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Consistency

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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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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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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Top Three Tips for Making New Friends

In nearly every media interview I am asked, "What are your tips for making new friends?" and the reporters often are looking for specific ideas like joining clubs, hanging out at the dog park, or volunteering. But those aren't tips for making friends; they are just places to meet people. And there is a vast difference between meeting people and making friends.  Truth be told, most of us probably know enough people, we just don't feel close to enough of them. Even if we don't yet know people in a certain location, it's not because we don't know where people work, live, or hang out that we aren't meeting them, but rather because we don't know what to do once we meet them.

new friends

So as a friendship expert who has been thinking all things friendship for nearly seven years, here are the real tips.  You do these, assuming you're a decently nice and healthy person, you will have friends. Promise.

1)  Be Open.

Be mindful that research shows that we aren't all that good at predicting who we will bond with so be open to the possibility that your new friends don't need to be your same age, same relationship status, or a certain horoscope sign.

Let yourself be surprised by staying open and hopeful about women you're used to dismissing as not your type. My rule of thumb is to delay deciding whether someone is BFF material and just move the friendship as far as one can, as long as there are no big red flags (i.e. stealing from you).

I've matched up complete strangers and turned them into friends in my workshops and research bears out that bonding has less to do with being matched up with a certain person and more to do with how those two people interact-- so you can assume that most of the people you meet could be a good friend even if they have kids and you don't, even if they are single and you aren't, and even if their personality is opposite yours.

If this one tip were taken seriously, we would have a far less lonely world. (See also: The Myth that Keeps You Lonely for more on this)

2) Initiate.

Most of us are meeting people. Everywhere. Work especially. But also everywhere else you go in life.  And most of the people you are meeting could potentially add great meaning and joy to you life if you two really knew each other and spent time together.

To do that, you have two choices: get to know them in a setting where you both automatically are present (like work, church, a club--all the places that reporters want us to list as tips) OR you have to initiate with them in order to get that time logged.

Initiating means to be the catalyst to making the time together happen: striking up conversation, suggesting time together, and following up with specific ideas and dates.

Yes, it can feel awkward. Yes, it's hard if you're shy. But honestly, there is no way to build friendships without spending time together so someone has to make that happen. You're the one who sees the need so it's your job to do what you need to do to start the friendships you ultimately want to enjoy.

3) Repeat.

Falling for the myth that "if she likes me then she'll initiate next time" will kill the potential of many relationships. Instead, believe, "If she likes me then she'll say yes and try to get together when I invite her."

We all have stories of meeting someone we liked who didn't become a friend for no other reason than neither woman really followed up to make the time together happen repeatedly.

When it comes to romantic dating we intuitively understand that meeting for lunch once a month isn't going to be enough time together to really get to know one another, and yet that's all the time we often give to new friends! It will take a loooong time to feel close and supported in a friendship with someone we only connect with occasionally. Our goal is to eventually more toward familiarity-- becoming more of a regularity in each other's lives than a rare exception.

It takes most of us about 6-8 interactions with someone before we will usually start feeling like friends so the sooner we get those 6-8 times scheduled, the sooner we will be able to reap the rewards of our time!

Of course there are countless tips I could give in explaining each of these tips, but suffice it to say: every friendship you have ever formed has followed these three steps.

Don't be someone who just keeps meeting people; be someone who knows what actions to take to develop those people into friends.

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p.s.  And remember, GirlFriendCircles.com is a great way to meet new friends in your city since everyone who is a member is a friendly woman who values making new friends!

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How I Can Be a Better Friend: Follow-Through

In the spirit of learning from our mistakes, two popular posts over the years have been when I admitted to my four personal biggest friendship failures and when I shared the five biggest mistakes I see other women make with their friendships. Today I add another of mine to the list. I Am Far From the 'Perfect Friend'

It started when one of my girlfriends was sharing with me her deep hurt at how a friend had disappointed her; she wondered aloud if it were a friendship worth saving.

The disappointment was so small thing: My friend had been in the middle of a big personal crisis, had reached out via text to a friend of hers with whom they have a several year history of talking about deep things even if they don't talk that regularly. Her friend immediately offered to call her that evening but later needed to reschedule, and then had never gotten back to her.  A month had gone by and my friend still hadn't heard from her.  "The last she knew, I was in crisis... but she hasn't checked back in," the pain was palatable.

Not a one of us would say that went down the way we'd want a friend to act if it were us in crisis. That hardly looks like "being there" for a friend.

And yet, I found myself sympathetic to this friend. We have all gotten swept up in our own lives and in the relationships and needs that are right in front of our faces. I felt convicted.

As she was telling me this story... I started thinking of far-flung friends that I haven't checked in on in a while.  I realized I hadn't remembered to send a note to a friend on the anniversary of a death that I knew was hard, I hadn't texted my friend who had applied for a big job to see how the interview went, and I hadn't yet reached out to one of my girlfriends who I saw on Facebook had to take her little girl to the emergency room last week. Granted, if any of them had written me I would so be there for them, but.... I wasn't initiating.

I first felt guilt. Then overwhelm. Then some defensiveness.  Then some regret. Then some sadness. And then I felt panic: What if any of them felt neglected the way my friend is feeling about her friend?  What if one of my friends took my lack of follow-through personally?  Or needed me to reach out and I hadn't? Do any of them feel less loved by me? *gulp*

How I will Practice Follow-Through

I've never had any fantasy that I am the perfect friend--and seeing how I can be so present and available to you when you're in front of me, but then not show my love by following up with you--confirmed that I have a lot of room for growth.

Here are the two commitments I have as I embark on focusing more on becoming a friend who follow-throughs when I know big things are happening in the lives of my friends.

  1. Put it in my Calendar or smartphone Reminders. She's

    I'm going to try to show my love more tangibly by putting reminders in my phone!

    scheduled to have a hysterectomy next month? Set a reminder a week before and a week after to check in with how she's feeling.  She called me and confided in a fight she's having with her husband? Set a reminder next week to check in with her.  She mentions how much she hopes she'll get a raise next month? You know the drill. It's no less sincere; in fact I'd argue it shows just how much I care. I will calendar in what matters. We don't feel less thought of when someone has our birthday in the calendar, why would we if they decided we were important enough to remember?

  2. Be as gentle with myself and others as I can be.  Guilt, defensiveness, and remorse don't foster healthy friendships.  I will do what I can, when I can, but it's also not my entire responsibility to initiate; it's also theirs for reaching out and keeping me updated, asking for what they need. I will remind myself to be no more hurt by their silence in the gaps than I would want them to feel by mine. Therefore, I will take every opportunity to tell them I love them and apologize when necessary to ensure that while we may be disappointed by each other occasionally, we hopefully never question whether the other person loves us.

It's that last one that guided me to say to my friend who was struggling with her friend, "Do you believe it was malicious? Was she trying to hurt you?" (A new favorite question of mine to help put into perspective the difference between someone hurting us vs. us feeling hurt by someone!) She immediately knew it wasn't.  I encouraged her to reach out; we can't end friendships every time someone isn't amazing.

They had an amazing talk.  Her friend, of course, felt awful and was so apologetic.  And they built their friendship stronger because they were both willing to show up with honesty and compassion.

I feel a little scared to put this expectation on myself (and am hoping not too many of my friends read this and get their hopes up! ha!) but I'm committed to growing and becoming a better friend when I can. Even if I have to schedule it in to practice.

Wish me luck!

Now, I wonder how my friend who recently filed for divorce is feeling... I'll go shoot her a little note! Anyone you want to reach out to?  :)

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Are You Motivated Toward Pleasure or Away From Pain?

A guy giving me a sales pitch last year said to me,

"We've found that only about 20% of people are what we call 'Toward People'-- the ones who move toward pleasure; the other 80% of people are 'Away People' who move away from pain."

How Are You Motivated?

Am I able to see what I want and go after it or do I wait until the pain of what I have is so heavy that my motivation comes more from avoiding discomfort?

Any parents, teachers, managers, or other professions that necessitate motivating others know first-hand that this rule holds some truth. With one kid you have to promise ice cream to get the desired results; whereas with another it's not until you threaten to take away their TV privileges that they feel inspired. With weight loss as the example, some friends are chasing a goal--say posing in a bikini-- that motivates them; others, if honest with themselves, are just tired of feeling shame and would give anything to stop feeling that way.

