In Sickness and in Health: 5 Things I Wish My Friends Knew About Friendship and Illness

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In Sickness and in Health: 5 Things I Wish My Friends Knew About Friendship and Illness

Several months ago, I received a thoughtful email from a reader of this blog who asked me to write a blog post that helped people like her-- people who have chronic pain or illness-- to figure out how to make and keep friends when their energy and health often feels limited, challenged, or uncertain. Not entirely sure I felt qualified to give tips to this heroic population, I asked her if first she'd be willing to share, from her perspective, what she wishes the rest of us understood about our friends (or potential friends) whose health issues might impact how we befriend each other.  With nearly 1 in 2 of us suffering from some form of chronic (often invisible) illness, we all want to become far more sensitive and thoughtful in how we interact with one another.

Thank you Lucy Smith (pseudonym) for taking the time and energy to share with us what you've learned since being diagnosed a couple of years ago with a debilitating neurological condition.  Her ability to participate in the activities she used to do with friends became very limited and the challenge of maintaining and making friends while also dealing with major illness has been difficult. She knows she's not alone as she's found some connection with others in similar situations and I'm so grateful she's excited to get a conversation started with this blog post.

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Amazing Moms Make Time for Friends

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Amazing Moms Make Time for Friends

What memories do you have of your mom doing things with her friends?

Years ago, in a specific friendship workshop I used to lead, I would ask adult women to write down everything they could remember about their moms and the topic of friendship:

  • Who did she hang out with, that you remember? Did she have her own friends or was it more about getting together with other families?
  • Do you remember her going away for weekends with friends? If so, what did she say to you about those weekends away? Do you remember seeing photos?
  • Do you remember her going out for girls nights often? What would they go do? Who went with her?
  • Can you remember any advice or comments she ever made about friendships?  Hers? Or yours? Or just in general?

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2 Ways to Respond to Friends Who Annoy or Frustrate

While these two steps won't fix every friendship, they are certainly the first two steps we should practice in our attempts to repair or enhance a friendship that isn't feeling super meaningful. All too often we become increasingly frustrated or hurt by the actions of a friend-- albeit that she only calls us when it's convenient to her, that she talks too much, that she isn't vulnerable enough, or that she hangs out with a mutual friend and doesn't invite us.  In almost every friendship, there will be certain things that we believe could improve the depth of our friendships IF that one action were changed.  Certainly it's our responsibility to examine what meaning we assign that behavior, where that need comes from, and recognize it's our responsibility to get the need met as opposed to someone else's job to automatically know how to meet it... but there is also room in there for us to learn how to ask for what we need.

Having a need isn't the problem... we all have needs.  How we go about getting that need met can be what hurts us and our relationships.

In this video blog I share what I think should be the first two steps to having our needs met and I apply it to three different examples to help us see how we can apply these steps to our own friendships.

 

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The Verdict: Can Men and Women Be Close Friends?

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The Verdict: Can Men and Women Be Close Friends?

We have our own personal stories that count as evidence for most of us:  If our best friend is a guy then we cheer on others, convinced they can enjoy these friendships, too; but if we've had a friendship end after awkward confessions of love or after one gets married then we seem convicted to whisper caution.

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The Cost of the Constant Catch-Up Cycle

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The Cost of the Constant Catch-Up Cycle

Lunch with a friend? Yeah it was okay.... nothing amazing. Phone call with a friend? Glad we got that out-of-the-way for another 2 months....

Dinner with an out-of-town friend? Meh.

She's texting me to see when we can get together next?  hmmm.... three weeks from now is fine.

For many, the time with our friends isn't all that meaningful and amazing.  I mean it feels good to know we got together and caught up, but it's not like we're clearing our calendar in excitement for our next get-together.  We feel good about ourselves for keeping up with them, but it's hard to always be sure it's worth the extra money spent on drinks or the time away from ______ (the kids, the TV series you're currently bingeing, or the hot romance).

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How to Respond to a Friend's Pity Party

I woke up early yesterday morning unable to go back to sleep, which is unusual for me.  But my mind was so busy hurling accusations at me that no lullaby could be heard above the ugly words. In the dark hours my critical voice sounded strong and empowered as she told me what a loser I am.  She grabbed my new book, my business, my classes and projects, and everything she could get her hands on and tore them up in front of me by telling me how they weren't good enough, how I wasn't doing enough, and how I could have done better. Her words were plentiful as she made her case for my lack. She used my own dreams and fantasies against me reminding me that not only had I not yet lived up to them, but that I probably never would. Her convincing words echoed through me this time in a way that resonated with my own deepest fears.  So even as the sun came up, I couldn't shake the feeling that she had been right: I'm failing.

Now I can defend myself with the best of them by jumping into the game and trying to name my successes or by assuring myself that the ruler she used to find me wanting wasn't measuring the right things.  And I typically am a pretty positive and hopeful person. But as a girlfriend arrived later in the day for our early dinner plans, I welcomed the back-up by exclaiming: "Oh I am so glad you're here-- I'm being bullied by a bunch of inner mean girls!"

The Five Amazing Responses of My Friend

I am sharing this story with you primarily because I want to share how my friend responded so we can all feel inspired to show up for each other when we feel under-attack by ourselves.  But I also am pushing myself to share this because it's important that we all hear reminders from each other that self-doubt and fear of failure are on every playground, even (or especially?) in lives that have stretched, dreamed, and succeeded by some measurement. frientimacy_quote_4 For me, right now, it's centered on the gap between the impact and teaching I want to be doing versus what I feel I am currently achieving; but for you or one of your friends, it might be about hoping you'd be married or have kids by this age, feeling like a failure because you don't have x (fill in the blank: a 401k, a book deal, or a corner office) yet, or feeling discouraged because while you are making good money you aren't pursuing your creative work, or vice-versa.  Unless we've reached pure enlightenment, we tend to fan a desire for something more that we're secretly convinced will make us feel better about ourselves and more peaceful about our lives.

Here are some of the ways my friend loved me well and brought me home feeling more hopeful:

  1. She Took It Seriously... Before I had interrupted her with my current condition she had been walking up the stairs to my apartment exclaiming, "There's the amazing and famous author and teacher who has been out traveling the world!"  But when she heard my panic, she pivoted quickly and instead of dismissing my feelings and telling me I was crazy, she validated them, "Oh no! I am so sorry. Those voices can be so cruel. What awful things are they saying?"  I felt supported, seen, and heard; not crazy, weak, or silly.
  2. But Not Too Seriously... But as we started walking into the neighborhood to find a spot for dinner, she also helped put it into perspective: "Shasta, I don't know a single author who doesn't feel depressed at some point after their book comes out.  It's a post-adrenaline drop after working on something for so long, your heart is still trying to catch up to your body as you traveled all over the country in the last few weeks, and everyone has higher hopes for their work than the immediate response. It makes sense you're feeling this way."  She helped again to validate my feelings but also subtly reminded me that how I feel now isn't the final answer.
  3. She Matched My Vulnerability Without Taking the Attention Off of Me. Upon sitting down in our chosen cafe, she shared with me how she had a similar attack over the weekend, feeling like a complete loser because several of her friends were buying their dream houses or had just moved in to new homes recently.  Her mean bullies said all kinds of awful things about her as she compared herself to others in that department. She confided how she had pouted, how she had hurt, and how she had eventually been able to hear her own wisdom. I felt closer to her for her willingness to reveal her own insecurities and felt peace that I wasn't being judged; she understood.
  4. She Invited Me To Find the Joy that Mattered.  When our drinks came she asked me to share with her 5 highlights from my book tour.  Five!  Most of us would simply ask someone how it went or to share a highlight or two... but she asked for five.  And somewhere between thinking up the 4th and 5th one, I had given myself enough evidence of how much had gone really, really well.  She cheered for me, toasted me, and found joy in my answers.
  5. She Brainstormed With Me.  Knowing full well that I was undoubtedly being too hard on myself, she also knew that there was some truth(s) to what I was saying mattered to me. Much like when we're menstruating--our feelings might be heightened or we may have less reserves--it doesn't mean that what we feel isn't real or that what upsets us shouldn't. She started asking me questions about my business and my book to see what actions I might want to consider in the weeks and months to come.  She didn't try to solve it; she just opened up the space for me to feel like I could respond to these feelings in productive ways at some point.

In my book I have an entire chapter on the five acts of vulnerability, three of which my friend and I practiced in a big and beautiful way yesterday:

  1. Know Yourself to Share Yourself
  2. Shine In Front of Each Other
  3. Share Your Shame & Insecurities

We both shared honestly about what we were feeling, we revealed the fears we hold and what those mean or symbolize to us, and we invoked each other to shine, to be successful in other areas, and to dream.  Which is significant because when we say we want to be loved it includes accepting both the amazing and insecure pieces of us.

I was willing to show up as I was; and she met me right there in the most affirming and generous of ways. As we practiced vulnerability with each other, we not only bonded our relationship in deeper ways, but we both left that time together feeling seen, safe, and satisfied-- which is what friendship can give us that matters so very much to our lives.

