Filtered by Category: Friendship

On deep-shallow companions

Image: Eckhard Hoehmann / Unsplash

Image: Eckhard Hoehmann / Unsplash

As I’ve been working on The Art of Showing Up, I’ve done quite a bit of research on the “ideal” number of friends a person should have, and, in the process, have come up with my own theory on this topic: Regardless of how many friends researchers say you need, or how many friends you currently have, I think everyone needs one (1) individual to fill the role of deep-shallow companion.

Your deep-shallow person is the one who happily listens to the most humdrum shit about your day, pretty much every day (and then shares theirs in turn). They let you go on and on about the traffic you sat in, the errands you ran, the minutiae of your to-do list, and everything Sweetgreen did right or wrong with regard to your salad order. (My experiences with the Sweetgreen app — which used to be very bad and are now, somehow, better? — are the epitome of deep-shallow talk.) Deep-shallow stories are both too boring and too complicated for most audiences. There’s no real drama, but there’s also definitely a five-act Shakespearean play, and it somehow all took place in the self-checkout line at Target.

Deep-shallow companionship is the height of intimacy, demonstrated through extremely not-intimate topics. It’s a bond and love that is rooted so deep, it can withstand this particular type of shallow conversation. 

Of course, most relationships include some deep-shallow talk, and occasionally, the first coworker pal you see when you walk into the office is gonna hear your terrible commute story whether they like it or not. It’s fine! But your deep-shallow person is the one who willingly listens to this stuff daily, and also shares their own with you. It’s often a role filled by a parent, sibling, or romantic partner because it requires so much love.

My suspicion is that a lot of loneliness stems from not having a deep-shallow companion. Which really sucks! Because if you try — consciously or not — to make someone your deep-shallow person and they don’t want to be (because they already have a deep–shallow companion, because it’s too early in the relationship, whatever), you probably won’t get the attention or enthusiasm you’re looking for, which just feels bad. It doesn’t mean the person doesn’t want to be friends with you or that they don’t like you (truly!)...but it still stings. Deep-shallow conversations are often when we’re our most relaxed and uncensored and real selves; not having a deep-shallow person can lead to feeling very unseen and incredibly alone.

I share this theory not to call attention to something you feel sad about and can’t really fix, but because I know how how it feels to not have the words to explain this particular kind of intimacy, or describe what it looks and feels like. I think it’s really helpful to be able to name this kind of companionship, and to be able to articulate exactly what you’ve lost if your deep-shallow person is no longer in your life. ✨

🍑

Two tips to keep in mind if you want to be a better conversationalist

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

I recently read We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee, which I really liked. The book has a lot of great, practical tips for being a better listener and better speaker — based in scientific research, and Headlee’s career as a radio host.

Since I’m sure none of us want to turn into the living embodiment of “I am feel uncomfortable when we are not about me?”, I thought I’d share two of my favorite tips for talking a little less (or just a bit more effectively) from the book here.

01. Stay out of the weeds

Getting into the weeds when you’re talking means you’ve lost the main path of a story, and are instead “wandering aimlessly in a field of trivial details.” Here’s more from Headlee:

“Getting into the weeds often sounds like this: ‘We went to Italy in 2006. No, was it 2007? Wait, it must have been 2005 because it was just after I took that job in Boston. I think that’s right. Sharon would know for sure.’ By the time you get back to the real story, your friend is staring at you with glassy eyes and considering making a break for it to get a latte.

The business psychiatrist Mark Goulston says we only have about 40 seconds to speak during a conversation before we run the risk of dominating the exchange. He describes the first 20 seconds as the green light, when the other person likes you and is enjoying what you have to say. The next 20 seconds are the yellow light, when ‘the other person is beginning to lose interest or think you’re long-winded.’ At 40 seconds, Goulston says, the light turns read and it’s time to stop talking.

Take a moment to gauge just how long 40 seconds is. Look at the second hand on your clock or watch, start to tell a story, and stop when you’ve hit 40 seconds. That’s not a lot of time! If you waste it with superfluous detail, you’ll never get to the meat of your message.”

FORTY SECONDS!!! That is…not very many seconds! Here’s Headlee again:

“We can also end up there when we feel compelled to correct the fine print of someone else’s story. Imagine a friend is telling you about a scary skiing accident. He says that after he was airlifted to the nearest hospital, he received an emergency MRI to see if his ribs were broken. You jump in and say, ‘Well actually, the MRI wouldn’t show your ribs. An MRI only shows soft tissues. Are you sure it wasn’t an X-ray?’ You have just steered a conversation (and possibly a friendship) into the weeds.

The onus is on you to determine what information is essential and what is unnecessary. That can be difficult sometimes. But if you’re thinking about it, you’re already making progress. All too often, we continue to spout information without consciously considering if we should.

The next time you find yourself providing a lot of detail about a personal matter, take a close look at the other person’s face. Are they looking at something else besides you? Are they stifling a yawn? If so, they might be trying to escape. Forget about what year you bought your first Toyota, and move the story along. Your friends, family, coworkers, baristas, and cashiers will thank you.”

