How to Reconnect with an Old Friend When You’ve Been Out of Touch

"Losing touch with our friends" is one of the most common regrets of people at the end of their lives. But here at GirlFriendCircles, we don't want that regret! We know that our relationships are investments-- and that we have to stay in touch with some of those people we've developed the most frientimacy with in order to keep the benefits feeling supportive, safe, and satisfying. Huge thanks to GFC member and rock star counselor, Tricia Andor, for sharing her story as encouragement to us all! May we each take the time to reach out to a friendship that matters! -- Shasta

The Reconnection That Almost Didn’t Happen

By Tricia Andor

I returned Dawn’s call on a Tuesday, and we reconnected for two hours of talking and laughing. We hadn’t spoken for three years, which is just part of the rhythm of our friendship. Sometimes we’re in-touch, sometimes we’re not. Maybe that’s bound to happen when you’ve been friends since preschool, but it’s a cadence that’s always been fine with me, and I think fine with her too.

After our conversation, a delightful little thought started percolating. It would be great to connect in person. Dawn should come out this weekend for a visit! The weekend was only three days away, she lived nine hours away (in Nebraska), and it was Easter Weekend, so there were possibly a few obstacles.

However, I knew my friend well, and quickly marked off each potential hindrance.

Dawn was actually a fan of last-minute get together plans. We’d done the last minute “wanna do lunch today?” countless other times, even when we lived an hour away in different towns. Check! I knew she didn’t exactly live on a shoestring budget, so the expense of a trip likely wouldn’t be an issue. Check! And, she wasn’t that into organized religion, so it seemed unlikely that she’d have conflicting religious commitments for the Easter weekend. Check!

Every obstacle -- crossed off!

Well, every obstacle that is, except one.

There was one last annoyance nipping at my heels: Connection Perfection.

The Voice of Connection Perfection

Connection Perfection sidled up and quietly whispered:

“You’ve lived here one and a half years and you still have unpacked boxes under the stairs? Sheesh.” “What? You haven’t even painted or decorated the bathrooms yet?!” And then, going for the jugular: “(Gasp!) You have no baseboards! Still?”

Connection Perfection caused me to fear that Dawn would look at my not-quite-finished home and conclude that I was inadequate. It made me want to chuck the delightful idea of inviting her out like a hot potato.

Connection Perfection is not our ally. It makes us think we’ve got to get our life perfect before we reconnect with an old friend. It makes us feel nervous, inadequate, and sometimes even ashamed.

It says things like, you’ve got to write the perfect email to reconnect. Or, you have to lose weight before she sees you. Or, don’t even think about having people over unless your house looks like it belongs on Pinterest.

Solutions

No need to fear, though. We can outmaneuver Connection Perfection!

Here are the 3 things I did that you can do too:

  • Think about your actual experience with your friend. Has she ever been anything other than happy or receptive to receive an invitation from you to connect? Has she ever been critical of your emails, your body, your home, etc. in the past? Does she expect perfection from you?
  • Surround yourself with people who are also exercising courage in their friendships. I’ve read Shasta’s books and am a member of GFC, and both reminded me that it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous when extending an invitation. They gave me the support I needed to follow my instincts and invite my friend out for a visit.
  • Distinguish the feelings that come from Connection Perfection from those that come from excitement. Both can elicit feelings of nervousness, hesitation, or fear. Connection Perfection, however, also tends to bring with it negative appraisals like, “I’m going to be judged,” “I’m going to be exposed for the fraud I am,” or “She’ll see me as inadequate.” It tacitly expects our friend to be a harsh, unforgiving judge, whereas the excitement brings hope and possibility. “That’ll be fun,” or “Something great is about to happen” are the appraisals of excitement.

My Outcome

I invited Dawn for the visit. She flew out, and we packed in activities and connecting, and had a fabulous time.

Tricia, in between her husband, and her friend, Dawn

Tricia, in between her husband, and her friend, Dawn

We laughed and talked personal growth and politics at the dining room table. During my husband’s and her golf game, we chatted and laughed uproariously while zipping from hole to hole in our golf cart. We went out for dessert and caught up about our families. She, my husband, and I lounged Saturday morning, watching favorite comedy bits on Youtube. We meandered around a fine art gallery, and made ourselves at home in two cubist leather chairs in the middle of the room, swapping sordid stories about a few choice teachers we’d had growing up.

Best of all, Dawn and I got to connect face-to-face at this point in our lives. A lot had gone on in three years. I showed her my new town and home we’d moved to, she shared about her divorce, and I got to meet her new boyfriend through FaceTime.

There’s no one in the world like Dawn, and certainly no one who has her place in my life. She’s incredibly quick-witted, upbeat, and expects that situations will turn out for the best and life will be good. She’s the most self-confident, least neurotic person I know.

The whole weekend, Dawn -- of course -- didn’t have one iota of judgment about any not-yet-finished aspect of my home. On the contrary, I just felt supported, known, and believed in. I can’t believe I might have let Connection Perfection keep me from building all of these rich new memories with such a good, long-term friend -- a friend who, by the way, was too busy connecting with me to even notice, let alone care about my non-existent baseboards.  

Dawn sent me a thank you right after her visit

Dawn sent me a thank you right after her visit


Tricia Andor: With a master’s degree in clinical psychology and sixteen years experience as a Licensed Professional Counselor, Tricia Andor uses the best psychology-based tools to help you stay focused, be kinder to yourself, and dream bigger.  Get her free guide, Better Together, which shows 7 things she did (that you can do too) in one week to make more and deeper connections. 