Thank you, dear friend.  And may your kindness inspire all of us to show up with others knowing that even in success, there may lurk doubts and fears that we can witness.

xoxo

 

 

 

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The Other 3 Most Powerful Words

One of the highlights of being on book tour (for Frientimacy: How to Deepen Your Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness) is meeting so many amazing women across the country who resonate with the need for healthier friendships. I've learned so much from all of you-- from your questions, from your stories, and from your own powerful work in this world.  Your encouragement, resonance, and conversation feed me. One of those amazing women I met is Tricia Andor (her new blog), a big-hearted and fun therapist. While I was thrilled by her passion for learning more about friendship, moved by her affirmation of my work, wowed that she attended 3 of my 4 book events in Denver (driving nearly an hour each way, every time!) and touched that she brought me a goody bag that included snacks for the road... (great illustrations of how we can build friendships with positivity!) what I really wanted to share with everyone was a comment she offered during the Q&A time at the end of one of my presentations.

Her words reminded me how simple and easy it can be for all of us to practice opening up conversations with our friends where we might feel some tension, distance, or frustration.

The "Other" 3 Most Powerful Words

Certainly we know that saying "I love you" can be three of the most healing and transformational words on the planet; but what do you say when you're actually feeling anything but loving?

women talking

During every Q&A we all hear stories of women who are feeling disappointment with their friends: we wonder what to do when we learn the 3 actions that build friendships but are then dubious that our friends will contribute as much as we will, we feel frustrated that long-time friendships aren't feeling meaningful anymore, and we feel angst with our friends whose annoying habits have put distance between us.

As I highlight in my book that maturity and spiritual growth are connected to our willingness to lean in to our friendships with honesty--as opposed to our default mode of simply tolerating something for as long as possible and then just giving up--our palms can start to sweat at the thought of actually confronting our friends.  When it comes to our romantic relationships-- we are far more practiced at having the conversations where we talk about our relationship: whether it's meeting our needs, whether it feels fair, or what we feel needs to change.  But when it comes to our friendships we all too often withdraw.

And that's where Tricia's three magic words can help us!  :)

She offered up an easy and beautiful way that has helped many of her clients over the years as they engage in repairing conversations:  "I've noticed that..."

  • "I've noticed that we don't talk with each other as much as we used to..."
  • "I've noticed that when we get together I sometimes leave feeling like I didn't get a chance to share with you what is going on in my life..."
  • I've noticed that when we make plans I feel worried about whether it's really going to happen since you've had to cancel several times..."
  • I've noticed that I tend to be the one reaching out trying to get our time scheduled..."

"I've noticed that..." is:

  1. Casual sounding (as opposed to "I need to talk with you about something that's bothering me.");
  2. Uses non-blaming language (as opposed to you "You never...");
  3. and Focuses on an observation (as opposed to assigning a motive or starting with a tough feeling)

Additional Tips:

Starting a conversation that shares an observation is an awesome way to open up a dialog with a friend.  Here are a couple other tips, I'd offer:

  1. Get to a question as quickly as possible. The goal here isn't to dump on her, give lots of examples, or share all your feelings, but rather it's to start a conversation. Therefore, in order for it to be a conversation, we need to invite their sharing early. After sharing the observation, consider asking a question like, "Have you felt that, too?" or "Have you noticed that?" or "Do you have any ideas of how we can improve this?"
  2. Avoid using global language such as always or never.  Even if it feels like always or never, if this is one of our first times approaching this subject, it invokes less defensiveness to underplay it a bit and leave some grace in the air by saying, "Sometimes" or "a couple of times."
  3. Assume the best--give them grace.  As we all practice having honest conversations, I find it feels best to speak as though we assume the best of the other. We may feel like it's the last straw, but if we haven't broached the subject before then we have to realize this is the beginning of the repair work and treat it gently and with hope. After making an observation, statements like "I'm sure that's not what you intended" or "I know you've been so busy" helps us extend an olive branch and increases the chances of them feeling safe enough to be vulnerable.  Our friends need to feel our love if they are going to own their failures or share their own hurts with us.

So those three magic words could lead to something like:

"I've noticed that we don't get together as much as we used to.... I know we're both so busy and you've been working so hard on such-and-such, so I don't want to put any pressure on you or your schedule, but I do miss you!  Do you feel like there's a way to connect more frequently that would work for you?"

Or,

"I've noticed the last couple of times that it feels like there might be some tension between us. I don't know if I did something to frustrate you or if I'm just imagining things, but I'd love to talk about it if anything is in between us. Do you feel like anything has changed?"

It's not our responsibility to have it all figured out or solved, not worth the time and energy of writing out some long script with all the grievances and feelings, and not our responsibility to guess how they are feeling.  All we are being invited to do in our relationships as we practice speaking up is to lean in a bit more and at least get the conversation started.

May many meaningful and restorative conversations occur in all our lives,

Shasta

p.s.  I have lots of other scripts, tips, and ideas for how to open and facilitate awkward, but courageous conversations in my book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.

 

 

 

 

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Do You Talk Too Much?

My favorite part of all my events is when it’s time for live Q&A. (There’s still time to come meet me on my book tour if you live in NYC, Denver, LA, Riverside CA, or the San Francisco Bay Area!) And as we’ve been talking more about the importance of vulnerability in our relationships (one of the 3 non-negotiables I discuss in Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness) it seems a question I’ve been getting a bit more lately has to do with our friends who are “the talkers.” If You're NOT the Over-Talker:

Their long-winded stories and external processing may have been survivable when we thought we were being a good friend by letting her go on-and-on, but as we realize that we’ll never develop frientimacy with someone unless there is mutual vulnerability--with both of us sharing deeply and feeling seen by the other—the realization that this imbalance must change is sinking in. We won’t ever feel close and supported by her if there isn’t the space in our relationship for us to confide and reveal.

If we’re not the one who is over-talking, we still have to practice figuring out ways to share. It’s not necessarily their fault that we’re not jumping in and sharing and talking—chances are they aren’t waiting for us to ask them questions, they are simply sharing whatever comes to mind and probably assuming we will, too. The invitation is ours to recognize that a friendship needs us to share if we’re going to feel closer to each other. So I do so hope you’ll try to interject your presence whether it’s by saying, “Hey before we finish our meal, I wanted to make sure I told you about x,” or by initiating a phone call with her and shaping expectations by saying, “I wanted to call you to see if you had time to listen and support me through something that’s going on at work?”  Being asked isn't necessary.

But while it’s not necessarily their fault that we’re not taking up our space, this post is directed at the over-talkers as it most certainly is their opportunity to make sure they are doing whatever they can to make their friendship a safe place for you to share.

Are You The Over-Talker?

How do you know if you are an over-talker? Well an easy, though imperfect, rule of thumb is to assess each phone call or get-together with the question: “What percentage of the

We love our friends who talk freely but we may need a few conversation pauses to help ensure we both leave feeling heard and seen.

time was I talking?” and if it’s frequently over 50% then it’s time to open up more space for your friends. Because while you may feel close to her, if she’s not sharing herself then chances are high that she won’t be feeling as close to you.

  • It doesn’t matter if you have more going on in your life—her life still is valuable and matters just as much.
  • It doesn’t matter that you’re witty and entertaining and she seems to like your stories—friendship isn’t about performing but about you both feeling seen and heard.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert and she’s an introvert—her feelings and stories still need to be validated and witnessed.
  • It doesn’t matter if you can pat yourself on the back for asking her a question or two, if you’re then interrupting her or using her sharing to remind you of another story to tell.

Five Practices For Over-Talkers

Perhaps you've resigned yourself to “that’s just who I am” or maybe you beat yourself up regularly for not being able to stop talking, either way I’d like to share a few ideas. This is important to keep practicing. Your friendships are at risk of not reaching "frientimacy" when your friends aren't practicing speaking up or when you're not listening as much as you're sharing.

  1. Choose reminders that will help trigger you to stop talking and listen.  Most women who over-talk simply do it because they’re used to doing it. They don’t even realize they’re doing it. How can you increase your awareness? Maybe wear a ring or bracelet that you associate with “Ask questions” so every time you see it—you pass the conversation off. Or devote a month to listening so you have reminders on your morning mirror every day.  Or set an alarm on your phone for half way through the night that reminds you to assess how much you're listening.
  2. Invite your close friends to support your intention. Tell your friend, “I am sorry I over-talk sometimes because then I miss out on so much of your life. Let’s get in the habit of starting with your life before I start sharing mine. Are you willing to share with me some of the important things in your life right now?”
  3. Always ask at least 3 questions on the same subject before you give yourself permission to share what’s going through your head. After asking, “How’s work?” follow up with two more questions related to what she shares. Go deeper. Show your interest. Many of us will only give the polite short answer until we’re convinced you really care.
  4. Validate what they share before rifting on what they shared. Women often share their “similar” stories in order to bond with each other but it can feel like one-upping or taking back the conversation. It’s okay to go back-and-forth, but make sure you communicate you heard their feelings first. Instead of “That reminds me of…” start with something that has the word ‘you’ in it such as “Wow you handled that so well, which can’t be said about a time when I was in that situation…”
  5. Affirm, affirm, affirm. If you know you tend toward over-talking, then also be known for being someone who over-loves. We can all put up with talker when we have no doubt that they have our back, love us, adore us, and believe in us. Make sure we leave your presence feeling good about who we are and we’ll be more likely to look forward to hanging out with you again!

