

• What title would you give to the current chapter of your life? Why?

• What is one thing you love about your current job/role and one thing you would change if you could?

• In what way(s) are you similar to and/or different from one of your parents (or other family member)?

• What were you like in high school? And if you could go back and tell yourself one thing-- what would it be?

• What is one thing coming up in your life that matters?

• And, of course, my all time favorite question: What is a highlight and low light in the last week/month?

If you're with people who don't know each, here are some of my favorites (best ones are loosely connected to why the group is getting together):

• Share with us your name and how you know _______  (i.e. me--the host, the birthday girl, the bride-to-be) --where we met/how we've become friends.

• Share with us your name and one thing you did this last summer (or over the holidays/fall/spring) that stood out.

• Share with us your name, and tell us what you do for work, but more importantly, tell us what part of your work/job energizes you the most these days.

• Share with us your name, and because we're here celebrating x holiday, share with us one memory you have of a previous one. (St. Patrick's Day, Valentines, etc.)

•Share with us your name, and because we're gathering to meet new friends, share with us how one of your closest friends would introduce you-- how would they describe you?

• Share with us your name , and because we are all ____ (i.e. on this sports team, on PTA, part of this association) tell us what inspired you to join this group and why it feels important to you.

The real value of a Sharing Question is less about the exact question and more about letting everyone share and be seen-- it helps us feel closer to each other even if we don't end up having a 1:1 conversation with each person.  Plus, it gives us the beginning of a conversation thread that we can pick up and continue when we run into that person later.

If you're not practiced at leading Sharing Questions it might feel uncomfortable at first. But remember: feeling awkward doesn't mean it's "bad" to do it-- it just means we're not very practiced yet.  So let's practice!  :)

What have been your experiences in groups that initiate group sharing vs. just mingling or letting only a few share? And please share other questions you've used and loved-- let's compile a list!

The Secret to Moving from Acquaintances to Friends

We learn so much through sharing our stories!  Thanks to Katrina Emery for interviewing a GirlFriendCircles.com member, Jan Link, about what she's experiencing in her friend-making process that can inspire all of us! When Jan retired three years ago and moved back to the Midwest, she was going home. After 40 years away, though, home didn’t come with many friends anymore.  Three years after she came back to her small town in Wisconsin, near the Minnesota border, she still hadn’t met many people to call for a fun day out or lunch date.

“I felt like I should go stand on a street corner with a sign that said, ‘I need friends,’ ” she laughs. When she joined GirlfriendCircles she hoped that would change everything. She signed up and met a few new people, but found herself right back to where she started. Nothing seemed to stick.

She wasn’t sure what was wrong. “I knew I didn’t have any trouble with vulnerability,” she says, pointing out that, “Who I am is what you get!” So she participated in some of the GirlFriendCircles classes and when she listened to "The 3 Requirements to Starting Friendships" she had an ah-ha moment: she needed more consistency with her new friendships.

“I wasn’t being as consistent as I needed to be. I’d meet friendly acquaintances, but I couldn’t get it to blossom from there by just getting together occasionally.” Knowing she needed to give more regular time to new friendships in order to create the momentum that leads to bonding, she decided to commit to growing a group of local friends, using the GirlFriendCircles site and also going beyond. “I made posters and flyers inviting women to join in fun activities, and stuck them everywhere: grocery store, health store, church, the next few towns over, gyms, even gas stations (everyone needs gas!). Every month I put out 15 posters, and I change them up.”

Now, a group of 15 ladies consistently get together several times a month, and it’s still growing. “The girls love it so much,” Jan says. Most of the group is ladies around her own age, retired, some widowed. “With exits and losses, we all need more friends through life changes,” Jan says. “Having someone nearby to go shopping with is so important.”

The group started out once a month, but Jan quickly realized that even that wasn’t enough consistency to really feel close to each other. Now they meet 2-3 times a month, and often without her needing to organize it. They host craft groups, go shopping or out to lunch, and have a regular Bunco game night. Once a month Jan makes breakfast and has everyone over. She’s proud of the fact that they consistently show up, given the distance at times: “In Wisconsin, if someone has to travel over 9 miles, they really have to think about it!”

Jan’s learned a lot about the value of consistency over the course of the group. She had joined a few committees at her church, but since they meet only once every three months, it just wasn’t enough. She plans on urging for more, and volunteering to be a contact and advocate for people who have just moved to the area. From being a new transplant herself, she know what’s it’s like.

Her advice to anyone trying to make friends is to keep getting in touch: “I hear a lot that I reached out and didn’t get any replies. I don’t take it personally if that happens to me,” she says. “Try again. Be consistent. Plenty of people are more than willing to talk.”

Her group of ladies is strong and growing, and they often express appreciation for Jan’s part. “It’s so rewarding, every time they thank me. But it’s all of them: I’m so inspired by them.”

All women are invited to join GirlFriendCircles.com for monthly classes, local events, and new friends!

Tips for Small Group Facilitators

A group facilitator can make or break a gathering.  We've all been in a group where the facilitator thought she was the teacher and talked ad nauseam, and we've also been witness to the run-away train where they take such a back-seat role that the conversation just blows with the wind.

But hopefully we've also been in groups where we feel supported, guided, and nurtured as part of one big awesome conversation. There are few events more powerful and energizing than being in a group of women engaged in deep conversation and connection!

Getting together with women to share and connect can sometimes be easier and more fun with a book as our excuse!

To that end, when I wrote up a book club guide (which we loving refer to as BookCircles) for my newest book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness I also included some tips for anyone who wants to host one.

If you feel so inspired--be sure to download the Frientimacy gift pack on my website which not only walks you through 1-4 evenings of connecting but also guides you in figuring out who to invite and how to plan. The only thing better than inviting a group of women over to connect with each other is also having them talk and learn about friendship at the same time!

Tips for Facilitating:

Whether you're leading a BookCircle for Frientimacy or find yourself hosting a gathering or circle some other time, may these tips inspire you to remember what matters most.

