Sustainably Productive Friendships & Relationships

Healthy Relationships are part of a Sustainably Productive life. Isolation can interrupt sleep, increase blood pressure and cortisol (the stress hormone), and suppress the immune system. Cultivating these relationships can sometimes be tricky as there are several categories these relationships could fall into. The three I want to dive into more are Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. The initial discussion on these three relationships was on Episode 16 of the Conscious Contact podcast. I had a lot of thoughts swirling around since then. I want to go into more detail here with you today. 

Think of these categories (Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors) as existing in concentric circles – like a bulls eye. The outer most ring is what the world pelts at us – social media, our local community, our workplace, TV, etc. It is appropriate to have differing levels of intimacy – different relationships on each ring of the bulls eye. But the inside of that bulls eye is closest to the core of you, the true version of yourself that even you might not have fully become aware of yet. 

Who gets access to that inner circle these days? Is that working for you? Is this something you can sustain lifelong if you choose to? The idea is not to make all of your relationships the deepest, it is to know what that relationship is for you and if it needs to slide back a ring. Be true to yourself and your need for connection. 

Let’s take a closer look at each ring.

Influencers

This is the outermost category of your bulls eye. These are the most impersonal relationships. Don’t get me wrong – I love the entertainment industry. I think we all need entertainment in our lives. But have a clear understanding of what those relationships are and be conscious of what you are allowing to seep in.

Online Influencers are the people who are given money or material items to get your eyeballs on a product in hopes you will shell out the cash. We don’t actually have the truth about whether they know, like or trust the product – just that they got something to tell you about it. You don’t know their true intention.

In the real world, influencers exist as well. I remember the first several visits I made to the kids’ elementary school after I first became step-mother. When I got dressed, walked in, and interacted with everyone I had a certain type of woman in mind. I was influenced by “good mothers” that I had seen dropping off their cherubs and volunteering. 

The truth is that I had zero connection with those mothers. Honestly – I don’t even know if they WERE mothers. They could have been teachers, staff, nannies or aunts. I was telling myself a story about what I saw, not necessarily about what I experienced

Fake Friends

When you take a step closer to your core, you encounter the category I call Fake Friends. Stay with me on this and focus on the Friend part, rather than the Fake part. I define a Fake Friend as someone I consider my friend, but they don’t actually know 1) I exist and/or 2) that they are my friend.

The examples I used on the podcast are Jessica Turner (you can read more about her here), Laura Tremaine (linked here), and Kendra Adachi (her podcast is linked here). I dedicate time each week to bond with my online Fake Friends as they release content for me to read and listen to.

Click on the image above to go to the Fake Friends episode to hear the original discussion about Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors.

But let me give you a few examples a little closer to my own life. The librarian I talk to on the regular when I pick up my books is doing her job. I assure you that she does not think about me for one more second once I print my book receipt and get out of her hair. But you cannot recommend such good books to me and not be my friend. I have that connection with  a few farmers at the market and Amanda at the yarn store. Here is the difference: My online Fake Friends and my real life Fake Friends have shared enough with me to know we have some kind of connection. 

Yarn store Amanda knows basics about my dad’s health stuff because she helped me pick out a knitting project and yarn to keep me going while I was in Indiana for an extended time. Then she shared some of her stuff to let me know she related to my situation. 

I was honest with a couple farmers about not liking vegetables, knowing zilch about prepping them, but showed interest in learning both. They shared about people in their family who did not eat what they grew either and suggested ways to get around that. 

Online is no different – Jessica, Laura and Kendra (we are on first name basis, naturally) have all shared some hard stuff and associated lessons in their writing and on podcasts. And Jessica even on the Today Show! I am sure there is more to each of their stories. I am sure there is stuff they do not share publicly. This is where the Fake part comes in. I am not deranged, I know these are not real friendships. But they are a part of the concentric circles of relationships. 

There is one more section to cover today – the people I call Mentors. 

Mentors

This is the inner most circle to your bulls eye. Your most trusted group of relationships – the ones that perhaps have seen you cry and / or vice versa. Sometimes my brain gets a little sideways and knowing I can run my reactions and responses by someone else who knows the body count is helpful. I call this my personal Board of Directors. 