We so love you our dear talkers.  You bring us joy, laughter, and we learn so much from you.  Thank you for sharing your heart with us so freely and for modeling how we can trust each other with our lives. You inspire us, you pull us in, and you make time together stimulating with so many ideas and stories.  We do so love you.

May we all feel seen in our friendships, whether we're the talkers or the ones who need to talk up more!

xoxo

Shasta

p.s.  What other tips do you have?  Non-talkers-- what would mean the most to you?  Talkers-- what works for you?

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How Do You Get Lucky In Love and Friendship?

"How do you get lucky in love?" a gruff voice asked from behind me. I was standing at a teller window at the bank so it seemed an unlikely place for someone to be asking for relational advice. And yet he repeated his question even more loudly. You could see several of us looking around somewhat awkwardly, trying to figure out if he was serious and sane. He was waving a magazine and gestured toward it as he made eye contact with the teller closest to him.  He asked a third time, with a mix of irony and laughter: "Seriously I've been married three times and would love to know how one goes about getting lucky in love?"

The tone lightened up a bit as we could tell he had just seen a headline on a magazine that had been innocently lying in the bank lobby that must have triggered his friendly zeal. But he kept his gaze on the young teller, presumably awaiting an answer.  The teller couldn't have been more than young twenties and after laughing nervously, finally said, "I guess you just haven't yet found the right person."

I nearly choked.

How DO You Get Lucky In Love?

Seriously?!?! There's a guy waving a magazine in the bank lobby telling everyone who is standing within earshot that he's been married three times and the best we can do is assume he hasn't met the right women?

I forgive the teller.  He was young and idealistic. But it's a view that far too many of us still hold.  And when it comes to friendship-- it's no different.  We assume that if the relationship isn't working that it's their problem.  Or if not their problem, then at least that who they are doesn't match up with who we are.  We shrug our shoulders and cheer ourselves up with the words of the teller:  I guess we just haven't yet met the person who could be our best friend.

Like a needle in a haystack we think we need to keep looking for that specific and rare person who can love us and whom we can love back.  Now don't get me wrong-- I've been accused of being the biggest romantic who believes in soul mates and love and chemistry and deep connections-- the whole big love enchilada.  But, and this is a serious but, love isn't something we go around discovering in people, something that they either have for us or don't.  No, love in all forms, is something we can develop with people.

That man in the bank... I'll bet all three times he married he believed he was in love.  He had "discovered" love. But it's more than simply finding someone you love, it's choosing to practice the actions that develop that love, that matter most.

What Friendship Is and Isn't

I notoriously say in front of nearly every crowd I speak to, "Friendship isn't about how much you like each other; but rather it's about how much you practice the behaviors that make up friendship."

frientimacy_quote_1

In other words:  I can meet someone instantly and like them and talk for hours with them and want to be best friends with them, and they with me. But that is not a friendship.  If we never see each other again then we were merely two people who had a great evening together and were friendly with each other, but that is not friendship.  There is a VAST difference between the people we're friendly with and the people we develop a friendship with.

What makes a friend is less about how much we like them instantly or even how much we like them over the long haul.  We aren't all closest to the people we actually love and admire the most. No, we're closest to the ones with whom we're willing to practice the actions that make up a friendship.

In my new book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness, I am thrilled to be teaching the three actions that make up a friendship.  For far too long we have left love to luck and chance, bumping into each other and hoping for the best.  It's time to actually understand what intimacy is, what actions lead to it, and how much power we have in actually leading every relationship in our lives toward greater love.

What I wish I could've said to the man at the bank was, "That's awesome that you haven't given up on still wanting more love in your life.  And the good news is it's not like playing the lottery where you have to get married for several years before finding out if she is the one or not.  You can take responsibility to develop the relationships that indeed leaving you feeling lucky in love."

We all need more love in our lives.  We don't have to leave it to chance.

xoxo

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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....

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A Practice for "I Don't Have Time for Friends"

Lack of time for friendships is easily one of the most common complaints when it comes to doing what we know would develop our friendships toward greater fulfillment.  We know that time together bonds us, but where does one find that time? Plus, it's a bit of a vicious cycle because the less time we make, the less fulfilling the time together can feel.  Which then undoubtedly leaves us even less motivated to make time again at future dates. We find ourselves musing, "Is going out with her occasionally to just catch up on life worth leaving _____________ (fill in the blank with work, kids, romantic person of interest, or whatever feels more compelling) and we can easily drift apart from someone not because we don't like them, but because we don't spend enough time together to feel really connected to them.

Our lives are crazy busy-- there's not denying that most people feel that way.  And if not busy, then at least full of our routines and responsibilities, which to step away from can feel challenging.

An Ancient Practice Called Sabbath

Enter the practice of Sabbath.

The practice of Sabbath is an ancient spiritual tradition of carving out one day a week to focus on that which is most important to human restoration.  For me, my Sabbath is filled with spaciousness--it's a day where only that which really matters is welcome: family, friends, long conversations, beautiful walks in nature, amazing food, spiritual growth, and acts of service.  It's one day a week where I get off the hamster wheel.

The word literally means "to cease or desist" so for thousands of years people have chosen to stop doing what they do every day: chores, work, errands, consumerism, to-do lists, TV,

Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often.

packed schedules, and rushed meals, in order to make time for that which feeds their souls. It's a practice that reminds me that I don't have to do in order to be be; that my worth doesn't come from what I accomplish; and that my value isn't connected to what I buy and own.  I rest from trying to "get ahead." I remind myself I'm good enough without needing to go buy more things.  I step away from stress and let my body restore itself.

More and more people are practicing mini-Sabbath's-- blocks of time where they engage in restorative acts, or practicing variations like "No Technology Sabbaths."  I practice, similar to Jews, a Sabbath from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night-- a full 24-hours of bliss at the end of my workweek.

The Invitation to Re-Orient Your Life

The invitation to step away from our emails, our productivity, and our household chores might sound nearly impossible for many of us.  But just because we live in a culture that runs on consumerism and productivity, doesn't mean it's the best way to live.

In fact, the more I researched the value of relationships in preparation for my new book Frientimacy, the more sad I felt that we don't live in a world that is oriented to that which we most need: love.  A few more hours of work hasn't made anyone healthier and a few more thousand dollars hasn't made most people happier, but the loss of time for relationships most certainly has made us less healthy and far less happy. Gone is the feeling that we can linger over long conversations, sit on our porches and talk to neighbors, or gather in our tribes every week.  We are strewn across this country, far too lonely, and missing deep and meaningful connection. It can break my heart if I think about it too long.

So for me, I can't snap my fingers and change the world we live in, unfortunately. If I could, I'd make sure we had more vacation days (and actually took them), longer hours to sleep, slower mornings for centering ourselves, spacious evenings with friends and loved ones, and weekends filled with laughter and amazing food. My tendency, if left unchecked, is toward being a workaholic, and yet I know that more work isn't the answer to feeling valuable. Being in connection with others is the only way to really know we're loved and feel seen and valued.  I know that.

So, for me, my Sabbaths are when I remember that truth.  I step away... in order to step in to something that matters more.  I can't reorient our entire culture (but God help me I'll keep trying! ha!) but we can each practice re-orienting ourselves toward that which matters most.  We can choose to let love and relationship be our focus.  We may not be able to do it all the time, but maybe we can do it one day a week?

Because you're right-- we don't have time for our friendships the way we're doing life now.  So we have to decide if we're okay with that.  And if we're not, then we have to stop doing something in order to make time for something that matters even more.  We can't just say yes to more love, without also saying no to something else.

For me-- a day dedicated to that which I most value helps ground me, heal my body,  re-focus me on my priorities, and remind me why I do what I do the other 6 days of the week.  What can you do that would help give you the space and time for your friendships? If you were to try it, what could a Sabbath practice look like for you?

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Announcement: Inviting You to My Sabbath Practice!

You are invited to join me for 7 Sabbaths in a row where I will teach and inspire toward deeper friendships for one hour.  I typically don't work on Saturdays but I feel compelled to foster the space for us to spend an hour together reminding ourselves of how significant love is to our lives and what we can do to develop greater intimacy around us. The calls will be recorded so if you can't join us on Saturdays, then you can listen anytime in the week that's convenient to you!  Join me for 42 Days of Frientimacy!

42 days of frientimacy

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How much do you REALLY want good friends?

Rare is the person who will say "I don't want more from my friendships." Whether that "more" means making new friends, feeling more fulfilled with their current friends, or feeling like they have the time to enjoy those friends-- most of us want more.

