How to Make Life-Changing Friendships | Spotlight Convo

Marisa Franco

Mia Birdsong

Joy Harden BradfordFriendship is one of those things where we all know, deep down, how important it is. And there’s even a ton of research showing it’s about the most important thing when it comes to living a good life. And, yet, once we’re adults, all too often, those chosen family-level friends tends to drift away. And, we get so wrapped up in life, we kind of forget or become nervous about trying to make new “summer camp level” friends. So, we pretend it doesn’t really matter as much as it does.

And, we end up swirling in loneliness and disconnection, adrift, and longing for deeper bonds. We crave spaces where we can drop our armor and be seen, known, and supported. Well, if you want to transform how you show up for others and invite more reciprocity, care, and belonging into your own life, then this is the conversation for you.

My extraordinary guests today are three relationship innovators, offering vital new perspectives on community, togetherness, and friendship. First, writer and activist Mia Birdsong, whose luminous book, How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community, inspires us to question assumptions and reimagine diverse, expansive relationships beyond the isolated nuclear family model.

Next, psychologist Dr. Marisa Franco, whose research-backed Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make – And Keep – Friends, shares revelatory insights on moving past barriers to forge vulnerable, fulfilling adult friendships.

Finally, therapist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, whose empowering, Sisterhood Heals: The Transformative Power of Friendship beautifully illuminates the soul-nourishing magic that unfolds when circles of black women gather to uplift each other.

Through vivid stories, expansive wisdom and practical guidance, these three changemakers leave us feeling deeply hopeful about the power of showing up with heart for ourselves and others. Join us for an uplifting exploration of how to nurture bonds of platonic love that help us thrive.

Episode Transcript

You can find Mia at: Website | Instagram | Listen to Our Full-Length Convo with Mia

You can find Marisa at: Website | Instagram | Listen to Our Full-Length Convo with Marisa

You can find Joy at: Website | Instagram | Therapy for Black Girls podcast | Listen to Our Full-Length Convo with Joy

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photo credit: Nye’Lyn Tho, Dante Corinaldi, Carol Lee Rose of Colurwork


Episode Transcript:

Marisa Franco: [00:00:00] Friendship in adulthood is not like friendship in childhood. You cannot rely on the same set of assumptions. Friendship and adulthood does not happen organically. I’m going to repeat that it does not happen organically. You have to try, right? And I think people are so afraid of rejection. But the reality is people are less likely to reject you than you think. Like, we have this whole culture of lonely people looking for connection, you know, and I think sometimes we assume everybody has their friends when, you know, the data is telling us, no, they do not.


Jonathan Fields: [00:00:32] Soooooo, friendship. It is one of those things where we all know deep down how important it is. And there’s even a ton of research showing it’s about the most important thing when it comes to living a good life. And yet, once we’re adults, all too often those chosen family-level friends, they tend to drift away. And we get so wrapped up in life we kind of forget or become nervous about trying to make new like summer camp level friends. So we pretend, oh, it really just doesn’t matter as much as it does, except it does. And we end up swirling in loneliness and disconnection and drift and longing for deeper bonds. We crave spaces where we can drop our armor and be seen and known and supported. Well, if you want to transform how you show up for others and invite more reciprocity and care and belonging and love into your life, this is the conversation for you. My extraordinary guests are three relationship innovators offering vital new perspectives on community and togetherness and friendship. First, writer and activist Mia Birdsong, whose luminous book How We Show Up Reclaiming Family, Friendship and Community inspires us to question assumptions and reimagine diverse, expansive relationships beyond the isolated nuclear family model. And next up, we’ve got psychologist doctor Marisa Franco, whose research backed Platonic How the Science of Attachment Can Help You make and Keep friends, shares these revelatory insights on moving past barriers to forge vulnerable, fulfilling adult friendships. And finally, you’ll hear from therapist doctor Joy Harden Bradford, who’s empowering sisterhood heals the transformative power of friendship just beautifully illuminates the soul-nourishing magic that unfolds when circles of black women gather to uplift each other, and what we can all learn from the notion of circles through vivid stories, expansive wisdom and practical guidance, these three changemakers leave us feeling deeply hopeful about the power of showing up with heart for ourselves and others. So join us for an uplifting exploration of how to nurture bonds of platonic love that help us thrive. So excited to share this conversation with you!


Jonathan Fields: [00:02:42] And one last thing before we dive into today’s conversation, I want to share a fun new project that I have created for you. It’s a way to feel more alive and less alone. So after taking a years-long hiatus from public writing, I’m back and with a new weekly newsletter and community called Awake At the Wheel. So every Sunday morning in your inbox, you’ll get a new story and insight written by me, along with a journaling and conversation prompt designed to help you feel more alive and less alone. And hey, even if you’re not a journaler, it’ll give you something to think about so that you can step into your week in a more intentional way. And just on a personal level, I am just so excited to get back to writing in a more personal, vulnerable, long-form way. It would mean the world to me if you would support this new project. So go check out the latest stories and insights and see what this week’s writing and conversation prompt is. Now. I think you’ll really like it. I’ll see you over at awake at the wheel. Just click the link in the show notes. Now I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project.


Jonathan Fields: [00:03:46] Hey, so our first guest is writer and activist Mia Birdsong in her conversation with me. Mia challenges us to move beyond the idea that family has to mean just the traditional family structure. And she really illuminates how, for most of human history, we lived interdependently in extended families and tribes. I found her perspective on why the modern nuclear family structure leaves so many wanting, just really deeply thought-provoking and also inspiring. Mia provides this expansive reimagining of how we can build diverse relationships and community in ways that nurture all of our needs. Through vivid stories and insights, she really reveals practical ways that we can show up for each other and foster true intimacy and care and belonging in our lives. I came away inspired to be more intentional about strengthening the connections that matter most. Her message just resonated deeply, and I know it will for you too. Here is Mia.


Mia Birdsong: [00:04:41] Human beings, we are wired for connection. We cannot survive without each other. We are deeply interdependent and we are meant to be in community with each other. Even the most like hermetic person needs other people for something.


Jonathan Fields: [00:04:58] Yeah, and I completely agree. This idea of new community and also really reimagining when we talk about not just community but family. Mhm. Like what do we mean by that. What do we mean by by friends. What do we mean by family. What do we mean by extended family. And and like you were saying like what are the models that we can look to right now to learn from which I’d love to explore a little bit. Yeah. This has really been the focus of the last chunk of years for you. Um, and I’m curious also, you know, because I think what really step one is, is this question, you know, like reimagining, well, what is it that actually makes for a good family or a good community?