  • Your Focus: Always remember that the focus isn’t to impress those who come or to have a “perfect” party; but rather it is to help facilitate love and connection. I always say a prayer before everyone arrives “Help everyone who comes through that door to feel loved and seen.” Exhale any worry about how others perceive you and instead focus on making sure everyone leaves feeling your warmth. People won’t remember what was said or how you looked—they’ll remember how they felt.
  • Timing: I think it’s respectful to start and end on time so I always plan out my evening starting from the end time. If I want to end by x time then I to be starting the goodbyes and announcements 7 minutes before then, which means asking the final question, 10 minutes before that, etc. I write in little suggested times throughout my itinerary so that at any given point I can quickly assess if I have extra time or am short on time—allowing me to make decisions about what to prioritize with the given time. Similarly, we need to think through how much time we want to allot for certain sections: For example, if you have 6 women all introducing themselves for 3 min each then it will take about 20 minutes to do introductions. Do you need to model a shorter introduction so it only takes 15 minutes?
  • Modeling: Our role as facilitators is not to teach and monopolize the conversation but to help facilitate everyone else’s sharing. Many people process the concepts as they talk and listen so we want to encourage the diversity of sharing from as many voices as possible. However, when it comes to going around the circle, I always share first to buy everyone time to think and to model vulnerability and timing. We want to keep our answer as short as we want everyone else’s to be. We also want to answer with as much authenticity as possible as that gives permission to everyone else to answer with honesty as well. We are setting the tone: what you put out is what will get duplicated.
  • Format Variety: You’ll notice I mix up many different ways of facilitating, including: group discussion where anyone can talk or not, go around the circle where each person shares once, partners where two people share with each other, and small groups where the group is split into 2 or more smaller groups. This helps ensure that the talkative people don’t monopolize the evening and that everyone gets chances to share and talk, it keeps everyone more engaged and prevents boredom, and helps people bond with different people. Follow my suggestions or experiment on your own as timing limitations and group personalities inspire you.
  • Beginning and Ending: It’s important to begin and end every group with circle sharing—everyone going around the circle to check-in and be seen. Be diligent about starting and ending well—with warmth, vision, and an invitation for everyone to enter and exit the circle with love and grace. The questions can change depending on the event or how well everyone knows each other-- but they can be as simple as "What interested you most about coming tonight?" as a way of each person introducing themselves; and ending with a version of "What is one thing you're taking away with you tonight?"
  • Names: Nothing worse for bonding than not remembering each others names. Erase any fear anyone might have of not remembering someone’s names by always reminding women to state their name when they talk if there is any chance that someone in the group may not remember or know everyone. I’d rather error on the side of saying names one too many times, than not enough times. When people are nervous it’s harder for them to recall names. Consider using name tags every week if it’s a group of people who haven’t all met before.
  • Responding to Sharing: One pitfall of many groups is that they chase rabbits—one thought reminds someone of a story which triggers someone else to remember what they read once which gets someone else going on a rant. What we want to do is try to keep the focus on whoever’s turn it is to talk (gently give the floor back to them if/after someone hijacks it—i.e. “Danielle... was there anything else you wanted to say about what you were sharing?) and try to keep the sharing on the question at hand (i.e. “oh that sounds so interesting... but in trying to answer this question specifically, what would you say?"). I implement a “thank you for sharing” rule in most of my groups which means we are mindful that our collective jobs aren’t to give advice, interrupt, or recall stories after someone’s share but rather we all say “Thank you for sharing!” before going to the next person so we can acknowledge we heard them without having to respond to all the details they shared. (Especially helpful in a “go around the circle” or “partner” format.)
  • Affirming: One of the best gifts we can give is affirming our guests through the evening—reminding them we value them and see them. It can be as easy as saying “oh great thought!” after they share or as intentional as telling them what we appreciated about their involvement before they leave.
  • Logistics and Roles: One of the most important roles we play as a facilitator is providing the container for the experience. The container includes overseeing logistics—location, reminders, clear instructions, etc. But it doesn’t mean we have to do everything—provide food/drink or facilitate every time. It just means we’ll make sure it happens. In fact, attendance is improved when people have a role—even if it’s just to bring napkins. We are more likely to show up if we think our presence will be missed; so more important than impressing everyone with doing it all is often our willingness to let go and let others. Maybe see if anyone else wants to facilitate different weeks (and share this guide with them!) or have everyone volunteer to bring different food items, or be in charge of different tasks (posting photos, starting a Facebook group page, or sending out reminders).

And I welcome you adding to the list by suggesting other tips that matter to you either as the facilitator or as one of the attendees-- what do you most appreciate?

May we continue to find ourselves gathered in meaningful ways....

No Excuse! Commit to a Girlfriend Weekend!

If you've been following me for a while then you know that every year, around this time, I meet up with 4 of my friends for our Annual Girls Weekend.  This year marked our 10th year of weekend get-aways. 10 years.  I almost can't believe it.  It's not hard to believe that we've been friends for that long... in fact we became friends before that... with 1-2 of the friendships going back nearly 20 years.  But that five women have committed to taking the time and paying the money to go on a girls trip for 10 years in a row feels huge to me. That is commitment that moves me.

This year we met in San Antonio, where my friend J'Leen lives so we could watch her perform Improv on Saturday night since she credits our group friendship with her taking her first Improv class last year! What fun!!!

So Many Excuses to Not Get-Away!

That means that 5 incredibly busy women have prioritized time away with each other and made it happen. No matter what.

  • No matter that during that time we've had 3 divorces... everyone has come, every year.  We've celebrated 2 weddings... and we have one more coming up this December!
  • No matter that 1 girl is on a strict budget and 2 have often used credit cards to come... everyone has come, every year. Even when they got hit with HUGE tax bills, bought new houses, had cars die, gave up per diem hours to attend, and had to scrimp in other areas to make it work.
  • No matter that my girlfriends have birthed 5 babies during that time.  We have, in fact, had someone pregnant more years than not, including last year when one of them was 8 months pregnant. Everyone has come, every year. Even the year when one of the girls had a late miscarriage the day before the trip... she came.
  • No matter that our work schedules are insane-- conference attendance, speaking schedules, book launches, private practices to run, and a dozen reasons to say "I'm too busy!" Everyone has come, every year. Including this year when one woman had to return from a business conference, barely kiss her kids and husband, and then get back on a plane to head off to see us.
  • No matter that it inconveniences our husbands/boyfriends because they have to sacrifice the money, watch the kids, and do life alone for a few days. Everyone has come, every year. Even the years when some of the girls didn't have a spouse, they had family watch their kids and they still came. Even the spouse who isn't available 7-8 months out of the year steps up joyfully if we can plan around his schedule!
  • And speaking of kids... between my 4 girlfriends, they mother 8 children, ranging this year from 10 months old to 15 years old.  But they come every year... I shake my head in awe...

Kids and Girlfriend Get-Aways

I don't want to downplay the commitment I make to be at Girls Weekend every year, because no matter whether we have kids or not, all of us have full and busy lives; but I absolutely am in awe of my friends who are moms who don't use that as an excuse to not show up for their friendships.  When I hear about the Little League games my friends are missing by being gone, the extra stress it puts on their spouses those weekends, or the times when their kids are sick and they aren't home to nurse them... I stand in deep gratitude for these women.

Here are some tips I've picked up from them that might help make it easier for other mom's to make the very difficult choice of justifying a get-away weekend:

  • Daddy Time: Several of them said, "It's actually kind of awesome to watch our kids have these special weekends with Dad... yes it's stressful in some ways, but this way they get to plan pizza night, feel like they have Dad's undivided attention, and create memories."
  • Modeling to the Kids: With statements like "I can only hope that my girls are watching me do this and looking forward to the days they are grown up and get to do girls weekends!" and "I just tell my kids-- just like you get to go a have a slumber party sometimes, this is Mommy's slumber party," my friends are teaching their kids that friendship is worth scheduling.
  • Expectation Management: They all agreed, "Actually, the more we all do it, the easier it gets.  Now it's not a surprise or a hardship to go away as much as it was in the early days, the families just know it's going to happen and they're practiced."
  • Personal Self-Care: Now when I ask them why they come, most of them just say, "I wouldn't NOT come!" or "This is the best weekend of my whole year!" We all recognize it as the time when our own cup gets filled up with love.  We process life, share what's making us happy, talk about our fears, and become better people for having been away. I think, undoubtedly, that we all show up back home with more love to give.

I do think, like anything, that the more one does it, the more meaningful and easy it becomes.  One girlfriend weekend may, or may not, change anyone's life or feel worth the stress... but you add up the years and how much value we add to each other's life, and I really do believe that we are adding years to our lives. And each year we can go deeper, share more vulnerably, cheer for each other more loudly, and laugh so much more.  We've made our weekends meaningful and life-saving.