It seems important to know which one we are. The last thing we want is to be in a bikini and still feel shame.

Why Do You Want to Make Friends?

Are you seeking new friends because you know how much fun it will be? Are you already looking forward to the activities, the sharing, and the bond?  Are you motivated to invite now by thinking about what you can be experiencing a year from now?  Are your eyes on the prize? Are you moving toward the pleasure you want?

Or... are you seeking friends because you're tired of feeling disconnected? Are you feeling the loneliness, the ache, and the angst of what it feels like to not have the friends you most want?  Are you motivated to invite now because you want to stop feeling the pain of feeling unsupported or unknown? Are your eyes on the pain? Are you moving away from the pain you feel?

Of course the two are interconnected: accomplishing one hopefully impacts the other. But that's not always the case, is it?  The strategy and results might look different based on which one is the primary motivator.

  • For example, if you're a Toward Person then you probably have a vision of what you want. Perhaps it's sitting in your backyard with a friend watching your kids play, meeting up with a group of friends for lunch downtown where you can talk work and vent, or having one person who knows everything going on in your life because you're both texting each other all through out the day?  Knowing the picture you want-- gives you instant information about the strategy you will want to employ, whether it's finding other women who work nearby or other women who have kids who will play with yours.
  • Whereas, if you're an Away Person then you could theoretically reach any of those visions listed above but still feel angst if you didn't first identify what pain you're trying to avoid.  Maybe it's the pain from being mad at someone, the pain of feeling misunderstood, or the pain of feeling isolated.  Sitting in the backyard watching your kids play may not be the answer?  In fact it may exacerbate the pain because you'll be confused why you still feel mad, misunderstood, or lonely if you didn't figure out why you were feeling those things and articulate what you believe would help you move away from that feeling.

I don't actually think one is worst than the other as much as they both just describe human nature and how we're wired differently. What could be damaging is not knowing which path feels most motivating to you.

Questions to Lead to Your Own Motivation

It's undoubtedly not as easy as an either/or answer for you, but I challenge you today to try to answer these following questions:

  1. Do you most need to move toward something or away from something?
  2. Based on that answer, write at least one full paragraph articulating either the feelings/experiences you want to pursue or avoid.
  3. Now let an image come to mind of you reaching your goal (what does it look like if you're not feeling that way, or what does it look like for you to reach the experience you're pursuing) and describe or draw what you see.  What are you doing? What does your face look like? Who else is there? What are you feeling?
  4. What does your voice of wisdom and maturity say is your take-away from this exercise? Is there an action you want to take? Is there something you want to remember?

Naming which one resonates with us might give us some ah-ha into how to best keep ourselves motivated.  It also hopefully helps us reach our real goals--whether it's the obtain something or avoid something.  Both are important.  But which one matters most?

If I could wave my little magic wand then I'd hope for you both the joy of pursuing pleasure and the peace from moving away from pain.  But since I can't find it right now, what I want for you is your clarity in knowing which one matters most to you right now so that your chances of success increase.  May you feel more relaxed in your friend-making journey as you sense that you have landed on what really will keep you motivated.

And, by the way, I bought the software from that sales guy. He won me over. Ha!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  I finished my next book manuscript!  Woohoo!! This was a case of first being a Toward person as it was the joy of writing and teaching that motivated me to write a book proposal last summer for my agent to start pitching to publishers.  But then, in recent months I was definitely more motivated by recognizing that there was pain I wanted to Avoid.  When the book felt hard-- and oh this one was squeezing me tight and pounding me with pressure--the only thing that kept me going was not wanting to miss a deadline or disappoint my editor.  I was all about the avoiding pain! Ha!  So sometimes we can use both to our advantage!  :)  I CANNOT wait to share this book with you... as soon as I know the publication date-- I'll let you know!

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No Excuse! Commit to a Girlfriend Weekend!

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

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

So Many Excuses to Not Get-Away!

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

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

Kids and Girlfriend Get-Aways

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo,

Shasta

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

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

5 Tips for Planning a Girls Weekend!

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

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

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The Friendship Formula

On Sunday I sat at the front of the room, with my phone in my hand keeping time, and I looked out a room-full of women laughing, talking, and leaning in toward each other. Only an hour earlier they had arrived as strangers, here they were looking a lot like good friends.  I knew that given a few more hours... I'd see women hugging each other good-bye with words like "See you next week!" excitedly hanging in the air.

Friendship Accelerators Bonding Women

There are actually few things more gratifying than facilitating Friendship Accelerators. Undoubtedly, speaking and writing are two of my favorite things since I love communicating and teaching, but the Accelerators give me a chance to go beyond inspiring and instructing an audience to actually helping cultivate the very connection people crave.  They're magical for me. All the motivational speaking in the world can't deliver friendships to people... but the Accelerators can; and for those results, I love them.

I, in fact, have joked that I feel a bit like a scientist in a lab inventing friendships.  Like any passionate scientist who might pour a little of this concoction, a dash of that, and a sprinkle of something else to create something greater than all the individual elements, I have learned that the very high possibility of meaningful friendships is something I can create.  Over the years I am perfecting the recipe, but the fact that the results are more predictable than ever has never dampened my glee when I watch it work, again and again.

Is there a Formula to Love?

Perhaps because I've been vocal over the years that I believe there is more of a formula to friendship than most of us want to believe, several women sent me the recent article in The New York Times titled, "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This" and said variations of "This reminds me of what you do with friendship!"

In the article Mandy Len Catron shared the story of falling in love with someone through answering the same 36 questions that researchers had used in a study to analyze what helped people feel close to each other.

In that study, they developed a list of questions that were designed to help two people self-disclose in increasing intensity and included questions that helped the subjects talk about their relationship and each other.  The connection to each other was big enough for the researchers to conclude:

"One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self-disclosure."

Notice that the basis of the connection is self-disclosure and sharing, but that it also has to be consistent, mutual, and incremental.

Just as interesting as what did work in bonding people in a lab is what didn't work that they also tested:  1) leaving two people to engage in small talk for 45 minutes didn't work, 2) being matched with people who agreed with you on important views didn't result in an increased connection, 3) being told the goal was to feel close didn't make a difference in helping the pair reach the goal, and 4) being led to believe that mutual liking was expected based on them being a good match didn't help it pan out.

Think about how much of our dating includes those four things: hoping it will work, believing we're a match, both having the goal of finding someone, and spending time on a date talking... but none of those factors lead to intimacy as much as intentional and personal self-disclosure that escalated incrementally.

Is there a Formula to Friendship?

Similarly, while their research was more focused on romantic intimacy, it confirms what I have long known to be true in friendship, as well:  There are actions we can take to foster a bond.

In other words, it's not just "chance" that will determine whether we'll feel a connection, nor is it only if the other person proves to have the "right" qualities we think we want in someone.  Bonding has far more to do with the verbs we engage in with someone than the adjectives they possess.

It's why the women who join GirlFriendCircles.com attend ConnectingCircles: small groups of 3-6 women who gather at a local cafe and pick questions off a list of Sharing Questions to ask and answer.  We have found the success rates of women feeling connected to others increases when they engage in sharing questions about themselves rather than just let the conversation drift from movies to men to jobs.

And it's why I developed the Frientimacy Triangle which teaches that all relationships start at the base of the triangle and bond when they increase both their time together and the self-revealing they're willing to do. (Read another post or buy book for more explanation.)

Regular time together (leading to commitment) and increased vulnerability is what will help two people bond.

What's so encouraging is that these actions are within your control!  You can 1) initiate time together with people you want to bond with and 2) you can ask questions and share about yourself in a way that helps the two of you bond.

It has far less to do with you both needing to be moms with kids the same ages, both needing to be retired, or both single 30-somethings-- you can build a close connection that is meaningful with far more people than you believe you can.  I've seen it time and time again.

And that's why the Friendship Accelerators work: they commit to a whole day together that I facilitate to help create intentional sharing and then they commit to 4 weekly get-togethers where they will increase their time together and continue to share their lives.

Last summer I was invited to attend the one-year anniversary of a Friendship Accelerator group who was still getting together weekly 52 weeks after they met. I went to a birthday party last month where three women there had all met at one of my Accelerators a couple of years back.  I regularly see Facebook photos of another group who seemingly gets together all the time for fun stuff all over the city.

