Shared Experience Roots

We meet and spend time with friends somewhere. Slowly over time, we develop Shared Experience Roots with them. Shared Experience Roots are often (but not always) the first roots you develop with new friends. 

You’ll constantly need to grow new shared experience roots and mourn shared experience roots that die which basically means — you need to be intentional about how you spend time with friends.

Emotional intimacy roots are based in the past.

When you spend time with friends (shared experience/interest roots), you have the opportunity to learn new things about each other, create memories, find commonalities, and share in small + big intimacies.

You collect emotional intimacy roots over time – all the roots that build supportive friendships.

  • Details you’ve noticed
  • Memories you’ve made
  • Shared/overlapping history
  • Big + small intimacies

"Collected"

I use the word collected intentionally. 

Moments are fleeting. Memories last.

You are in the moment with friends –
talking, laughing, telling a story, learning, dancing, singing, debating, relaxing  
– and then the moment passes.

The details get tucked away. 
The memories are stored.
The intimacies shared are appreciated.
And just like that, you are onto the next moment, left with the information you’ve filed away.

Collecting something requires attention.

There will be many details, moments, and memories that never become roots – you didn’t give them your attention, comprehend the information, or deem them important.

Let's say someone is a stamp collector.

Collections are built over time. They require dedication, energy, attention, and resources.

The collector has researched and sought each stamp they’ve added to their collection. The collection might have monetary value, but its real value to the collector is emotional. If the collector gifted the collection it wouldn’t hold the same emotional value:

The details about why each specific stamp was chosen.
The colorful stories about wild auction bidding wars.
The enthusiasm the collector felt when they stumbled upon a rare stamp at a bargain price.

The journey is likely just as important to the collector as the physical collection.

Supportive friendships are built on the little details we collect and use to affirm our friendships.

Types of Shared Experience Roots

Our connection points

  • You both work at the same company.
  • You both are members of the same book club.
  • You met volunteering at the food bank. 
  • Your kids are in the same first-grade class. 
  • J is a mutual friend. You were both invited to his birthday party.

The ways we spend time together and experience life together.

  • The friend you go out to the bars with every Saturday night.
  • You two look forward to boxing classes together.
  • A set of couple friends – you love meeting up to try out different restaurants around town.
  • The group you text when you want to see a movie. 
  • The friends you know want to book plane tickets for a last-minute adventure. 

The interests that make us think of each other.

  • Sharing an article about friendship with me because I write about friendship.
  • You both love to cook. You are constantly sharing recipes back and forth.
  • You see a card with a cat at the bookstore register. You impulse purchase the card because it’s perfect for your friend, K. 
  • Clicking the share button on Instagram along with the message, “OMG – This is so you!”

The mutual activities/interests you share

  • You both love to read and text about books you just finished.
  • Texting a friend who also played soccer in high school (not at the same school) about your high school team making the state playoffs.
  • Texting during Sunday Football as if you are together in person discussing each play. 
  • Sending outfit ideas, fashion tips, and sales to a friend who loves fashion as much as you do. 

The ways we are comfortable spending time together.

  • Asking a coworker to happy hour after work – but aren’t quite at the place where you hang out on weekends.
  • Inviting one of your oldest friends to your parent’s anniversary party. 
  • You met through mutual friends and will join in when that friend invites both of you to a backyard BBQ, but you aren’t sure you are close enough to ask them to your backyard BBQ.

The reasons we initiate contact.

  • You just joined a running group and met a new friend. You’ve don’t talk outside of your weekly club meetings. The running store you both love is having a sale! You decide to send a text, so they don’t miss out.
  • You constantly send slack messages during the workday but rarely talk on weekends.
  • You always talk to this other mom at the park. She mentioned she knows a great babysitter. You rarely speak outside of the park encounters, but you text randomly and ask for the babysitter’s number.

GROWING INITIAL SHARED EXPERIENCE ROOTS

Shared experience roots are often built passively. You meet someone somewhere, and you get to know each other over time. 

  • You work together. 
  • You are neighbors. 
  • You are mutual friends with R. 
  • You attend the same networking group. 
  • You see each other at after-school pick-up for your kids. 

After a while, you might start inviting them to some offshoot activities – more on that below. 

Intentionally building new shared experience roots isn’t as common and requires you to put yourself out there.

Whether it’s a new friend or a long-time friend, you suggest that you spend quality time together in new ways. For example:

  • You and an old friend want to try salsa dancing. 
  • You’ve both talked about wanting to try salsa dancing. 
  • One of you has to ask, “We’ve talked about salsa dancing forever. Do you want to book a class and go?”
  • Then you have to discuss which classes to take and compare schedules, perhaps shift around other commitments.
  • You have to be OK looking like beginners in front of each other when you take those first classes.
  • After taking a few classes, you have to discuss whether you both enjoyed it enough to keep attending.
  • If you want to continue, you have to be proactive about signing up for the next session.