02. No repeats

I once had a boss tell me, “Take yes for an answer.” He was basically saying, I agree with you, you’ve won me over — why are you still talking about it? The comment made me a lot more aware of the ways I might be repeating myself in conversations, regardless of whether the other person is saying yes, no, or something else entirely.

Here’s Headlee on this topic (Italics mine):

“Repetition is the conversational equivalent of marching in place. It’s not interesting and it doesn’t move the conversation forward. We sometimes assume repeating information helps drill it into someone’s head. After all, we’re taught from a young age to repeat the information we want to learn. … These types of repetition [e.g, flash cards, repeating dates in your head] help you to retain new types of learning for one key reason: you’re the one repeating the information. Research shows that when we repeat something multiple times, it ups our chances of remembering it. The benefit increases if we repeat that information to another person, but the benefit isn’t shared with the person listening. So if you’re in a meeting and you repeat a deadline to your team four times, you’ll probably remember it well but your team members are no more likely to retain it than if you’d mentioned it only once.”

Basically: if you’re repeating yourself because you don’t feel like you’re being heard, well…you’re probably not doing yourself any favors. “Often, when someone hears the same thing for a second and third time, they think, ‘I already know this,’ and they stop listening,” Headlee says. So, why do we do keep doing it? Headlee says it’s often the result of wanting to keep a conversation going, but having nothing new to add.

Repetition is particularly noxious when you’re repeating negative statements. If you’re upset with someone and just keep saying, “You fucked up and I feel away about it” over and over again, they are likely going to get frustrated and tune you out — not suddenly have a light bulb moment and apologize the fifth time you say it.

And it doesn’t even have to be direct criticism to make the other person feel bad; even if you’re not saying “you, personally, fucked up,” repeating a negative comment about a situation can still bring the other person down. For example, if your friend selected a restaurant for lunch and then the server was rude, your order came out cold, and they forgot to bring you the refill you asked for…and you just keep repeating “ugh, this sucks” and “I’m so disappointed” and “I can’t believe how terrible that service was” over and over again…it can start to feel like criticism to your friend, who feels responsible for your displeasure, even if it’s clearly not their fault.

Here’s Headlee again:

“Try to become aware of how often you repeat yourself, and think about what might be prompting you to do it. Do you feel like you’re not getting the acknowledgement you need from the other person? Has he or she failed to follow through on things in the past? Are there too many distractions present when you’re trying to have a conversation (i.e., saying something important while your kid is playing a video game might not be a good idea)? Are you prone to ramble in your conversations?

Over the next few weeks, get into the habit of pausing for a couple of seconds before you respond to someone. Before you repeat yourself, take a moment to find something new to say. You can even ask your friends to tell you when you’re repeating something. I had my son say ‘echo’ every time I started repeating things, and after hearing it a few dozen times, I began to break the habit.”


The whole book is very good; I really recommend it, especially if you’re a manager! You might also want to check out Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk: 10 ways to have a better conversation. ✨

🍑

The joy of Friday Jr.

My friend Sally and I are kind of obsessed with Bitmojis. We send them back and forth to each other a lot, and delight in finding new ones that are particularly silly and/or useful.

For example, here’s our exchange from the first time I completed the New York Times crossword:

text.jpg

And here’s the start of a Monday morning text convo:

Monday texts.jpg

And one from earlier this week:

IMG_5474.jpg

But our all-time favorite Bitmoji, hands down, is the Friday Jr. Bitmoji.

Friday Jr.jpg

After Sally discovered it a couple of years ago, we started sending it to each other every week. One of us would text our version of it, and then the other would reply with her version of it. We do this pretty much every Thursday and it…never gets old. As Sally put it, “I feel like Thursdays were already just conceptually great, but in a way that we didn’t as a culture fully appreciate until Friday Jr. was invented.”

We also can’t get over the idea of calling the day before a different day “junior,” and have taken to applying the underlying logic to many other dates and events. Consider this: Christmas Eve is actually Christmas Jr. (And December 23 is Christmas Eve Jr.) Saturday is Sunday Jr. and May is Pride Jr.

The junior convention has caught on in our bigger friend group, and our partners now use it regularly too. (My favorite Friday Jr. exchange was the time I texted Sally the Bitmoji — fairly early on in our FJ history, if I recall correctly — and she replied that at the exact moment my text came through, her wife had said, unprompted from across the room, “Hey girl — it’s Friday Jr.” )

I enjoy Bitmoji unironically; I like texting, but sometimes it’s hard to communicate “I received your message, and I feel neutral-posi toward its contents” without having tone and body language to rely on. And if you text a lot, there are only so many times you can say “ooh” in reply to something before you start to worry it looks like you’re not paying attention. A well-deployed Bitmoji helps! Also, a lot of my friends have mentioned that they find Bitmojis are particularly helpful for communicating with parents — particularly parents whose first language isn’t English — and other family members.