Mia Birdsong: [00:05:38] You know, I have. So I ask people this all the time. I’m like, what makes what like what makes a good family? The first thing everyone says is love. Um, and then they talk about, you know, people who will be there for you. They talk about people who care about you, people who will support you. Um, and like, you know, if you’re trying to do something new, like, they’ll support you in that. No one ever talks about structure. No one ever is like, what makes a good like, a really good family is that you have a man and a woman who are married and they have biological children. No one has ever said that to me. I think all of us fundamentally know that it is the function of family that is important, not the structure. And the fact is that the kind of insular nuclear family is a very recent invention. Um, the idea that two people will provide, like all of the things that we need from human beings, that we would get it from, like one other adult and that two people can raise children is just like, on its face, absurd. Like that’s never in human history ever been the case. We’ve always had extended families. We’ve always had chosen family. We’ve always had family with people who are like in our tribe, who we weren’t necessarily biologically related to. We have always. And when I, you know, I’m talking about like thousands of years of human history, we’ve always collectively raised children. So the the nuclear family really is this like bizarre, unnatural anomaly. And it is not serving us because, you know, unless you. Are the very small percentage of people who has one person in your life who can be, you know, the person who you are romantically and sexually attracted to and then like, actually have good sex with the person who you can be roommates with and manage a household with, and co-mingle your finances and travel with, and be your best friend and your confidant.


Mia Birdsong: [00:07:38] And then if you have kids, raise kids with like that is too many roles for two people to fill, to both fill for each other. So, you know, what I see is that a lot of folks who are trying to do that are deeply unhappy because they’re not actually getting their needs met and they don’t recognize. And this is particularly true of straight men, and they don’t really recognize that there are other ways for them to get some of those needs met. You know, like, I’m a terrible roommate, like my you know, my husband and I have lived together for like 20 years, but in some other configuration of our marriage, and in a world where housing was not so incredibly expensive, like it might be better for us to like, you know, live in a duplex, and I could make my mess upstairs and he could keep his, you know, part neat downstairs. So part of it is about reimagining, but part of it is also recognizing that we actually used to do something else. So I think of it as both kind of understanding and looking to like our ancestral history and seeing how, you know, our people did things before and then reimagining those structures and ways of being in relationship with each other for. A modern life, right? So for what actually fits our lives.


Jonathan Fields: [00:08:56] Yeah. So it’s more it’s really more of a, um, questioning of why why we’re doing it the way we’re doing it when we have so much history of doing it differently and very arguably experiencing our lives in so many different ways and levels better. Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting because also there’s. There’s this expectation that set. I think now that, you know, if you should, you know, quote should be able to get everything you need from this nuclear family. And you don’t, you know, you’re feeling lonely, you’re feeling stressed, you’re feeling overwhelmed. All the different things that, you know, like pretty much everyone tends to feel at some part of their journey in this sort of like small, tight family. If you don’t feel those, then you judge yourself a failure.


Mia Birdsong: [00:09:44] Exactly.


Jonathan Fields: [00:09:45] And then you layer on top of that the sense of shame, which just makes things worse.


Mia Birdsong: [00:09:49] And then I think people end up being silent about it. Right? They don’t talk about it. They don’t have the conversations they need to with their partner about, like what they can actually do for each other. And never mind, like if you’re not, if you don’t have a partner, right, then what are you supposed to do? There are all of these ways in which our our culture, our the design of like, you know, houses and cars and certainly all the like benefits that exist in our culture are really created for and orient us toward the insular nuclear family. And there are a hell of single people in America who are having to just, like, navigate systems that weren’t made for us and who are having to kind of exist in a culture that says that they’re a failure. Right. That says that there’s something wrong with them. And not only is it saying that, but but lots of folks also internalize that and assume that there’s something wrong with them, or feel as if their life is incomplete because they don’t have a partner or they, you know, used to and now they don’t. One of the stories in, um, my book that I love is, um, my friend Deanna, who does not have a romantic sexual partner, but like her and her friend Cynthia are each other’s plus one.


Mia Birdsong: [00:10:59] They talk about retirement, they text each other every day. They, um, have made this friendship that they have fill the role that many people look to a romantic and sexual partner for. And they both, you know, date people and have, you know, have had other relationships, um, romantic and sexual relationships. But this friendship between them is, is primary. And I just love the model of that. And largely like so much of so many of the stories that I tell in the book, and the book is, you know, mostly stories. It’s mostly the stories that I, I found that helped me understand and answer the questions that I had about creating family and community. They’re just they’re just these, these models that they’re not like blueprints for us. Right? They’re not like, oh, like, this is what this person did. I’m going to go and replicate it. But it really is about, um, having enough examples that allow us to expand our understanding of what’s possible, and then we can kind of get into our own, you know, personal inquiry about what is it that I actually want in my life.


Mia Birdsong: [00:12:02] Right. One of the things that I learned from a bunch of the folks who I talked to about friendship was about kind of like getting rid of the the very narrow confines of how we think about what a friendship is and what it’s for. And I think about the people who I consider close friends and like, be in conversation with them about like, what is the culture of our friendship? Like what are the expectations we have of each other? What can we count on each other for? What are the boundaries that we have? And that’s expanded the relationships I have with those people into places that do not fit into, you know, kind of the the American box of what we say a friend is. And I love the depth of those relationships. I love the kind of intimacy that that’s created between me and folks, both because we’re like, we’re actually having conversations about our relationship, but also because we realize like, oh, here’s a here’s a thing that we want from this, this relationship that is not that we wouldn’t have discovered if we hadn’t had this conversation about, like, how do we be friends? How do we be friends?


Jonathan Fields: [00:13:06] Yeah, I mean, it’s you’re really blurring the line, you know, so instead of, you know, okay, so here’s the box for family. Here’s the box for friends, here’s the box for acquaintances. It’s just saying, okay, so let’s throw it up against the wall. And let’s fundamentally ask the question, what do I want and need from the relationships in my life? What am I open to giving? And then how do I how do I just construct it in a way from like the the universe of people who are in my orbit? Exactly. That feels good. That gives me and that gives them what they need. And whether we call that family, whether we call it friends, who really cares at that point. But that requires I mean, it really requires, especially in in a world today where you’ve got this, you’ve got real separations, right? You’ve got a lot of people who go the traditional family route because maybe they feel it’s right for them. And very often part of that involves pulling away from all of those people who not long before, really did serve a lot of those same roles. And now they become more isolated. They start to expect they get everything from the traditional family and then the friends that they’re moving away from feel like, okay, so now I’m no longer in the yeah, I’m no longer part of that family, but I’m also no longer a part of the bigger community of people. Who decided that this is the model of of what family looks like for them anymore. And now you feel like and society as, as you mentioned, you know, like kind of labels them to a certain extent and says, well, you’re you’re not doing it right because you’re not there yet. And it just creates more divide. So I mean, talk about really needing to have intentional, open conversation and making this a very intentional action process. I mean, it’s so important you can’t just wait for it to happen and hope it does.


