As I get older, I’m fascinated by friendship and how it evolves over time. Since moving several times in my life and leaving a corporate job for solo business ownership, I’ve also had to learn to cultivate new friends and “work friends” in a whole new way.
I’m excited to announce that a new friend in my life, Shasta Nelson, wrote an amazing book – Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends— which hits bookshelves this month. As the founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, a women’s friendship matching site in 35 U.S. and Canadian cities, she is one of the foremost experts on the subject of healthy female friendships. Shasta can frequently be seen in national media, speaking about how adults can develop effective friendships.
Whether you’re currently looking for new friendships for work or play or you want to strengthen the ones you have—Shasta’s book is a treat. I sat down to talk with her about the role of friendship in our personal and professional lives.
RS: Welcome Shasta! Why did you call the book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen?
SN: Many of us wish we had a few closer friends but we tend to want those friendships to just happen, the way it felt like as a kid of college student. Those friendships seemed to just happen automatically without us having to be all that intentional. The title of my book reminds us that we can create meaningful adult friends. It’s less about us waiting around for the right person and more about creating the right friendship with those who are around us.
RS: In a world where we are all increasingly busy, are friendships a nice-to-have or a must-have?
SN: Without a doubt, they are a must-have. The health benefits of close relationships are too numerous to count– everything from lower stress and fewer colds to increased happiness and greater success in our personal goals. If we feel like we have a circle of supportive friends then we recover from surgery faster, increase our odds of surviving breast cancer, and literally extend the years of our brains and hearts. Research has shown that if we feel disconnected then it is twice as damaging on our health as being obese and is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Building up healthy friendships is a non-negotiable for those who value their health.
RS: How can entrepreneurs, especially women, nurture and cultivate their friendships when, so often, the friend/work colleague lines get blurred for them in particular?
SN: I say let the lines blur! Work is still the number one place where we make friends and for those of us who own our own business or work from home, we definitely still want to use our work as a connection point with others. But it’s more important to understand what those friendships are and what they are not.
In my book, I talk about 5 different types of friends; the 2nd being what I call Common Friends, those friendships where we have one thing, such as work/business, holding us together. This can look like scheduling a lunch with two fellow business owners every month, joining a local mastermind group, or participating in an active networking association. Our goal is to be as consistent as possible with our chosen connections so that our sharing can become deeper and more meaningful within the area of shared commonality.
There are two common mistakes that are often made in this Common Friends circle. The first one is minimizing the significance this group of friends can have in our lives. It’s easy to think that if we can’t see ourselves becoming best friends with these women that somehow there’s no point to investing in these friendships. This is such a hugely important area of friendship as these friends understand our business, know what it feels like to be entrepreneurs, and can provide us introductions and resources - and many of our closest friends can’t always support us in this way.
The second mistake is to do the opposite and actually start believing that this circle of women is also our group of best friends. Many women get their feelings hurt when they leave a job and none of their former colleagues followed up with them. That is because the friendship was built on having one thing in common–work– so when that one thing ends, so does the friendship. Friendships must be developed, not discovered, which means that moving these women from the 2nd circle to the 4th or 5th one takes consistency, intimacy, history, and an expanding of what we share when we’re together. Some of the women from your business group may eventually become your closest friends, but that is part of the process I talk about in the book to help move women into the friendships that matter most to you.
RS: Why should people read this book?
SN: Much is written and taught about romantic love and parent-child relationships. We buy armloads of books on these subjects that feel so urgent and life consuming. Yet, when it comes to our friendships—relationships that will outweigh in quantity the number of kids and spouses most of us will have—we tend to take a much more laid-back approach. We end up just hoping that we’ll meet the right women, at the right time, and both know the right way to act. While some of us have seen good modeling of healthy platonic friendships, the vast majority of us are left hoping that it just comes intuitively, as though we should know how to make and keep good friends. Few of us have been taught what we need to know. This book not only offers the steps to creating meaningful friendships, but provides a helpful way to constantly evaluate and better understand our friendships as we go through life.