Want More Satisfying Friendships? The Data Is In!

Remember that Frientimacy Quiz that so many of you have taken? (what?!? You say you haven't yet??? Well by all means I hope you do so as it will give you a score in each of the 3 Requirements of Friendship--Positivity, Consistency, and Vulnerability--so you can better identify which area would make the biggest improvement to making your friendships healthier!)

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Well would you like me to share with you some of the insights that jump out at me when I look at all 4,064 of your results? Yes?  Okay! For you, I will spill the beans!

Here are some learnings, surprises, and insights!

  1. Overall, we're not impressively satisfied in our friendships. As I've been doing for years, I also asked each woman how satisfied she was on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the most satisfied) with the level of frientimacy (friendship intimacy) in her friendships. The results on this survey? We average 6.4 out of 10. That's a sold D for most of us. And we're still almost twice as likely to put a 1 or 2 as we are to put a 9 or 10. So the good news? We're collectively feeling the hunger for more frientimacy!

  2. Your overall satisfaction IS correlated to how you evaluate yourself as a friend. Across the board-- the higher your personal scores as a friend in the 3 Requirements: the more satisfied you were with your friendships.  Those of you who scored your satisfaction the lowest (1-3 out of 10) averaged scores in the 50's and 60's in each of the 3 Requirements; whereas those who scored your satisfaction the highest (7-10 out of 10) averaged scores in the 70's and 80's. That's encouraging as it leads me to believe that if we practice becoming a better friend-- our overall satisfaction might improve! In fact, for every 2-3 points you raise one of you Requirement skills-- your overall satisfaction jumps up one whole number!

  3. Outliers tended to view themselves more favorably than their friendships. There were some outliers to the above research where, for a small handful of people, their overall relationship satisfaction didn't correlate with their personal scores in the 3 friendship skill requirements. But as personal growth research has long showed that we tend to view ourselves as better or healthier than we are-- because we know our motivations, obstacles, and intentions, it was true here, too. I found it interesting that while there were less than 5 women who claimed to be so satisfied their friendship that they ranked a 9 or 10 overall, but who scored themselves low (50's) in one of the 3 Requirements; on the flip-side, there were almost 70 women who claimed little satisfaction in their friendships (1 or 2 overall) but who scored themselves high (80's) in their friendship skills. In fact almost 5 women basically scored themselves as 100's in all three Requirements of a Healthy Friend and yet claimed their satisfaction level to be a 1 or 2, out of 10. My mind can barely wrap around how they can have no satisfaction in their friendships and yet think they are perfect in increasing the positivity of their friends, initiating consistency, and sharing appropriately.  It leaves me wondering if more of us need to be asking people around us to give us feedback as to how they experience us and if we wouldn't be wise to collectively assume we can always improve how we're showing up and practicing friendship?

  4. The lowest self-scored Requirement of Friendship is Positivity. I will admit this one surprised me big time!  Whenever I'm teaching the 3 Requirements and ask women to raise their hands to which of the 3 they think is their hardest one-- they usually guess Consistency because we're all so busy.  But!!!!!  You guys!!! Positivity is consistently our lowest score!!!  We are collectively only scoring 64 out of 100 so we have a lot of room to practice this area in our friendships.  I'll talk more about that in the future-- but basically we could make a big difference in the health of our friendships if we focused on complimenting our friends more, whining less, validating their feelings, being quick to laugh-- and basically aiming to leave our friends feeling better about themselves and their lives for having been with us! This doesn't have to take more time! It simply is a matter of practice!

  5. The highest self-scored Requirement Changes as we Become More Satisfied! And here's another surprise result: for those who score their overall friendship satisfaction below a 5-- their highest self score in the 3 Requirements is Vulnerability; but for those who score their overall satisfaction above a 6--their highest self score in the 3 Requirements is Consistency. While that correlation could reveal a number of different interpretations-- I find it interesting that those who are more satisfied in their relationships tend to place higher value on, or report being better skilled at, the regularity/consistency/trust/history side of the relationship over the ability to reveal/share/be vulnerable.  Certainly the more time we make for friendship with consistency-- the chances go up that we are more vulnerable, while the flip-side isn't necessarily as true.

I look forward to unpacking these results more and sharing other research with you as I continue to analyze, but in the meantime I invite you to think of how you might practice being a better friend as a pathway to experiencing more satisfaction in your friendships?  

To better friendships,

Shasta

p.s. If our satisfaction in our friendships rises and falls on our ability to increase consistency, positivity, and vulnerability with the people we're meeting-- I invite you to take a class here or there at The Friendship University to build up your skills OR, better yet, commit a year to building up your friendship muscles and join us at GirlFriendCircles where we offer one class every month! xoxo

Taking the First Step to Making Friends

My first book was titled "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" because while we know our next BFF isn't going to just knock on our door, we still sometimes sit around and wait to meet her. We often take a passive role in our friendships-- almost like we're a victim to circumstances and luck. But there are actions we can take to increase our chances of meeting new friends and then to develop those friendships.  

I asked Katrina Emery to interview one woman who inspires me with her willingness to dive right in and create the friendships she wants!  --Shasta

By Katrina Emery

This wasn’t the first time Deborah had wanted more friends. She had moved before, from Seattle to Portland, and it had taken awhile to meet new people. She waited for them to show up, to connect with her, to reach out. And waited. And waited. 

So when she moved to Boulder and retired, she knew she didn’t want to mess around. “Waiting for friends to appear just doesn’t happen!” She’d already experience the loneliness of missing people, and not being in her day job meant she didn’t have those daily interactions anymore.