And yet... unfortunately all to rare, too, is the person willing to really do something about it.

Unfortunately, the actual process of making friends includes activities and feelings most of us would rather avoid:

  • putting ourselves in situations to meet people (and, unfortunately TV characters don't count)
  • small talk with strangers (every friend starts out as one!)
  • initiating a get-together (why can't they just appear on our door when we have time?!)
  • annoying logistics (back and forth emails, anyone?)
  • feeling our insecurities (what will I say? what if I look nervous? what if I'm too shy?)
  • fearing rejection (they probably won't like me... they probably don't need new friends... they probably won't make time for me)
  • believing the future can be different from the past (ever been betrayed? ever felt de-valued? ever felt like nothing works?)

The very process of making friends quite different from the outcome we hope to experience.

What we want to feel is supported, loved, seen, known, and valued.  What it takes to get there sometimes is awkwardness, small talk, exhaustion, insecurities, and uncertainty.

What we want is intimacy; what we have to start with are introductions.

What we want is familiar; what we have to start with is foreign.

What we want is a best friend; what we have to start with is a new friend.

His Question: Are you willing to suffer for what you want?

A blog post written by a guy named Mark Manson in 2013 is now making it's rounds on Facebook (I had two separate friends send me the article this week!) where he challenges his readers: are you willing to suffer a process for the outcome you desire?

He argues it's the most important question you can ask yourself.  Reminding us that we all want pretty similar things in life: healthy bodies, amazing relationships, meaningful work, abundant money, and realized dreams, but we're not all willing to suffer the process that comes with those things.

Here are some examples, besides the friendship one I started with:

  • In the book writing world, it's said that 81% of Americans say that they want to write a book-- but only a small fraction do.  Understandably... since it's a long road of time and emotion.
  • Most Americans want to be thinner or healthier... but not all of us are willing to go sweat or say no to our pleasures in order to achieve it.
  • Mark said he wanted to be a rock star, but he wasn't really willing to play small gigs, haul his music gear, and round-up a band. It's a lot of work!

He says, "I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way."

My Answer: The Price Tag

I agree with him that we do in fact need to ask ourselves what we're willing to give toward the outcomes we desire...

But, and this is a big but: our ultimate goal isn't to suffer as much as it's to invest in what we say matters to us.

The metaphor I often use with myself is that of a price tag:  How much am I willing to pay for this?  Which has to be asked with the question: how much do I value this?

price of friendships

When we go shopping-- we have choices.  We can buy the used, beat-up, 10-year old car for $2500... or we can buy the newest one that boasts a few more zeroes on the price tag.

Which one is the right choice? It depends on what you think you're buying, how much it matters to you, what you most value/prioritize, how many resources you have, and what other things you need to buy with what you have.

Sometimes the "cheaper" option is the right choice and sometimes it's not.  Sometimes the higher price tagged item is the one we choose because we value what we're getting with that extra cost.

We all have things in our lives we're willing to "pay the higher price" for... we do that because we believe the outcome is worth the cost.  We pay more for what we value.

So the goal isn't just to be pay the cheapest price for everything, nor is it to pay the highest price for everything we say we want; the goal is to make sure that we invest our resources in the areas that we say matter the most.  That may mean, since we have limited resources, we have to "spend less" in some areas in order to "afford more" in other areas.

What Price Tag is Worth Friendship to You?

I invite you to really ask yourself this year:

  1. How much do I really want more in my friendships this year?
  2. How important is that outcome to me? How valuable is it?
  3. What price tag or investment am I willing to make for that outcome?
  4. Do the two--the value and the price-- match? (Does the value and price feel fair or am I hoping for "a new car" while only willing to pay for "a used one"?)

The goal, of course, isn't to "suffer" but rather to know that what we're investing in is worth the outcome to us.

If experiencing more in your friendships is important to you... what might be some of the "costs" (see list at top of post for some ideas!) that you think would be the best investments you're willing and able to make toward that outcome?

My prayer for you: that you reach your friendships goals and say "it was worth every cent."

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The 10 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2015

Every year I round-up my top ten articles from the year and share them once more!  Many of you joined us half-way through the year, missed a post here-or-there, and or may just want to re-read some of the best ones to see how they resonate with you now. I didn't blog this last year as much as I have in previous years (in part to writing a book most of this year--Frientimacy comes out March 1, 2016!) and I missed it.  I love interacting with all of you in this way!  So huge thanks to you for all your comments and questions and I look forward to writing more in the year ahead!

Here are the Top Ten:

1.  To My Non-Posting Friends on Facebook

I riled up a few of you with my unconventional post encouraging more Facebook updates!  But so many of you wrote me confessing that you so enjoy reading others that it makes sense you might want to post a bit more, too!  In this post I tackle some of the most common excuses for not post on Facebook.

2. Ten Steps to Starting Friendships

While my upcoming book Frientimacy is all about how to deepen our friendships, for many of us we need to first be meeting potential friends and gathering up people to befriend.  If meeting people is on your to-do list then here's a quick list of my best advice for creating new friendships!

3.The Friendship Formula

Is there a formula to love? Yes indeed there is! We know what bonds people and what behaviors help two people feel close to each other!  I've since built this model out but it's still pertinent and helpful even with the two required ingredients I list.  Are you doing these two things?

4. I Almost Unfriended Someone on Facebook Yesterday

I only wrote about Facebook twice this year but both posts made it into the top ten!  I've long been asked how one might know when it's time to unfriend someone on social media and while my answer may not be the right one for you, it hopefully gets you thinking about why you use Facebook and what type of relationships you're prepared to develop!

5. If my friend really liked me then she’d initiate more…

Oh it's so easy to get our feelings hurt by the perceived negligence of our friends: their not calling, not reaching out, or not inviting us to things.  It's easy to create a story that we are being rejected-- that this is their way of saying that we aren't important to them.  But that would be a mistake.

6. When You’re The Only One Making Time for Friendship

Someone wrote in and asked for my advice as she feels like everyone is too busy and unable to make the time for friendship that she is.  So while we can't just wave a magic wand and make a ton of free time for everyone, here are some tips I have for what we can do to help initiate and inspire more meaningful and consistent connections with others.

7.  Top Three Tips for Making New Friends

So many women are looking new friends but frequently are trying to do so without following these three guidelines!  Far too many people leave friend-making to chance and don't understand that they can't develop good friends without following this advice.

8. On Being Willing to Disappoint People 

It's hard to say no to people, especially friends, but I am a strong champion of our need to practice saying no when we need to.  In fact it's intimately connected to our need to ask more clearly for what we need from people.  We need to get better at both.  The two are linked-- as we practice saying no, we tell others it's okay to do that too, and we'll both feel more comfortable asking for what we need when we can trust the other to say no if they can't.  In this post I share how I learned to say no.

9. Advice: Drifting Apart: Give Up or Try Again? 

Someone wrote in and asked for my advice about whether I thought it was worth her trying to salvage a friendship that hadn't felt particularly meaningful or high priority to her former best friend.  Read her question and see what advice you'd give her, and read my reasons for why I weighed in how I did!

10. With Whom Should I Be Vulnerable?

So many of us resist sharing vulnerably with others, often because we feel we've been burned before when we did.  We don't want to put ourselves at risk unnecessarily so we tend to clam up instead of open up.  But maybe the problem isn't whether we share or how we share, but rather making sure that who we're sharing with is the right people?  Here;s my litmus test for deciding how much risk to take with others.

Thanks for being a part of this community as a woman who is committed to being a healthy friend in this world! It's been an honor.

With gratitude for a year where we all grew in our maturity and loved more deeply,

Shasta

p.s.  As always, I welcome your comments!  Share with me which one is your favorite! Or what you hope I write about more in the year to come!

p.s.s  Want more popular articles?

Top 11 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2014

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Article of 2013

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2012

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Feeling the Edge of My Circle of Love

The month of Christmas, for all it's wonder and festivities, can also be a season where our "edge of love" can rear its little head. I call it the "edge of love" because even the most loving, non-judgmental, and kind people among us all have a perimeter, or boundary, of who and how we love.  I love easily the people and moments in the middle of my circle of love: girls nights in front of fireplaces, snuggling with my husband, talking on the phone to my sister, getting together with family I adore.

Shasta's Circle of Love

But... certain types of settings and certain types of people (or even very specific people) don't invoke in me the same pure love. I can feel myself show up with a lack-of-love as I reach the outer edges of who and how I love.

My goal, of course, is to make that circle of love so big that I can show up in nearly every setting with absolutely anyone and feel nothing but innocent love for the people in front of me.

But I am still far from that:

  • When I'm tired or have been around a lot of people lately.... I notice the circle closing in and getting smaller.
  • When I hear certain rhetoric or politics on the news... I notice myself feeling tempted to move an entire segment of the population outside of my circle because of my judgments.
  • When I feel forgotten or neglected or uninvited to something... I notice myself closing up a bit, which also shrinks the circle.
  • When I am so focused on my to-do list that I can't sit and be with people in meaningful ways... I know that my agenda is filling up too much of my heart.
  • When I am in certain settings that don't feel obviously meaningful (i.e. school programs, parties with people I don't know well) I am tempted to believe and expect little, therefore not showing up with an open heart.
  • When I am with a certain friend who has felt more draining than fulfilling, I can feel the edge with her where I want to love her but am not feeling expansive.