Last week I received an email from a woman who had been in one of my Friendship Accelerators a couple of years ago who said, "Two of the friends I met at our Accelerator 3 years ago are still very dear to me and an important part of my life.  Even though one moved farther away, we are still in regular contact and get together often.  In fact, I had dinner last night with one of those friends and the 3 of us are going to the theater to celebrate the other one's birthday next week. Thank you!"

The Two Necessary Ingredients in Bonding

Indeed, whether it's romance or friendship-- they both are built upon helping bond people-- we all too often expect more from the things that don't work and are too busy or too nervous to try the things that do.

If you want meaningful connections:

Time together + Intentional Self-Revealing = Feeling Close to Others.

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p.s.  If you want me to come to your city to lead a Friendship Accelerator you can add your email and zip code to our list to be notified when we schedule one in your area!

 

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Choose Friends. Make Time. Repeat.

We've all heard the stories of people on their death-beds saying things like, "I wish I had made more time for my family and friends," or "I wish I had played more, not taken it all so seriously."  We pass around inspirational blog posts on Facebook of experienced mothers saying things such as, "I wish I had worried far less about keeping the house clean and far more about playing," and from the wise women who reach the maturity to be able to say, "I wish I had eaten more ice cream with friends instead of forever trying to lose those stubborn 5 lbs. What a waste of energy my entire life!" We hear the wisdom.  And we resonate.  We know deep down that it is truth.  But knowing 1468613_10151969864577435_82284094_nsomething and having it change the way we live our lives are two very different things.

It's past time, my GirlFriends, that we choose friendship even when it feels inconvenient, expensive, and time-consuming.  Even when we think we prefer sitting on the couch.  Even when we think we don't have the money to visit her.  Even when we think we don't have the time to call.

It's time to choose friendship in higher doses.  It's the medicine our bodies and souls are dying without.  It's the cure to that which ails us.  It's the love that will remind us how connected and supported we are.  It's the peace that comes with knowing we are not alone.  It's the safety net that will protect us when the storms come... and they always do.

What Could Choosing Friendship Look Like?

Choosing friendship means not missing the weddings, the birthdays, the big moments. We do whatever we can to be there even if it means buying a cheaper used car, forgoing a shopping trip, or putting off the new dishwasher.

Choosing friendship means we get on a plane and go see her.  Just because you miss her.  Even if the plane ticket goes on the credit card. We put far less important things on there and the investment is well worth it.

Choosing friendship means we tell our spouses, our kids, and our bosses that our annual girls weekend away is a non-negotiable.  We are going.  Every year. We don't ask if we can afford it this year, have the time, or if it's convenient on everyone else-- we say yes and figure it out. That's how we roll; that's what we do.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to a spontaneous invitation.  Or better yet, being the one to give a spontaneous invitation! I made a pot of soup-- can you come over tonight?

Choosing friendship means not allowing "tired" to be an excuse (the only exception is if you really will sleep during that exact time!) as whatever else we go home and do instead won't make us less tired, but it will make us less connected.

Choosing friendship means buying a random card at the grocery store, writing a few lines of love, and mailing it out to someone who pops into your heart. $4 and 10 minutes is always worth it.  Always.

Choosing friendship means initiating with new friends.  Even when the time together isn't yet as easy, meaningful and intimate as you would like it to be.  You initiate in faith that some of them will one day be your best friends. Much like we work out not because we see the difference in each work-out, but because we know we will over the long run.

Choosing friendship means telling your kids, "Just like you played with your friends today, it's time for mommy to go play with hers" even when they beg for you to stay home.  (And the more regular you are with going out, the easier it will be on everyone else!)

Choosing friendship means not letting your pouting lover dissuade you from going out... but saying, "I can't wait to come home... but I know if I want meaningful friendships that they require time together.  Thank you for supporting that!" And then kiss him/her on the mouth so hard that they recall just how much you love them... and then walk away for a few hours with women who will love you in different ways.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to more sleep-overs, more weekends away, more dinners around your table with friends, more evenings out, and more hours spent in conversation.

Choosing Friendship From a Place of Love and Hope

Yes we need boundaries,

yes we need to listen to our bodies,

yes we need to say no more often to some things,

yes we need to take our temperaments into consideration,

yes we are busy,

yes we don't want to rack up credit card bills,

yes we have more meaningful relationships to consider besides our friends...

yes, there are always ifs, and's, & but's....  

This isn't a post about draining yourself more and giving more when it feels yucky... no, this is a post about saying yes to people who have the highest likelihood of loving you in meaningful ways.

This is a post that reminds us that if we want to feel known, then we want to say yes to more conversation.  That if we want to feel supported, then we want to say yes to more vulnerability. That if we want to feel joy, then we want to say yes to more moments that make memories.  That if we want to feel connected, then we must fly, call, and talk more.  That if we want good friendships then we will want to invest whatever we can today knowing it will come back to us in fabulous ways.

It is all so very easy to get used to the routine, the slow drain on our lives, the ongoing stress of our finances, the burden of everyone needing more of us... but that is not the way we choose to live.  We want more.  WAY more love and laughter and connection and joy.  Way more!

And you, and only you, can choose to say, "I will not let a year pass without us getting together.  I will not let this week pass without meeting a friend after work.  I will not let this evening pass without calling a friend and telling her that I miss her."

We do it not from guilt, but from love.  From the whisper of our future self saying to us now, "You won't regret having more love and connection in your life.  Do it.  Say yes."  We do it because we know this is what we value and how we want to structure our lives.

We will probably feel busy, tired, and broke whether we reach out or not... at least if we don't use those as excuses to not then we will at least have the friendships in our lives that energize us and protect us from the effects of the stress!

Choose Friends.  Make Time. Repeat.

Always in love,

Shasta

Leave a comment:  what excuse do you most consistently use to not spend more time with friends?  What would it take to not see that excuse as a limitation or justified reason to not pursue more love? Are you willing to consider that you might feel that way no matter whether you do or don't spend more time with friends but that one option might leave you with more love and joy, too?

 

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Friendships Don't Just Happen - for Guy Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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Friendships Don't Just Happen - for Guy Friends

by Greg Tjosvold

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

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

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

My best friends have always been women.

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

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

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

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

Navel-gazing

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

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

Need

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

Shasta

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

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

Enter the Barley Brethren

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each week during the school year we meet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not Enough Time for Friends? Awesome Examples of Structuring Life Around Relationships

When I ask women what one thing they wish they could change about their friendships-- the number one answer is along the lines of wishing their friends made more time for them. We're weary by how we have to schedule each other 3-weeks out, initiate a dozen emails back-and-forth, and wonder if we're a priority to the other person.

We live in a time-crunched culture where everyone believes that time is scarce and many a friendship is falling victim to a lack of time together.  We aren't just sitting on front porches, sipping iced tea late into the evening, talking about life, and watching our kids play in the quiet tree-lined streets together.

So in a world where many women are putting relationships on the back-burner, I want to hold up three of my friends who are making amazing decisions to structure their lives around their friends. May they inspire all of us to not just do what is easy, but to do what is important to us.

Willing to Schedule Time FOR Friendship

My girlfriend, Sherilyn, and I try to talk on the phone at least once a week, often for up to an hour at a time. That is impressive considering I do it in the middle of my work day, between writing, giving interviews, and running my company; and that she's doing it with

Sherilyn and me together earlier this summer in Seattle on one of her get-away's with friends. xoxo

three kids running around and begging for attention.  But we set aside the time, knowing that if we want to feel close to each other and really know what's going on in each others hearts that it's easier to do that on a regular basis than an irregular basis.

But last week she upped the ante and impressed me even more in proving just how important friendships are to her.

She's been gone this summer a bit more than normal, including at least two trips to spend time with friends, so when the husband of one of her close friends called to see if she could fly out for his wife's birthday over Labor Day weekend, she was tempted to say no.  And none of us would have faulted her: her husband has gone above and beyond this summer watching the kids so she could take off at various times, her kids start school the day after she would get back so she'll miss much of the school prep, and her schedule is nuts between now and then.  Had she said no, we would have supported her for not over-extending herself.