Mia Birdsong: [00:14:43] No, there’s a there’s a I mean, you’re you’re essentially choosing to counter our culture. And doing that requires vigilance and tending, you know, so I’m, you know, I’m a cis woman and I’m married to a cis man like I am in a nuclear family. Right. And I think the the challenge that I, that I realized in doing this work that I is that I needed to be vigilant. Right. My husband and I need to be vigilant about making sure that we’re not closing ourselves off. So I’ve really had to create a regular practice of making sure that I’m, you know, having conversations with my loved ones about our relationships. I’m checking in with people. I’m, you know, I’m receiving when people check in with me, you know, one of the one of the most powerful. Threads throughout the whole book is about how allergic we are to asking for help and accepting help, and how powerful it is when we get over that. Offering support to folks I found is is so much more powerful for them when it’s specific. So instead of just people, you know, saying like, let me know if you need anything. I have been trying to insert myself into people’s lives, right? Crossing this, this like boundary that we think of in our friendships and trusting the intuition I have about what I know about people’s experience and who they are, and offering something that I actually think would be helpful.


Mia Birdsong: [00:16:16] So saying specifically, you know, um, I know you’ve been doing a lot of caretaking recently. Can I make, like, extra of what I’m making for dinner and bring it to you as opposed to saying, let me know if you need anything? And then I think the same has been true for me, like I’ve had, you know, I have a friend who in the beginning of Covid, she would text me in a couple of other people and say, hey, I’m going to the grocery store, do you need anything? And I felt my kind of resistance to saying yes when I knew that, like, I’m out of salt, right? And if like, I can’t, I can’t, I cannot cook without salt. So if I can get this one thing that that means I can, like, wait to go to the grocery store for another week, like, that’s actually helpful for me. So I have said yes every time she has texted because there’s always, you know, 1 or 2 things that I could use that would just bring ease to my life.


Mia Birdsong: [00:17:07] And this last time I actually texted her and I was like, hey, next time you go, will you get us coffee? Because I knew we were going to be out of coffee in a minute, and I would totally go to the store just to get coffee. But who wants to? Do you know who wants to do that? So there’s a way in which kind of creating that, that cycle of of support, both giving and receiving support lets us know each other more deeply and creates intimacy. And I feel so much more held and so much less isolated because of the, you know, the past couple of months, the way in which I feel like me and the people I’m in community with have, um, accepted support from each other and have offered support to each other. And like, that’s one of the things that I, that I’m excited to take outside of, you know, Covid is just like allowing people being vulnerable enough, right, to allow people to know me in that way and to be in my life in that way, and to encourage other people in my life to do the same.


Jonathan Fields: [00:18:06] Yeah. I mean, it’s I mean, being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be seen in a vulnerable state, even if it’s a mild thing, like, I need this, um, deepens relationships. Yeah. No, I love that. And one of the things that also comes up in the context of that, I think, is something that you speak to, um, which is this idea of. Yes. And there are moments also when you want to have boundaries. Um, but at the same time you can negotiate ways to interact with people. Um, I know one of the stories that you tell, I thought was a really fascinating way to approach is you talk a lot about also, um, family around food and kitchens and friendships and how that enables all sorts of different things and how on the one hand, it’s really nice to sometimes just have people drop by. But and then there are other times where you would feel like really intruded on, um, if somebody just swung by. And we certainly live in a culture now where nobody I know in New York City does that, you know. Yeah. If somebody just knocked on my door, even if it was a friend of mine and said, okay, hey, let’s hang out, it’d be awkward. Yeah, it’d be awkward. I’d be kind of annoyed. And I’m like, but it’s not that I don’t want to see them. It’s sort of like there’s a there’s a context and the way that you handle saying, okay, how do I make this to happen in a way where we all feel good and comfortable, I thought was really fascinating.


Mia Birdsong: [00:19:21] Yeah. So I, a friend of mine talked about the fact that she would love for people to drop by, and I was like, both like, yes, that would be great. And also like, oh hell no. Like, I don’t want people to showing up on my doorstep like I because like, if I don’t want to see them, that would just feel I would be annoyed, like you said. So I was like, I just need to create a container for like a window in which, like, people are free to drop by. So I created this thing called Drop by Dinner and I emailed like 20 people and it had a set of guidelines. And the first was, you know, I don’t know if I’m gonna remember all of them, but like, basically like I’m, I’m like, I’m not cleaning my house. I’m not preparing you a meal. You come over, bring something to add to, you know, the the nourishment that we’re going to have. I will give you whatever it is that I’m going to give my own children. But I’m not. This is not me. I’m not hosting. Right. So that was part of the the thing. I was like, you don’t have to RSVP. You can just show up. You can tell me you’re going to show up and show up. You can tell me you’re going to show up and then not show up and not explain it to me. It’s really like we’re not trying to kind of create, uh, replicate any kind of like.


Mia Birdsong: [00:20:31] Situation. I also made it clear that they could not bring anybody with them unless it was their kids, because I didn’t want child care to prevent people from showing up. But I also did not want to extend this experience to people like that. I didn’t actually feel comfortable coming by my house when it’s a mess. And then I was also like, don’t leave my house messier than you found it. I was like, clean the dishes, even if I tell you not to. So I sent it out to a handful of people, and I think 15 people showed up at the first one and it was spectacular. I was wearing my pajamas. I don’t think I had taken a shower that day. Um, everybody, you know, brought food. Some people had been to my house multiple times, so they knew where everything was, and some people had never been there before and just got support from other people and figuring out how to feed themselves and get what they needed. And I would just do it every few months and I would, you know, give people maybe a days notice or a week’s notice. And sometimes three people would show up, sometimes 15 people would show up. And having my community, like, collide in that way, right. Like the various parts of my community collide was fantastic. The conversations that we had were always really beautiful, and I loved the just the experience of having my loved ones in my home.


Jonathan Fields: [00:21:47] Yeah, I love that. I think it’s it’s I have a feeling that as we emerge from this space, that people are going to start to become more open to things like this. And I think I love the fact that you’re sort of out there right now planting the seed to reimagine models and ways to gather and ways to define friendship and family so that we can start to really think about this more intentionally. How do we want to step back into our relationships in our world and reimagine it and recreate it, which feels like a good place for us to come full circle as well? So hanging out here in this container of the Good Life project, if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?


Mia Birdsong: [00:22:25] Um, so many things. I think. There’s both. Kind of like my own. Personal growth and development that feels important to me and that that doesn’t happen outside the context of my loved ones and the examples they give me and the ways they support me, and that that doesn’t happen outside the context of the people that I feel in solidarity with. If I don’t, even if I don’t know them, and that that happens in the context of not just, you know, my kind of human relations, but all of our relations. One of the things that I’ve leaned more heavily on in this time of physical isolation is nature. Right? Like or the other parts of nature, because human beings are nature. I’m like, I can hug a tree. A tree is not going to give me a virus, right? And I’m not going to make it sick. So there is this web that I feel like connects me with. The people closest to me, my other relations that are close to me, and then ultimately all of us. And that to me, kind of being in right relationship with all of those things, feels like what it means to live a good life.