Today I just wanted to pop into your inbox to say that no matter what excuse feels so true for your life... I am one loud vote on the side of you saying yes to some friendship time that extends beyond a lunch or dinner.  Something about staying up late laughing and snorting, waking up and whispering about life, and spending a long full day together is truly as magical as life can possibly get.  Keep it cheap, keep it easy, and keep it meaningful-- but whatever you do, get the invitations emailed and get that date on the calendar!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Huge love to Valerie, J'Leen, Karen, and Krista for juggling friendship as one of the priorities of your very busy and full lives.  I am blessed by your commitment. xoxo

p.s.s.  Other posts about Girls Weekends:

5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend!

Weekend Get-Togethers: The Benefits of Long-Distance Friendships

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women's Groups:

Hosting a Friendship Book Club

Huge thanks to Kristen Baker for writing up her experience with hosting a book club about my last book, Friendships Don't Just Happen, so her story might inspire a few of you to do the same!  Imagine having a fun evening together and engaging in conversations about your friendships while all learning together what it takes to create healthy and meaningful connections? Win:win!If you do decide to try it, I wrote up discussion guides you can download for free whether you want to do a 1-time book club or a 4-week book-club. Not sure who to invite? Read this post for ideas!

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Girlfriends, I had a blast leading a book club gathering around Shasta's fantastic book Friendships Don't Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Friends.

I read Shasta's book after hearing her guest interview on Christine Arylo's class  (Me before We) on self-love and just loved her content. As I poured into FDJH, I started to see

Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!
Huge thanks Kristen for being a part of inspiring healthy friendships by hosting a book club... and thanks for sharing a bit of it with us!

patterns from my past emerge, patterns in my friendships, family relationships, even dating. It was truly a book about connection, intimacy, and vulnerability. I had so many "ah-has" and "Ohhhh that's why that happened," moments while I was reading. My eyes even welled up with tears as I read the chapter on forgiveness - releasing some past feelings of rejection.

So naturally, I had to share it with my group here in Houston. I lead a sisterhood for self-exploration, a coaching community - the Divas, here in Houston (and online) and we have a monthly book club, so I added FDJH to the docket. A small group started trickling in, and we started sharing our experiences from the book. The beautiful irony was experiencing these Divas sharing their struggles with vulnerability WHILE BEING VULNERABLE. While being authentic. They showed up, shared their struggles, we connected. It was magical.

The common themes that came up for us:

  • Our right-side friends (the deeper friendships) were not as full as many wanted.
  • We practiced gratitude for the left-side (we even had one ah-ha that if one of the women went back and re-did her circles again and added her male friendships - it would have been a much fuller chart!).
  • We talked about friendship and how it impacted our life goals, how friendship fit into the greater context of our life. We contemplated: how does it all fit together?
  • We talked about the overlap in romantic relationships, family relationships, dating, to what we had learned in the book.
  • We talked about what gets in the way of vulnerability: messages from our parents, past rejections and disappointments, rejection of self, approval-seeking.
  • We talked about opening up the possibilities of WHO we would pursue friendships with.

Some ah-has from our group:

  1. "Accepting yourself is the key to building intimacy"
  2. "Friendships don't just happen" (yes, this was an ah-ha! ha)
  3. "That I am not as vulnerable in my current relationships as I would like to be"

My personal takeaways:

  • I love connecting over a book club. So, yes, check - I want more of that!
  • I continue to deepen my understanding of friendship, and frientimacy as a practice of self-love, self-trust, self-acceptance. And really enjoy deepening that awareness.

I am so glad I chose this book for discussion, I may have a round two because there is so much richness in the book, it is chock full of insights and I could talk about relationships, intimacy and vulnerability for HOURS. And it is really beautiful to watch people open up about their experiences with friendships.

All in all, a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it.

Love,

Kristen

Kristen Baker is a life and career coach, find out more about her here.

Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships!  :)
Instead of just reading about friendship, lead a book circle that actually fosters friendships! :)

Don't yet have your own copy of Friendships Don't Just Happen!-- Buy it here!

Did you read the book or lead a group? Share with us in the comments a bit about your experience.  Or feel free to ask any questions about how to host-- we'll help!  :)

Friendships Don't Just Happen - for Guy Friends

From Shasta:  I've long-held that most men crave more meaningful friendships and while I don't have the same expertise and experience in teaching men as I do to women (that won't stop me from trying though! ha!) I have been long interviewing men about their friendships because I think there is a lot there that we aren't yet talking about, and need to be.

Greg Tjosvold has preferred friendship with women much of his life but is grateful to be exploring meaningful friendships with men now.

One of the men whose opinions and experiences on this subject has impressed me greatly is Greg Tjosvold, a middle-school teacher, husband, father, and author living outside of Vancouver, Canada.

Greg's story is poignant... as he comes to have faith in other men wanting and willing to grow in closer friendship with each other.  I hope that as we keep modeling men having deeper friendships and giving more permission (as a culture) to men to get together to talk and share life (without sports being the only acceptable excuse) that we will see that frientimacy is something that enhances all of our lives, regardless of our gender.

Huge thanks Greg for sharing the story of the Barley Brethren with us!  :)  Love it!

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

Friendships Don't Just Happen - for Guy Friends

by Greg Tjosvold

He stopped trying to shove my head in the toilet when I started to cry. Grade 8 boys weren’t supposed to cry, but it worked.

Most of my interactions with guys have been like that. Until I was 14, I was very small for my age. I was an easy target for wannabe bullies trying to establish themselves. I was not athletic, so I was always picked last, if picked at all. And if I was on the team, invariably the captain would call me out in front of my peers for my less than stellar play. Being small gave others the chance to be “big.”

As a teen, I didn’t drink, tinker with cars, or “chase tail” - the favorite activities of most of the guys I knew in my small Canadian logging town. I was attracted to solo adventures like fly-fishing and astronomy. Those were safe for me. And so were girls.

My best friends have always been women.

In school, the girls I hung out with never attempted to give me a “swirly.” In fact they told off people who tried. I was always included by my amazing girl cousins whom my family visited frequently. My best friend in high school, a wonderful young woman of Japanese heritage, always kept a seat free and a meaningful conversation ready for me on the bus ride home. I played flute in band, but rather than shunning me, the cool girls in the band, the “Fearsome Five-some” I called them, made time for me. Girls were there for me; guys were not.

Things have not really changed much for me as an adult; by comfort and profession, I am still surrounded by women. My wife is my absolute best friend and soul mate. My BFF is a former teaching partner; I was her “man of honor.” As a teacher in the lower grades, I once found myself working in a building where everyone other than me, from janitor to principal, was a woman. And I was OK with that. I still feel safest in my female connections.

So I was as shocked as anyone when I said yes to an invitation from a colleague to join the founding chapter of “The Barley Brethren.” I am the rebel seventh – the lone non-drinker in a group of men coming together each week to share each other’s journeys over a six-pack of quality craft beer. For the first time in my life I am hanging out with guys and enjoying it.

What happened? This new adventure, this new friendship experiment, is a happy byproduct of navel-gazing, need, and Shasta.