But she and her husband have a habit of separately thinking and praying about something for a period of time before making a big decision so they decided to convene in 24 hours to decide.  Both of them showed up in that conversation on the same page, with her husband articulating, "Life is about relationships... if there is anything we should be structuring our life around it is for this. Go be with your friends."

Wow.  So he's watching the kids one more weekend, and she's practicing not feeling guilty, trusting that she's making time for what they feel matters the most in life.  Most of us would have simply said no because we're busy and tired without even stopping to think about whether it supports our values or not.

Willing to Commit Finances FOR Friendship

Another one of my friends, Ayesha, announced two years ago to a monthly group of us that gets together to support each other, that her husband was taking a job in New York City.  But because her friendship meant so much to us she said she was going to keep flying out once a month to spend that evening with us.

Here I am with Ms. Ayesha in CA where I am so grateful that she still comes back frequently to be with her friends.

Buying a place in New York City isn't cheap and as they've been trying to get more established in their new city it would have made sense to say "this monthly expense of flying back-and-forth is too costly."  Indeed it has a pretty expensive price tag on it.

But she knows that if these are friendships that are important to her to maintain face-to-face then she will have to invest in them.

We can't all afford to do that, but what she's showcasing is amazing.  What she invites us to look at in our own budgets is how sometimes it costs us something to maintain the friendship; and that a price tag isn't bad if you're getting meaningful connection on the other side of it.

Willing to Move FOR Friendship

When one of my best friends, Daneen, texted me in June to let me know that she and her husband were thinking about moving away from San Francisco, my heart just fell.  We all know how hard it can feel to finally develop meaningful friendships so the idea of losing a little bit of that time together was tough to swallow.

And yet... I was so immensely proud of her because her reason for moving was to go back to a community where she feels like she belongs.  She and her husband met in college in this community, where his family lives and where they still have many friends.

A few days ago, Daneen, (in the middle) drove over an hour from her her new home to come into the City to spend an evening with me and Vania!

Since having a child, San Francisco has felt like a hard place to have community that both includes children and spirituality.  (Her story in her words.) While there is much they love here, they are moving away to a place where they hope to have more families over for dinner and more engagement in a church community. It's a small community so they're likely to run into people they know at the grocery store and can walk down the street to connect with neighbors.

In a world where people move frequently for jobs, more money, or for love--leaving friendships to chance; (Here's an article I wrote for Huffington Post called 5 Things to Consider Before Moving Away From Friends) I find it amazingly inspiring to move for friendships, and trusting that they can find the other pieces.  All too often we leave a place, walking away from friendships, forgetting that it will take years before we can build those up again. And while she's moving away from me and a few others; she's leaning into a place where her life will be far more established around the community she craves. She is willing to plant herself where she believes her opportunities for meaningful friendship will increase.

What Am I Willing to Invest?

I hesitate to tell the stories because I don't want anyone feeling any guilt, whatsoever; but I choose to tell them because I think there's an inspirational element to them, also.

We are so often modeled by others that friendships come-and-go, that they are the first thing to let go of when life gets busy, or that they are only important when it's convenient.  So I think it's important for us to hear stories of what other women are doing, what they're willing to invest, what they're willing to do to maintain their friendships.  It's important for us to know that it's not crazy to make choices in favor of friendship. It invites us to ponder, "Maybe I do have one evening a week to go out with friends" or "Maybe I could commit to one hour a week to talk to one of my best friends."

Time isn't necessarily scarce; we just have to prioritize what we believe is worth structuring our lives around during the time that we do have.

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Starting in 3 weeks!  "The Friendships You've Always Wanted! Learning a Better Way to Meet-Up, Build-Up, and Break-Up with Your Friends!"*

Friendships Wanted banner-01One way to practice committing more time to our friendships is to choose friendship as your priority this September for International Women's Friendship Month!

Here I am with the wealth of books I selected to feature in this month's "The Friendships You've Always Wanted!" friendship course!

I really hope you'll consider joining us for this 21-day class filled with up to 13 expert interviews where we will all make a commitment for one month to focus on increasing the frientimacy (friendship intimacy with other women) in our lives!

With our workbook and lots of inspiring interviews-- we will find ways to 1) make more female friends and 2) do so in such a way that we are structuring our lives around them in a way that feels good to us!  :)

www.FriendshipsWanted.com

* Sign up early and we'll send you a free copy of my book "Friendships Don't Just Happen!"

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

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

Being in Circle Invites Support

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

Business mastermind womens group

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

Being in Circle Invites Accountability

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

womens circle for journaling and reflecting

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

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

Being in Circle Invites Brainstorming, Feedback, and Ideas

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

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

Being in Circle Invites Fun

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

Womens Retreat Day mastermind group

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

 

Being in Circle Invites Intimacy

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

best friends, girls groups

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

Choose Your Circles

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

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

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

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My Favorite Sharing Question of All Time

While I was teaching and launching 4 more Friendship Accelerator groups yesterday, I made a mental note to myself that I would put to written words all the reasons I gave the attendees of that workshop for regularly using my all-time favorite sharing question. Here it is for you! The Question:

Called the "High/Low" question-- it invites all participants to share a highlight and a low light of their choosing.

A highlight can be: an event, a milestone, a decision, a choice for self-care, an accomplishment, a goal achieved, a moment appreciated, or a cherished conversation.  Anything that produced feelings of positivity... joy, contentment, serenity, gratitude, pride, or inspiration.

A low light can be: a tough conversation, a disappointment, a heartbreak, a loss, an unmet expectation, an obstacle, an insecurity, or something that is causing anxiety and worry.  Anything that produced feelings of negativity... fear, loss, sadness, anger, or disillusionment.

I call it the "High/Low," one of my workshop attendees in Chicago says she calls it "Thorns & Roses."  I like that, too!

Applications of The Question:

One of the four Friendship Accelerator groups yesterday that shared their answers to my Favorite Sharing Question!

If it's with friends you see regularly, such is the case for my weekly girls group or with family that comes over most Friday evenings, then the question can be limited to the short time period since we've last seen each other: "What was a highlight and low light from this last week?"

If it's with friends we haven't talked to in a while, such is the case with my "SoCal girls group" who is scheduled tonight for our first quarterly phone call, 2 months from when we were all together for our annual weekend trip, then it becomes more of a "What is one "high" going on in your life right now, and one "low?" giving the freedom to name a biggie that happened last month or to pick the thing that matters most this week.

If it's with a friend I haven't seen in ages, then the question might be bit more broad to encompass more time, "So in the last year, what would you say has been a highlight and low light for you?"

If it's with my husband who I see every day, and already happen to know most of what his day looked like, we still ask this question in a variety of ways.  If before bed, we might say, "So what was one of your high moments and low moments today?" as a good way to reflect on the day.  And I'm still surprised sometimes the impact one email can have... showing up in either category.  If it's after a trip, "Looking back on the trip, what would you say was one of your favorite highlights and low lights?"

The question is even great within themes, not necessarily constrained by time.  Yesterday, in the Friendship Accelerators, I asked the women to share with each other, "What is a highlight/low light for you in your current relationship status?" Or it can be in your job, where you live, about your body image, or any other subject.

Here's Why I Love The Question SO Much:

  • Honors Real Life: There's a time for hypothetical, but it's not when I'm wanting to connect with my friends and find out what really matters in their lives.  This question reminds all of us that there is ALWAYS a duality to life-- when you're in a season of uncertainty or grief, there are still moments of good to be recognized, and when you're in a season of recognition, goal achieving, or ease, there are still unmet expectations, stressors, and new worries.  And, sometimes, more-often-than-not, the very same thing that is a high can also be a piece of our low.
  • Decreases the Chances of Jealousy:  It's all too easy to see the highlights of each other's lives-- the marriages, kids, fancy trips, and awards-- and end up feeling less thrilled with our own.  But when I journey over the long-haul with my friends, seeing the lows and highs, I really think it reminds us that no one's life is perfect. We stop begrudging each other for what we each have.
  • Increases our Ability to Celebrate our Wins & Cheer for Each Other: For many women, we're more comfortable sharing our lows, than we are our highs. We don't want to be seen as bragging, and we've picked up intuitively that others seem to like us best when our marriages aren't amazing, our kids aren't perfect, and our career isn't rocking.  But if we can't practice our greatness and capacity with friends, then who do we get to practice owning our light around?  We need to be able to say, "I'm proud of this part of my life," and we need to keep practicing telling our friends that we're proud of them, too!
  • Puts Control into the Hands of the Sharers: By asking for a high/low there is enough structure to prompt and direct our thinking (as opposed to just saying "So what's up?" "What's new?" or "Tell me what's going on these days.") but it's also broad enough to let each person choose what they share. If one low light feels too vulnerable for that occasion-- pick another. On the other hand, if something happened that you secretly wish people knew and could support you in-- this is your chance to let them in.  Your choice!
  • Invites Honesty: You ask someone how they're doing, and they'll say fine.  You ask them what's going on, and they'll inevitably give you a summary of the kids or work.  I've noticed entire groups of people--even people who consider themselves close-- can spend the entire evening giving updates, talking about what they saw in the news, or telling a story they know will regale everyone. But if you give them permission to share two specific things that matter in their lives then the conversation changes to what they want to share, not just what they were asked about or what they thought would make entertaining conversation.
  • Protects Space for Each Person: I really believe most people want more substantial conversations, we just don't feel comfortable taking over the conversation and offering up some things that feel mundane, feel like downer-subjects, or could be perceived as bragging. But that doesn't mean we don't want people to know us. By asking this question to a living room full of people, we may sure that the introvert has protected space to share without her having to fight for the floor.  We make sure that the extroverts aren't just entertaining, but really sharing.  We make sure no one leaves saying, "No one even asked me about..." and feeling as though they weren't even seen.
  • Develops Intimacy: When done regularly, as each Friendship Accelerator will do in the ensuing four weeks when they get together, this question can build a real sense of connectedness.  We worry less that our highlight this week doesn't feel huge in contrast to someone else when we can see the pattern over time that all of us have joys and all of us have pain-- our turn for each will come.  In the meantime, we feel seen.  We know that someone knows that we're stressed about money, fearful about not getting pregnant yet, or worried about our grown son's latest seemingly-destructive choice.  We admitted it in a safe place because everyone else was sharing, too.  We weren't left "out there" feeling like we're the only ones with a problem.  And simultaneously, we didn't fear what others thought when we shared our pride or joy-- because they did it too.  We feel supported.  And we can support.

During the Friendship Accelerator, after I have all the groups share their high/low with each other, I ask the women to raise their hands if they would have voluntarily offered up what they just chose to share.  In other words, would they have guided the group conversation to that story, had the space not be made for it.  I'd guess about 15% of them raise their hands.  Indeed, sometimes the high or low is such that we might offer it up without being asked, but more often than not, we need someone to ask us before we gladly share.

I'm already looking forward to tonight's call with my 4 girlfriends who live in Seattle, San Antonio, and Southern California.  I genuinely want to know what's mattering to them.  And I'm glad I don't just have to leave it to chance that it's shared....

Here's a list of more Sharing Questions-- these are the ones we use in our ConnectingCircles (small member-led gatherings of 3-6 women in local cafes) in the GirlFriendCircles.com community.

 

 

 

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Reflections on My Katie Couric Interview

Four women who have made friends on GirlFriendCircles.com were interviewed, along with me, by Katie Couric nearly two weeks ago for a segment that aired TODAY, Tuesday, March 12, 2013 on ABC. Katieshot copy

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at What It's Like to Be on Katie Couric

If you're on my GirlFriendCircles newsletter list, you already saw my quick little video made a couple of days ago when I found out when this show was airing.  But if you missed it, I gave a little behind-the-scenes view at what it was like to meet Katie, the fun surprise that caught all of us a bit off guard when we arrived at the ABC studio, and a little glimpse into the VIP treatment of being a guest on a national talk show. So fun!

Reflections on the Entire Friendship Show Segment

But the blog post I really want to write is one I've been waiting nearly two weeks to write!   Since some of what I want to share was about the interviews of others on the Show, I had to wait and let you watch it without any spoilers.  But now that it's aired.... I'm not holding back!  :)

Since my heart is as a teacher, I wanted to point out some great friendship take-away's that came up in the stories of other women on the show.  Here is a list of seven lessons we can learn about friendship just from listening to others share their personal stories.

The other segments included: Katie and her BFF--Wendy Walker -- talking about their friendship since their 20's, the surprise arrival of Larry King to talk about his long ago date with Katie, gal pals and comedians Chelsea Handler and Kathy Najimy, and two women in their eighties (Thelma and Kay) who have been friends for over 75 years.

Seven Friendship Lessons Highlighted on Katie Couric Today:

  1. Everyone needs friends. The Friendship Show opened with a photo montage of celebrity photos, with Katie's voice reminding us that "Even the hottest stars need a shoulder to cry on..." Indeed.  I've witnessed that often it's the women who are the most successful, beautiful, famous, or talented among us are the ones who often are the loneliest.  We all want to belong. (Related blog: There's A Reason They Say It's Lonely at the Top.)
  2. There's value in giving each other a second chance.  One of my favorite lines came from Chelsea Handler when she described the "stink eye" that Kathy gave her when they were being introduced at a Hollywood party.  She was off-put at first, but then said to herself, "Oh yeah, that's probably because she doesn't yet know I'm a good girl." I love that!  I love that even when someone else is intimidated, worried, insecure, judgmental, or whatever else might be getting in their way of showing up with love, that Chelsea didn't take it personally and reminded herself that Kathy doesn't even yet know her, but assumed she would like her once she knew her.  (Related blog: What We Need Are More Women, Fewer Girls)
  3. We need more than 1 Best Friend.  Did you catch the title they gave Wendy Walker, the best friend of Katie Couric?  It said "One of Katie's Best Friends."  I hit this theme a lot in my book that we need more than one BFF. Most of us report being happier and healthier if we feel we have a couple of women in our Committed Circle.
  4. Happiness plays a starring role in our friendships. Chelsea and Kathy certainly have a lot of humor to their friendship, Wendy credits humor to attracting her and Katie to each other, the two older ladies certainly have kept humor as part of their glue with new adventures and "bottles of wine," and the Saturday Night widows kept hitting that theme over and over, saying the word "fun" countless times. While we celebrate friendship with phrases like "crying on each others shoulders," what we really want is someone to add joy to our lives.  I devote the entirety of chapter 7 in my book to the subject of positivity because it's just that important.
  5. Consistency cannot be overrated.  The moment I had the hardest time not interrupting during the show was when Katie asked Thelma and Kay what had kept them together for 74 years and they responded with "We don't really know."  But then did you catch what Thelma said next?  "Well... she comes over once a week... and she's on the top of my prayer list every day."  Oh how I had to restrain myself from not saying "You may not know how it happened, but I do.  It's that gift of regularity that friendships are made of."  (Related blogs: Nothing Kills a Potential Friendship Faster and The Flywheel of Friendship.)
  6. Personality has way less to do with friendship than you think it does. I wanted to jump in and interview the Saturday Night widows after their founder (and author of the book by the same title) Becky Aikman said , "When we first all met I thought it was huge mistake-- we were such a mismatch of personalities." And yet here they are, a group of meaningful friends. Research continues to reveal that we can bond with all kinds of people who we wouldn't normally think we would choose as friends.  As I highlight in chapter 5 of my book "Be open!"  Related blogs: Go Friend-Fishing with a Net, Not a Line! and Do You Have a Friendship Checklist?
  7. Friends from all 5 Circles of Connectedness are important!  I'd venture to guess that Chelsea & Kathy are Left-Side Friends since they're somewhat new to each other, that the Saturday Night Widows are more-or-less Common Friends since they all met to share one specific area in common with each other, that the military woman at the end may have been sitting with her Right-Side friends since they all live nearby, do lots together, and show up to support each other in tangible ways, and that Katie & Wendy are either Committed Friends if they talk regularly or at least Confirmed Friends if they stay-in-touch and can pick-up-where-they-left-off.  I'm only guessing to help show the wide spread of friendships that were highlighted-- each serving a beautiful and valuable purpose. (Related Blogs: How to Find a Best Friend and Frientimacy: The Intimacy of Friends)

Someday I'll be on a show where I actually answer questions, teach healthy friendship, and talk for more than 2 minutes.  But until then, I'll just keep blogging away, teaching workshops, and writing books.  :)

Huge welcome to all my new blog readers who found me today from the Katie Couric show-- I look forward to you meeting other awesome women in this community.