These are relationships that I have in real life. Trusted women (plus Bixby) that I can bounce ideas off of. Bonus – I know the response coming back is filled with love, respect, and truth in a way that I can hear it. Couple things about this.

1) Yes, all women except my husband. For a long time I did not trust, truly know or like many women. This has shifted as I got older, and I cherish the women in my life now. 

2) My Board of Directors tells me the truth in a way I can hear it. This means they know me well enough to know what that means. Not the kiss and kick method of delivering feedback at work. Not a dump and run when and how it works for the message deliverer. Together we work through some hard shit. Emphasis on together. 

In summary, I want to suggest that you be aware of the relationships in your life and if they are helping you create a Sustainably Productive life. Stay connected to yourself in all of your relationships so that you can stay true to yourself. 

Sustainable Productivity Questions

1 – As with all things Sustainably Productive, I encourage you to start where you are. Think of dividing life into a pie chart. At the very minimum, a Sustainably Productive life would have equal division of Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. Literally get a scrap piece of paper, draw a circle. Think about who you spent time with in the last 7 days. Which categories do these people fall into?

2 – How do you feel about this division? If the division is not working for you, what relationships fall into the category you want to impact first? Just identify what is not working. Small steps lead to bigger change.

If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

By |2022-09-07T20:02:27-04:00September 13th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Making Extremism Sustainably Productive

Recently my cohost and I unpacked Extremism on the Conscious Contact podcast. Extremism is the idea of choosing a side and believing the other side is garbage. It is black and white thinking that often dismisses the whole other argument, not even considering there could be a thread of value. 

This was not a super comfortable discussion for me, and I was not looking forward to it as the day of recording approached. 

For decades my MO was to skim along the surface of a discussion long enough to be socially acceptable, then bolt. Ironically those are also the decades where I had no opinions of my own. In all of my relationships (as a daughter, employee, partner, friend) I liked what you liked. I believed what you believed.

Spoiler Alert: This is not the sign of a functional relationship. 

“When we avoid difficult conversations, we trade short-term discomfort for long-term dysfunction.” Peter Bromberg

Difficult conversations and disagreements are a natural part of healthy relationships. And healthy relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being dimension of Sustainable Productivity. When we return to our basic definition of Sustainable Productivity, this tracks. Take for example, 20 to 40 year old Sue and her go along to get along attitude. 

Is it Productive: Are you getting the result you want?

Is it Sustainable: Can you continue lifelong if you want?

Along the surface, sure – being agreeable was getting people to like me. But they were really just liking the Sue that agreed with them – not necessarily the real me. Taking it a step further, today I believe that not knowing the real me is also not sustainable.

That is how this whole writing and podcasting thing was born. I started making small adjustments to live a life I did not need to escape. One of those is having hard conversations with people who I trust and feel safe with.

Here are a few things that help me have these difficult conversations. Maybe they will help you too.

1 – Acknowledge out loud the conversation is hard for you. Verbalizing that the words are stuck in my throat helps the other person understand what the pauses mean and why my words are coming slowly.

2 – Breathe. Often my first thought is wrong. Breathing gives me a chance to respond using my second (or third) thought instead of reacting. Breathing also loosens the words stuck in my throat. Bonus if I am in a setting where I don’t feel ok to cry. Breathing will even out my voice to avoid the crack that always comes when I am emotional. 

3 – Set a time limit. If you don’t think ahead to set a certain amount of time to talk and you find yourself needing a break, voice that. I have said, “I need to take a break here. I want to hear more of what you have to say, can we come back together at 5pm to talk about this again?”

Now it is your turn. Take a few minutes to answer the following questions – either in your journal, in your mind on your daily dog walk, email me at Susan@SustainableSue.com or on social media. The more we talk about the hard things, the less extreme they will feel. 

Sustainable Productivity Questions

1 – Are there topics in your life where you trend toward Extremism?

2 – After listening to the podcast (Season 2, Episode 13), is there one small adjustment you can take to your relationships to make them more work for you in a way you can continue?

Click the icon above to go to listen to the Extremism episode.
By |2022-08-22T10:53:04-04:00August 23rd, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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