Navel-gazing

As I approached my 50th birthday, I became very self-reflective. One of my realizations? That it is hard being a married, middle-aged man with female friends. On more than one occasion an outside observer has assumed I’ve been up to something. Or that I’m gay. Sometimes, I just don’t fit in with my friend’s activities (e.g. having a guy at a bachelorette party is lame!). Still other times, my offered friendship has left the other person's spouse feeling threatened and jealous. I’ve even had people tell me outright that married men should not have close female friends. Period.

All of these things do not just affect me; they also affect any potential female friend. While I have to believe that I'm worth it, it is a special lady indeed who is willing to take on such a challenging friendship. In light of that realization, I started to toy with the notion that, if I was going to need a new friend, it might be better (albeit scarier) if that person was male.

Need

It turns out that I did find myself needing new friends. My best friend and teaching partner moved to the other side of the continent (following her husband's employment) and I had a rather painful falling out with another very good friend at nearly the same time. The full weight of my needs for companionship and camaraderie all of a sudden fell almost exclusively on my wife's shoulders.

Shasta

Fortunately, in the midst of all of this, I came across Shasta Nelson, friendship expert, via Twitter. While her company and mission, girlfriendcircles.com, wouldn't be any help to me, her book, "Friendships don't just happen!" was a timely godsend. So much of the book resonated with me, especially:

  1. Friendships come and go. Shasta references research that shows we are now replacing about half of our friends every seven years. It was reassuring to know that what I was going through was not unusual. It's hard on the ego to admit you need new friends.
  2. There are different types of friends. For many people, I suppose Shasta's five Circles of Connectedness are largely self-evident. However, for me, it was life-changing revelation. As someone who had very few friends growing up, I just assumed that the very definition of friend was someone who was a BFF - a "committed friend" per Shasta's terminology. I distinctly remember times in my life when the phrase "Everybody's pal, nobody's friend" hung over me like a black cloud of loneliness and unworthiness. I had never really considered the importance of my "left side" friends on the continuum - how they can be the seeds of deeper friendship and who are no less important to a rich life of connection all on their own.
  3. Friendships don't just happen. I spent most of my life with the unspoken assumption that people just connected or they didn't. The book challenged me to look back at the best friendships I had in my life and understand that they were the byproduct of gradual progression. More importantly, it made it clear to me that this progression was something that could be replicated; that I could start with "contact friends" and, given time, consistency and gradually increasing intimacy, there was hope I might be able to move friends from the left side of the friendship continuum to the right.

Enter the Barley Brethren

Retired school principal Phil Ballard started the Barley Brethren to a meet a perceived need; the need for men to have the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

Per his early notes, he envisioned the Barley Brethren as a "club of like-minded gentlemen in search of spiritual coherence. Membership in the Double B would involve a commitment to become a connoisseur of quality craft beer and would require the sharing of 'cicerone' duties for the weekly gathering. While quaffing their favorite brew, the brothers would discover meaning for their own lives while sharing in each other’s journeys. Meetings would be convened on the “MV Kairos,” a 45 ft. motor yacht."

While we couldn't come across any group photo-- this is supposedly Phil's hand holding one of the lucky beers.  Ha!

The concept of bros and booze in a man-cave should've sent me running, given my history. However, my desire to establish male friendships and the concepts in Shasta's book give me a framework for courage.

My BFF had moved (my committed friend would soon become a confirmed friend), so when a respected colleague (a "contact friend" worth investing in) asked if I was interested in joining a group planning to meet weekly (ingredient: consistency) to learn about beer ("common friends") and discuss life (ingredient: intimacy), what might have looked scary before, I now recognized as the perfect recipe for developing friendship. The fact that founding father Phil was a "confirmed friend" with whom I had lost touch over the years seemed serendipitous.

Note from Shasta: Greg, Gold stars for making the real life application to the concepts!  Love it!

Each week during the school year we meet.

Beer pours at 7:30 sharp. We spend time reviewing the beer, its history, and its characteristics. As a non-drinker, but a life-long learner, it has been fascinating learning the terminology of surrounding craft beer. I also know what sort of beer to bring to a gathering if I am asked.

The rest of the evening is a little less structured. In theory there is a go to study we listen to or read, but just as often as we just talk about what needs to be talked about. We talk, laugh, and yes, even cry about the things that are affecting our lives. Marriage, children, death, illness, work, retirement, faith... we all bring different perspectives and wisdom to what is important in the moment.

The Barley Brethren have been meeting for two years now... at least our first group. Somewhat ironically, the friend who initially invited me became the leader of a second group when the success of the idea and the need to open the concept up to more members became self-evident. (I see this friend outside the group now though.) For the first time in my life, I am hanging out with men on a regular basis. I still have my uncomfortable flashback moments... I'm overly sensitive to teasing about my beer selections, for instance... but I am so thankful for the growing friendships in the group built on vulnerability and sharing that, frankly, I didn't believe was possible among men.

Apparently friendships don't just happen. It's an important concept for guys too.

---

While "just a group of guys," for more information, there is a site under construction: http://www.barleybrethren.com, they are on Twitter @barleybrethren, and here's their un-official theme song that sort of encapsulates the Barley Brethren: Brother, by Need To Breathe.  :)

From Shasta: Bravo guys!  Well done!  May your willingness to engage be contagious! :)

How to Not Feel Judged

This last weekend was my 20th high school reunion.  I hadn't been back since our 10th.

Nothing like a High School Reunion to Flare Up the Insecurities

What started off months ago as excitement at seeing my high school friends, many with whom I had gone to school with since first grade, turned into fear as the date got closer.

I knew it was fear because I recognize that anytime I have a voice whispering a variation of  "You're too different from them... they won't accept you" that my own insecurity is starting to put up walls of protection.  And the only time I'd need protection is if some part of me thought I was in danger.

Which of course I wasn't in danger.  But trying to convince the voice of a little insecure high school girl, who kept whispering that my marriage was too different, that my religious path looked too different, or that my lifestyle was too different, was like asking a baby to stop crying. Somewhat futile despite the best soothing.

You undoubtedly know the feeling. Sometimes it's walking into a cocktail party and assuming that everyone else knows someone, except us.  Or attending a ConnectingCircle where you hope to make new friends, but guessing  ahead of time that you probably won't have anything in common with anyone.  Or talking to someone and guessing that whatever we are (single, a mom, retired, a Christian, an immigrant) isn't what the other person wishes we were, leaving the conversation feeling very much like an outsider.

Fear Divides Us

And I knew that I wasn't the only one showing up at our reunion feeling the fear.  In fact, I guessed that there would be many who wouldn't even come, where fear was undoubtedly at the root of their reason.  With statements like "Everyone else still acts like they did back in high school," "I'm just too different," "We don't have anything in common anymore," and "I didn't even like them back then, I surely won't like them now," you can see that every excuse validates the voice of fear: "I'm too different." And the unacknowledged fear beneath that statement is that we'll be judged, or rejected in some way.

I often quote Rabbi Harold Kushner who says that our greatest human fear is the fear of rejection.  He makes a case that it is the fear of being rejected, or not being "enough," that is at the root of every other fear we hold.

If that is true, and I think it is, then we know that our default lens is often to presume we're being rejected, or somehow not measuring up.

If that's just true in day-to-day life, then the stakes definitely go up at reunions. There aren't many places in life where we "go back" to the same place and group of people.  That going back is like a mirror where we can see where we used to be, and where we are now. It's impossible to not see all the other paths we could have taken, how our choices have played out; and to then compare our current life either to those who graduated with us, or against our own hopes of where we pictured ourselves someday being.  Much like a door frame where our parents measured our growth with pencil marks, this ritual of going back can leave us feeling measured, evaluated, and insecure for any part of life that isn't "perfect."

