We just had our last zoom session with our current Keystone cohort. One of the participants was describing an incident where she was calm instead of being her usual stressed self in that kind of situation. As she reflected on how impressively well she dealt with things, she came to the conclusion that is was because she felt part of a bigger picture. She was in a community so her ability to remain relaxed and in control was not only on her behalf, but on the behalf of others. This is what feeling connected and in community feels like. Capitalising on the expertise of strangers is the idea behind support groups as shared adversity spawns ties with others. It is remarkable how quickly you can feel close to another when sharing your discomforts but also how quickly you can find solace from the tending of others, which disengages your stress systems.
I write about community a lot and lately I have been thinking more specifically about friendships. How much they mean to me, how much they vary, change and how much effort I put into them. I think there is a misbelief that friendships should be easy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they should always be hard or painful but I do think that all deep relationships require effort. Of course we have all kinds of friends but friends that stand the test of time and challenging circumstances are special. I think they could be the antidote to our current loneliness epidemic.
Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman’s book, Big Friendship, says,
“A close friendship is one of the most influential and important relationships a human life can contain. Anyone will tell you that! But for all the rosy sentiments surrounding friendship, most people don’t talk much about what it really takes to stay close for the long haul. Big Friendship will invite you to think about how your own bonds are formed, challenged, and preserved. It is a call to value your friendships in all of their complexity. Actively choose them. And, sometimes, fight for them.”
What also struck me today was the way in which the cohort spoke within the group. There was an open, insightful and honest tone set right from the start which everyone naturally fell into. This self perpetuated a deepening level of conversation and in return made the time spent together feel extra special. Sharing honestly can deepen connections and friendships. And the quality of a friendship is most important when talking about loneliness. Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general said,
“Loneliness is a subjective feeling that the human connections we need in our life are greater than the human connections we have. And that subjective element is really important because what loneliness is not is something that’s determined by the number of people around you. You could be surrounded by just one or two people and feel perfectly content if you have strong relationships with them. But you could also be, like many college students are, on a campus that has thousands of people—or you could be in a workplace surrounded by hundreds of people—but feel profoundly alone, which is sadly the experience that many people have today.”
So why do we think that work is only for romantic relationships? Imagine what kind of world we would live in if we held the quality of our relationships in the highest regard? Dr. Vivek H. Murthy goes on to say;
“If we, for example, decide to design a society that supports relationships, we may invest more in social-emotional learning programmes. We may invest more in designing workplaces that strengthen connections between colleagues and also give them opportunities to serve in communities. We may measure things differently—we may measure success in part by the strength of the relationships that we create. We would live and look at life very differently if we truly built our life around people.”
I love this focus. It makes so much sense to me. Mistakenly, we often believe that real friendships will always just be there. I don’t believe this to be true. I work hard at my deep friendships but the work is work I want to do. And I think it is right to call it work because it takes effort, commitment and looking at my own behaviours and short comings. I want to be a good friend as much as I want to have a good friend. When we give love, when we receive love, we feel replenished, we feel connected and we’re able to do more, to be more, for ourselves and for those around us.
When it comes to starting and running a business, friends are key
This sounds obvious but often, time is limited and friends get put in the ‘luxury’ category instead of prioritised. Some of the hard work of running your business should come in the form of building and nurturing both professional and personal relationships.
Part of our programme involves looking at your relationships. If your business is successful but you have no time for friends and family, we think you should redefine your goals. Katie Elizabeth wrote Relationships Are Key For Many Reasons — Especially For Women Entrepreneurs in Forbes and recommends the following;
- Sync work time with playtime. Just as my friend told me, it’s important to work hard and play hard, but the two can coexist. Drinks and apps are always great – and quirkier outings can go a long way towards deepening a friendship. Hit the bowling alley, a paintball jungle, or go for a round of put-put with your colleagues. There’s a reason a lot of business gets done on the golf course.
- Make social time a regularly scheduled priority. Book at least one day a week to have coffee or do something social with friends or business acquaintances. This is a time to shut down the computer, silence the phone and just enjoy the company of another human being.
- Make the time for both personal and professional relationships. Investing time in building and maintaining relationships in all walks of your life can help keep you sane, and make you happier and more productive. Moreover, you never know where your next source of inspiration or help might come from.
“Building a tribe of professional and personal friendships takes time, however, it is worth the effort. As it grows and deepens, you’ll find you have deep relationships with people who are able and willing to help you succeed, and opportunities to help people you genuinely care about on their journey. As this happens over time, the benefits to all can become exponential.”
Relationships matter and having a support system can be critical to your working life success. Social ties can even maintain or improve your health, so reach into your feminine tending instincts and nurture your friendships.
Please join our mailing list if you haven’t already or share with a friend who you think might like us.