Do you ever wish for deeper and more fulfilling friendships? You’re not alone! Shasta Nelson's new book, "Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness", shows that the vast majority of us are experiencing a gap between the level of fulfillment in our friendships versus what we wish we were experiencing. Join Shasta and SPARKED Game Night with Founder Lisa Rueff at New Om World Yoga Studio in Corte Madera on April 26. I’m very excited to share an exclusive interview with friendship expert, Shasta Nelson.
What was that ah-ha moment when you formed GirlFriendCircle.com?
The ah-ha moment was coaching a handful of brilliant women and realizing that due to moves, divorces, or busy-ness, they didn’t have deep friendships nourishing and guiding their lives. I went to bed one night thinking “Who do I know in Chicago that I could introduce to my client? She seems so cool…” and I found myself wishing there were an easier way for women to meet other local women who valued new friends in their lives. I woke up the next morning at started thinking about how to develop a website that could introduce women to new friends! Looking for new friends can almost feel harder than dating for romance because we don’t have protocol, expectations, or language around making friends like we do when it comes to romance where we flirt, ask someone out, go on dates, etc. Plus we carry a lot of unnecessary guilt and shame if we “ need” friends as though others might think it means we aren’t a good friend or don’t have any other friends.
Can you briefly describe how GirlFriendCircle and Frientimacy works?
GirlFriendCircles.com is the website that matches women to new friendship in their local area. Women join and are invited into small groups of women who gather and meet at local cafes. The intention is to help introduce women of all ages to potential friends nearby.
Then on top of that matching website, I am a teacher and advocate of healthy friendships so I write books, speak, and teach classes on developing deep friendships, which is where Frientimacy comes in. 'Frientimacy,' the intimacy between friends, is the title of my latest book and speaks to the fact that for many of us it’s not that we need to go meet new friends as much as we need to know how to deepen the relationships with the people we already know. Frientimacy isn’t something we discover in someone but rather something we can create and develop with someone. Unfortunately far too few of us have ever had a class on platonic intimacy or even read a book on friendship so we don’t even know how to define it, measure it, or initiate it in our lives.
Tell me more about the Frintimacy Triangle.
The Frientimacy Triangle is one of the big teaching tools I share in 'Frientimacy: How to Deepen Your Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.' Visually, it teaches the three requirements of a healthy friendship: positivity, consistency, and vulnerability. I can guarantee that any friendship in our lives that isn’t feeling meaningful or deep is because one of those three requirements is lacking. To have a healthy friendship, we have to practice all three sides of our triangle with our friends. One of the things my readers love about both of my books is that I break down friendship and explain it with diagrams and visuals because I believe there is a lot more form and science to friendship than simply walking around looking for nice people and then hoping a friendship happens automatically! There are in fact steps and actions that we know can create, repair, and build any relationship.
You have a 42 Day Frientimacy Programs. What is that about?
With science showing us that we can create new neuro-pathways in our brains in as little as 40 days, I wanted to create a program that actually helps women focus on creating more frientimacy in their lives, rather than them just reading about it! So this is a 6-week class that I teach where women are invited to pay attention and practice deeper friendship in their lives. You readers can learn more about it by clicking here.
But what if your friend isn’t right for you after all. What if you consider your friend to be a Common Friend but she wants more?
Even when we don’t want more, the kindest thing we can do is affirm our friends for what we do appreciate in them— so in this case we can say things like, “I love having you as a friend here at (e.g. work, through my daughter, in this business network)— it makes coming here so much more fun! Unfortunately though, right now my life is about as full of time with friends as I want so while I know it’s not ideal, the best way for us to keep up our friendship is probably here at x.” It’s not perfect because it’s never going to feel comfortable and easy to do actions that could feel like rejection to others, but it’s important for us to keep trying to practice honesty and boundaries while also seeking to be kind and gracious, appreciating what we do have with people.
But I’ll also push back a bit and ask why you think that "friend isn’t right for you after all?” Sometimes we dismiss people too quickly and easily, making the mistake in thinking that we know what type of people we bond with best, when the truth is that research shows us that we don’t. While we eventually need to share some commonalities, they don’t have the be big ones that we often think are most important— like both being single, certain temperaments, or both being from the socio-econimic status. More important than trying to size someone up is looking to see what behaviors they are willing to practice with people —like initiating time together, affirming you, or opening up about themselves in appropriate ways.
How can I help my pre-teen navigate her friendships, especially what I see as a toxic friendship?
- First, we want to model to our kids healthy friendships! They need to see us going out in the evenings and on the weekends, so we can’t just schedule it for when they are at school!