Committing to the Friend-Making Process

She knew she needed to take action. After a little research she found the opportunity to start a group through Girlfriend Circles, and became a volunteer Connector which held her accountable to reaching out and committing to organize at least one event a month where women could meet each other.

Deborah Williams, a volunteer GirlFriendCircles Connector in Boulder has not only made new friendships by her courage to take the first step, but she has also given that gift to others!

Deborah Williams, a volunteer GirlFriendCircles Connector in Boulder has not only made new friendships by her courage to take the first step, but she has also given that gift to others!

Showing Up Can Be the Hardest Part

To get over the nerves of beginning a group, Deborah, a retired human resources expert, approached it like work: she got organized. A local cafe in Boulder turned out to be the perfect place to hold a large group, so she chatted with them about showing up. Once the meeting was set up and invites were out, the really scary part came. “The first time was the hardest, just waiting,” she remembers, even after drawing on her experience as a public speaker. “I was a little scared that no one would show up.”

Once again, she approached it like a work problem, and made a plan for what she’d do if no one came. “I just decided that I'd drink coffee all by myself at a big table in a coffee shop and look like I was waiting for a big group to come--if no one showed after half an hour, I'd leave. I was scared of looking foolish sitting at a big table all alone! I brought a big purse, a bunch of papers and spread it all out to make it look like this was going to be a well-attended meeting that needed lots of space.”

And then, they came. One, then, two, then three, until there were 15 women around the table! Deborah breathed a sigh of relief that first time, diving into making connections with them all. Now, a year later, the group meets on the last Saturday of every month and usually sees 8-10 women rotate through. The women are all ages and include new moms, retirees, empty nesters, and more. Members have reached out to pursue other events like happy hours or day trips, organizing them on the group’s Facebook page. Deborah herself started a book club, laughing that she had an ulterior motive to do that the entire time. And she’s currently planning a baby shower for a young woman who’s been attending. “A year ago we didn’t even know her, and now I’m hosting her shower at my house! Fantastic.”

All that, because she wasn’t willing to wait around anymore. Her advice to anyone else wishing they could find the strength to reach out is to just do it. “No matter how scary that first step was to set up a group, it doesn't compare at all to the sadness I felt about not having any friends.”

Now she shares her own passions for books, coffee, and art, and facilitates a space for others to grow and connect, all from that first scary step.

Katrina Emery writes for online and print publications about food, friendship, travel, and more from her home in Portland, Oregon. Find her at www.katrinaemery.com

Making Friends When We are Wired to Assume Rejection and Danger

"She doesn't like you..."

"You'll sound stupid if you say that..."

"She's stuck-up, she thinks she's better than you..."

"Why don't people every write me back or respond to my invitations?"

"What if I share something vulnerable and she judges me?"

The negative voices in our heads are relentless.

And they are, unfortunately, a very common, even normal, human experience.

Our "Negativity Bias"

Science consistently shows that we've been wired with a bias toward negativity.  We're much quicker to asses, even expect a threat; than we are to look for opportunities.  It's a matter of survival. If an animal misses an opportunity to eat-- he can find another one; but if he misses a threat of someone trying to eat him-- then that's pretty much a done deal. We are instinctively more worried about our protection than we are about our growth and pleasures. 

These are some great examples from The Happiness Hypothesis:

  • "In marital interactions. it takes at least 5 good or constructive actions to make up for the damage done by one critical or destructive acct.
  • In financial transactions and gambles, the pleasure of gaining a certain amount of money is smaller than the pain of losing the same amount.
  • In evaluating a person's character, people estimate that it would take twenty-five acts of life-saving heroism to make up for one act of murder.
  • When preparing a meal, food is easily contaminated , but difficult to purify.

Jonathan Haidt continues by saying, 

Over and over again, psychologists find that the human mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly, and persistently than to equivalent good things. We can’t just will ourselves to see everything as good because our minds are wired to find and react to threats, violations, and setbacks.

How We Can Respond

Since so much of our reaction is hard-wired and instinctive, the goal isn't to never have these thoughts; but rather what we are aiming for is

  1. Greater awareness that this is, in fact, our tendency, 
  2. Better skills at then processing the information that is coming in,
  3. And, then not making decisions out of fear when we aren't actually in danger.

This reminds me of the research I shared in Frientimacy about what researchers discovered about rejection.  We ALL feel it.  No matter how emotionally healthy we are-- we all feel the pain of being left out, or even the perception of being left out. We can't not feel rejection any more than we can not feel pain when kicked in the stomach. 

What we can do is get better at identifying that pain more quickly--naming what we're feeling--and then figuring out the best strategy for how to move ourselves back to a place of peace. 

Experts in this field suggest that practices that create new thought patterns-- such as meditation, some drugs, and cognitive therapy-- can indeed help us. It is definitely worth the conscious effort of doing what we can to get ourselves out of the trap that so often leaves us feeling rejected, unlovable, or hopeless.