Jonathan Fields: [00:23:34] Mhm. Thank you.


Mia Birdsong: [00:23:35] Thank you.


Jonathan Fields: [00:23:36] And we’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors. Thanks so much to Mia. I love how she’s igniting a reimagining of what family and community can be, and given us so much to reflect on about how we show up for each other. Next up is Doctor Marissa Franco. She provides research-backed insights on transforming your relationships with empathy and with wisdom. She reveals how to overcome barriers to connection and just forge deeper bonds, which we all want and need now. Marissa’s own journey from grief over lost friendships to finding belonging powerfully illustrates her advice. I found myself nodding along as she explained, just really practical ways to initiate friendships, to resolve conflict and show up authentically for others. She leaves us more hopeful about the power of platonic love to heal isolation. Here’s Marissa. Your deep dive into not just the area of loneliness, but adult relationships and friendships and platonic relationships beyond romantic. You know, this has become a sustained professional devotion for you, and you’ve gone deep into the work. But it’s also personal. And a lot of it started in a very personal way.


Marisa Franco: [00:24:46] Yeah. I mean, for me, it was, um, you know, especially as a woman just receiving all these messages around romantic love is what makes you worthy. If you don’t have a romantic partner, you don’t have love. You’re not worthy. Something’s wrong with you. Right? And that made me really take when I went through these breakups when I was younger, it made me really take them hard and feel like so bad. And it definitely magnified my grief. And I decided to start this wellness group with my friends to feel better. Where we met up and every week we practiced wellness. It was meditating, it was cooking, it was doing yoga. It was eating cupcakes. It was cooking dinner for one another. And it was such a potent force in my life. Like, literally, it was so visceral. Every week I had these people that loved me, who I loved. And it just got to this, the point where I was like, I can’t deny that this is meaningful. I can’t deny that this is beautiful. I can’t deny the gravity of this form of love in my life when I have it being shown to me every week with this people, these people I feel so safe with. And it was for me looking around and thinking, I’ve been taught that this stuff doesn’t matter.


Marisa Franco: [00:25:56] I’ve been taught that it is ancillary, superfluous, unnecessary. I’ve been taught that I should center my life around a different form of love, and I felt like I had no love in my life. Right. And how does that make any sense when I have, like, all of these people that have loved me for such a long time? And so I just felt like, oh my gosh, these messages that I’ve received are so damaging, and I really feel like it’s just so important for me to unlearn them. And not just that. I think that my experience, like the personal, is political. You know, I think Audre Lorde says that that my experience reflects a larger societal, political kind of reality, right? That all of us have this, like, internalized, this internalized hierarchy, I’ll say, of relationships with these romantic relationships at the top. And I really began to question that hierarchy and to want to see, to want to give myself permission to see friendship for a sacred relationship that it could be, and to almost stop compartmentalizing love in a way. Right. It’s like it was almost like a fetishization of love. That romantic love is like this ideal, like this lofty ideal, right? Nothing comes close to it. And and now, obviously, having been through a lot more relationships, seeing that, um, every relationship is good and also has its difficulties in romantic love is beautiful, but platonic love is also beautiful, and there’s really no reason to put our relationships on such a hierarchy.


Marisa Franco: [00:27:28] And I think it makes so many of us so isolated, whether we’re single or we are in a relationship. Because if you have this hierarchy and you’re in a relationship, then you try to get all your needs met through one person. And tons of research finds that like that is a recipe for disaster. It harms your mental health. It harms the mental health of your spouse. So I really wrote platonic wanting to be like, hey, can we take a look at this, like cultural script? Like, can we take a look at some of the ways that it’s actively harming us? Like, can we take a look at how we’re so lonely and this may be a part of it? Like, to me, it’s like we’ve always had this goal under our feet in friendship, but we’ve just been taught to see it as concrete. We don’t see it glimmer and we don’t see it glitter, even though it’s right in front of us. So I just kind of wanted us to all see that, like, platonic love can be so, so profound.


Jonathan Fields: [00:28:19] I love that, and, you know, the notion that romantic love, you know, like finding that one person and then demanding from them everything you need and in every relationship at all times. It’s like when you sort of lay it out that way, you’re like, oh, that is utterly absurd. And yet that’s the ideal we hold ourselves to. Like that, like every rom com movie, every like, like book. That’s. It’s all like, this is what we aspire to in life. And like, once you hit that magic place, you know, you don’t really need anybody else. And the reality is just like the complete opposite. And like you said, often that assumption causes so much harm to us individually and to the relationship and to like those we might be in partnership with. It’s also just not true. You know, it’s it’s those other relationships. And so often I feel like I’m curious whether you see this in your work when people, even if you’re somebody who finds that one person, you end up jettisoning so many of the other, like truly loving, sometimes long-term, sustained relationships from your life. And it actually does harm to those relationships. Not intentionally, not because you want to do it. It’s sort of like part of the set of assumptions that you say yes to you when, like you’re trying to build with this one other person. And yet, um, it’s like we just allow these other things to fall away because all of a sudden they’re not supposed to matter as much.


Marisa Franco: [00:29:39] And you know what? I just think biologically, we have always needed an entire community to feel whole. And that’s no less true. Now, there’s actually, you know, we talked about loneliness. There’s actually three types of loneliness, only one of which can be fulfilled by a spouse, which is intimate loneliness, the desire for a very close, intimate relationship. There’s relational loneliness, which is desire for a relationship that’s as close as a friend, and then collective loneliness, which is a desire for a group that’s working towards a common goal. Right. And there’s just all these other studies, for example, that find that when I become friends with someone, no, I’m less depressed, but also my spouse becomes less depressed that when I have conflict within my marriage, my potential marriage, I’m not married, but I experience, um, stress hormone release in dysregulated ways or wacky ways. You know, my stress hormone release just like gets gets off kilter, but not if I have quality connection outside of that marriage. Other studies find that for women who are particularly tend to be more experienced, more intimate friendships when they go through difficult experiences in their marriage, they tend to be more resilient to those experiences. And then these people that focus on one person, what we see for them in the research is that their mental health really ebbs and flows with the health of their relationship, like if their relationships not okay, their mental health is not okay.


Marisa Franco: [00:31:01] Whereas these people that have those connections outside, they can stay centered even when their relationship is going through the natural ebbs and flows. And that is such a resource, right? For me to get into conflict with my spouse and return to them in a way where I’m centered. I’m no longer in fight or flight mode because I’ve relied on other people to bring me back to that centered place, and then I’m able to address this conflict with you in a way in which I’m listening to you. I have the capacity to hear you. I have the capacity to try to communicate in a way that’s not attacking or threatening you. Like. I just think, why? Sometimes I think we see these two relationships as antagonistic, like you’re spending time with your friends, you’re not spending time with me, but really, they’re synergistic. Like you’re spending time with your friends. We’re going to have more quality time together then. So thank you.