Maybe you know the feeling, too.  We know we are loving people; there's no question of that.  But if we're honest, every single one of us has an edge to our circle. I invite you to close your eyes and ask yourself where you're seeing the edge of your love show up recently.

It's more important than ever this year.  Practicing loving others is for our benefit as it leads to greater peace and joy in our lives as we watch ourselves judge, worry, or fear less. But this year, with all that is going on in the news, it's not just us that needs to feel more peace and safety, but our entire world is moaning with out it. Fear shrinks and closes us; love expands and opens us.  We need a world where humanity is still showing up with open hearts.

Loving Others Can Include Boundaries. To be clear: we're talking about a circle of feeling love for someone, which isn't the same as having boundaries for what we can give or do for others.  The circle of love doesn't mean I have to seek them out and hang out with them, spend time with them out of obligation, do whatever they ask of me, or give them all my time and energy.  It does mean that we see the value every person has-- that we see them as the innocent and loved people that they are even if we don't understand them, agree with them, or if they act out of brokenness and wounds, like we do, sometimes. It means I can think about people, or see them in person, and want to only send them love and light. It means showing up able to wish every person the very best and mean it.  Even with someone with whom I need to set boundaries with or limit my time with:  I want to be able to think of them and feel love. In fact, I set the boundaries because I love them.

Loving Others Is About My Need for Healing. And when I don't--or can't-- I know it's because there is something in me that is wounded and still needs healing. And I want to see that, own it, and pray for healing in me that I could then show up with greater love for the other.

It's not their fault I have a hard time loving them, it's my invitation to become a more loving person.  It's my responsibility to:

  • Invite in all the love I can from the people and places that fill my tank up.
  • Engage in the self-care and self-love that helps me hold all the love in my tank.
  • Choose self-awareness over blame so that I have more opportunities to ask myself "Why does this really bother me? What is it triggering in me? What's this about?"
  • Practice looking at those who annoy me and silently think "I love you anyway. You deserve love in this world," while simultaneously praying "Keep healing this in me so I don't feel provoked."

Loving Others Is the Work of a Lifetime! Oh I am far from this.  It's one thing to write-up my ideals and quite another to actually reach them.  But I will say that I have seen my circle of love grow bigger over the years, and that's encouraging!  I can think back to people and situations that would have bothered me years ago where now I can stay peaceful or better able to access my joy. I can see the growth in me! That excites me!  It reminds me that whatever "edge" feels impossible right now could feel easy this time next year!

This holiday season--whether you're with your in-laws who exhaust you or reacting to the news we see in this world--if there's anything we all wish we could put on our wish list, wouldn't it be more peace, love, and joy?

My prayer: Oh that we might see our love expanded this season. Replace our judgments with a willingness to see people differently, increase our ability to see people the way God does, and keep healing in us anything that limits our love.

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I Almost Unfriended Someone on Facebook Yesterday

Yesterday my hand hovered over the Unfriend button on Facebook.  Having only unfriended once before, I'm a bit of a Unfriending Virgin so it didn't come easily or naturally.  I felt my blood boiling and a thousand justifications to go through with the impulse:

  • He was, what I would consider, rude on my most recent Facebook update.
  • He then went and commented three more times, shaming my friends who were commenting.

    My original Facebook post that invited an unwelcome outburst. I also posted the content at the end of the post.

  • His politics and world view are clearly far from my own.
  • And to boot? I don't even know the guy! We have mutual friends but this was my first interaction with him so not much to lose by unfriending him, right?

But I paused.  I made a silent deal with myself that I'd at least not do it from a place of anger and give myself the day to think through what I want my grounds to be for unfriending someone.

In the meantime, I wrote him back laying down my ground rules, modeling kindness, and showing my willingness to protect my friends:

"The purpose of this post is to invite those who want to give to do so... I ask you to honor those of us with that intent without needing to argue. And please don't insult my friends who have good intentions. We are all doing what we can in all kinds of situations here and around the world. If you want to write me personally please do but this post isn't for your politics. Thanks!"

What prompted his outburst? You can see my original post at end of this blog post-- it was regarding something politically charged but it was the first time I had posted on this subject, the first time in months I've posted on anything happening in the news, and I thought I had worded it in such a way where I was clear I wasn't trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. Nonetheless, it hit one of his nerves.

Reasons I Don't Want to "Unfriend"

Google the terms "Reasons to Unfriend" and you'll get pages of everyone's advice ranging from their 5 to 10 reasons to unfriend, all the way up to one post of 35 reasons to unfriend! Certainly I'm not opposed to others unfriending as we all use Facebook for different reasons, have different standards for who we want to add as a friend, have different capacities for what we can handle at different times, and just because I haven't yet had an ex, a stalker, or an abusive person in my News Feed, doesn't mean others haven't!  So I get the need for unfriending.

And yet....  here are a few personal reasons why I don't want to unfriend too easily:

  • Disagreeing views: The action of unfriending someone who comes from a different worldview contributes in a small way to the global problem we have of not being able to hear each other. Why should I expect my leaders and others to reach across the aisle if I can't even stand reading a few sentences? It's really important to me to be exposed to all beliefs either to practice finding common ground or at least keeping me from only hearing what I already believe.
  • Jealousy:  The action of unfriending someone because their posts make me jealous (whether b/c they have other friends, do more fun stuff, or seem more successful) would imply that they are the problem instead of seeing the reaction as something I need to examine. The big goal isn't to get rid of all triggers in life, but to learn how to feel peace and self-worth even when triggered!  It's really important to me to own my own stuff and not hold other people accountable for how I feel.
  • Lack of Friendship: Certainly if you only have close friends on FB then that's one thing, but I made a decision a while back that, for me, FB was about interacting with my wider circles and meeting new people so in my case just because I don't know someone, or the friendship didn't develop where I hoped it would, or we aren't as close as we used to be--I still think they are valuable people to follow and learn from. It's a small way for me to keep my "finger on the pulse" of what people are talking and caring about.  It's important to me that remember that I can learn from anyone, even if we're not close in real life.

Again, I get that if your goal is just to have the 100 people in your News Feed that you know-- then that's awesome.  For me, Facebook is more like a town square where I go to interact, connect with friends, and learn what's going on around me; like a big party, I expect there will be some I like more than others but I don't feel a need to eliminate them nor do I fear exposure.

Primarily I just don't want to unfriend out of any un-examined feeling of anger, jealousy or sadness without looking at where it's coming from inside of me. I want to learn, as much as I can, to move through life without seeing others as obstacles, annoyances, problems, or enemies.  I want to challenge myself to try to see the valuable humanity of every single person, trusting that they are amazing, even if I don't see it easily.

Why I Will Unfriend

So yesterday I ate lunch with my husband who helped me wrestle with when I do want to unfriend a specific person, namely the person who had posted rude comments on my wall, in response to my post.  I didn't want to remove him just because he disagreed with me, but I concluded that if he persisted in using shame and disrespect in his comments, especially toward my other commenters/friends-- that to protect them, I'd remove him.

For now persistent shame is top of my list.

There are possibly other reasons I will, too... I'm leaving the door ajar.  But I am challenging myself to think each situation through-- owning as much as I can, not doing it impulsively, and trying to at least engage kindly before I do.  My mantra in friendship is always to lean in before pulling away, when possible.

So before lunch I had written him back kindly asking him to refrain-- stating honestly what I expected on my wall.

I concluded that if he continued to antagonize I'd most certainly unfriend him.

What Happened?

He wrote me a note last night:

I am sorry if I offended you. But I am really upset with what is going on. You can re-post and I promise not to interfere.

To which I responded:

Thank you for this note-- it means a lot. In a day and age where many people just unfriend each other, I'm glad we can practice staying connected and being respectful of each other. Have a happy thanksgiving!

And then he wrote again:

I KNOW that you meant well. You just caught me at a bad time. Good Luck! with you effort to help people who need it.

Isn't that beautiful?  I love it!  If I had simply unfriended him when I was tempted to do so then:

  1. I wouldn't have had the privilege of practicing kindness toward people who frustrate me (and I need to keep building up that muscle!)
  2. He wouldn't have had the privilege of healthy feedback letting him know the effect of his words, giving him the sacred privilege of deciding how he wanted to engage.
  3. We wouldn't have had the chance to connect and wish each other well.
  4. I would have ended yesterday still mad at him instead of grateful and sympathetic.
  5. Now I'm guessing that as we go forward, he'll be a lot more thoughtful when leaving comments on my page since I set the tone of what I allow and don't allow.

I am fine with all of you unfriending more often than I do and I don't think we need to keep everyone on there.... BUT I do want to invite each of you to think through your own reasons for why you'll unfriend, what that means to you, and what you might be missing out on when you do it.