Responding in Friend-Making Situations

Far be it from this blog post to do the work of being able to replace all our thought patterns with loving and healthy ones, but here are a few steps we can take immediately:

  1. Catch Yourself. More Often. More Quickly. Becoming aware of this negativity bias is definitely the first step of growth.  To see where it pops up, what you say to yourself, and how it taunts you is where maturity begins.  We can can't change what we don't see. So with as much compassion as possible, let's start pointing it out "Oooh that's your fear talking..." "Oh that's your Inner Mean Girl* bullying you..." or "yep, that's me totally withdrawing because..."
  2. Show up with Curious Love! As parents watching their 3-year old have a melt-down in a public area knows-- when we see that tantrum we have several options: 1) ignore it and act like we don't see it; 2) scream louder and try to shame them into submission, or 3) get down on their level and ask a few questions. When it comes to my inner critic and fear-- I've found that the 3rd option is the only one that creates change because she usually believes that her fear is legitimate and that she's trying to protect me from something like loss, danger, or rejection. So to the best of my ability-- in that moment or later in reflection-- I try to ask questions such as a) What are you most scared of? b) Because if that were true, what would it mean? c) What are you trying to protect me from experiencing? (And to that one-- I often find myself thanking her for caring!) And that usually leads me into a conversation about what I really want and what I'm willing to do to get it.* (See * below for more info on this process because it really is more than a blog post will allow! Crying tears!)
  3. And remember this is true for others, too THEREFOR don't leave them wondering!  Therefor... let's do all we can to speak words of acceptance, safety, and affirmation louder than their inner voice, when possible. We can assume that everyone is approaching and interacting with us at some level of fear, skepticism, worry, or questioning. They are searching for clues as to whether they are safe and liked. So knowing this, we can make sure to give them as much evidence as possible that we won't bite, judge, or reject them!  We can smile, look them in the eyes, thank them for calling/coming over, show curiosity to them by asking questions, nod our head to indicate we're listening, and always end a conversation by helping answer the question we know they'll have when they leave: "Does she like me??
  • After meeting someone new: "I am so glad we met. I'm looking forward to following up with you to...."
  • After rejecting an invitation: "Oh I wish I could come, but thank you sooo much for inviting me.  I do hope you'll invite me again because I would love to do x with you." 
  • After time together: "That was lovely. Let's do it again sometime!"
  • After someone shares something vulnerable, "Oh I can understand why you would feel x, but I'm impressed with how you did y. That took a lout of courage!"

We can choose so much more kindness toward ourselves as we remember that all of us-- me, you, and even all those women who look like they never worry one iota what others think of them-- want to be liked.  We are prone to worry we're not. But oh how much we want it.

This month, I hope you practice balancing out that negativity bias in our world by showing the compassion to yourself and others that we all crave.

xoxo,

Shasta

***  This theme touches on this month's Friendship Focus in GirlFriendCircles, featuring Amy Ahlers, who is our teacher for the class "Is Your Inner Mean Girl Hijacking Your Friendships?" Join this month for FREE and you can download the class and all of our resources.  Plus, on August 23 I will be doing a live Q/A call on this subject and modeling/sharing how I bring healing to my inner critic voices. All women welcome to join us! xoxo

The #1 Thing You're NOT Doing that is Hurting Your Friendships

I know, I know, I know... you're busy.  Life is as full as feels survivable. You're barely keeping up with the inbox that continues to fill up, the voicemails being left, the demands by the people who live in your house with you, and the tasks being added to the to-do list.  And so, oh how I hate to bring this up.... I really do. The last thing any of us needs is to feel like there's "one more thing" we need to be doing.

And yet...

And yet, it's truly the #1 thing that can make the biggest difference to your friendships.  

The Action That Would Make the Biggest Difference

To be sure, there are many different things that hold relationships together, such as doing favors for each other, making fun memories, being present in painful moments, practicing empathy, remembering her birthday, staying in touch, showing up at the big events, sharing a secret with her, and showering her with affirmation, to name a few.

But what if I shared with you the #1 complaint I get that causes your friends to give up on their friendships???  

What if I spelled out for you the #1 action that would make the biggest difference?  

The easy answer is: initiate reaching out.

I swear to you-- there isn't a subject that comes up as often as this one.

I get at least an email a week from someone about to give up on a relationship because they are tired of being the one to always reach out.

To be clear: I'm not one of those who believes that initiation has to be 50/50, and I don't believe in this "the ball is in her court" business. I'm completely fine hitting the ball repeatedly. I know many amazing relationships where one person is the primary catalyst, the initiator, or the scheduler.  I know in our marriages that we settle into "roles" that we each play on behalf of the relationship, without each person needing to every chore 50/50.  In a perfect world-- our friendships could be like that, too. I also think some people find it easier than others to reach out --based on practiced skills, insecurities, and personality types--and I'm all for each of us showing up with our strengths.  

So believe me:  I don't think you have to initiate in order to be in a healthy relationship.  In fact, I know that the only things necessary for a healthy friendship is: time together/consistency so that we can have fun (positivity) and share our lives with each other (vulnerability.) And as long as those 3 things happen-- it doesn't matter who initiated it. (For more on The 3 Requirements of Relationships)

What This INAction Means to your Friends

But we live in a world where aren't just running into our friends automatically and so time together then HAS to be scheduled.  There's no other way around it-- we can't feel close to people without interacting. And that means someone has to initiate it.

And your friends are WEARY of being the one. You're gonna have to trust me on this one: I hear from them on this. Often. They take this very personally. They feel like it means your don't value them or think about them. It leaves them feeling unimportant to you. They create a narrative in their heads that if they mattered-- you would reach out. They feel rejected. They feel like the responsibility of the relationships falls on them... that their initiation is the only thing holding you two together. They feel resentful of this giving and it leaves them feeling that the relationship isn't mutual or reciprocal. They feel used, they feel tired, and they feel unappreciated.

You and I know that probably isn't true.  

And yet there it is.

I can keep trying to remind them that it doesn't matter who initiates as long as it keeps the relationship connected, but at the end of the day-- if you were serious and wanted to do the one action that would leave them feeling relieved, happy, and loved-- you would reach out and not wait for them to do it again.