Jonathan Fields: [00:31:49] Yeah. And that makes so much sense. And yet I feel like sometimes you’ll hear about people who look at those friendships that exist outside of a central intimate or romantic relationship as a, quote, threat to the relationship. Whereas in fact, what you’re laying out is like, no, like there’s science on this, you know, and the science says no. If anything, you know, they’re going to help support that relationship. They’re going to make it easier for you to come back to each other, you know, like when or move through challenging moments in a more grounded and open space. Um, I’m fascinated by just how we like layer these assumptions and expectations into relationships in a way that culturally, we’re told is the way to do it. And yet, you know, like the data is clear as day and it’s like, no, it’s actually kind of the exact opposite. So I love the invitation that that you’ve been offering to really kind of like just reimagine, you know, how we build relationships. Um, but also I think it’s important to to note that, um, doing this as a grown up is not the easiest thing.


Marisa Franco: [00:32:50] It is harder. Like, it just it is. And, um, there’s this sociologist, Rebecca Adams, and she says, like, for friendship to happen organically, we need repeated unplanned interaction and shared vulnerability. And that’s what we have as kids. Like gym, recess, lunch. I see you every day. We have these settings where we can let our guard down, right. As adults, we don’t have that like you can think of. Okay, the one place I see people every day is work, but am I actually vulnerable in work? Like, do I actually like share? Maybe you do, Jonathan. But for most people, right, they tend to go to work and show like a certain side of them, a certain dimension of them, um, a certain persona, you know, a lot of the time, which is why one study find that found that the more time we spend together at work, the less close that we feel. So what that means is that friendship in adulthood is. Is not like friendship in childhood. You cannot rely on the same set of assumptions. Friendship and adulthood does not happen organically. I’m going to repeat that it does not happen organically. You have to try. You know, there was this this one study that looked at people that saw friendship as happening based on luck were lonelier five years later, whereas those that saw it as happening based on effort were less lonely five years later because they made that effort. Right. And I think people are so afraid of rejection. Right. But the reality is people are less likely to reject you than you think. Like, we have this whole culture of lonely people looking for connection, you know, and I think sometimes we assume everybody has their friends when, you know, the data is telling us, no, they do not.


Marisa Franco: [00:34:29] And, you know, this is based on research on something called the liking gap, where when strangers interact, they underestimate how like they are by the other person. Right. So that brings me to one of my favorite tips that tends to really resonate with people. You know, you have to initiate, you know, you have to contact someone and say, hey, it’s so great to connect with you. Like, I’d love to connect further, right? You know, you have to do that. But the like, the psychological thing that has to happen is you have to start assuming people like you like start that practice of reminding yourself, people like me. Right. And what this will do for you. According to this research on something called the acceptance prophecy that when people are told that based on your personality profile, we predict that you’ll go into this group and be liked. They actually become warmer and friendlier and more open. Mm. Whereas you will notice that when you think people are rejecting you, how does that impact your behaviors? Like according to the science, people that see rejection all the time, they tend to be colder. They tend to be more withdrawn. If you think you’re going to be rejected, you reject people first, like that’s what you do, right? And so fundamentally, how you show up is like, people might be rejecting you when you think you’re being rejected because you actually are rejecting them in terms of how that’s affecting your behavior. So assume people like you and then you’re going to have to initiate.


Jonathan Fields: [00:35:52] You talk about this distinction also between, um, what you phrase as covert and overt avoidance teases out for me.


Marisa Franco: [00:35:59] Yeah. So I think when we’re like, I want to make friends, people are like, okay, sign up for that group. You know, join that meetup group. Right. And, uh, you know, I think back to myself in college, I want to make friends. I think I joined, like some sort of, like, cultural group. And I went to one meeting and nobody talked to me. Nobody said hi to me. And I was like, they’re very cliquey here. I’m not going to return. And, um, how wrong I was. This is what I would tell my younger self, right? To make friends, you have to overcome overt avoidance, which means you show up, right? Overt avoidance is I’m scared, so I’m staying home. But you also have to overcome covert avoidance, which means when you are engaged in covert avoidance, you show up physically, but you check out mentally. I’m on my phone. I’m walking away from the group. I’m talking to the one person I already know. Right? Like you’re not introducing yourself, whereas overcoming that looks like I’m at that group in college and I’m saying, oh, hey, like I’m Marissa. It’s so good to meet you. How have you liked being a part of this group? Tell me more about it. Like I’d love to hear, right? It’s not just showing up that’s going to make you friends, it’s that you actually have to engage with people when you get there because, like, to be honest, like, making friends is really I used to think these are all my college misconceptions that, oh, if I want to make friends in college, I have to be funny.


Marisa Franco: [00:37:25] I have to be charismatic. I have to be, you know, smart. I have to say something that’s going to make people flock to me. Right. But what I know now, based on the research and lived experience, is that according to this theory called the theory of inferred attraction, people like people that they think like them. And the number one thing people look for in a friend is someone that makes them feel loved and valued. So being good at making a friend is not about changing your personality. It’s changing how you treat people. It’s treating them in a kind and loving way. Right? And fundamentally, anything that you do to convey to someone that you like them, whether that’s kindness or being generous towards them or praising them right, is going to make it more likely that you’re going to form friendship with them. So even when you overcome that covert avoidance and you say, hey, my name is Marissa, like, how have you enjoyed this group so far? It’s so good to meet you. You know, what that’s doing is it’s conveying to someone, I’m interested in you as a person. Right. And that’s the sort of underlying mechanism that explains why it makes us friends.


Jonathan Fields: [00:38:32] Yeah, that makes so much sense to me. One of the other things that you really talk about in the context of adult friendships, which is the notion of conflict, you know, which is the notion of. People are going to make mistakes. People are going to mess up. People are just going to get angry either like for good reason or for no good reason at all. Conflict is going to arise. And you know, the way that we handle that in the context of either an emerging or established friendship, I think is is so critical in whether that deepens the friendship or just completely blows it up.


