Psychologists( and men) have long tried to answer the million dollar question- What do women want? Marketing campaigns have thrived around the women’s friendships( Diamonds are a women’s best friend); not to mention the internet jokes that pass around as ‘getting to know women.” It turns out that what women want is – just friends!
Back in the day, friendships between women bloomed over tea parties and get-togethers. Today, women still draw from the experience and strength of other women through social media groups. Science confirms that it is the bonds of friendship that keeps a woman healthier( not just family.) Who wouldn’t like to have a friend you can call on without notice just to vent?
However, friendships between women are considered complicated( and now science confirms it.) There’s the friend who abruptly stopped talking to you or a nasty rumor about something your friend may have known earlier. Women’s friendships are damaged for seemingly insignificant reasons, with long-lasting effects.
Tracey Dobbins recognized this dire need among women and made it her life’s mission to help women thrive with friends. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or have a history of being bullied, or had been the most popular girl in class- Tracey finds opportunities to make life-long, deep and dependable bonds with other women. Tracey is also a contributor to the best selling parenting anthology ‘ The One Thing Every Mom Needs To Know.‘
Kidskintha had a brief chat with Tracey. Read on…
I’ve known the pain of struggling to make friends and failing over and over. I knew no one was going to fix this problem. Psychology had appealed since my teens, so I decided to become the detective. I solved my case with lots of researching, reading, and comparing. Things can sabotage a friendship without knowing it. I realized my problem patterns and behaviors and had my light bulb moment, so it became an easy fix.
Coaching came into my life by accident through a long-lost friend. I love helping women and I know female friendships are complex. That drew me in and it became my expertise. Few are taught how to be a good friend.
My framework creates meaningful friendships so women don’t struggle needlessly. Good friends help us get through life’s ups and downs. Don’t reinvent the wheel – just borrow your friend’s wheel!
Social media gives a false definition of friendship. We used to be intentional about who we connected with by phone, email, or mail. We also weren’t trying to get to know dozens of prospective friends at once.
Now it’s mainly sound bites of instant exchanges. We feel bad when we don’t have an amazing life that everyone else has. Strangers you just met are immediately “friends,” but you know nothing about them, their history, or their real life. These virtual “friends” can, and do, make up false identities. It’s a global stage where anyone can be anything.
When posting we’re literally telling everyone and no one. Short episodic bursts of exchanges are thought of as friend interactions. Nothing deepens between two people doing chit-chat. When conversations deepen, you’re signaling you want to spend time with that person. It’s a lot like dating.
Would cyber friends help you in a real-world crisis or meet anyone that’s in your real life? Not unless you meet face-to-face. You can take them along as voyeurs on your devices, but they can’t make a multi-sensory memory. That’s a key component of deepening friendships.
In my experience, most people don’t have a healthy understanding of what a rewarding positive friendship can be. Many only know unhealthy examples. Our idea of friendship differs based on our own early experiences once we start interacting outside our family unit. We look to our mothers to demonstrate good friendship skills. If she had toxic friends, then we think that’s normal. Many believe women should automatically know what a real friend is and isn’t. If new and better-quality friendship examples come along, we actually start comparing our friendships to this upgraded version.
We can’t change the family we’re born with, but we can hand-pick the friends that surround us and our impressionable children. Healthy examples set your kids up for a lifetime of successful relationships. That’s more important than any fancy school education in my book.
Moms have limited time for friendships, but everyone needs them. Here are some ways to fast-track getting to know your future friends. Quickly seek out the things you both have in common. That makes everyone feel safe and confident talking about those topics. If you’re both moms, you have that in common. Find out what other interests you share and talk about them.
1 When you’re at your child’s event, pay attention to the other mothers who are there that you seem drawn to somehow. Notice something positive about them. Give them a sincere smile. If they respond in a welcoming way, that’s a sign to continue, else stop.
2 Exchange a few pleasant words, but don’t rush into a conversation until you’re ready. Think about a comment that you can say to them about their child or the event you’re at. Stick to comments that are positive and easy for them to answer. Chit-chat provides topics that everyone can participate in. That’s its purpose. Exchange polite conversation together without any expectations. Keep the talk general to start with. You’ll get an idea of what their company is like, too.
3 After you start feeling comfortable talking together over several different times and the conversation topics widen, suggest that you both meet without kids. Do lunch, shop, a movie, or an event that you both like.
4 Remember that it is a lot like dating. Take turns to share half of the time talking about yourself and your world, and the other half of the time listening to them in order to understand their world. The goal is not to do or say things that will make them feel inferior. Don’t try to impress them…no one likes to feel like they’re in a competition.
5 Once you’ve started getting to know them in public settings, decide when and how to invite them into your personal home life. This is when they’ll meet the other people in your life and vice versa.
6 The more frequently you spend quality time getting to really know each other, the faster the friendship unfolds. The topics you talk about start having more emotion tied to them. You’ll build on previous conversations. That keeps you aware of what’s going on in the other person’s life. You must show interest in their world and the things that matter to them. These details impact them for various reasons that you haven’t learned about yet. If they’re a potential friend, they’ll show interest in your world. Watch for this. Visits need to be pretty balanced so neither one feels like an audience.
Let them show you who they are and share their personal stories with you. Expect to hear something unique because no two friends will ever be alike. The more honest and non-judgmental you are from the very start, the better. Be real and don’t act. You must share openly with them because if they don’t know who you really are they can’t be a solid sounding board when you need one.
Decide when to be vulnerable and trust people with personal details. If either of you gossips while you’re visiting together, that signals private details are not held sacred…that’s another BIG red flag. The rule is to never share someone else’s private details. You may be tempted because you know it will make a juicy conversation when you run out of things to say. However, never betray a trust. A real friend always puts her friend’s best interests at the core of all of their actions. That’s how to tell a real friend from fakes with their own agendas. Trust is what everyone wants in a friend and it’s earned gradually over time.
Social media can connect potential friends, but it doesn’t actually build a real friendship…it builds an acquaintanceship. You’re only seeing what they want to show the world. If you discover you like someone’s company on social media, move your conversations where you can be authentic together. Build on information that was shared publicly. Now’s your chance to question and focus. Start this by private messaging or texting. Eventually, suggest a video visit. Meet in person if you want your friendship to blossom.
The more you can use your senses to see someone’s reactions, the faster you will get to know them. It’s believed that around 90 percent of our communication happens beyond our words, so being in person in the real world is always more informative.
I prefer to video connect with my coaching clients around the world via ZOOM.us. It’s easy for non-techies and the next best thing to being in person. You can tell me about your friend circles. What isn’t working for you. You might feel stuck with certain people who are dysfunctional friends, but they aren’t aware of it. Perhaps you’re uncomfortable making new friends or your friendships never develop, last very long? Maybe you’re just waiting to meet your “real best friend,” meaning something is working against you and you need to know what that problem is. Obstacles need to be identified then removed. I can quickly help you spot and resolve it. Making friends shouldn’t take effort at all. Friendship should never be a struggle.
We’re the sum total of the five people we spend the most time with, so it’s important that you only give your time to those who make you happy. They accept you without judgment and don’t try to change you. They become your influencers. If someone isn’t supporting you as a person, then they’re stalling or tearing you down. Which kind of friend do you want to have in your life? Remember, your friends also influence your children so choose them wisely.
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Devishobha is the founder of Kidskintha- a global parenting and education collective, and the host of the global virtual conferences hosted on the platform. You can also find her voice on the Huffington Post, Mother.ly, Entrepreneur, Lifehack, TinyBuddha, Thought Catalog and many other publications.