What You can do

You can set an alarm on your phone to remind you to reach out to them, you can swallow your fear that you're interrupting them or not reaching out at a convenient time, and you can simply know that whether they say yes or no-- they will feel loved because you reached out and thought of them. And that's what they want: to know that they matter to you.

And at the very least-- one thing you will try to do more often is thank your friends when they do initiate.  You will appreciate the gift they're giving and use it as an opportunity to tell them how much it means to you:

“Thank you for keeping the ball rolling on us staying in touch. I know I don’t do it as well as you do, but I want you to know it means a lot.  Thank you for not giving up on me.”  

And with that acknowledgement-- you'll find that they might just be that much more willing to initiate. Yet again.

Not an initiator? Send this to a friend who is with a note of appreciation and expressing your willingness to practice doing it a bit more! :)

And leave your comments-- do you agree? disagree? What stops you from reaching out? 

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

Do you come home from work too tired to do anything except crash on your couch? Does the very idea of calling a friend sound like too much work? Do you panic at the idea of scheduling a social event into your calendar? Do you end your workweeks so tired that you need the entire weekend to simply pull the blinds and recover? Do you wish you had time to go meet new friends but by the time you prioritize your partner, your kids, and others in your family-- you've reached your limit?

Using Positivity to Boost your Relationships

Using Positivity to Boost your Relationships

...because our friendships are one of the only relationships we choose (unlike co-workers, neighbors, and family), we are going to choose to be with people who make us happy. And we're only going to want to do the other two requirements of friendship with people who make us feel good: we won't be as consistent with people we don't enjoy spending time with and we won't feel safe sharing openly with people who don't leave us feeling accepted and validated. At the end of the day, our job as a friend is to add value to the lives of those we love.

So today's post is super important as we learn from one woman who exudes positivity: Colleen Braun, a volunteer GFC Connector for GirlFriendCircles in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota! She compliments everyone on Facebook regularly, laughs quickly when you're interacting with her, and shows up ready to support and cheerlead on our GFC member pages.

I asked Katrina Emery to interview her so we can all be a bit inspired this week with how we might increase the joy around us.  People like to be with people who make them feel good about themselves!  -- Shasta

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Yesterday, I felt discouraged.

My Pain Blocked Me

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

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

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

My Friendship Affirmations

My Friendship Affirmations

May I continue to acknowledge what is true: that relationships are my way into health and happiness, even as I walk in a world that is no longer oriented to this knowing.  Money, productivity, and appearances often tempt me to think they point to my happiness, but I will remember that they are but empty promises-- ladders leaning against walls pretending to be paths. Instead of chasing other things with only hopes of someday using those things to feel loved, I choose to remember that I can simply go straight to the love I desire to create. I don't have to do more to impress, earn more to woo, or become more to be lovable. I am enough. May I be patient with myself and others as we continue to awaken to this truth.  We forgot. We fell asleep.  We got distracted. We lifted our gaze off our tribes, our communities, our families, and our friends-- we got caught up in the chase, the busy-ness, the pursuing, the grabbing, the climbing, and the achieving. May I be gentle with myself as I practice prioritizing people and may I be forgiving with others who don't yet remember.

The 3 Most Common Mistakes Moms Make In Friendship

Do you feel like you barely have enough energy for your spouse and kids, let alone your friendships? Do you feel guilty leaving your kids to go spend time with friends?

Do you struggle with the difference between friendships with moms vs. non-moms?

Do your kids not like the kids of your friends; or do you not like the moms of your kids' friends?

When it comes to combining motherhood and friendship there is a lot of new territory to navigate!

I get asked these questions so frequently that I decided to turn the camera on and let it run while I gave in-depth answers to these questions.  I hope that this video helps you prioritize your friendships in a way that feels good and meaningful to you!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Please feel free to share other tips and/or questions in the comments!

Shasta's Tips for Starting Women's Groups

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empathy: The #1 Misunderstanding

We all know how important empathy--the ability to understand and share the feelings of another--is to a friendship, but sometimes it's easier said than done!

Do you ever hear a friends complain about her finances and think, "I'd give anything to have as much money as she has! Why is she so worried?!?"

Or, hear a friend complain about gaining five pounds and just roll your eyes and think, "She's so skinny-- she has no right to complain!"

Or, listen to a single friend vent about how busy and exhausted she is, and feel like screaming, "Are you crazy? Try working full time and raising 5 kids at the same time!"

While we want our friendships to be safe places to complain and vent about our lives, the truth is that we often feel more frustrated or annoyed with our friends if we don't feel like their circumstances warrant their feelings.

Since it's impossible to be both empathetic and judgmental, watch this 3 minute video about how to show up with more of the former, even when tempted to feel the latter.

How to Deepen the Long-Distance Friendship

Unfortunately, many, if not most, of the people we claim as our best friends don't live near us. I haven't seen statistics to back up that claim, but since we're moving, on average, every 5 years, I think it's safe to say that chances are high that we have moved away from friends we've loved dearly. And all too often, it doesn't matter how many monthly lunches with local friends we schedule, it's hard to feel as close to them as we do with those long-distance friends with whom we once logged massive hours getting to know every day in school, at that job, or when we lived as roommates.

For those of you familiar with my 5 Circles of Friends-- I call these dear friends our "Con

5 types of friends image

firmed Friends" and they frequently reside in the middle circle because we are too intimate with them to warrant them being on the more casual left-side, but we often aren't as consistent with them as we'd need to be to feel as close to them as we do with our right-side friends. This post is about how to move them to the right, into greater frientimacy.