I, perhaps naively, dream of a world where we all get along with each other... but I think that means we each have to be willing to practice it in our own back yards (or News Feeds) as much as we possibly can.

With love,

Shasta

p.s.  Unfortunately, I don't think you can add me as a friend, but if you want to follow me on Facebook, then welcome!

p.s.s.  This is what I posted yesterday:

"No matter where we each stand on whether we want refugees in our states... I hope we can all agree this is a crisis with real human beings needing the aid of others. This morning Greg and I went to make a donation to the International Refugee Committee and saw that they have a feature for a DIY campaign. Not that we have all this extra time on our hands but because we have the most generous and loving friends, we thought "Let's invite others to join us!"

We would be honored to have our friends and family make a tax-deductible donation to the IRC with us, giving us all a chance to put some money where our hearts and words already are: http://diy.rescue.org/refugeelove"

(I'd love to add 20 more women who are willing to each donate $50 if you're up for being one of them! I'll be sure to write you my personal thanks!)

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Advice: Drifting Apart: Give Up or Try Again?

Dear Shasta Request for advice! I read your advice on emailing a friend about a drifting friendship and am looking for help! I have a 'commitment' friend (15 year friendship). Our friendship has been drifting for the past 5 years, despite being in each others wedding parties and both having babies recently. The things I attribute the drift to are: - geographical separation (though, c'mon - 30 min is not that far!); busy lives (toddlers and full-time jobs); husbands with slightly different interests (her husband seems to have all the friends he wants). This last point is what I blame the drift on the most, with busy lives and kids I feel it's tougher to connect and I feel more resentful that they don't welcome my husband into their lives. Fearing that we are lost forever (my last-ditch effort to reconnect with our babies has officially failed), I need some advice. The sadness I feel from mourning her loss in my life (and jealousy of the new friends she focuses all of her efforts on) is on my mind constantly. I was a zombie of sadness (not at all like my old perky fun self!) at our last group gathering when I attended her son's 2nd birthday. I even feel that my daughter is getting pushed out. Do I email her? Help?!

Dearest Zombie of Sadness,

Oh my heart breaks for you! It is SO painful feeling like we're losing a friend.  Much like a break-up except sometimes worse in that we don't have the conversations that help bring closure and we try to keep up appearances for so long, unsure what the status really is.  It makes sense that you feel sad-- something feels lost and sadness is the healthy and appropriate response!

And in answer to the question you asked: "Do I email her?" My answer is a resounding yes!

Here's why:

  • You're commitment friends.  My rule of thumb is that the more we've invested in each others lives, the more I'm willing to do what I can to repair the friendship (or at least end well).
  • You still like her!  This isn't a drifting apart case where you two don't like each other-- you're both still in each others social circles and want to be closer!
  • You've both gone through a lot of changes.  Weddings and babies-- either one of those changes can be tough for us to even figure out, let alone all our friends who have to figure out the new normal, too!  It makes sense that it would feel different and a bit hesitant since neither of you have practice at this yet! Be gentle on both of yourselves, if you can!
  • You have a lot in common.  Besides all the history you have, it's actually amazing you both are married, had kids at the same time, and are choosing to keep working.

But.... my read on this (and granted I don't know what you mean by last-ditch effort failing OR how she's feeling and what she's noticing) is that if I were you I'd focus less on the problems right now and more on trying to add more positivity to the friendship.

My next book (Frientimacy) covers this big time because a friendship has to have a positivity:negativity ratio of at least 5:1 which means that sometimes we can't eliminate all the stressors (busy lives, disappointments, jealousy) but we can add more joy.  And as we get that number back up (enjoying each others company, laughing, playing) then we have more room to have tough talks.  It's not to say you can't have that talk now or that you have to keep it bottled up, but it is to say that ultimately what you want is to feel closer to her so the highest priority is strategically figuring out the best way to accomplish that goal. To feel mad at her for her husbands choices (which possibly causes friction in her marriage) or for her making new friends (which is actually healthy and normal and probably a good idea for you, too, no matter what happens with this friend!) may not lead to you feeling closer.

So what I'd suggest, in this case, is an email that isn't focused on the frustrations, but rather on your end-goal: more time together.  Your goal in this email is to solicit her help brainstorming suggestions for your time together-- you show care to her by reaching out and prioritizing her preferences and schedule, and depending on what she writes back you have more information as to what, if anything, she's actually willing to do to keep this friendship in her life.

“I miss you… and I was wondering what you feel like works best for us in terms of staying in touch? In your opinion is it easier/better trying to do more family time together with our husbands included or is it easier/better on you when it’s just us girls or do you prefer trying to include our kids more?  Does it feel better on your end knowing that we have something scheduled regularly that we can count on (i.e. meet for drinks once a month, talk on the phone every Thursday on the way home from work) or does it feel better to keep it organic and spontaneous and just both take on the responsibility of reaching out when we can?  So much in our lives has changed and I'm just trying to figure out what our friendship can look like in this phase of our lives. You’re important to me and I want to do what I can on my end to keep our friendship healthy!  I know it’s realistic that our friendship will ebb and tide, and shift as we keep going through all these life changes, and yet as I hear about so many friendships that simply drift apart, I also would hate for us to lose touch with each other or have our time together decrease in meaningfulness for either one of us…I look forward to hearing what feels easiest and most meaningful to you these days."

The good news with this approach is you're not opening a can of worms or starting a big fight.  You're not blaming or accusing.  You're simply saying that her opinion matters to you and that you want to be intentional about your friendship!

Best case scenario-- it opens up the door for you two to figure out how your friendship needs to change to accommodate your new lives. And hopefully you both feel more valuable to each other in the process!

Worst-case-- you have clarity that she's not going to make time for you right now (which isn't to say that next year couldn't be different.  Remember you have both gone through SO many life changes recently and are both just trying to do the best you can to adjust!) and you can set your expectations accordingly.

I have so much more I could say but I'm already above my word count (no surprise there! ha!) so hopefully that at least gives you my vote that I think it's worth you writing her.

My prayer is that someday you can write me back and it would be signed, "My old perky fun self." With or without her-- you WILL get there.

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s. What about the rest of you GirlFriends-- what advice would you give her? Should she write?

p.s.s. Want my advice? Fill out this form!

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If my friend really liked me then she'd initiate more...

I ruffled a few feathers last week with my post about being willing to be the friend who initiates more with others than they seem to reciprocate. Several of us feel like we're making more time for our friendships than others are... So first a hearty thank you to all of you left comments and shared your feelings! My answer was in response to a girl asking how to build relationships when it seemed others didn't make the time.  But for many of you, you expressed that for you this isn't a strategy issue but rather one that actually hurts your feelings and leaves you feeling insecure.

Therefore, I want to jump off from that post to talk about the danger of taking the actions of others personally.

In my upcoming book Frientimacy I share amazing research about how painful it is for any of us to think we're being rejected. It's a very real feeling and it hurts.  I totally understand why we all feel so fearful about being seen as wanting a friendship more than someone else, or worrying about whether this is their way of saying "I don't want to be your friend." But if we take the busy-ness of others as a personal offense then we'll not only stay lonely for a long time, but we'll be miserable and sad, too.

Their Actions Hurt Our Feelings

In my first marriage I cried myself to sleep a number of nights. At the time I was convinced those hurt feelings were his fault. I was in graduate school and had to be in class by 7 am so our needs would clash when he wanted to stay up late watching some new show called The Daily Show instead of come to bed with me. (Ha! Little did I know how much I'd come to love that show year later!) I held an ideal image in my head that couples go to bed at the same time.  I wanted to talk and cuddle and connect with him. To make a long story short-- despite my invitations, my tears, and my begging-- I occasionally went to bed alone. And when I did... my heart would break.

To many others this story might not sound so bad.  He certainly wasn't an awful person for wanting to stay up and laugh. But I had gotten it in my head that he was choosing that over me.  In other words, I believed a narrative that whispered: "If he really loved me, he would see how important this is to me and come to bed with me."

We do this all the time in all our relationships, even our friendships:

  • If she really understood me then she'd know not to ask that question...
  • If she really trusted me then she'd have told me about that problem...
  • If she really appreciated me then she'd have done more to say thanks...
  • If she really valued me then she'd remember my birthday...
  • If she really cared about me then she'd have offered to help me...

And the one that hits a little closer to home from the last post:

  • If she really liked me then she'd initiate us getting together more often...

Our feelings are hurt and it makes sense that we'd be tempted to look for who is causing that pain. When we see them doing something we don't want, or not doing something we do want, then we're quick to assume they are to blame for our hurt feelings, insecurities, or anger.

It's Not About Us

But here's the truth, that's easier to see when it's someone else's narrative (hence why I shared from my marriage) and not our own: how other people act says more about them than it does about us.

And what it says about them isn't the bad that we often assume it is.