Marisa Franco: [00:39:04] Absolutely. Conflict is where my anxious attachment comes up the most, like you said, like your body kind of taking over and feeling like it’s on fire. Like that’s what happens for me over conflict. And I tell the story in this, in the book about how literally my best friend had done a series of small things that I had not addressed, and I literally could see myself starting to withdraw from her. And I felt kind of stuck because I started to recognize it’s not helping this relationship for me to evolve, to avoid this conflict, because now I’m withdrawing. But also if I address this conflict, my anxiously attached side is telling me it’s going to get grizzly. We’re going to be attacking each other, right? It’s going to be antagonistic. Right? And I read this study that really changed things for me. It’s in people that are more secure around conflict. This might not be a revelation, but it was for me. And it found that having open empathic conflict is actually linked to deeper intimacy, and that people that are good at conflict actually are less lonely. So I’m like, oh, these people that are and people that really value friendship are more likely to have conflict with their friends, bring up conflict with their friends. So I’m like, oh, okay. So conflict is, um, part of healthy relationships. Part of a healthy behavior, like ignoring things is actually a dysfunctional way to show up in your friendships again, because you’re just going to withdraw. It’s not going to going to go away. So not only did I read that study like research is like my spiritual advisor. I’ll say, I’m like, I’m so confused. I’m not going to call a mentor.


Marisa Franco: [00:40:42] I’m just going to start googling and psychinfo all the research studies. So the research kind of showed me that I could learn these skills of bringing up conflict in a way that would make it more likely that this is going to go well. So it’s first starts with framing the argument, which involves framing the conflict as a sign of love and intimacy and reconciliation. So me saying, hey, I bring this up because, like, I really want us to stay close and I don’t want anything to get between us. So I just want to make sure I’m bringing things up as they come up. So that doesn’t happen because I love you so much. Right? Um, sharing the I statements like I felt ex I felt hurt when you didn’t respond to me at that really important moment perspective taking. But I was wondering, you know, what might be going on on your end in that moment. Right. This was a big one. Jeff Simpson, he’s a researcher he told me about because he said secure people, make other people look good in conflict because they de-escalate. Right. So there was a time when my best friend, I brought up this conflict. I told her, you know, she said this thing that kind of hurt me. And she was like, I’m going to feel like I’m walking on eggshells around you. Like, I feel like I do everything wrong. And of course, I could have escalated at that point. You know, I was a little triggered, but instead I said, you do so many things right, and I’m so sorry that I haven’t conveyed to you all the things that you do.


Marisa Franco: [00:42:03] Right. All the ways that you show up so well in this friendship. Like, literally there is this thing that I want to talk about and work through, but like, there’s nothing there hasn’t been anything else. Like all the other times we interact like, I’ve just felt so good and so comfortable and so loved by you. And so being able to, like, de-escalate, like hear them out, validate their feelings, show them love when they’re like kind of being reactive towards you. Like it’s like a next level conflict skill and then ask for what your needs are like, okay, next time this happens, could we do x, y, z. Like how would that be for you? And then I’m like, oh, this is what conflict can be. It’s like reconciliation. It’s like collaboration. It’s not like a mutual attack on one another. And the other thing that I realized because Jonathan, one of my gripes about her, she did not do like it was like, I think I sent her my book proposal and I never heard back from her about it. And she did respond to me. I didn’t see the email. So I realized by not bringing up conflict, I am holding you guilty without giving you a trial, right? It’s like, that’s really unfair for me to not bring up this problem when you might have had some extenuating circumstances, or fundamentally, I might have been perceiving things wrong, right. And that will will change how this sits with me. So it’s almost like, let’s just reconcile. Let’s come to a mutual sense of reality right now that’s going to help us emotionally be able to move forward in this friendship.


Jonathan Fields: [00:43:32] I think so much of the conversation is really sort of like if you use zoom the Lens out, it’s about really, really being willing to just step back into. Conversation relationship with other people. Um. Be real, be open, be vulnerable, and do it in a way you know that doesn’t make you meltdown in the process and go running for the hills. Because as you shared in the beginning of this conversation, these relationships matter. You know, it’s like there’s even if you do have that one person who’s a deep and like they’re your quote person, you know, like quoting Meredith Grey, right? That’s Sandra oh. Um, you know, there’s we all still need, um, others, you know, and those other platonic, intimate, like, deeply loving friendships, um, feels like a good place to come full circle as well. So in this container of Good Life Project., if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?


Marisa Franco: [00:44:29] You must. See others and be seen.


Jonathan Fields: [00:44:34] Thank you. And we’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors. So I love how Marissa is bringing more light to the profound power of platonic love, and giving us so much inspiration and practical guidance on overcoming loneliness through friendship. And our final guest in this spotlight conversation on friendship is doctor Joy Harden Bradford, host of the wildly popular podcast therapy for Black Girls. Through her work with therapy for Black Girls and her vital new book, Sisterhood Heals. Joy really illuminates the soul-nourishing magic that happens when black women gather in circles with wisdom and care. She reveals how group dynamics can strengthen bonds if you understand them, and she shares really touching stories of women finding refuge and wisdom and growth together. Above all, she leaves us more hopeful about the power of prioritizing platonic love and sisterhood and friendship and circles and supporting each other through life’s journey. Join us for an inspiring and powerful exploration of the transformative force of sisterhood. Here’s doctor Joy.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:45:42] When I talk about sisterhood, I’m specifically talking about the relationships between black women. Um, and not, you know, familiar way. Right? Like your sister is your biological sister or your adopted sister. But the sisterhood that exists kind of simply because we are all black women in these relationships that, you know, can be very close, but also just, you know, I see you in the grocery store, I see you in school, and there is like a shared understanding. There’s a shared history. And my experience has been that that has been very healing for black women. And we typically find ourselves in circles. So whether it is as a part of a knitting group or a church group, or if it is your more intimate friend group, it typically happens within a circle. And those dynamics that I just talked about that are happening in group therapy also happening in our circles. And so it felt important to talk about the things that I’ve learned as a therapist and somebody who has practiced group therapy and to help people understand, like, hey, these are some of the same dynamics happening in your life, and here’s how we can use this to make the relationship stronger.


Jonathan Fields: [00:46:45] Um, and it’s interesting, obviously middle-aged white male, um, I step into it and what you’re describing, I can’t experience, I’ll never experience in the same way. Clearly. Right. And yet the notion of sisterhood, the notion of circles is sort of like the fundamental construct of coming together is deeply resonated for me and is deeply resonant for a lot of people. You walk through some really interesting ideas, sort of like Guideposts and keys, like if we’re going to come together and do it in a healthy way, in a functional way and a supportive way, what really matters, like what are the important things to think about and what are the dynamics to expect to unfold. So I’d love to walk through some of those. You introduce this notion of sisterhood and the four S’s. So tell me about the four S’s.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:47:29] Yeah. So the forces of sisterhood are the kind of I think when I think about like the guiding themes of, like, what makes sisterhood so powerful and what makes it so magical. I think in a lot of ways I think about it in terms of these four S’s. So four S’s are that sisterhood allows us to be seen. So, you know, like we’re not invisible to one another, which I think is really, really important. It allows us to soften. So there are so many places in our lives where we have to kind of put on this, like really heavy armor to show up. And in sisterhood and in relationship with one another. We don’t have to do that. So it allows us to soften it. It allows us to know more about ourselves and allows other people to to kind of know us better. So it allows us to have a greater sense of knowing who we are. There’s a lot about us, I think just generally we don’t know until we it shows up in relationship to one another. Um, and so I think in engaging in deep sisterhood, in relationship with one another, we have a greater knowing of ourselves. And then the fourth is, is that it allows us to support other people and it allows us to be supported.