 

 

 

 

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Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

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

 

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making New Friends isn't as Easy as it Sounds

And then it hit me.

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

The truth is that it was awful.

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

I was lonely.

I was sad.

And I felt so lost.

But I Made My Friendships Happen!

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

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

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

And I kept doing it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I kept going back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Three Things I Wish I had said To Kathie Lee and Hoda on the TODAY Show

We Interrupt this Programming I'm currently in the middle of a series about friendship drifts and rifts with so much more to say (and I know I specifically  committed myself last week to writing another blog about how adultery can impact our friendships-- I won't forget!) but in honor of our 500 new members in the last week, I'm interrupting my own series.  :)

My Trip to the TODAY Show

Last Thursday I was sitting in a plane on the tarmac at the JFK airport at 9 am-- the exact time I was supposed to be arriving freshly showered to the TODAY show green room for make-up and prep.  The production team had arranged for me to fly from San Francisco to NYC on a red- eye because I had a commitment the evening before that I didn't want to break. My plane had been delayed over 2 hours and my chances of arriving at the studio in time for my 10:14 am segment were diminishing rapidly.I had stopped caring about looking under-slept and un-showered on national TV and instead just hoped I'd even make it to the studio with five minutes to change out of my jeans! Sitting in Manhattan gridlock en route to the studio, I whispered the serenity prayer-- the part about giving me peace about the things you cannot change-- and then simply hoped for the best.

Two minutes before we went on air--I hadn't gone to the bathroom, sipped any coffee,  been prepped by any producers, or checked myself in a mirror--I stood as ready as I was going to be.  Three minutes later we were done. With four women sharing moments of rapid fire conversation, one simply cannot say much or say it all the way they wished they had.  Even if I had been more fully awake!

today show clip

Here are Three Things I Wish I Had Time to Say:

1)  Confirmed Friends: When Kathie Lee asked me if it was common to have a wonderful friend that she only talks with once a year since they can pick up where they left off, I wish I could have said, "Yes!  That is common.  And incredibly meaningful. Those friends from our past (Confirmed Friends: the middle circle on my Circles of Connectedness), who we may have intimacy with but lack consistency, play a significant role in our lives with many benefits.

But they are only one of the five types of friends. If we don't realize that, then what else can become too common is a sense of not feeling known, supported, and connected if we haven't also built up the Community and Committed Friends on the right-side of the Continuum--the friends who we consistently make time for and share vulnerably with.

2)  Where do women go to make friends? Way more important than where we meet each other is how we turn our friendliness into a friendship.The truth is we can meet people anywhere.  And we do.  But without starting the five steps of friendship with them-- they risk simply becoming a nice person we meet, rather than a potential friend.

The first two steps of friendship are to 1) be open and 2) initiate contact repeatedly.

The importance for us to be open to new friends cannot be underestimated.  We all too often dismiss people if we can't see us having big obvious things in common-- like both being mothers, both being retired, or both being single. But in the book Click-- the Brafman brothers say that the quantity of things in common is more important than the quality we assign to those commonalities:

"Sharing a strong dislike of fast food, for example, was just as powerful of a predictor of attraction as favoring them same political party."

In other words, if we find out we both enjoy hiking, turn our noses up to Top 40 music, and love to eat kale-- those three "smaller" things will actually increase our bond more than any of those biggies we think we just have to have in common.  We can be so much more curious and open-minded about people than most of us are. (In fact, we need to be since it takes a little longer for kale to come up in our conversations!)

And the second step of building a friendship--repeated initiation--is where many possible friendships get stopped in their tracks.  We like each other, or are at least open to getting to know each other more, but if we don't make those next few connections happen sooner, rather than later, we lose any momentum we could have had together.  We simply have to be the ones to email and say, "So great to meet you-- I would love to get to know you better, maybe we can connect for dinner after work one night next week.  Any chance you can do  Tuesday or Wednesday? If not, let me know what dates work for you and I'll schedule in the time!"

My best friends aren't always the ones I simply liked the best initially, rather they were the ones I saw regularly, giving me the chance to feel comfortable with them and fall in love with them.

3). Is it okay to let go of some of my friendships?  I stand by my answer on this one but wish I had more time to explain how friendships shift.  My gut reaction to this question is that we are all getting a little too trigger happy in ending friendships before practicing ways of showing up differently.  Our tendency is to get more and more annoyed with certain people for their behaviors until we can't take it anymore so then we just cut them out of our lives and justify it with a "they were unhealthy or toxic." Whereas most of our friendships could not only be saved, but strengthened, if we learned the skills of asking for what we need from each other, withholding judgment, working on our own self-esteem so that jealousy is inspiring, not frustrating, and learning to forgive each other.

While Kathie Lee joked that usually "it's not us, but them" who is at fault, I actually disagree.  Yes they can be annoying, insensitive, and selfish.  But who among us isn't those things? (And how easy is it for us to interpret their actions with those words when it simply means they just make different choices than we do!)  The truth is that when we can't stand someone-- it's usually showing us something about ourselves.  In those moments of blame we can see more clearly what skills we need to learn in order to best hold our peace and joy no matter what they are doing and figure out to practice showing up with different responses that might yield different results.

With that said, friendships do shift.  In my 5 Circles of Connectedness, just as people we meet can move from the far-left with Contact Friends (the least intimate) to the far-right with Commitment Friends (the most intimate and consistent) so can our friendships move the other direction.  There are good chances that several of the women we feel closest to now might someday shift to circles where our friendship isn't as vulnerable or consistent.  That is normal.  Our lives do change.  But even then, we don't need to replace all our friends with every baby, divorce, marriage, annoyance, frustration, or move.  Our call with some of those women is to figure out how to show up in those awkward transitions, hold what we've shared with an open hand, and work at co-creating something new together.

So until they make time for me to give at least a 20 or 30 minute interview-- I'll just keep blogging!  :)

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A most sincere welcome to all our new members who joined after seeing me on the TODAY show last week or read about us in the New York Times style section.  Blessings on you as you courageously connect with new women, consistently choose to show up with honesty and positivity, and as you turn the friendly people you meet into friends who matter in your life.

Pre-order my Book: Also, my forthcoming book is all about how to meet people and turn them into friendships that really matter, including the skills of forgiveness, asking for what we need from our friends, and how to appropriately increase our vulnerability.  You can pre-order it now on Amazon!

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My Annual GirlFriend Group: The Benefits of Long Distance Friendships!

Tomorrow morning I fly out to San Antonio for my Annual SoCal Girls Weekend. SO EXCITED! SoCal Girls Group

We used to all live in Southern California (hence why I still refer to us as the SoCal group!) where we would get together weekly for an evening of tea, book talk, and life sharing. I think we met for just over a year before life started moving some of us to new places, but we made a pact that we'd all get together at least once a year for the rest of our lives. We're seven years in to that commitment. I love that we made that decision.

Since I'm always championing local and new friendships, I thought I'd rave today about  some of the pay-offs that come from our time spent with more long-term, albeit long-distance friendships:

  • Provides Ongoing Intimacy: I rate myself pretty low on the "good at staying in touch" with long-distance friends scale.  If it weren't for this annual weekend these would be women who I simply would drift apart from. Sure, some of us see each other here-and-there if we're traveling through each others cities on business or visiting family nearby.  A few texts and phone calls are exchanged between different ones of us throughout the year, and we also try to periodically stay in touch on a group Facebook page and via a couple of scheduled conference calls.  But those are all just updates.  It's staying up all night talking for a weekend that brings us back to real Frientimacy.  These weekends are where we share the real stuff with women who know us.
  • Non-Negotiable Commitment: It's a no-brainer every year to buy the airline ticket. Since we already made the decision years ago that this is going to happen, we don't ever have to ask "Can I go this year?"  We don't get input from our busy calendars, our budgets, or our spouses/kids as to whether we can go this year-- we just say yes. The truth is we can always talk ourselves out of things if we raise the question--work will always be hectic, funds will always feel tight, kids will always need us-- so it's nice to have the important things in life already decided. Our friendship is important to us so we'll keep the weekend short and inexpensive, but we will always be there.
  • Protected From Life Change:  Since our time together is really only a weekend every year-- my friendship with these women doesn't go up in flux if they get married, have another kid, change jobs, move to a different city, or go through a divorce. That's a gift right there.  Most of our local friendships are constantly being impacted by the choices we all make-- we get our feelings hurt when one person is too busy or goes through a big life change. So the downside to our long-distance group is that we may not know each others kids and husbands well, but the up-side is that any of that can change and it won't change the fact that we are getting together for our 3 days.
  • We Know History & See Growth:  One of my favorite parts of our time together is that we all answer a few questions on paper about what our lives look like right now-- things we're grateful for, wounds we're nursing, fears we're feeling, goals we've set-- and we put them in a folder that we only look at this one weekend.  This year, we'll all open our long-forgotten page from last year and see how life has changed from then.  It's like this mile-marker for life, giving us a chance to say "oh yeah, I remember feeling that fear... look at me now" or "interesting that this same thing keeps showing up every year on my page..."  We share with each other what we've written-- sometimes crying, often cheering, but always loving. It's nice to have friends who see us deeply once a year.
  • A Bigger-Picture-Type of Sharing: I love my local San Francisco girlfriends-- we can talk on the phone ten minutes here-and-there, get together for tea, share dinners, and know what we're each facing every week ahead.  There's a consistency there that supports me in the best way ever.  But there's also something really special about the friends who are removed from my day-to-day life, the ones who only see me occasionally. We talk about different things. Whereas friends here might ask what I'm doing today or this weekend, these friends ask about highlights and lowlights from the last year. The conversations give me a chance to think about life in a broader way, to reflect on the bigger issues.  They observe changes in me that might be harder for people who see me all the time to notice. They ask about things I'd long forgotten. They hold a space for me to learn about myself in different ways.

I tell you all this because if you don't have this and want it-- you can make it happen.  We did not all know each other when the six of us all started getting together weekly.  It's not like we were all a clique from college.  I was new to SoCal and just started asking some girls if they wanted to come over for a weekly book discussion. Some of them invited someone else they knew... and our group formed.  You can do that.

For many of you it may be that you already have a few women flung across this country that you love and it may be that you simply need to make the decision to be the catalyst that gets you all together.  It can be affordable-- Southwest has flights on sale all the time, hotel costs decrease when split among several of you, and you can just buy a few groceries to keep it simple.  This kind of friendship is worth the investment.

So tomorrow I board the plane knowing that on the other end will be women that I may not have seen in a year, but that I know will hug me and love me like few others can.

 

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Required Reading for Women Looking For New Friends!

Rachel Bertsche called me nearly two years ago wanting to get my take on how to meet new friends.  She had recently moved to Chicago for marriage and soon realized that while she had met quite a few people at work and through her husband, she hadn't yet been able to develop local friendships that felt consequential.  Especially compared to the BFF's she knew from childhood and college. (No matter our age, the dilemma sounds familiar, huh?)

She told me she was blogging about her journey along the way, and working on a book about her personal project to find a new BFF by committing to one-year of friend-dating with a new potential friend every week.

That book is now published.

I just finished reading it.

And I wish I could make it required reading for my entire community of women who value new friends. Seriously.  Reading this book will revolutionize your expectations, inspire you with ideas, and renew your commitment to the initiative you've undertaken!

MWF SEEKING BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

One new friend date every week for a year: Fifty-two dates!  And that's not just showing up at a restaurant fifty-two times to hold conversation with near-strangers.  That would be impressive enough, but she also had to figure out how to meet those people, acquire their contact information, initiate the invitation to go out, coordinate schedules, meet somewhere, and then also follow-up with all of them!

Add to that the fact that if she wanted to actually develop some of them into friends then she'd have to schedule them in many more times on top of still meeting new ones every week!  Crazy!

Her book, while lough-out-loud hilarious, is also incredibly informative and inspiring.  Her voice is that of a late-twenty-something, but her journey and life lessons will be valuable to you at any age.

You'll resonate with her fears and self-doubts, her wish that she didn't have to put this much energy into it, her loneliness for her long-distance BFF's, her disappointment (and acceptance) that she seems to always have to be the one to initiate, her surprise at how flattered and willing other women are to meet with her, and her joy at how much her world expands along the way.

She describes all her dates--some you'll groan at the awkwardness of the encounters, others you'll wish you had met yourself.  You'll be amazed at how courageous some of her actions were when she asked for set-ups from friends, picked up on her waitress at a restaurant, and joined several book clubs and classes to meet more options; but you'll also see that courage doesn't mean without fear or personal discomfort as she vulnerably shares those, too.

Included at the end of her book are all her statistics of how many potentials she ended up meeting, how many turned into second dates, and how many she now claims as friends. And importantly, along the way you'll get a better sense of why some worked and didn't from someone who has done it enough to teach the rest of us now.

I dog-eared many pages, underlining all along the way. Here are but a few:

"Most people lump bestfriendship in with love, one of those you-know-it-when-you-feel-it intangibles.  But I can't continue blindly on this quest looking for something I can't define.  I'll wade though the year like Goldilocks--this one was too grumpy, that one was too old."

"In all these cases we vowed to get drinks "one day" and never did. So I remind them. "We talked about getting drinks together, which I'm finally making good on." That's not desperate, that's follow-through."

"According to psychologists Debra Oswald and Eddie Clark's research, there are four necessary behaviors to make a friendship stick. Self-disclosure, supportiveness, interaction, and positivity."

"The next day, I'm on a post-date high. I'm so pleased with how my evening went that I'm not even fazed when Hilary texts me to bail on yoga. Something about dinner plans she couldn't change. I should be disappointed--our first follow-up and she's already canceling--but I'm too encouraged by the fact that my Judgy McJudgersonness was off base.  For the past seven weeks I've been sizing up prospects before we'd even met: She lives in a fancy neighborhood, must mean she's trendy and too high-maintenance; she posts smiley faces on Facebook, must be a saccharine dud. The fact that Hilary turned out to have big-time potential makes me think that my having so many preconceived notions of who my BFF would be is exactly why she doesn't exist yet."

"I thought overtures of friendship would be received with suspicion rather than appreciation, so I hung back for fear of being the weirdo. Now I think I was wrong. It's not that people are less civilized now, it's just that we think they are, and so we act accordingly. We don't reach out unsolicited for fear of being rejected. We don't talk to new people because we assume they don't want to be bothered. But as I continue to pursue friendships, I'm constantly surprised at how receptive people are."

"After months of being the initiator, invitations now come my way, too.  I'd been waiting for the tides to turn, for my friendships to become universally reciprocal, and in the past few months the shift has now become obvious."

"'It takes a lot of work,' I say. 'You've got to say yes to all the invitations that come your way.  The more you say yes, the more invites you'll get. You have to follow-up with all those meetings where you say 'We should totally get together!' instead of just saying it to sound nice. And signing up for things helps. Oh, and asking for setups. You know, basically all the things you do when you're dating.'"

You can buy the book here.  Subscribe for her blog here.  Go to one of her book signings here.

It's worth it. I promise.  If she can do all the asking and dating, the least we can do is learn from her so we don't have to do it 52 times ourselves!

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SAN FRANCISCO EVENT INVITATION: And if you're anywhere near San Francisco-- I'm co-hosting an event with her in two weeks (during the Super Bowl-- since my 49-ers aren't in it anymore!) at Book, Inc on Van Ness.  She'll read from her book and sign copies, and Ill host some fun speed-friending to ensure it's also an afternoon where you meet some other awesome women!  Hope you can all come!  Sunday, February 5, at 4 pm at the Opera Plaza Books, Inc at 601 Van Ness.

p.s.  Just in case my opinion doesn't rank high enough for you when it comes to purchasing new books-- I thought I should let you know her book has been featured in the likes of People magazine & O Magazine, recommended by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) and Jeffrey Zaslow (author of The Girls From Ames), and it's been selected as one of the lucky books to be available at Target.  Like I said, it's good.  :)

p.s.s.  She tries GirlFriendCircles.com-- I love her description of it! LOL!  I may have to change the table tent concept now!  :)  She also tries and loves speed-friending.  Weird reading about myself as a character-- but I'm honored!  A hearty welcome to all of you who have joined our friend-making community since reading about us in her book!

 

 

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Defending the Introverts, Defining Mutuality

If I had to put money on the table next to what I thought was a primary barrier to women building new friendships, I'd put it next to a mistaken view of what mutuality means. Sure, lack of time will be listed as a more common excuse, but when a woman decides to be more proactive about fostering healthy friendships around her, the fear of unequal give-and-take can stall many budding friendships before they have a chance to get started.