I can feel sensitive about being judged for moving away and leaving our town; and someone else can feel fearful that I'd think less of them for staying.  Someone can come and feel nervous about being too accomplished and successful; and someone else can come feeling bad about not having finished college.  The person who is always being judged for having the "perfect" life is feeling just as insecure as the person who feels the weight of a bankruptcy, weight gain, or divorce.

What fear does is divides.  Fear whispers that we're not good enough.  Fear insists that there is a separation between you and me.  Fear focuses on the .1% that may appear different, rather than the 99.9% that is the same.  Fear forgets that we're connected. Fear builds up walls that tempt us to think someone is inside, and someone is outside.

How To Not Feel Judged...

Of course to bring our walls down means we have to feel safe.  And while most us think we need them to act loving before we can feel safe, I found it much more empowering to create my own safety.

Here are the two things I did differently this time, that resulted in me not feeling judged:

1)    First, I changed my story.

When I listen to most of us articulate our fears about what others might think of us, we say: "I feel judged for x."

Even if we don't use that word, we express those sentiments. You'll know you feel judged by the fact that you start defending yourself.  Only someone who feels attacked has to defend.  In defense mode we have two options: devalue them and/or inflate us.  We tell ourselves whatever we have to to try to feel better about our lives.

The problem with feeling judged is that it leaves us as the victims, implying there is someone doing something to us.  The story of judgment always has a perpetrator that we must defend ourselves against.

This time, every time I was tempted to take on the story of "feeling judged" I replaced it with "I feel insecure about x." I owned it!

That shift in language changed everything!  Now, instead of being a victim that needs to defend myself against someone doing something (that most often is only imagined!); I am simply recognizing that I feel the fear.  Now, I am in charge and I can ask myself, "Why do I feel insecure about this part of my life? Is it because I'm not happy with this myself? Or, am I not at peace with it in some way? What information can I take from this that will help me live my life more in alignment? Is there anything I can do to make myself feel better right now? How do I want to respond?"

Owning it as insecurity, rather than projecting judgment on others kept me loving to them with the clarity that they aren't the problem and empowered me with the information and empathy I needed to look inside and grow myself.

2)    The second thing I did was create a mantra that I said silently through out the whole weekend:

"Focus on loving people, not trying to impress them."

So this time... I listened with empathy to that little high school girl inside of me that just wanted to be accepted.  I heard it, validated the hunger, assured that little girl that others felt the same way, and decided that my own odds of feeling accepted would increase if I came in ready to give that to others.

I decided that I'd rather leave people feeling good about themselves rather than worrying about them feeling good about me.  That means I chose to affirm them, share the very imperfect parts of my life with honesty, and listen deeply-- all things that can't be done with a heart of fear.  Walls don't lend themselves to connection and love.

And truthfully, people like people who like them so odds increase that if they feel good--as opposed to insecure-- talking to you, they'll like you! Acceptance has a way of breeding acceptance.  Which is what we all want anyway... so why not just get straight to the point?  :)

You probably don't have a high school reunion coming up... but I'll leave you with this prayer:

May you know your worth, feeling deeply how valuable you are.  May you remember that while your default mode is to feel rejected, that you can choose acceptance instead.  May you continue to grow in accepting yourself and giving that gift to all whom you meet.  We are all accepted, all good enough, all created with love....we just forget sometimes. Let's remember...

 

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women's Groups

I have sat in 5 circles of women and 2 circles of couples in the last 7 days, with two more coming up this weekend, which is a bit more connection than I typically allow for in my schedule, but my heart is feeling such gratitude and fullness today. I want to share a few of them with you because I want you to see how they got started, how different they each are, and how meaningful they are in so many different forms.  So many of you crave having more Circles in your life, and I want you to see what is possible for you to create.

Being in Circle Invites Support

Last Friday I was sitting around a table at a restaurant because I said yes to an invitation from someone I didn't know who was hosting what she was calling 12@12, 12 women she admires coming together for lunch at 12 pm for us to meet each other and find ways to support one another. She had made the reservations and initiated the gathering, and we all reaped the benefits.

Business mastermind womens group

When we went around the circle to introduce ourselves we had to answer three questions: What do we do? What is our super power? And, what is one challenge we're facing right now? Just from hearing those shares, one woman has reached out with an offer to introduce me to a friend of hers who is in charge of finding speakers for an event, I offered to make a donation from GirlFriendCircles to the non-profit that one of them is starting in order to bring art to children. Being in Circle invites support.  When women hear how they can help each other-- they do.

Being in Circle Invites Accountability

On Monday, I hosted six friends in my home for an afternoon of journaling and sharing, ending with dinner and celebrating.

womens circle for journaling and reflecting

This group came about because the day before New Years I had invited a handful of friends (who didn't know each other at all before that date) to come launch 2014 by setting aside the time to reflect, honor, and set intention in the midst of community.  As everyone was hugging each other good-bye that evening, everyone kept saying, "Can we do this again? Sooner than next New Years?" So I scheduled this one to celebrate the end of the first quarter.

It's one thing to pause and make sure I'm honoring my growth in recent months and getting clear about what I want the upcoming months to hold, and it's quite another hearing the honesty of others and getting clearer as I hear myself talk out loud. It was easy planning-- invitations were sent, everyone brought something to share for our dinner, and I just had some journaling prompts (such as "What am I tolerating in my life? and What is bringing me the most energy these days?") to give us some loose structure. Being in Circle holds the space to do things like journaling and reflecting that we value but don't always do on our own.

Being in Circle Invites Brainstorming, Feedback, and Ideas

Yesterday morning, I participated in two beautiful Circles that were both virtual. One was my entrepreneur mastermind circle (apply at Savor the Success to be matched into one!) where 4 of us spend an hour every other week on video chat getting the collective wisdom and expertise to help us grow our business.  I am hoping to partner with a few brands that might sponsor GirlFriendCircles and these women spent 10 minutes giving me every idea they had for what that can look like as I take my next step on a road that is unfamiliar to me.  Being in Circle with these women makes me a better business owner.

The other Circle happens early every Thursday morning via the phone.  There are seven of us who affectionately call ourselves The Rebel Queens. Queens because we are all thought-leaders, speakers, and authors who feel called to bring our messages of love into this world, each in our own domain and expertise; Rebels because that means we'll speak against norms, ruffle some feathers, and invite people out of their comfort zones. We know the power of having space where we can be vulnerable, witnessed, and supported by other women who are big, bright, and imperfect.  We'll each have days and areas where we will feel insecure; and days and areas where we can celebrate the success of each other. We each take time to share our hearts and receive the prayers and reflections of the group. This group was started by a couple of them who were friends deciding they wanted to have more structure to their support and connection, so they decided to start a small group and invited a few others in who they felt would be resonate. Being in Circle with these women helps me practice shining my best self in confidence that my shining gives permission to others to do the same.

Being in Circle Invites Fun

This Sunday is my 10/10 retreat day!  There are ten of us women who meet on the last Monday of every month. I started this group 3 years ago with two other friends.  We knew the power of networking but didn't like the idea of mingling at networking events as much as we liked the idea of a group of women committing to supporting each other regularly.  So we compiled a list of names of women we knew, or knew of, and sent them an invitation asking if they wanted to commit to attending at least 8 of the 10 monthly meetings that were scheduled.