I asked Sally to share her thoughts on Bitmojis as I was working on this, and here’s what she said:


"Sometimes Bitmoji express feelings that I otherwise wouldn't know how to express — like you know that joke where people are like ‘what is the German word for [complex feeling with five different distinct constituent feelings]’? This is a thing Bitmoji do SO well — encapsulate feelings comprised of a cool 5-6 distinct feelings.

For example you have 'I H8 U' with a pic of your Bitmoji smiling gleefully. You have 'I helped' and one of the E's is backwards which is perfect for expressing 'I tried to help and I fucked it all up, my bad, but give me credit for helping.' Then you have the ones where the Bitmoji is doing the reaction WITH the emoji of that reaction — so like laughing so hard you're crying and one hand is on the laughing-so-hard-you're-crying emoji.

Also the fact that there are three different versions of a hump day Bitmoji — so that you can express exhaustion, elation, or perseverance — is truly amazing because those are the three ways to feel about Wednesdays which I didn't realize till Bitmoji told me!

The other thing they are amazing for is if you are communicating with someone who REALLY GETS YOU, you can use a weird Bitmoji and the person will so get the spirit in which you mean it. It just gives you another way to express yourself."

I would love for some enterprising tech journalists to do a deep dive on how Bitmoji designs happen — the main people responsible for them, which ones are the most popular, which ones users hated, which ones caused the most internal debate, etc. — and I would love to know who is responsible for our beloved Friday Jr. and what inspired them.

Until then, happy Friday Jr.! ✨

🍑

The eight types of friends

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

Image: Kiyana Salkeld / Just Good Shit

While doing research for my book this week, I came across author Tom Rast’s list of the eight most common friend types (from his book Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without) and thought it was really cute/interesting.

Here’s an overview of the eight friend types Rast defines:

  1. The Builder

    Builders are friends who motivate you, invest in your development, and truly want you to succeed — even if it means they have to go out on a limb for you. These friends help you see your strengths and advise you on how best to use them.

  2. The Champion

    Champions stand up for you and your beliefs, and they sing your praises. They are the friends who "have your back" and who will advocate for you even when you're not around.

  3. The Collaborator

    Collaborators are friends with similar interests — the basis for many great friendships. Shared interests are what often make Collaborators lifelong friends and those with whom you are most likely to spend your time.

  4. The Companion

    Companions are always there for you, whatever the circumstances. When something big happens in your life — good or bad — these are the people you call first.

  5. The Connector

    These friends get to know you and then instantly work to connect you with others who will share your interests or goals. They extend your network dramatically and give you access to new resources.

  6. The Energizer

    Energizers are your fun friends who always boost your spirits and create more positive moments in your life. They pick you up when you're down and can turn a good day into a great day.

  7. The Mind Opener

    Mind openers expand your horizons and introduce you to new ideas, opportunities, cultures, and people. They challenge you to think in innovative ways and allow you to express opinions that you might be uncomfortable articulating to others.

  8. The Navigator

    Navigators are friends who give you advice and keep you headed in the right direction. You seek them out when you need guidance and counsel — they're great at talking through your options.

(Read the full descriptions and an interview with Rast here. I thought the results of his research about the importance of work friendships were super interesting.)

I immediately sent this list to a bunch of my friends to see what role they think they tend to play in their friendships. I’m mostly a Navigator, with some aspects of the Builder. I really like this list as a tool for recognizing the different ways you show up for people and as a reminder that most friends won’t be the end-all, be-all friend in our lives — and that’s completely OK. ✨

🍑

A modest proposal: Take notes when you’re hanging out with friends

FullSizeRender.jpg

I’ve written before about my friend Julia’s Ladies Article Club, which I’ve had the pleasure of attending on a couple of occasions when I’ve been in D.C. visiting her. I love a lot of things about it, but one of my favorite aspects is that someone always takes notes during the gathering. The note-taker writes down anything that comes up during the conversation that warrants some kind of follow-up — so basically, if someone mentions a product or a recipe or a podcast episode or a good Instagram account, the note-taker adds it to her list. Then she’ll start an email thread with everyone later on to collect/share the items mentioned.

I’ve always thought this idea was so smart and efficient, and I’ve started doing it more when hanging out with friends — even, just, like, during a coffee date. I like doing it because it’s practical, but also because writing these items down in my journal creates a mini diary entry about the hangout/the conversation.


Last month, I was at my friend Emily’s apartment for a little friend dinner party, and when she mentioned a book she liked, I said, “Wait, I’m going to write down the stuff we talk about so I can look it up later.” I pulled out my notebook and pen and Jess said, “Welcome to Rachel’s meeting,” and everyone laughed. AND YET! An hour or so later, Emily asked me where my pullover and my socks were from, and when I told her, she said, “Wait, I want to write all this down,” and took out her phone and opened the Notes app. And later that night, after we’d all gone home, Jess texted the group and said, “Who is sending out the meeting notes?” And we all sent around the things that we’d discussed and made note of.

I always think I’m going to remember all the things I mention or that my friend mentions when we’re hanging out, but when you’re with smart/well-read/interesting people, that’s basically impossible. Just take notes! ✍🏽

🍑