How to Deepen the Friendship

So what if you actually want to develop a closer relationship with these long-distance friends? What if you want to keep building the friendship, rather than just do the minimum to maintain it? What it you want to feel like you know what's going on in each others lives more often than your infrequent phone calls or more deeply than what you can read on social media?

There are three requirements to all healthy relationships, as I teach in Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness:

  1. Positivity: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must bring more joy and satisfaction than exhaustion or stress, in fact research suggests we need to keep the ratio above 5:1.
  2. Consistency: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must be repetitive and have some regularity to it because this developing history is what fosters our trust in each other.
  3. Vulnerability: The relationship, to be meaningful and healthy, must incrementally and appropriately increase in sharing as our consistency increases with each other. It is through vulnerability that we feel seen and known.

And they are just as true for long-distance friends as they are for local friends. (Bonus: They also are the same three requirements for starting friendship as they are for deepening it!)

Specific Ideas for Applying the 3 Requirements to Our Long-Distance Friendships

I can guarantee that any relationship that isn’t feeling as meaningful as we want is because at least one of these three requirements is lacking.

So how we can practice these three requirements from a distance?

Positivity:

  • Send an encouraging card: Take 5 minutes to send a little tangible love through the postal system telling your friend why you admire her.
  • Recall a good memory: Find an old photo of you and your friend that will bring a smile to your faces, and text it to her with a little note of gratitude for the history you two share.
  • Refrain from giving advice: Most of the time, when we’re sharing, we just want validation and affirmation.  Advice can leave us feeling judged or defensive. When you do have time to share, make a point to respond to her in a way that leaves her feeling better about who she is and how she’s navigating her life.

Consistency:

  • Embrace texting: Even the shortest text exchange in between get-togethers reminds us gives us the sense of the other person being close. When you think of her— text her and tell her.
  • Schedule a regular time to catch-up: We feel far away from long-distance friends when so much time has passed in between conversations that we’re convinced it would take hours to catch-up. Instead, see if she’s up for scheduling a reoccurring 30 minute call every 1st Monday evening of the month, or every Sunday afternoon.
  • Prioritize the Slumber Parties: We don’t need as much consistency to maintain friendships as when we are building them, but it is still in time together that we can create new memories; so no matter how broke we are, or how busy we feel, we have to visit each other to protect and deepen the love we've already developed. These overnighters can be a game-changer for deepening that relationship.

    long distance friends

Vulnerability:

  • Get to the heart of the matter quickly: We may not talk to, or see, our long-distance friends as often so let’s not waste our time by asking all the typical update questions and risk us not sharing what really matters. Instead, suggest, “I know we don’t have a ton of time, but maybe we can each share one highlight and one lowlight since we’ve each see each other?” By leaving it open-ended, we give each person the chance to share in the life areas they want to, while inviting honesty.
  • Risk being an "inconvenience": We so often talk ourselves out of calling each other when we feel down because we don’t want to be a burden or intrude on their busy lives, but it’s only by calling and saying “I just needed a friend” that we will feel the benefit of having a good friend, give her the permission to call when she needs, and help bond the relationship deeper by letting her help.
  • Invite her "bragging": Part of vulnerability is sharing what we're proud of... this can be hard because none of us want to be seen as bragging.  So make it easier and ask her: "Share with me something you're really proud of these days?"

Just because there are miles between us doesn't mean that we can't keep developing these friendships.  In fact, because we've invested so much in each other at one time-- and have the benefit of already feeling close to each other-- we're smart to do everything we can to protect those investments!

What other ideas have you tried? What sounds meaningful to you?

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The Key to Starting a Women's Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help! I Have Too Many Friends

Dear Shasta, I'm completely overwhelmed when I look at my schedule. Most of my scheduled events, in and of themselves, aren't things I would typically dread: coffee with a possible client, a call with someone who wants some advice, dinner with some friends from my husbands work, a lunch with a friend who's in town, dinner with my brother, date night, a quick happy hour with some girls I work with, weekly Sunday call with my parents, meeting a good friend for a walk; but collectively it is TOO much!

Honestly, after working with people all day, trying to stay in intermittent touch with my family members, scheduling the people in my inbox who "want to connect," and keeping up with all the networking... I don't even have the energy or time to call the people I actually want to feel the closest to.

How do I shorten the list? How do I say no?

--Sincerely,

Too Many Friends

Dearest Too Many Friends,

Let's start with the reminder that "people we're friendly with" and "people we've developed friendships with" are two different categories of people. This might actually be a case not necessarily of too many friends, but perhaps of too much socializing?

In fact, you even said it: the biggest problem is that you don't have the time for your close friends.

We have to figure out a way to say no even to people we care about, like, and consider to be friends, in some way or another, so that we have the energy to say yes to the relationships that we know sustain us,

So here's what I think we need to do:

  1. List the relationships you want to prioritize. Who are the friends you want to talk to often so that you really feel supported and not just scheduled with intermittent "catch-ups." Who are the relationships (including kids, spouses, parents, siblings) that are important to you to stay in touch with?
  2. Group them together by ideal consistency. In other words, who are the names on the list that you want to connect with daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Keep in mind that the more consistent we are, the more "intimate" those relationships will feel as those are the people who will really know what's going on in your life.
  3. Schedule them in first. If you can find the consistent blocks of time--driving home from work, happy hour after work, lunch-- to give those people, do it! Or at least block that time off with "Call one of my closest friends."
  4. Then comes the really tricky part: figuring out what relationships/types of relationships you have time or energy to add in.  For me, I have a second list of friends who I love and want to stay in touch with but with whom I haven't developed the intimacy/consistency that I have with my first list. I also want to leave a few slots a month for networking contacts, and a few slots for doing favors for others (i.e. a phone call for a friend of a friend).  What other groups/types of relationships do you need to pay attention to? I think for us to actually look at our calendar/life and see how limited those spots are can help us be more strategic with who we give them to and how frequently we give someone one of those slots.  The truth of the matter is that whether we end up feeling like we have 1 extra slot a day to give, or only one each week: we need to know it and offer it strategically and thoughtfully.
  5. Think through your strategy for how to decide with whom you give your extra space/time. If you don't decide then it will end up being the squeaky wheel (i.e. whoever asks the most or will be the most upset if you say no) or simply first-come, first-served. Which puts other people in charge of our schedule instead of us.  Some possible questions could be: Does this person interest me? Am I clear what the objective is of why we're getting together? Do I think I can be helpful to them? Do I think they can be helpful to me? Can this be scheduled with ease (i.e. without me having to travel far?) Is this the best way to connect with this person (or can I meet them at some event I need to go? Or can it be an email instead of a get-together?)

And then comes the hard part of learning to kindly say no to everyone else.  Which we simply have to do. (Here's a blog post I wrote last year about How to Say 'Not Interested' Nicely)

Our time is finite with only so many slots and its our job to make sure that the relationships that matter most to us are the ones with whom we are making time.

The most important other piece I can say is a reminder that you can't use whether it feels "good" to determine whether or not to be honest with them.  For most of us, saying no to someone, or disappointing them, won't feel good. But neither will it feel good to be overwhelmed, exhausted, or unavailable for the people who fill us up the most!

I am the master, not the victim, of my schedule, my calendar, and my life. Shasta Nelson

This is maturity at it's best: women learning that they aren't victims of their calendar, but are in fact, in charge of them.  So we if we don't like how it looks then we have the power to do life differently.  But the calendar won't look any different until our behaviors reflect what we say matters most.

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The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Friendships

We all want friendships, but most of us don't even know what that means. How Do You Define Friendship?

When I ask audiences to define the word I get things like:

  • "Someone you like."
  • "Someone who makes you laugh."
  • "Someone who's always there for you."
  • "Someone who knows the worst of you and still loves you."
  • "Someone you trust."

Those all sound warm-and-fuzzy, but none of those are a definition by which we can measure a relationship with another person:

  • There are a lot of people I like but who haven't become my friends.
  • Plenty of people make me laugh-- some I only know via TV, does that mean we're friends?
  • No one is always there for me... nor am I for them... does that mean we aren't friends?
  • Yes, we want to be accepted by being loved by people who know us, but if this is our litmus test then does that mean we all have to confess our worst sins before we can be friends with someone?
  • Trust? Trust them to do what???  I trust the Starbucks barista not to spit in my drink-- does that make us friends?

And the dictionary doesn't help much by basically just stating that a friendship is a "relationship between friends." ha! SO helpful!

A Definition of Friendship

I've taken the liberty to create a working definition of friendship (based on compiling/summarizing the research of many sociologists and psychologists) so we can all better identify and evaluate the qualities and actions of a friendship.

"A friendship is a mutual relationship between two people that is satisfying, safe, and where both people feel seen."

  1. In order for a relationship to be satisfying, it must have a foundation of positivity While positive feelings are necessary in all healthy relationships; they are paramount to our friendships because these are the relationships we are entering by choice. We all want our friendships to add more joy, peace, and support to our lives.
  2. In order for a relationship to be safe, it must develop consistencyConsistency is the action of repeating our time together which in turn develops our trust as we begin to create and modify expectations of each other. The more consistency we have, the more we feel like we can anticipate how a person will behave in different situations. Consistency is what gives our new friendships momentum to get to know each other and, over time, it's what builds a shared history and increases our commitment and feeling of support in each other.
  3. In order for a relationship where both people feel seen, it must develop vulnerabilityAs we spend more consistent time together, we are also incrementally revealing and sharing more of who we are with each other.  The more we let someone see us (always increasing our positivity with responses such as affirmation, acceptance, and empathy) then the more loved we'll feel for who we are.

If you don't have all three: then you don't have a healthy friendship.

And the flip side of that is equally true: if you have any friendship that isn't feeling meaningful or healthy, I can guarantee it's because at least one of these three requirements is in lack in that relationship.

In other words, if you just have positivity and consistency (fun times that are repeated often) but lack vulnerability then it's just a social group that lacks you Frientimacy the three requirements: positivity, consistency, vulnerabilityfeeling really known and supported.  Or, if you have positivity and vulnerability (a meaningful time where you felt seen and appreciated) but lack consistency so that it's not ever repeated, then it was just a really special moment with someone, but not a friendship.  Or if you have consistency and vulnerability (deep sharing happening all the time) but lack positivity, then it's just a draining relationship that leaves you feeling weary.  We have to have all three.

To that point, consider this quote I recently came across from The Atlantic:

"I’ve listened to someone as young as 14 and someone as old as 100 talk about their close friends, and [there are] three expectations of a close friend that I hear people describing and valuing across the entire life course,” says William Rawlins, the Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University. “Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy. These expectations remain the same, but the circumstances under which they’re accomplished change.”

Did you catch the three?

  1. Someone to talk to (vulnerability),
  2. someone to depend on (consistency), and
  3. someone to enjoy (positivity).

Now that we have a definition we know what actions can start, build, repair, or end any friendships in our lives.