Womens Retreat Day mastermind group

Three years ago we planned one day-long retreat in addition to the evening meetings.  It was so much fun that last year we decided to up it to twice a year.  And, this year, you won't be surprised that we scheduled three of them!  We always keep them easy, meeting at someone's home, adding some yoga or a walk, good food, and lots of laughter and sharing that bonds us way beyond a typical mastermind monthly session.

 

Being in Circle Invites Intimacy

Many of the groups I described above started as Left-Side Circles, meaning that I was either meeting with complete strangers where we became Contact Friends, or committing to the group for the purpose of bonding over what we had in common (i.e. entrepreneurs, speakers) which made us Common Friends.  The groups where we have the most consistency (either by meeting weekly, or because we've been meeting for several years) now are also growing in intimacy.  May of the women I met in these Circles have been invited into my other Circles as we continue to grow our friendships in multiple ways.

best friends, girls groups

But one of my Circles started with my closest friends.  Three of us made a commitment to get 2 dates on the calendar every month, if we can.  We schedule a few months out and plan life around those sacred Circles where three of us, who have now known each other for nearly 7 years, come together and instantly go deep. We have the power of history; the memory of where we've each been, what we've each survived and struggled with; and have seen glimpses of who we're each becoming that we can continue to hold up in front of each other.

Choose Your Circles

Being in these Circles never "just happens."  Your calendar will never just automatically pop up an alert that says "Women's Circle" without you putting it there.  Intention is necessary. Admitting what you want is important. Extending invitations is part of creating a Circle.

If you crave being in Circle with other women, I hope one of these stories inspires you... I wish upon you the opportunity to receive the power of the Circle.

p.s. TIP: If you're a member of GirlFriendCircles.com, our web site to meet new friends, then be sure to post a ClassifedCircle with the type of Circle you want to belong to and see who else wants to join you!  :)

5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend!

When we were little we knew them as slumber parties.  We'd eagerly look forward to getting to stay up late, giggle, and act silly. Those long nights were bonding in ways that time at recess, afternoon play-dates, and long phone calls couldn't replicate. Our grown up version has come to be known as "Girls Weekends" and they are just as bonding and just as fabulous.

We Need Adult Slumber Parties!

I actually think we need these overnight parties more as adults than we did as kids.  We so rarely give that gift of extended time to our friendships anymore. If you're anything like me, I feel pretty impressed when a friend and I actually carve out time for lunch twice in a month, touch base on the phone a couple of times, or see each other for a long dinner in my living room-- but you add up all those hours and they, literally, still fall short of what a slumber party can offer.

And far beyond the gift of actual hours together is what the build-up of those hours all taking place at once can make happen.  You spread those hours out over a month and at least half your time together is updating about what has happened since you've seen each other last.  But you push all those hours into one gathering and once the "updating" of recent events is done, all the rest of the time is for the stuff that really matters. It builds on itself so that you're sharing stories, secrets, laughter, and tears.

I'm still riding high from my annual girls weekend nearly two weeks ago.  My heart is full.  So ab-so-lute-ly full.

picture of my girls weekend

There are simply no phone conversations, meals, or evenings long enough to provide the level of sharing that we relished in. The vulnerability, the un-rushed time, the radical presence we gave each other, the tears, the laughter, the goofiness, the honesty, and the personal growth all added up to feeling so seen and loved by each other.  Add in the food, the wine, the sleeping in, and the long walks-- and these are restorative weekends in every way!

But more important to telling you all the benefits to these adult slumber parties is to actually help you see how to plan one in your own life.  Even if you don't yet have this perfect group of friends... you can get started.

How to Plan a Girls Weekend:

  1. Decide Who You Want To Invite.  In my opinion, the who informs everything else like location, price, and activities; based on where everyone lives, whether they all consider each other friends, or how bonded everyone is already. When you think about bonding and connecting-- who comes to mind? A group of friends you've lost touch with from long ago? Random friends from here-and-there who don't know each other? A local group of women you are close to? Or, some local women you'd like to get to know better?
  2. Be Clear on Why Everyone Would Want to Get Together. If the women all know each other and consider everyone else a friend (as opposed to them all being your friend from different places who don't know your other friends), then the why is often a little easier because "just getting together" is reason enough so then the location and activity take a backseat to why the women would come.  If the women don't know each other well, then we usually need a bit more of an "excuse" such as for celebrating your birthday or other milestone; and the focus on an activity is more helpful whether it's for a concert, destination, or experience.
    1. If they don't know each other well and are all local then start with one night and keep it local.  I'd suggest finding something fun, such as a concert or restaurant you've been wanting to try, and send out an email to see who wants to join you and then either a) come back to your house for a slumber party and brunch the next day or b) share a hotel room downtown as part of the fun.
    2. If you're a group of friends who know each other decently well and are all local then I'd either start with the above step or throw out the idea to the group to gauge interest in doing a get-away weekend sometime.  The goal of this one is to keep it driving distance and priced low: you want to make it easy to say yes. Try to make it at least 2-full days, with 1-night of housing that is in everyone's budget (lots of homes to rent on places like AirBnB!). Invite your group to it as a chance for us to all get-away and play!
    3. If they don't know each other well and are not local then realize that it's a bigger ask (airfare and travel time, and time with women they don't really know) so the motivation will be for you and/or the focus of the trip. It really needs an excuse like "this year for my 42nd birthday I really want my closest friends with me!" or an event like "I want to run the Nike Half Marathon this year" or "I've always wanted to do a girls trip to Vegas!"-- with a "Who's In?" and being okay with whatever group of 3-5 women say yes. (The benefit of this is that once they all hang out for a weekend together, chances are high that someone will say "We should do this again!" and you might have the birth of an annual ritual on your hands that will be easier now that they know each other!)
    4. If they know each other well and are not local then the bigger issue is usually someone just needs to be a catalyst who says, "I miss all of you! I'm jealous every time I hear about others have girls weekends-- what do you all say we do one and catch up?" Again, keep the price as low as possible (does anyone in the group know anyone with a vacation home that can be borrowed? where is it cheapest to all fly into for everyone?) as that will be the objection for many women who feel guilty taking family money to do something for themselves.
  3. Plan the Easiest Time Away Possible. The biggest mistake is made when the price tag starts climbing and the stress of planning outweighs the intended benefits.  Keep it as simple as possible.  The goal is to get you together overnight with some of your friends.  That's it.  You can always dream bigger in following years once everyone is SOLD on that time together.  But at first, just err on the side of keeping it affordable and relaxing.  The truth is we can all go sight-seeing with our families and romantic partners so that's not what we need; what we need is uninterrupted girl time so make sure your trip factors that focus in! Way better to have more unscheduled time with everyone just hanging out than to be on any schedule packed full of activities.  The highest priority is quality time together.
  4. Get the Dates on the Calendar ASAP.  The rest of it can come together later.... what is highest priority is that a weekend is actually selected and committed to-- dates and location need to be set.  Then everyone can keep a look out for airfare deals or groupons to local restaurants and start to make the arrangements necessary with their obligations.
  5. Be at Peace If Not "Everyone" Can Come.  Not everyone can/will prioritize this in their calendar and finances.  That's okay.  Keep planning for those who can.  If even 3-4 of you can go, you'll still get the benefits, and chances are high that next year others will try to come.  Just get it going....  :)

    girls weekends someday

This time next year, you can have a photo album filled with memories of a get-away with women you grew to love even more.