Take my ex-husband for example. I valued going to bed together early.  Nothing inherently wrong with that desire, but neither is it better than his needs and desires. Perhaps he valued decompressing after a long day, perhaps his life was draining and it needed more laughter, perhaps he needed more freedom, autonomy and independence in life, or perhaps his body cycle was just different from mine and he wasn't tired yet? All of those are just as valid as my need.

And here's what I know to my core now that I have experience more growth and maturity since those fights long ago: I don't believe for a second that he ever stayed up thinking to himself: "I hope she knows now that I don't love her." I absolutely know that was never the message he was trying to send.

Yet, I cried in bed, suffering, worrying, and shrinking because of the meaning I assigned to his actions.

Many a woman goes to bed before her partner and isn't crying and hurting over it.  I chose my suffering because of what I chose to think about someone else's actions.

The Four Agreements

In the best-selling book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz teaches that the Second Agreement, if we want to live lives full of joy and peace, is "Don't Take Anything Personally." He says,

"Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about 'me'."

In the case of a friend not calling, inviting, and reaching out-- it would be easy to take it personally:  she doesn't like me; or to blame and devalue her: "I don't need friends like that-- I deserve better!"  Our ego is convinced it either means she doesn't think we're good enough or that we don't think she's good enough.  But one way or another: someone is bad.

But no friendship will ever blossom with that fear and frustration.  The best chances we have for creating the love around us that we want is to keep putting out love and ensuring that our actions are in alignment with that desire.  We want to keep inviting and stay as warm as possible.

The Caveats

So am I saying be a stalker?  No.  :) If she is rude, ignores your invitations completely, has never once said yes, or just acts miserable when we're together-- then, you're right: move on. (It's still not about you though!)

But recognize that our tendency to assume others are trying to reject us is just our own made-up story. Most women out there want more meaning relationships in their lives and you can help show the how that's done-- most of them will thank you for it someday. (And in the meantime you get what you wanted: more time with friends!)

  • It's okay to keep inviting if she sometimes says yes and answers our invitation-- it doesn't need to be 50/50.
  • We can't expect a new-ish friend to make the same kind of time for us that she might if we were close friends.  We can keep building the relationship slowly and trust the growth.
  • If you've been friends for a while and she's not as responsive as she used to be, check in with her and see how she's doing... (she may be feeling hurt too!)... it's not stalking to keep trying to engage with those who we are in relationship with.
  • If you're trying to start friendships-- put out a net instead of a fishing line! Don't zero in on one person, but stay open to developing several friendships at once.

We're the ones well aware of how important friendship is to our life... for us to keep reaching out doesn't help them as much as it helps us.  We aren't doing them this amazing favor as much as we are gifting ourselves with the likelihood that with our efforts we will keep developing the intimacy and love with others that we crave. It is a mutual relationship if we enjoy being with them when they say yes.

I'd rather error on the side of having reached out one too many times than to have stopped one time too few? If I can not take it personally then I can go down swinging for love and friendship.

Does that make sense, in general?  I know it's easy to try to find the exception... but overall can you see that it's better to put love out there than to keep track of scores, and better to assume the best of others than take it personally? I'm not saying it's easy but I think it's worth practicing!

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When You're The Only One Making Time for Friendship

Dear Shasta,

I’ve been binge-reading your blog and very happy I discovered it. I think what you are saying mostly makes a lot of sense, but I’m struggling with something: It is so very hard to meet people who are open to new friendships. On the rare instances that I find people who seem like they are, it’s almost impossible to find people who have the *time* to get together regularly. It’s hard to move friends down the pipeline, so to speak. Everyone seems just so very busy.  I can’t find anyone to say yes regularly enough to build meaningful friendships. Heck, it’s hard to get anyone to say yes at all. What do you suggest in situations like these?

Dearest Willing to Make the Time:

First, kudos to you and your awareness, intention, and willingness to foster friendships!  It's awesome and it WILL serve your life.  I promise!  Guard that commitment-- don't let others who are less aware steal it; don't let anyone saying no rob you of it; and certainly don't let apathy drain it from you.  What you know to be true: that friendships are worth the time, will benefit YOUR life.  Regardless of the outcome or of anyone's responses-- you know the truth and it will bless you.  Stay with it.

In fact it's your super power!  Not everyone knows they have it.  You're lucky you do.  SO many women are lonely (and the busier she is often means the lonelier she can feel!) and they don't have the energy, know-how, or motivation to change it-- but you do!  The ability to initiate repeatedly is a super power that will ensure you build meaningful friendships.

What Won't Work

Let's just be clear that what you secretly hope for isn't going to work:

  • Their schedules aren't just going to open up.  If I could wave a magic wand for you, I would, but it doesn't work.  So we can't wait for them to "not be busy."
  • Just because you initiated last time doesn't mean it's their turn.  A thousand potential relationships die every day because someone believes this myth.
  • Taking their silence, their no's, or their forgetfulness personally will never lead to friendship.  And the good news is that in the early stages of friendship-- we don't need to take these as a sign that the person isn't good friend material. No one can make everyone a priority in their schedules.  As your time together (even if it's at your initiation every time) becomes more meaningful, so will it get easier for her to commit her time to it.
  • Resenting them for not "stepping up." You're not initiating for their sake, but for yours! It's not a gift to them, but to yourself! So you don't ever need to resent them for not reciprocating-- this is your goal and need so you just keep leaning into friendships... and you will get what you crave.
  • Focusing all your energy on 1-2 people isn't enough.  Cast a net, not a fishing line, and be open to who might surprise you as a great friend down the road!

    Shasta and her friends

Ideas to Try for Building Friendships with Busy People

Instead of hand picking a couple of people and casually asking them to do something "sometime" and then hoping that *poof* a friendship will develop from that-- what we need to do is try everything and anything that will help us connect with as many women so we can eventually see who is responding with their occasional yes:

  • Extend an invitation to everyone you know for a standing girls night every Tuesday and be happier with the few who show up each week than disappointed with the many who don't.  But keep inviting the whole group each week (and tell them to bring a friend with them if you want more there!) and you'll see that those who show up most often will feel most close by Christmas!
  • Start a 4-week book club (long enough commitment to develop some friendships, but short enough for no one to feel stuck) as the excuse to gather everyone together. (My first book has a free 4-week guide, is written to help the group get to know each other, and has the extra bonus of reminding everyone how important consistent time is together!)
  • Ask for a commitment from a friend who says no. If she can't make the time we suggest, then follow it up with a "When works best for you?  Give me a date or two and I'll do everything I can on my end to make it work." Don't let the ball drop.
  • Build a relationship with unscheduled time. She's too busy to commit? Then just make a note to randomly call her every so often-- call her the first time with a follow-up reason: "Just wanted to call you real quick and hear how x went!" Another time call her "I'm just on my lunch break so only have a few minutes but was thinking of you and wanted to just catch up and hear how x is going!" Another time: "Hi! Hopefully this will just take a few moments but I had a question for you..."  Keep the calls short, ask a specific question to get the conversation started, and let her know you're thinking of her.  This does facilitate bonding and can ultimately make get-togethers more meaningful.
  • Try for spontaneous.  I've found that a lot of my friends feel overwhelmed with their schedule when they are looking at their calendars a week or two out, but that my odds go up if I am willing to try for day-of opportunities every so often. Text her-- "Hey any chance you're up for a 30 minute walk after work tonight?  I'm feeling the need for some fresh air and friendship!"  Or, "Hey, I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow near your office-- any chance we can sneak away for a bite to eat before or after my appointment?"  Or, "I know this is so last-minute... but just thought I'd try to see if there was any chance we could just stick our kids in front of a movie tonight for 45 minutes while we drink wine in the kitchen? Ha! You in?"
  • Invite on social media.  We may not want to post "I need friends.  Help!" but we can certainly post to our local friends: "I want to do x next week, anyone up for joining me?" Or "I'm tired of my walking route and am looking for someone who will take me on theirs! Ha! I'll drive to you!" Or "I'm thinking of having a decorating cookie party this holiday season-- who wants to come?" This helps expose you to possible friends who may not be on your radar, helps you see who might make the time, and shows you as an open and fun person who values friendships and enjoys life.

Do you see the patterns in those ideas?  Initiation With Many + Repeat As Often As Possible, with a Sprinkle of Fun and Lightheartedness = You Soon Having Friends.

The more we can call you "Making the Time" the sooner we can call you "The Girl With Healthy Friendships!"

Good luck, much love, and thank you for being a woman who prioritizes friendship!

Shasta

Update on 11/5: For more on this subject, in part inspired by some of the comments from this post, see the follow-up post: "If my friend really liked me then she'd initiate more..."

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Grateful My Friends Have Other Friends

In late September, before I left for a vacation with my husband, I was caught up with all most closest friends and family and bid them goodbye.  While I was going to be on Facebook a bit and try to scan my emails occasionally, I was planning to be off-the-grid as much as possible.  I said farewell and off we went on our dream trip to Greece. Cue forward three weeks and I felt like I came home to a rapidly changed world!

