By Diane Gage Lofgren
A few weeks ago, a friend and I attended Shasta Nelson’s Friendship Accelerator weekend in San Francisco. Heading to a barrack-like building in Fort Mason, we gathered with at least 70 other women who took a chance at a rare opportunity to meet women with whom they might connect. Shasta assigned each of us to small circles of five to six other women about our same age and who lived in the same general proximity of the sprawling Bay Area.
The author of the newly released book: Friendships Don’t Just Happen: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends, Shasta’s passion is to help women learn how to engage in a way that allows them to get to know one another and then see if a friendship will blossom. During the two-day intensive, she explained tenets from her new book—just released today!—and then allowed us to engage in conversation to begin connecting with one another in quick fashion!
One of the key weekend take-aways comes from the simplicity of Shasta’s book title. We can’t wish friendships into existence. It’s up to us to take action to begin to build relationships with other women and give them the time and attention needed for meaningful friendships to grow.
To take the guesswork out of friendmaking, Shasta outlines five circles of friends in her Circles of Connectedness Continuum. She emphasizes that we can have friends in each circle and that we don’t need to progress linearly through the circles. Many relationships begin in the Contact Friends circle. These are women we meet because we are in the same milieu – be it a professional organization, support group, volunteer organization, or we attend the same gym, or see each other on our kids’ soccer field. We can move these acquaintances to the next circle, Common Friends, if we’re deliberate.
Ah, there we go again—we must be intentional if we are going to find and nurture friendships. This means, we’re open to recognizing that there are most likely a few women in that group that we believe we could connect with for some reason. Then we do something about it. Maybe we invite them to meet for coffee before the regular meeting time or out for wine afterwards. We’re deliberate to set up a time to meet to discover if a friendship can ensue.
It’s in the Common Friends circle that we get to know these women better and can arrange more things to do together. It’s then we learn how much we have in common or discover connection points, explains Shasta. The more we get to know someone – and let her know us – the better the chances of growing a friendship.
From that exploration, it’s up to us to increase the consistency and intimacy on the path to friendship. In other words, we must exert effort to progress to the next circle, Community Friends. That’s where the growth in our relationships occur. It’s there that we discover if we can trust a new friend with private insights and where we learn how much we are willing to listen to her as well. With frequency and authenticity, deep, meaningful friendships emerge with a few special women. It’s in the last Committed Friends circle that our closest friends surround us with love and acceptance. With them, we can be completely free to share who we really are, and we allow our friends the same privilege.
In the middle of these four circles, however, is the center Confirmed Friends circle. These women, Shasta explains, are our longtime friends who will always be close at heart, but not close in proximity or even in our daily orbit. They may be childhood friends or former college roommates. Perhaps someone we were oh so close to but who moved away and distance took its toll. Shasta explains that we know these wonderful souls are always there for us, but it may be an occasional phone call or email…not someone who plays a regular supportive role in our lives.
It’s so nice to have Shasta’s mental models to help us organize our thoughts and direct our steps. When we know that frequency of interaction and the intent to find commonalities that lead to intimacy are what allows us to go deeper in our relationships, we have a roadmap to move from acquaintance to close friend over time. This doesn’t relegate things to chance and it doesn’t leave us wondering, “What’s wrong with me?”
Shasta is clear. To find and make new friends, we have to put in the effort and the time. We must be open to possibilities. Most of all, let’s not prejudge whether something will work out or not before we have even begun the investigation!
Before we left the weekend experience, Shasta asked each group of friends to set four weekly get-togethers. Three could be just meeting for a meal or drinks. The third of the four needed to center around doing something fun – another way of being committed to growing our relationships.
So tonight, my group of new girlfriends and I are off to Shasta’s book launch in San Francisco to celebrate with her for this amazing gift to the world.
Here’s to the girlfriend circles in your life and to another book that allows us to make girlfriends happen!
I hope you’ll visit https://girlfriendcircles.com/ for more ways to find new friends!