And, if you're lucky, some of the group get-aways you start might even turn into annual traditions will bless your life far into the future!

 

 

I'd love to hear other tips you'd give for planning Girls Weekends-- feel free to add them in the comments.  Or, if you have questions or reservations, I'm happy to brainstorm, give suggestions, or offer up any other tips you might want.

 

 

 

 

Feminism is a Friendship Issue

Last night three of us sat in the beautiful living room of my friend's brand new condo. It was gorgeous. We toasted her buying her own home (in the Bay Area that is a HUGE feat!), and indirectly toasted the business she started several years ago that has given her such financial opportunities.  She is nothing short of amazing as she builds her empire, hires employees, travels the world, and fills her life up with the experiences that matter most to her. Not being married....

And yet she shared how exhausting it is to feel like others assume she's done something wrong to still be single. Their statements, their questions, their looks of pity, their advice... it can all feel isolating and condemning.

She'll be the first to say that she so looks forward to being in a relationship that feels healthy, fun, and meaningful so it's not that she prefers being single. But she prefers being single to being in a relationship that is empty of the things she values; she's unwilling to get married to just be married.

She doesn't need our advice to try online dating; she doesn't need us trying to encourage her by reminding her the perks of being single; she doesn't need us to tell her that she just needs to get more comfortable being by herself.

What she needs are women who will just let her tell her own story and experience, women who are able to hold both the truth that there are parts that can "suck" about be single and the hope with her that it will still happen; all without implying that there is something wrong with her or that she's not doing life right.

I'm not single, and yet I know the feeling.

Not having kids....

At my most recent speaking engagement I must have fielded the question, "Do you have kids?" at least seventy times in that one day.  For the first 50 responses I kept whispering to myself, "They're just trying to connect with me.  They're just trying to find common ground on the area of life that matters most to them.  Don't read anything else into it."

But by mid-afternoon, I was exhausted.  I was weary of feeling like they wanted me to have kids as though I'd have more credibility to them if I did.  My insecurities were starting to flare up and the fear of "not being enough" was lodging itself in my chest. The voice of shame began to whisper: "You're not a real woman unless you're a mom.  They think you can't relate.  They will trust you more if your life looks just like theirs."

I felt judged and dismissed; but I didn't want to adopt that story because I don't think anyone was trying to judge me.  So I've spent the last week processing those fears with close girlfriends, journaling, talking with my husband, and coaxing my voice of wisdom to speak louder than my voice of fear.

The irony here is that the third friend I was with last night is married and a mom.  But she too knew the feeling we were describing.

Not having enough kids...

She has an only child and fields similar-feeling questions all the time about whether she's going to have another, when, and why it's the best thing to do for x, y, and z reasons.

Without knowing her circumstances, her heart, her body, or the details of her life-- she feels like other women presume there is a "correct" path that should be followed.  Like me feeling dismissed with statements like, "well of course you can do that because you don't have kids," she feels that way because "she only has one and that's easy!"

I've also heard women who have more than the presumed 2-3 kids talk about feeling judged, too.

And let's not sidestep that everything I've seen on feminism lately has more to do with how much a women "leans in" or "reclines" in her career once she has a family so we know that there is massive insecurities getting flared up in that arena as everyone struggles with trying to do it all right.

And, of course we all know, that you can be married, with the 2.5 kids, surrounded by the proverbial white picket fence, and still incur the feelings of not be enough, competing with other moms, and feeling as though no one understands just how unique or difficult our personal experience is-- whether we have twins, an adopted child, a special needs baby, a difficult teenager, or a an adult child that lives at home-- the list goes on and on of things that quickly push us to feel like something is wrong with our lives.

Feminism must start in our friendships and spread out...

Last week, a friend and I sat in the audience to listen to Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, who spoke about how she believes we've lost sight of the original goal of feminism being to liberate women.  The data she shared made a convincing case that not only have the numbers not really budged beyond the "token 1-2 women" in the upper echelons of most industries, but that more discouraging is the fact that we're not yet acting like liberated women on the inside, either.  Our body image hasn't improved in the last number of decades, we're exhausted and weary, we are more educated and yet feel more incompetent, we never feel like we're doing enough, we feel guilty for not making homemade Halloween costumes, and we're not reporting higher levels of happiness.

Last night, sipping tea, I looked at these two dear friends of mine and thought, "How is it that we are all strong, self-aware, healthy, vibrant, happy, spiritually-engaged, and pursuing our dreams, and yet still enslaved by this idea that we're not really a woman until/unless we do x?"

And while I believe there are some serious systemic issues that need to be addressed to help level the playing field, I also think women are doing a lot of this to ourselves and each other.  It's women who are editors of the magazines featuring photo-shopped women, it's women looking down on other women for making different life choices, it's women who are forgetting that every time they judge someone else that it heightens their own insecurity.

Insecurity about our lives leads to judgment of others. We all want validation that we're doing the best we can and that it's enough. And if someone makes a different choice than we do then we are tempted to believe that one of us made the wrong choice.  And we don't want it to be us, so it must be them.

And that is a faulty paradigm.  We aren't competitors, we're sisters. Truly connected; our fate is shared in so many ways as a rising tide lifts all boats.  While we're out there campaigning for equal pay and corner offices, we also have to do the work of making sure we're not like prisoners who no longer live behind bars but still don't know how to enjoy freedom.

The part of feminism I care about most is how we feel about ourselves.  And that is shaped by the relationship we have with ourselves (finding our own peace in our choices and being centered in our own worth), the relationship we have with what I call God (understanding why we're on this planet, our calling, our value, what makes us special), and the relationship we have with those around us (practicing the shining of our light and seeing how special everyone else is, too).

Last night, the three of us women, whose lives don't mirror each others at all, shared our hearts, spoke our truth, and validated each other in meaningful ways.  We promise to cheer for each other, even when one of us has something the other seemingly wants.  We promise to not take it personally when someone makes a choice different from ours. We promise to ask questions and listen to each others stories as if we're each a traveler who has visited countries that we won't be seeing; instead of trying subtly convince each other to follow the same path we did.  And we promise to do the personal work in our own lives to show up with as much vulnerability, honesty, courage, and love, as we possibly can.

We practiced feminism-- liberating each other to live the best life we each created.

And the more we do that with each other, the more we can do that with the women we have yet to meet.

Feminism is in trouble the more disconnected women get from ourselves and each other.

An Interview with Tiffany: Why I Love GirlFriendCircles.com

In talking to Tiffany this fall she kept crediting GirlFriendCircles with giving her a circle of friends who helped her through a health crisis. I'd say all credit goes to her for fostering friendly people into friends, but her story was so inspiring, I asked her if she'd be willing to share it with all of you! Tiffany was a member of GirlFriendCircles.com in San Francisco, CA for nearly 2 years and is still a huge advocate and ambassador.

So, Tiffany, this particular part of your story begins this last September...

Yes, it was right after Memorial Day and I ended up needing to go to the hospital because I was in so much pain.  I couldn't have guessed upon arrival that they would be telling me that not only were they keeping me there, but also that I needed emergency surgery.

And how did you respond? 

Well I immediately called two friends of mine (one whom I had met through GirlFriendCircles.com) and they put out the word about where I was and what had happened.