- Second, we want to talk about our friendships— what they bring to our lives, how important they are, and what we appreciate in different friends.
- And third, we need to teach them what healthy friendship is— taking the content from my book and talking about it with each other would be amazing. Look at the three requirements of friendship together and help her assess which of those three areas might be lacking in different friendships of hers. Then she has the incredible opportunity of not only being able to identify what a healthy friendship is and how to determine if she has one, but then she can practice trying to add in that one behavior to see if it can enhance the friendship. We’re always better off teaching our kids to practice shifting relationships than encouraging them to simply walk away, or worse just put up with and tolerate unhealthy behaviors. By empowering them to see which friendships meet the requirements and which ones don’t— we are teaching them not to judge people, but rather how to judge the relationship, which includes two people. My rule of thumb is that the more energy I’ve invested in developing the friendship— the more energy I’ll be willing to invest in repairing and improving it and our kids need to learn those skills if they are ever going to experience intimacy with someone. So that after she’s practiced repairing it, if it still isn’t showing signs of improving then it’s not so much a rejection of the person as much as a realization that this isn’t a healthy friendship and that she needs to reset her expectations of that relationship and not rely on them as safe and positive people in her life.
I could go on-and-on on this one alone— teaching an entire workshop right here! ha!— but hopefully we begin to see that our role in our children’s lives (and this includes our sons who desperaretely need deeper friendships, too) isn’t to tell our kids who is healthy or toxic but to teach them what healthy friendship is so they can evaluate and enhance the friendships in their lives. Because the truth is, even our close friends will disappoint us, mess up, or annoy us… we can’t walk away from everyone who hurts us— we have to learn the difference between pain that can be repaired (much like being sore the day after working out) versus pain that is injuring us and learning how to protect ourselves from further wounding. We can’t just protect our kids and tell them who to be friends with and who to avoid— we have to teach them to assess and grow along the way. A tall ask, but one that is necessary if we want our kids to grow up with the ability to develop deep relationships with others.
Why does it seem harder as adults to find friends? Shouldn't we have more in common and be more "experienced" at making friends by now?
The truth is that we are replacing half our close friends every seven years… so if you think about who you’re confiding in and feel close to today then chances are high that a couple of them aren’t even people you knew 7 years ago! So yes we’ve been around this block a few times but sometimes that can make it harder because we’ve been disappointed, lost people we loved, or feel weary at the idea of starting over with someone, again. And no matter how experienced we are at friendship, that still doesn’t remove the fact that what we want are deep, comfortable, and easy friendships but that we all start with are strangers we don’t know and haven’t been friends with yet so it triggers our insecurities, feels awkward as we build a pattern to our friendship, and get to know someone we don’t yet love the way we do our friends.
Additionally, it’s also not getting easier for many people because our experience isn’t automatically translating to a better understanding of what friendship is and how to do it—rather, we just keep “putting ourselves out there” and hoping for the best! If we mistakenly think it has more to do with luck or finding the right person then we don’t actually know what to look for and what to do to increase our chances of developing meaningful relationships. The title to my first book reminds us that Friendships Don’t Just Happen! but sometimes it takes a lifetime before we realize that and study the subject enough to know that this isn’t just fate.
Is this a program that men can join? How do men's friendships differ?
I am big believer that men need frientimacy— deep, platonic, and meaningful friendships where they can feel safe being seen, but it’s tragic that we live in a world where there has been very little modeling of those friendship, minimal encouragement, and not much cultural permission. Many men have confided in me that they wish they could do friendship like women do— sitting and talking and connecting, without needing sports or work as excuse. And in some cultures they do that so we know it’s not a gender thing as much as it is a cultural stereotype we’ve held up to men. Tragically, friendship has been treated like a women’s issue when it is in fact a human issue. I plan to write on this more and do some research on the issue so if there are men who are willing to be surveyed or who want to be kept informed on possible resources for them, they can sign up here: http://tinyurl.com/mensfriends
What’s so important about making new friends?
Friendship and intimacy is seriously the most important factor to our overall health and happiness. In fact, how we answer the question, “How supported do I feel?” is one of the most accurate predictors of what serious health issues we’ll face in the next two decades of our lives! Feeling supported and loved far outweighs all the healthy behaviors (like diet and exercise) that can ensure our longevity, mental health, immune system strength, and ability to recover from surgeries and sickness. Our relationships will ebb-and-flow and it’s the healthiest among us that will become practiced at constantly developing important friendships in our lives.
Join Shasta Nelson and Lisa Rueff at Girlfriend & Game Night, on April 26 at New Om World Yoga Studio in Corte Madera. Tickets on sale now. Connect with Shasta on her website, or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.