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SALT LAKE CITY — In the hustle bustle of a woman’s life, being with friends can fall to last on the list. However, whether the connection is spontaneous or lifelong, friendship is key for women at any stage.
1. Friendships are vital.
Authors Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton share in "How Full is Your Bucket?" that both men and women are typically happier after spending time with women. This is often due to a woman’s ability to listen, empathize and encourage.
It doesn’t need to be for long periods of time, either. Recently a neighbor and I, both in our pajamas, had a wonderful help-me-with-motherhood-and-life conversation. It was only for 15 minutes, but we both walked away rejuvenated and ready for life.
2. Friendships help us develop ourselves.
Applying what researcher Paula Pietromonaco says about friendship in Jo Ann Larsen’s "I’m a Day Late and a Dollar Short": "The more [variety of friends] you have, the more likely you are to get feedback about yourself. This allows you to define yourself in different ways — competitive, creative, supportive, loving, intelligent, etc.” So enjoy branching out with friends from a hobby group, walking group, church, community or volunteer. Each experience develops a different part of yourself.
3. Friendships are fluid.
Women can often feel subtle shifts in a relationship, whether it’s from personality, situation or stage of life. Sometimes that can make us nervous or want to hold on tighter, but friendship needs to ebb and flow in its development. Often, I put friendship in three categories — concentric circles, if you will — outer to inner: Casual, Close and Core.
Casual friendships are those you form at the baseball game, gym, etc., and are more of the “Hi, how are you?” kind. Close friendships are more frequent and meaningful, where you might go to lunch or share deeper life experiences. And Core friendships are those that are lifelong, where you resonate on a gut level and can reconnect regardless of how much time has passed.
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If we feel someone becoming more distanced, we can just give it time or address it with an “I feel” conversation such as, “I’m feeling a bit distant lately, is everything OK or is life just busy?” Either way, know that healthy friendships need a little room to grow at their own rate.
4. Friendship is nurturing.
A good friend inspires and motivates, making you feel good after talking with or being with that person. The friend is honest and supportive, caring about how you feel and who you’re becoming.
Virginia Pearce shares a story in the book "A Heart Like His" about a woman who decided to learn to play the piano at the age of 50. A year later she was invited to play before a group of a women, and though she started beautifully, she went blank. Her piano teacher, who sat in the audience, called out, “Don’t be ruffled, just start over.” The woman did, and made it through without a mistake. That’s a great friend — to lovingly say what needs to be said at the right time.
5. Friendships can become difficult.
At times we just need a break from a certain friend, a little space, but other times we realize a friendship may be toxic. That means the person can be a dream-stealer, an energy-drainer or an emotional black hole.
First, be aware if that is happening. Consider the last few conversations and write some buzz words on how you felt, like "confused," "self-doubt," "uncomfortable." Look for patterns. Next, consider decreasing the time spent with the person, then watch for any difference in yourself. Lastly, set an appropriate boundary on what kind of personal information you will share.
For example, years ago I coached a woman, Jane, to help her lose weight, which she did. Each morning a co-worker asked about her success, then if they could lose weight together. But the co-worker didn’t lose as quickly and began making negative comments to Jane.
Eventually Jane stopped working on her goals completely until we figured out what was happening. With a new plan, Jane kept morning greetings more superficial with the co-worker, didn’t share progress details and focused more positive energy on her goals, and she was able to turn it around.
Healthy friendships make life a little rounder, so I encourage you to text, email or call a friend and connect today.
Connie Sokol is an author, speaker, TV contributor and mother of seven. Contact her at www.conniesokol.com.