Jonathan Fields: [00:48:32] The way you’re describing those four S’s, it feels like they’re each speaking to a specific pain. If you talk about like one of the S’s is being seen, well, then the pain would be not being seen or being invisible, right? You know, to soften, I guess the assumption under that would be that, like you feel like that outside of that circle, the safety of that circle, that sisterhood that you’ve got to take on the persona of being hard, of being tough, a variety of reasons that like are very valid reasons. But there’s a pain, there’s a cost to that and that like, there needs to be a place where you’ve got to be able to drop that, to be able to just breathe and be okay.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:49:11] Yeah. I mean, if we go back to, you know, our earlier conversation around, like all of the mental health implications of loneliness, there are some very real mental health implications to this idea that we need to be like, tough and strong and like on all the time, like it’s just not sustainable. But I think a lot of black women find themselves in spaces where they feel like they can’t drop that armor. And I’m arguing that with one another. We can create those spaces where we don’t have to have that armor on all the time.


Jonathan Fields: [00:49:37] It’s interesting. Also, you described that people tend to to gravitate towards. Certain common roles within a group. And you describe these for the leader, the wallflower, firecracker and peacemaker. Walk me through these really quickly, because clearly we have all either been or like been in a group with people who are playing those roles.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:49:55] Mhm. Yeah. And it’s important to know that these are not like absolute. And you might find yourself kind of between roles and different in different groups, which I think is interesting. Um, but the wallflower is kind of the person in the group who is mostly quiet and they may not be saying a lot, but when they do speak, like everybody pays attention because it tends to be really impactful. Um, the leader of the group is kind of what a leader you would expect. It’s kind of the person who is takes the responsibility for organizing. When y’all get together. They probably are the person that hosts and like, you know, all of the details and like the stuff that really makes a group move. The leader typically kind of takes that on. The firecracker is the person who kind of will say the thing that needs to be said, but not always in the tactful kind of ways. But, you know, again, those kinds of things are important for like moving a group forward. And then the peacemaker is the person where, you know, if a couple of people in the group are not talking, they are the one who’s going to try to bring them together, like, let’s talk this out. They’re kind of the voice of reason in a group.


Jonathan Fields: [00:50:54] What you’re describing also, it’s interesting because you’re taking these dynamics from sort of a controlled group therapy and saying like, let me share a whole bunch of Guideposts and invitations and offerings out so that to create sisterhoods and circles that are functional and healthy. But it occurs to me like you’ve got to be relatively self-aware to keep the dynamic healthy in a group, because if you’re not aware of your own inner thoughts and workings and feelings, let alone, you know the group dynamic, it’s hard to notice what is and isn’t happening and what’s real and what’s not real, and respond to it in a functional way.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:51:31] And isn’t that the importance of like, doing our work for any relationship? Yeah, right. You know, I think that there is a level of like self-awareness, um, that of course, you know, not everybody has. But I think to make most relationships work and kind of make them function, it really does require us to kind of be present and aware of, like what we’re bringing to the table and like how we get activated by certain things and whether we shut down or whether we, you know, kind of go too far. Like, I think all relationships call that from us. Um, and so, again, you know, the goal is not for people to kind of run their own mini-therapy groups. It really is like, okay, how can you just be more aware of these things and pay attention to the fact that these dynamics exist and use them to your advantage to, you know, kind of help everybody out.


Jonathan Fields: [00:52:13] One of the other things I thought was really interesting that that you share is important to think about a source of potential conflict. It is the notion of differences in values, which I thought was really interesting, because you could come together right as a group and share a lot of history. But sharing history doesn’t necessarily mean that you see the world the same way, or that you share the same values. Talk to me more about how this shows up.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:52:38] Yeah, and I think that there are some things that are like just differences and preferences, right? Like whether you like Coke and I like Pepsi, you know, like those, those kinds of things. But what I’m really talking about is like, are you fundamentally opposed to like, who I am in the world, right? Or how I show up? And we saw this a lot during the pandemic. I think a lot of friend groups were shaken up around, um, decisions to get the vaccine or not get the vaccine decisions to mask or not mask people who, you know, had a higher risk tolerance and were kind of still out doing things, and other people who had a lower risk tolerance. And I don’t think people really understood like how to navigate that, because then a lot of ways those kinds of things had not entered friendship groups before. And so I think the pandemic really gave people a chance to kind of explore values and like, what does this really mean? And so I think, you know, sometimes we get to a place where we realize, like, a friendship may not be able to continue because we just fundamentally see the world differently in a way that clashes, like with my humanity. And I think, again, the pandemic really brought that to light for a lot of people.


Jonathan Fields: [00:53:42] Yeah, I mean, that really flows into a conversation that you have around life cycles with sisterhoods, with circles, with friendships, in that some are meant to last for a long times and some are not. And sometimes they end sometimes in individual friendship ends. Sometimes an entire sisterhood is like a circle dynamic ends, maybe even after years. And there’s a real grief experience that happens when that comes to be.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:54:08] Yeah. And, you know, I think a lot of times we don’t think about, like, the grief related to a friendship because it’s not somebody dying. Right? Like, I think a lot of our society really only has rituals for the death of someone. But there’s grief we experience because of lots of different things. And so I talk about this sense of disenfranchised grief, which means that people don’t take it as seriously when you lose a friendship because they feel like, oh, you have other friends or they’re other people. And so then you’re left with, like this, this real sense of grief, just as if someone had. Died, but like, nobody’s really paying attention to it or they’re not giving it the same credence. And so then you’re just kind of left with all of these feelings and not sure how to make sense of it. And so I think when that happens, it is really important to find somebody who’s not going to make you feel ashamed because a friendship has ended and to, you know, to be able to find a supportive community of people who will allow you to talk through, you know, whatever you’re experiencing for as long as you need to.


Jonathan Fields: [00:55:06] What about the opposite problem, which is sort of like when something kind of really needs to end, but you know, when enough of the things that brought you together in the beginning, you know, like they’re just not there anymore. Yet nobody wants to be the person. Yes. Because that comes up, you know, and that I think is is really dicey also.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:55:30] Mhm.


Jonathan Fields: [00:55:30] How do you navigate those moments?