Our Fear of Unequal Give-and-Take

We use language like "the ball is in her court" and "I don't want to impose" and "I invited her last time so this time I'll wait to see if she reciprocates." We justify our wait-and-see approach by reminding ourselves that we sent the last email or initiated the most recent plans, and we conclude that we're always the ones doing the inviting.   Not this time, we say. This time it's her turn.

While we may not call it a fear of rejection, we are in part acting out of that fear. We don't want to come across as desperate. We don't want to feel like we're putting ourselves out there all the time, unsure if it's wanted.  We've been told we don't need to put up with any behavior that isn't perfectly mutual. We want to feel like they like us too.  We want to feel wanted. We definitely don't want to be the ones who give more than we receive again.  So we protect our egos and wait her out.

In the meantime, our budding relationship never gets momentum so it never really happens.  And we're left complaining that no one out there seems to be interested in a mutual friendship.

Our Misunderstanding of Mutuality

On Friday evening I was sitting in a room with two friends.  Both lean toward introversion when it comes to interacting with people.  (Which means they have amazing people skills but being around people can cost them more energy than it gives them.) I was basking in the glow of how intimate those relationships felt, both of them so able to engage in deep, beautiful, meaningful conversations.  Their questions were thoughtful, their intuition spot on, and their love so genuine.

But if it had been up to either of them to get the three of us together it wasn't likely to have happened. I initiated.

As I had the week before.

And as I had the week prior to that.

The truth is that there are just many, many people out there who have so much to offer a friendship-- but initiating and scheduling may not be their forte.  That doesn't mean they don't love us or want to be with us.  And it certainly doesn't mean they don't have other meaningful ways to give to us. It just means they aren't going to assertively send out the invitation. Or if they do, it won't be as frequently as it might be for some of the rest of us.

This is not limited to introverts.  Take any self-awareness inventory and there are always types of people where scheduling and initiating will not come naturally for them. I've been studying the Enneagram which has nine types of people, and three of the types are withdrawing types, which means they tend to step back or retreat when there is stress (which any new situation can cause.) So that's at least a third of our potential friends who won't be out there trying to schedule time with us.

Even beyond personalities and types, we know that we all have different love languages.  Someone with the love language of quality time might tend to be more aware of reaching out with invitations than someone with the love language of gift giving.

Just add stress and busy-ness to any of our lives (even those of us who are extroverts, schedulers, and assertive types) and we may not reciprocate in the way you want, when you want.  But that also doesn't mean we wouldn't make great friends who will give to you in other ways!

What Does Mutual Really Mean?

As I sat there Friday evening thinking how lucky anyone would be to have these two individuals in their lives, it occurred to me how few people will get that opportunity if they only build a friendship with someone else who reaches out an equal amount.

Mutuality cannot be confined to 50/50 scheduling.  Equality doesn't mean sameness.  Being in a give-and-take relationship doesn't mean we give-and-take in the same ways.

For those of us who live with someone-- we know that having someone else divvy up the household chores doesn't mean we each vacuum half the room and cook half the meal. It means I tend to track our finances and he tends to make sure dishes don't pile up in the sink. Balance doesn't mean we split up every chore, but that we both contribute to the overall picture.

Somehow, in friendship, we have elevated the scheduling and initiating "chore" to becoming the litmus test for an equal friendship.

What we risk if we wait for equal initiations is missing the gift that introverts or non-initiators can bring to our lives.  And we risk feeling rejected if we wrongly attach that meaning to their lack of initiation.  And worst of all, we're still left without the friendships that we crave because we just sat and waited, allowing the momentum to falter.

Give. Give. Give.

I am all for balanced friendships.  I don't want you to feel used.  I want you to be in a relationship that feels mutual.

But if you are a GirlFriend who is good at initiating-- then do it. Generously. Invite her five times in a row.  Be the one who is okay calling to start the conversation. Give where you're best, knowing you will be blessed by how she gives to you in different ways. And know how lucky you are that you have the ability to give in a way that starts friendships!

And if you recognize that you're someone who struggles to initiate-- then at least be sure to tell your friends/potential friends how much you appreciate it when they do. Express your gratitude, lest they ever feel that you're not interested. Tell them what it means to you that they keep calling. Recognize that this gift they give is a necessary ingredient in the building of a friendship.

What we need is a little less judgment of each other and a little more hopeful curiosity to discover and appreciate who the other person is.

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I blogged on the perceived imbalance in give-and-take friendships for a two-part series for the Huffington Post: In Friendship, Do You Give More than You Receive? and Six Ways to Bring Balance to Your Relationships if you're interested in more reading on this subject.

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Nothing Kills a Potential Relationship Faster

Momentum.  The lack of it can kill a relationship quickly. A romantic relationship would never get off the ground if the two of you went out for a date, then ended the evening saying "That was fun... we should do it again next month."

When it comes to love, we clear our calendar for possibility. And yet for friendship it somehow seems normal to only see each other every couple of weeks or months? We schedule her several weeks out, even if for him we'd make it 2 days later. The irony being that the women you meet for friendship have a higher likelihood of actually being in your life longer than most of the men you date.

momentum

We understand momentum clearly in romance.  But why not for friendship? Is it for lack of prioritizing our female friends as important? Is it because we need the assertiveness of the testosterone to initiate? Is it because we don't know how?

Why We Lack Momentum

My guess is that it is partly due to priority and partly due to fear.

The priority part is easy to see.  We are inundated with wanting to be chosen by a romantic partner our entire lives.  We will give up almost anything for "love." We think there is someone out there who will complete us.  We are accused often of neglecting our friends once we start dating or get married.

But the other part is fear, I think.  Almost every hesitation in our lives can be linked to our fear of being rejected in some way, a fear of not being totally loved and accepted. No one wants to feel embarrassed in any way.  Therefore, we erroneously think that to have time/desire to meet you again next week might somehow communicate that I'm desperate, lonely, needy, or unimportant?

Oddly enough, if a guy were were interested enough to see us next week again-- we'd be flattered.  But we're unwilling to give that same gift to a platonic friend.  We don't want to appear more interested than they seem to be.

Interest Is Contagious

But here's the honest truth: we like people who like us.

With romantic dating, we know how to flirt and show interest.

With friend dating, we all too often show up with a reserve that says "Prove that you're interesting first."  We put up our guard until they appear valuable to us.  And if they mirror the same wait-and-watch attitude, then momentum rarely happens.  We feel judged because we're judging.

What would happen if you showed up without fear?  If your self worth weren't attached to how a stranger responded, or didn't?  If you could show up-- give love, interest, compassion and kindness before they "earned" it?  We all want the other person to be that way, but few of us are willing to be it first.  Remember the golden rule.

How You Can Contribute to Momentum

If you're in the GirlFriendCircles.com community, receiving invitations to ConnectingCircles, one easy way to contribute to momentum is simply to RSVP immediately.  You would all completely laugh if you saw how many customer service emails Maci receives from women waiting to see if anyone else is going to RSVP to an event before they do.  Imagine a bunch of women all waiting for 1-2 others to sign up before they feel safe doing so-- and it getting cancelled because none of them actually took that risk.  (And what's the real risk anyhow?  You're in a community where the only people who can see it is other women who are also signed up to meet new friends!)

The worst case scenario? You sign up and no one else can-- the event gets canceled. But that isn't a reflection on you-- except that it shows you're confident, and willing to actually put a wee bit of action behind your intention for meeting new people.

And the best case scenario is well worth the risk of the worst case, in my opinion. For what usually happens is that as soon as a local event has 1-2 women signed up... the rest of it fills up.  And now, because you started the momentum-- 5 or 6 women have the chance of starting a friendship.

This plays out true whether we're talking about ConnectingCircles or any other events.  Be the initiator!  Don't attach your ego to it.... write again, invite for a different date, follow-up.

Our friend dating doesn't have to look like our romantic dating where we schedule something every 2-3 days for several weeks... but can't we at least give 20% of that same energy and intention to people who actually have a higher probability of being in our lives a year from now?

Give the gift of momentum to one of your friendships.  What you crave is a meaningful and comfortable friendship.  Put in the momentum to get there!

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