The response was unbelievable.

Anne, Julia, Tiffany, and Maurine-- once strangers, now good friends because of GirlFriendCircles.com

Three of our friends, who we had also met through GirlFriendCircles.com (GFC), came and spent hours with me in the emergency room so I wouldn’t have to be alone.  (What makes this even more special is that one of them is an avowed germaphobe who avoids hospitals!) My surgery ended up becoming a 3 ½ day hospital stay.  And there was honestly not one day that went by that this amazing group of women did not call, visit, text, etc. I am convinced that the love and support from them is what made the healing process go so quickly.

I spent two weeks recuperating at home and the “amazingness” continued.  People visited, called, texted, brought me food, took me to doctor’s appointments, stayed with me when I needed it…. It was a truly humbling experience to be on the receiving end of that much love.

Before all this happened, I had in my head that these women were my “village” and it was gratifying to know that it translated to real life!

Take me back to that moment when you realized you actually had friends who were supporting you through this crisis… what did you feel?

I felt incredibly blessed and grateful.  I met all these women through GFC.  The women who show up to GFC, and are intentional about making friends and building community, really do make the world a better place to live.

As a single woman who doesn't live near family, I basically lived through a crisis that would have been so much worse had it happened a few years ago, before I had built up a circle of friends.  We've all had times where we've wondered, "Who would I call in an emergency situation?" and this time, I knew the answer.

Oh that makes me so happy to hear! How did going through this together impact your friendships? 

The ultimate impact of this was that my FRIENDS became my FAMILY in the truest and best sense of that word.  Even though I was the one who was sick, we all now know that we have each other’s back when the chips are down.  We have a community where we lean on each other and celebrate each other’s wins.  We've proven it to ourselves!

It truly was an amazing experience to be a part of.  To me, it's not too big of a statement to say that none of it would have been possible without GirFriendCircles.com. To meet women who were ready and willing to develop meaningful friendships literally gave me a support system, a tribe in this city.

Anything else you want to say?

My take-away is that it is so worth it to invest the time and energy into building a network of female friendships.  I am convinced they are the root of a happy and successful life!

I hope I've been able to convey how amazing and special this group of friends is / has become and that none of it would be possible without us all meeting through GFC. I am so grateful.  Thank you Shasta for starting this...

You're so welcome Tiffany.  Thank you for jumping in, meeting people, and taking the time to foster friendships-- that's where the magic was!

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Tiffany attended 8 Connecting-Circles & 1 Friendship Accelerator during her membership in GirlFriendCircles and that combination of involvement has given her a strong circle of local girlfriends.

Membership deal: Until Dec. 2, women can save 20% off a GirlFriendCircles.com membership, ensuring that your 2014 is filed with invitations to local ConnectingCircles. Promo Code: UPGRADE

Friendship Accelerator: And if you, or someone you know, lives in New York City, San Francisco, or Las Vegas-- I'll be in those cities in early 2014 offering Friendship Accelerators! More info here.

 Want more inspiring stories from real GFC members:

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!  :)

 

 

Advice & Encouragement from GirlFriendCircles.com Members

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

How did this trip come about?

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

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

What did you all do together on this trip?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Not a "Joiner"? Something to Consider...

Last night I stopped by a friend's house to drop off some homemade banana bread (I have to brag about that for one second because I do things like way too infrequently!) and left her home with a blog idea I wanted to write based on her recent decision to put her child into preschool.  What does preschool have to do with you making friends? So glad you asked. "But I'm not a Joiner!"

So the traditional answer that most friendship experts give to women who are looking to make new friends has to do with things with the word "join" in them.  Whether it's joining a book or hiking club, signing up for a class, going to a spiritual community, or committing to volunteer at an organization-- the underlying message is: say yes to a group of people who are already affiliated to be doing a specific thing at a specific time.

Hesitant to join a group? Many of us know the feeling.. but there are benefits to it!

Invariably then, many women (or reporters if the question was asked in an interview) will then often say, "Yes... but what if I'm not a 'joiner'?"  When I ask them why not, they'll say that either those experiences feel artificial, the events are too structured, the associations don't have enough flexibility to them, or that they simply don't see themselves as people who like interacting in groups. Fair enough.

Now back to the preschool conversation.

A couple of weeks ago my friend had given me a convincing list of why she and her husband had decided to opt out of preschool this year.  Basically they had decided that they wanted to be more active in providing the benefits of preschool (i.e. interaction with kids, exposure to creativity, learning stimulation) themselves rather than paying someone else to do those things for them.  They were excited about field-trips they wanted to take her on, experiences they wanted to plan, and play-dates they were going to schedule.

But recently they changed their minds. And a lot of it had to do with the benefits of joining something.

Because as they said last night, "We just realized how much energy it was going to take to do everything we had pictured... and, to be honest, all that planning, scheduling, and initiating to create our own experience wouldn't leave us the energy we need for some other big life areas we need to be focusing on."

If energy were limitless, then for the sake of argument, it is probable that they could have customized an amazing, perhaps superior, substitute schedule to preschool. But energy is not without limits and they have some big endeavors coming up that are important to them to plan, create, and make happen, too.  They chose to ask themselves, "Is the time, finances, and energy worth it to us to create something, rather than participate in something that already exists?"  Either answer is acceptable, depending on what else someone has going on, how much energy they have for planning, and how many other priorities are competing with this one.

Now back to "Joining."

So when someone says to me that they aren't a joiner... I'm completely fine with that!  I have no reason to urge someone to commit to anything that isn't in harmony with who they are.  However, friendships require seeing the same people frequently, doing something together (i.e. meet for lunch, an activity) that has to be planned, and making sure it's scheduled in consistently.

Therefore the follow-up question begs to be asked: "Okay, are you willing to do, and have the extra energy to exert, what it takes on your own to create the things that "joining" can do for you?"

In other words, can you commit to 1)  meeting new people and reaching out to them regularly, 2)  initiating the making of plans, whether it's picking a restaurant and time or finding a movie to go to, 3) and following up with repeatedly to make sure that your time together keeps happening consistently? All of those things are do-able. But it requires a fair amount of commitment, energy, time, and planning to pull it off.  It's worth looking at your life and deciding what other priorities are pulling at you right now and how much time/energy do you want to put toward building new relationships?

The truth is that "joining" anything is so not necessary.  Nor is it often even better.  It's just often easier.

So if you find yourself wishing for more friends or activities in your life, and you don't want to join something, then you just have to be clear that a meaningful friendship requires time together, plans of some kind, and initiation to keep it scheduled.

It's for ease, convenience, and energy-management that many of us will end up opting to step into structures that are already planned and organized. We join churches, classes, sports teams, choirs, boards, associations, clubs... and preschools-- not always because those actual things are superior to what we could plan, but purely because they are superior to what we actually do plan!

If my friends had nothing else going on in their lives... I trust they could piecemeal an amazing childhood schedule filled with friends, play, creativity, and learning.  But in this case joining a preschool made sense for them.

An added bonus? The preschool they've chosen is very parent-involved so it will be a structure for them to make friends, too.  One more thing they don't have to make happen all by themselves!

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As always, all women are invited to join GirlFriendCircles.com-- a match-making site for female friendships-- where things like ConnectingCircles are planned for you OR you can be in charge of the planning and initiating by searching our database or posting events on the calendar!  :)