Want to know which of the 3 Requirements would make the biggest difference in your relationships? Take this quick Frientimacy Quiz!

Note: These Three Requirements are unpacked, at length, in my book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.

 

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Matchmaker Advice: How to Attract & Bond

I am fascinated by the similarities, and differences, of romantic and platonic relationships. This Valentines Day, I thought it would be fun to inspire our friendships a bit by interviewing a professional Matchmaker to see how we can improve all our relationships. 

Joy Nordenstrom is the Founder of Joy of Romance, Inc. and Chemistry of Connection.  She’s a relationship coach, certified matchmaker, love story preservationist and romantic event planner. 

Shasta: We often treat romantic and platonic relationships as filling two different needs, but in some ways they can speak to the same human need, right?

Joy: Yes, all relationships speak to our need to belong.

Positive Psychologist Christopher Peterson’s research found having healthy relationships with family, friends, and coworkers turns out to be the strongest predictor of happiness, and often health, in most studies on human wellbeing. In a study detailed in an article titled “To Belong is to Matter: Sense of Belonging Enhances Meaning in Life,” the authors found:

“... correlational, longitudinal, and experimental evidence that a sense of belonging predicts how meaningful life is perceived to be.”

So in short, to belong equates in our mind to having meaning in life: If I matter to others, my life matters.

That sense of belonging can be found both in our intimate partnership and in our purely friendship driven relationships.

We've been studying and prioritizing romantic relationships for longer than friendships so I am always fascinated by the idea of what we can learn from those relationships that might be helpful to our friendships.

Anything that jumps out to you about how we attract others?

Absolutely.  Whether it's for romance or friendship, we still have to attract each other and connect. So when I work with my single clients to help them get ready for finding a partner, there is an exercise I have created to help them get into the right mental and emotional mindset to exude an air of self-confidence, positivity and receptivity.

It is inspired by my favorite quote:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Taking action in the direction of what pushes you a little, or a lot, out of your comfort zone helps create in your brain a chemistry similar to being in lust or the early stages of falling in love.

With the Scary Things’ Exercise, I ask an individual to work with the process for a minimum of 21 days in a row, in order to begin establishing a habit. The essence of the exercise is to be mindful and challenge yourself to do something a little out of your comfort zone every day.

All that we know about facial gestures and body language combined with neurosciences, shows us that what’s happening in our minds is being broadcast to others through our face and body. Once someone looks at us our spindle cells and mirror neurons wire us to connect and for them to “feel” to some extent what is internally happening for us.

Note that as humans, we gravitate towards individuals who are fascinating, curious and have a zest for life. In short, whether for romance or friendship, we want to be in relationships with those who are interesting and happy.

Love that!  That philosophy of staying engaged with life so that we're "more interesting and more interested in others" leads to a mindset that opens us to more connection.

And then, when we're with someone we are open to connecting with, what is one behavior we can be mindful to practice that can help our interaction?

Well, one easy tip is to know the impact of left eye gazing because our success in bonding resides in our ability to put others at ease.

You mean looking at their left eye?

Well if you gaze from right eye to right eye, it activates the left side of the brain, the side that analyzes, picks things apart, and looks for ways to get something out of the person or situation. Your facial expressions harden and become more intense. I call this the used car salesman gaze. Subconsciously, it makes the other person uncomfortable. This may be good as a tactic for hardcore negotiation but not for the art of connecting.

But when you engage in a gaze with someone utilizing your left eye you are tapping into the right side of your brain allowing you to access your full emotive self. With a left eye to left eye gaze, your mind will concentrate on where there is synergy and how you can work together. By gradually turning your face to the right, even by 5-10 percent, your left eye becomes more dominant. When you gaze at someone with your left eye, the corners of your mouth and the wrinkles around your eyes soften making the person you are looking at feel more at ease.

Again, the more someone is at ease, the easier it is for two people to feel safe, accepted, and be receptive to bonding.

Joy, thank you for sharing this wisdom about how we can attract others by paying attention to our own growth and exploration and connect with others by something as simple as left eye gazing.

May we all continue to pursue our human need of belonging in the healthiest and most intentional ways possible!

Want to connect more with Joy? Follow her on Twitter at @JoyofRomance or on her Joy of Romance Facebook page.

Shasta's Sharing Questions for Group Get-Togethers

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

Why We Need Sharing Questions

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

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

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

How to Facilitate Group Sharing

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

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

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

Sample Sharing Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret to Moving from Acquaintances to Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's REALLY Behind Your New Goal?

Want to lose weight? Want to make more money?

Want to get married?

Want to write that book?

We have beautiful goals and hopes outlined for the New Year, but in this video blog today I invite you to look and see if this one sneaky, but common, motivation isn't the thing behind your goal?

And if it is... what can you do to invest more in what you actually want instead of investing in the path you hope will eventually end there?

Leave a comment to encourage each other what we've learned from our own past-- Have you ever accomplished something only to be disappointed that it didn't lead to the feeling that you had hoped? Or, have you ever invested in really pursuing the actual connection you most wanted? What did you learn?

Because what I want for all of us is that we accomplish our very best FROM a place of knowing we're loved and supported, rather than from an unrecognized attempt to prove we're good enough to be loved and supported.

xoxo

2017: THE YEAR OF COURAGEOUS CONNECTING.  And if you're interested in joining hundreds of women this year as we invest our energy in creating more belonging in our life-- now's the time to commit because we're giving you over $180 worth of savings and bonuses ON TOP of everything you receive in our community!  YAY!  Join GirlFriendCircles.com by Jan 28 to commit to a year of meeting friends and making better friendships!

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