Over the years, women have come to me wanting to know how they can cultivate more meaningful relationships with other women.
They tell me they’re tired of the same old surface level conversation, the automatic default to complaining about their partners or their job, gossiping about other women, or the dreaded social awkwardness that can come with new or different social situations with other women.
Yes, there is a certain comfort in talking about the weather or what happened on The Bachelor last night, but deep down…they/she/you/I am craving a deeper, more meaningful connection with the woman on the nearby mat in yoga class, or at school pickup, or in the cubicle down the way.
To get to know who someone is on the inside – to hear her story and know her heart – and be able to share all of yourself too is something that has me taking a deep breath just thinking about it. What freedom!
Meaningful connection is something so many of us deeply crave in our lives, but can feel so scary to dive into.
What if we’re judged? What if we’re mocked? What if we’re straight up rejected?
“It can be so hard to talk about living meaningfully with others without sounding like a crazy person,” said one woman to me recently.
I felt her words in my belly as soon as I heard them, because I know them well.
Growing up, I was often called weird by girlfriends when I would bring up unconventional topics or talk about complicated emotions. Looking back on those moments, I can see how the little girl me felt rejection and other-ness by being called that word. For whatever reason, those women were uncomfortable with what I had to say. And, because I deeply desired to feel accepted by them, I allowed that word to affect me so much that I put a lid on my curiosities and desires for many years.
Years later, I found out that the word weird has ancient roots including the Anglo Saxon word wyrd and Old Norse word Urðr – all meaning fate or destiny. So really, when those girls were calling me weird, they were truth tellers about who I truly was at my core.
It is so important that we make meaningful connections with women, even if it means we risk being “weird”.
Because there was a time when women communed together in a way we don’t anymore. They lived in spaces of trust and support – helping to birth each other’s babies, make nourishing meals, tend to sickness with age old remedies, bleed during their moons, and provide additional support wherever it was needed.
These feminine spaces were safe, so the women could wail and moan and rage and fall apart with each other knowing they were held and supported.
Please don’t mourn the loss of this level of trust and compassion in female relationships today. Instead, I invite you to join me in bringing it back – in helping all of us remember the ways of sisterhood.
It all starts with listening.
A huge part of cultivating a safe space to be vulnerable and connect in a deeper way is by purely listening – without an agenda, without a solution. This is also called witnessing.
It’s just like it sounds – when you are a witness to someone, you aren’t intervening in their own process.
It doesn’t mean giving advice or offering your take on the situation. When you witness, you are simply observing and saying “yes I see you.”
This was tough for me to understand at first. It felt like it was going against my compassionate, helpful nature to sit and watch someone else suffer. If I was worried, I would intervene. I would proudly be the first girl to offer a box of tissues to the sobbing girlfriend.
But by sitting quietly and observing someone else’s struggle, you are creating space around them to allow them to work through their own process. You get to open your heart and watch them open up more and more until they can see what needs to be healed in order to transform. To be fully present to another woman’s experience is the greatest gift you can give her.
Feeling ready to start some meaningful conversations with your girlfriends?
Here are some conversation starters inspired by and sourced from Alexandra Franzen to help you get started. Pick a few and then feel your way through with the women you’re with. You got this.
- Are you living your life purpose — or still searching?
- Can you tell when someone is telling the truth?
- Do you believe in magic? When have you felt it?
- Do you ever hunt for answers or omens in dreams?
- Do you ever yearn for your life, before Facebook?
- Do you have a morning ritual?
- Do you have any irrational fears?
- Do you have any physical features that you try to cloak or hide? How come?
- Do you like to be saved — or do the saving?
- Do you think we should live like we’re dying?
- Do you think we’re designed for monogamy? (Why or why not?)
- Do you think you’re currently operating at 100% capacity?
- Have you ever fantasized about changing your first name? To what?
- Have you ever had a psychic reading? Did you believe it? Was it accurate?
- Have you ever pushed your body further than you dreamed possible?
- Have you ever unplugged from the Internet for more than a week?
- How do you engage with panhandlers on the street?
- How do you reign in self-critical voices?
- If social media didn’t exist, how would your life be different?
- If you could custom blend a perfume or cologne, what would it include?
- If you were to die three hours from now, what would you regret most?
- If you wrote romance novels or erotic fiction, what would your “pen name” be?
- What do you value most: free time, recognition, or money?
- What is your spirit animal?
- What was the best part of your day, so far?
- What’s in your fridge, right this moment?
- What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of — but would never put on your résumé?
- What’s your recipe for recuperating from extreme heartbreak?
- When was the last time you astonished yourself?
- Would you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?
- What are you most grateful for, right now, in this moment?
I want to hear from you!
How’s your relationship with the women in your life? Do you have any go-to questions you like to ask at girls night or on coffee dates that help you go deeper?
Share in the comments below.
Photo by Rosa Delgado