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:55:32] I think it is really hard for us as a society to say goodbyes, you know. So I talk about this in the book like it is. But it is really important to say goodbye to like offer yourself some sense of closure to relationships that have been important, even if you know that they are not going to continue. And so I think the tendency or, you know, some people’s kind of inclination would be to just like stop calling or to like just kind of slowly ghost out of the picture. But in talking with lots of women, that kind of ghosting experience is actually far more painful than like somebody saying, you know, like, okay, this is kind of we’ve come to the end of the road. And so I think if you find yourself in a situation where you know you’re going to have to end a friendship, it is the kindest thing for both you and the person to be able to actually say to them, whatever it is going on, right? Like, I don’t feel like we see the world the same or, you know, I feel like I’ve been betrayed or whatever it is that’s leading you to end the friendship. It’s important to be able to say that to the person so that they’re not left kind of making up their own stories about what happened and like what could have been different. Because, again, it just leaves you with all these questions in like wondering like, what did you do wrong? Like, did I overstep? Like, you know, it’s just it just is a barrel of questions. Um, and it is never easy to end a relationship. Like nobody wants to have that awkward conversation. But again, I think you owe it to yourself and to this person who at one point did mean a lot to you to offer them some kind of resolution and like letting them know, like, this is where you’re standing and you’re moving on.


Jonathan Fields: [00:57:01] Yeah. And that kind of brings us, you know, let’s let’s circle all the way back around. Like, we can’t talk about ending relationships, you know, without also talking about like, how do we actually start them? How do we. And I think that is something that so many struggle with now is like, how do you actually find those new people in the context you’re talking about? Like, how do you find new black and brown women to bring into a sisterhood or to bring into a circle? Like more broadly, how does any grown up do that? Because as a kid, we’re just in these constructs that automatically bring us together in community with people who we share history or likeness with or. But as adults, it’s almost like we now have to proactively go and do these things. And you speak to this in a bunch of different ways in the book, but share some thoughts here, because I think this is not just intuitive for most people. It is.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:57:49] Not. It’s not. And you’re right, like when we’re young, like we’re in class with all these kids. And so these become our friends, right? Um, and you know, once you’re older and not in college settings or education settings, it’s just much more difficult. And so one thing that I suggest is to pay attention to the people who are kind of in the background of your life, who could actually become maybe more of the foreground. So is there somebody that you kind of see in your Pilates class all the time and y’all exchange pleasantries, but it doesn’t go much further? Or is there a mom that you see in the carpool line that you know you’re kind of friendly with, but it doesn’t go any further than carpool and thinking about like, okay, is there an opportunity to make some of those relationships a little bit more formal, a little bit more intense? So can you say like, hey, do you want to grab a smoothie after Pilates? Or like, oh, we should really grab lunch before we head to the carpool line so that you can take some steps to maybe get to know these people a little better, but not necessarily with the expectation that they’re going to be like lifelong friends. You’re just kind of putting yourself out there to, you know, kind of widen your circle of people who could become close to you.


Jonathan Fields: [00:58:50] Yeah, I mean, that makes a lot of sense. And I think, you know, the notion of also finding places where somebody else has already done the work of gathering the people who you want to be in community with. And this is exactly what you’ve done for years, right? With therapy for black girls, with three for Thursdays, you’ve created this incredible space. Tell me more about this space and how people show up in it.


Joy Harden Bradford: [00:59:11] Yeah. So three for Thursdays is this thing I started, I think, before the pandemic, um, but definitely became much more intense during the pandemic. Um, but every Thursday at 12 noon, we jump on zoom so people can sign up for the zoom link. It’s a free session to participate in, and we talk about some particular topic. So we may talk. And I typically have three points to share for people. So three ways to be more assertive three things to think about as you think about spring cleaning. Like whatever the topic is, I kind of pick random topics, but people can also suggest topics. And I share the three points. And then we have conversation around, you know, what resonates for people? How have they seen this work in their own lives? But people also will like give us updates of previous sessions, or there will be questions unrelated to the topic that people will have. And so it really has just become a very, very cool space for women to kind of get together, to support one another, to laugh with one another, to hold each other accountable. Um, and it’s just really like, I think a glowing example of like, what sisterhood actually can look like in practice because the women don’t necessarily know one another beyond getting together every Thursday. But certainly some of them have gotten closer because, you know, they kind of continue to see each other in this space. And so I think it is just a great example of the kinds of spaces where you can find people who, you know, can become a part of your circle. Yeah, I.


Jonathan Fields: [01:00:29] Love that also because it’s we’re talking about gathering through technology. And I think a lot of people have that, even though we’ve all been sort of trained to be much more comfortable with it over the last three years, there’s still a lot of resistance. I think there’s a lot of assumptions that maybe, like, that’s not as real. And certainly it’s not the same as being in person with people. But I think like what you’ve created is like just stunning global community. It’s proof positive that really deep, rich, powerful connections can happen in the virtual space. Don’t write it off.


Joy Harden Bradford: [01:01:01] Exactly. Yeah. I do want people to make sure they’re paying attention to being open to digital kinds of connections, because you’re right. Like, it may not be exactly the same, but I think that there are some very powerful connections and very great relationships that can be formed even when you connect in digital spaces, because it really is about the consistency. It’s about like peeling back the layers, like all of those things are important and those things can happen digitally.


Jonathan Fields: [01:01:25] Yeah.


Joy Harden Bradford: [01:01:26] Mhm.


Jonathan Fields: [01:01:27] So as we start to wrap our conversation, zooming the lens out a little bit, what’s your big invitation? What’s your big hope for people as they start to think about all the ideas that you’ve been offering?


Joy Harden Bradford: [01:01:39] I really want people to center platonic relationships in their lives, and to really dig deeper into how we can support one another better and really show up for one another, but also allow other people to show up for us. Because I think a lot of us find ourselves as like the the go-getters. I mean, kind of the one who is checking on other people. But I also really think it’s important for us to be able to ask for help and allow ourselves to be in spaces of vulnerability with one another.


Jonathan Fields: [01:02:06] So, coming full circle, I’ve asked you this very same question, but is a chunk of years ago now, and the world has changed and we’ve all changed. If I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?


Joy Harden Bradford: [01:02:17] To live a good life means to be intentional and purposeful about establishing meaningful connections with other people.


Jonathan Fields: [01:02:25] Thank you. So I don’t know about you, but I just really feel like those were a lot of powerful, heart-opening conversations. I’m so grateful to Mia and Marissa and Joy for shining a light on the life-changing magic of showing up with presence and care, vulnerability in our relationships, their stories and insights. They have inspired me to really nourish my own connections with greater intention, and I hope this episode left you feeling uplifted and empowered to cultivate extraordinary bonds that your soul just might be yearning for. And if you love this episode, be sure to catch the full conversations with today’s guests. You can find a link to those episodes in the show notes. This episode of Good Life Project. was produced by executive producers Lindsey Fox and Me, Jonathan Fields. Editing help By Alejandro Ramirez. Kristoffer Carter crafted our theme music and special thanks to Shelley Adelle for her research on this episode. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project. in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable, and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven-second favor, and share it? Maybe on social or by text or by email? Even just with one person? Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know, those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action, that’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.

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