One of my closest friends, who was scheduled for a c-section the week after I

my friends has other friends

was to get home ended up having her baby two weeks before I returned.  Not only was I not at the hospital with her as planned, but I wasn't even in the country.  Others surrounded her, organizing meal drop-offs, helping babysit her other daughter, and cheering her up with love. All I could do was send an email of congratulations from afar... I whispered a prayer of thanks that she had built an entire community of friends who could love her well in my absence.

Another close friend, in the span of those three weeks, was so inspired by a friends detox program that she ended up not only starting the 21-day process herself, but already had other friends paying her to do their shopping, chopping, and cooking so they could join her in the cleanse. She and I are friends who tell each other everything in our weekly calls, but in missing 3 weeks-- I wasn't there to bounce ideas off of, cheer lead for her courage, or help think through pricing and possibilities. This diet wasn't even on her radar when I left; when I returned she had the beginnings of a business! I whispered a prayer of thanks that she had other friends who not only supported her in that entire launch, but who first gave her the idea, and some who became her first clients.

A similar thing happened with my sister who had a job opportunity come up, interviewed, got it, turned in her two-week notice, and started a new job, all in the span of my vacation! Again, prayer of thanks that she has an awesome community around her who helped validate and cheer her on along the way.

My life felt like it was placed on pause while I went off on a much-anticipated vacation, but there was no stopping the lives of everyone I loved while I was gone. All I could do was come home and give them my time on the phone to catch me up on everything that had happened in their beautiful lives: new babies, new vision, and new jobs! (What relief that it was all good stuff and not any crisis's!)

Our Friends Deserve All The Love They Can Get

I hear from many women who feel threatened if their friends make other close friends. Their egos get wounded because they interpret that interest in more friends as though it means that they are inadequate.  And that can't be further from the truth.

The truth is, that when our friends make other good friends, it means our friends are healthy!  It means our friends know the value of community and know what it takes to foster love in lots of different places.  If we love our friends-- we will want others to love them, too.

All I did was go on a vacation. But it limited me from being "there" for my friends. All of us will have times in our lives where we can't be as available-- busy work periods, parents who need us, kids who are going through a rough patch, wedding planning that consumes our attention, having a baby that puts us out of commission for a bit, or going through a health challenge that leaves us without energy. There are any number of things in life that can constrain us from being the kind of friend we ideally would want to be; and many of them are to no fault of our own.

Our friends deserve having as many friendships as they can foster. They are better off with it.  And so are we.

We're better off with them having other friends? Absolutely!

  1. Less pressure and obligation: They don't lean on us too much, expecting us to be and do everything.
  2. More meaningful time together: They're typically happier and more centered with more friends so our time with them will feel more energetic and positive.
  3. More fun and opportunity: We will get to meet their friends at some events and possibly get exposed to more people we already know are wonderful (because our friend has chosen them!)

It's Our Responsibility

If we're feeling jealous, it's not her fault.  It's our responsibility to make sure that we are initiating time with her and making the most of the time we have together.

If we feel resentful that she isn't meeting all our needs, it's not her job to do so, but rather our responsibility to surround ourselves with a circle of love.

We need to foster additional friendships, too; not to replace her (and maybe not even ones we'll enjoy as much as with her!) but to feed other parts of our lives and to ensure that we have our own support system of meaningful friendships.

We all -- us and our friends -- need as much love as we can handle!  :)

Leave a comment: What other perks have you experienced in your friend having other friends?  Or... what has made this especially hard for you?

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With Whom Should I Be Vulnerable?

Relationship stress, parenting disappointments, financial scarcity, career failures, crippling fears, health challenges, exhausting depression, unmet expectations, identity crisis, paralyzing indecision ... There is so much in this life that hurts. As if those aches weren't enough, compounding the fear and angst, far too many of us suffer alone.

Heart and Key

Why We Don't Reach Out

We stay quiet for any number of reasons, including (but definitely not limited to):

  • It's harder to stay in denial if we have to speak it out loud.
  • We've been hurt before when we've shared honestly so it feels far too risky now.
  • It's important (to our job, to our ego, to our spouse/family) that we keep up a certain image.
  • We can hardly manage our own shame/grief around the situation that we doubt we could handle anyone else's feelings, too.
  • Our greatest fear is being rejected or judged so why would we ever want to look less than perfect to someone else?
  • We don't really know anyone well enough to share deeply.

Why We Must

Unfortunately I have to stay brief on this part since what I really want to talk about is how to determine who to talk with, but it's worth reminding our brains that external processing is crucial for growth.

Self-reflection is limited to that which we are already conscious of in ourselves; interacting with others is what pushes us to new ways of thinking.

Even for people who prefer internal processing (a descriptive of many introverts), they are limited only to their own thoughts (which often just keep spiraling and spiraling) and can't access all the new inspiration, ideas, resources, awareness of blind spots, and reminders of love, acceptance, and normalcy that others can give. (Similarly, I'd tell those who prefer external processing that there is also a huge need for them to spend time checking in with themselves and reflecting more! Both are needed!)

Furthermore, oxytocin, the hormone that helps us feel safe, connected, and loved flows through us when we are sharing, touching, and being seen.  This powerful chemical also prohibits cortisol which is released by our stress, so engaging with others actually protects our bodies from the impact of whatever is causing us pain or stress. Our stressors deplete us, but relationships fill us up. (We can't always eliminate that which is draining us, but we can always be responsible for adding more of the things that energize and heal us.)

So Who Do We Share With?

  • Do we share with the people we like the best?
  • Or the ones who we've known the longest?
  • Or the ones who have been through something similar?
  • Or the ones who appear to not struggle in this area?
  • Or the ones who have opened up and shared with us in the past?
  • Or the ones who seem to have time?

The answer is: none of the above.

While the person we practice opening up with may fit 1-2 of those descriptors-- in and of themselves, they are not a reason to be vulnerable with someone. The chances of backfiring are high with any of them if we don't take into account the real reason to choose someone.

In short the answer is: The person we practice being vulnerable with the big stuff is the person we have been practicing vulnerability with on the small stuff.

What does that mean?  Let me give you an example:  If you'd rate your pain/fear as a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1-10, then you're better off sharing it with someone whom you've shared with before and appreciated their response.  So hopefully there are a few people you've practiced being vulnerable with regarding matters that you'd consider 5's or 6's? The jump from a 5/6 to a 7/8 really isn't that risky.  You have a history of practicing vulnerability with them in a way where their response was meaningful or helpful so while it may still feel scary to share, you don't need to fear their response or wonder if they will still love you.

You two have practiced vulnerability so it's not a new dance, but rather just a more experienced dance move.

What If I Don't Have Anyone?

The other option if you don't have people around you whom you've practiced vulnerability with already is to intentionally and incrementally start deepening some of the friendships you do have. Think of the scale in your mind and make sure you're sharing only a little bit at a time to then have the opportunity to step back and assess how it feels before sharing more.  In other words, if your pain is an 8, share as much as feels like a 3, before jumping up to 5, and before eventually sharing the 8.

What does that look like? Maybe you're struggling with a possible impending divorce. Before you pour out your heart and dump on someone, see how it feels to share a small piece of it: maybe just a fight you've recently had or acknowledging in broad strokes how hard marriage can feel sometimes. Does she meet you there? Does she judge? Does she listen and ask questions? Does she validate your feelings? If she responds in a way that feels safe to you, then you can up the ante a bit and maybe share something more specific or deep.

But I'd caution you that if you've bottled up a lot and haven't shared too deeply with others, it's probably wise to not go from 1 to 8 in one sitting with someone, even if she is responding kindly and encouragingly. My best advice would be to see it a bit like a first-time at the gym-- don't overdo it; you can always do more next time, building up to higher numbers as you engage more often.  Your goal isn't just to find someone to vomit on, but to build a lasting relationship that can support both of you so make sure you ask about her life, share something positive, and be someone who she would look forward to getting together with again. (If you NEED to talk and don't have those friendships in place, it's usually wise to realize that what you need might be a therapist, pastor, or other professional whose goal is to help you, not to build up a mutually confiding friendship.)

I'm excited for my next book to come out next Spring (the title is Frientimacy) where I talkFriendship cover in-depth about how to deepen friendships, but if you want more now then see pages 163-168 specifically about how to share when you're feeling broken and hurt (and all of chapter 8 on vulnerability for more general sharing) in my book Friendships Don't Just Happen!

What I want for all of you, eventually, is the awareness that you have developed a net of supportive relationship under you, made up of people who have practiced going as deep as possible with you... so that you live with confidence and peace that when the 10 hits (and chances are high it will), you have a couple of people who can support you through it.

Far too many people say, "When I went through such-and-such, I learned who my real friends are" as though it's an indictment against all those who didn't stick by them, but often it says less about the people, and more about what level of relationship was developed.

We owe it to ourselves to develop the relationships that incrementally and intentionally foster safe and mutual sharing. I want that for you!

Leave a comment!  Does this make sense? What questions do you have? Do you have any experience with sharing too much/too fast or not sharing enough to feel supported? We'd be honored to learn with you!

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