Over time you have to find consistency and frequency with your salsa dancing root.

EMOTIONAL INTIMACY ROOTS Grow + Change

Let’s talk about how shared experience roots grow, change, wither, and die. We’ll use the same example throughout:: 

You have a coworker with whom you are great friends!

Grow Stronger Roots

Frequency, intimacy, creating emotional intimacy roots are all ways to strengthen shared experience roots.

Frequency: You see each other every day! 

Consistency: There’s no need to schedule time together. You already have the built-in consistency of seeing each other at the office daily.

Creating emotional intimacy roots: You have many chances to build emotional intimacy roots because you see each other nearly daily. 

Over time you’ve broadened the range of topics you talk about with your work friend.

  • You started to reveal how frustrated you are with your boss.
    You vent your frustrations that someone received a promotion over you. 
  • You had to talk to your co-worker about some boundaries when it comes to stopping by your desk – you just aren’t a morning person. Please don’t stop by until you’ve had a few hours of uninterrupted work. 

But since you tend to chat daily, you’ve both started to share about your personal lives too.

  • Their parents are coming into town next weekend, and it’s causing them stress.
  • Your husband has a big project launching at work this year, which means he’s traveling all the time. 
  • Their oldest child made the honor roll.

Grow Offshoots

You are already comfortable with your shared experience root, so you start to grow offshoots. 

Some offshoots you and your work friend have:: 

  • You suggested grabbing happy hour one time, and now it’s a regular occurrence.
  • You’ve met each other’s spouses at work parties.
  • You’ve started extending the work trips you take together. You two have fun traveling together, so why not stay a couple of extra nights after those conferences to explore the city.

Wither

Your work root might still be alive and well, but something might cause it to shift. 

Good News: your friend accepted an internal promotion!
Bad News: they are now in a different department. 

  • They no longer need to go on those work trips you both loved. 
  • You’ll still see each other at work every day, can easily grab happy hour, and see each other at work functions, but you’ve lost one of your favorite ways to spend time together.

Dying Roots

There is a lot of talk about ending friendships, but there isn’t a lot of friends quotes out there about just mourning the loss of a particular part of your friendship.

When your friend took the new job across town, your shared experience root got pretty small. However, when you get together for the running club, work still comes up in conversation.

  • You text your friend about work drama. 
  • She stops by for team happy hours every once in a while to see you and catch up with other co-workers. 

After a few months, she asks you to stop sharing work drama with her since she left to get away from it. The history you shared at work remains in your emotional intimacy roots as memories. The last remaining part of that shared experience root has died.

  • You’ll need to find someone new to vent to
  • You’ll need to respect her boundary. 
  • You’ll need to keep leaning into the new shared experience roots you two have created. 

Or, perhaps, you haven’t created other shared experience roots, and this friendship will likely fade.

REGROW / DIVERSIFY

Friendships that center around a single shared experience root – in this case, work – can be meaningful and fulfilling friendships! However, if you don’t realize that your friendship is depending on a single root, a change can catch you off guard. Building a variety of shared experience roots with friends helps build lasting friendships.

Your friend took a new job at a company across town! You are super excited for her and sad that things feel so different now.  

  • No more stopping by each other’s desks. 
  • No more work trips. 
  • You need to plan for happy hours now that they require a drive across town.

To keep your friendship feeling as connected as before, you’ll need to build some new shared experience roots and create consistency intentionally. 

As you saw above, this process takes some trial and error. 

  • Join a running club together. 
  • Plan trips with your spouses together. 
  • Make brunch plans on the weekends. 
  • Decide to get season tickets together. 

None of this is impossible! Building new shared experience roots requires stepping outside your comfort zone (even with your oldest friends) and investing energy into finding ways to spend time together.

Friendships that feel present + connected.

There are endless examples of friendships that feel strong, present, and connected, losing their primary shared experience root and suddenly feeling difficult, frustrating, and disconnected. 

  • Friends who moved, and we haven’t found new ways to connect 
  • Friends who are now new parents and no longer go out on weekends
  • Friends who get a new job, but we never saw outside of work before
  • We spent every day with friends in college, but only ever call for catchup marathon calls nowadays. 
  • Our gym friend gets injured and leaves the gym. We rarely see them anymore.

What are the ways you spend time with friends?
What are the topics you regularly connect about?

If you want this to be a lasting friendship, build a variety of roots and by finding various ways of spending quality time together.

FREQUENCY, CONSISTENCY … BUT ALSO VARIETY

When it comes to friendship, there’s a lot of talk about frequency + consistency. 
We need to talk more about variety. 

Finding a routine with friends is often necessary. A routine saves us time, ensures consistency, and creates predictability – all of which are important. 

Monthly book club – Work – Church – Weekly walking dates – Text threads with your people

Variety makes change easier. 

I highlighted this in the work friends example above, but to clarify it. 

Building a variety of roots with that work friend means that when your friend gets a new job, you already go on double dates with spouses or attend a weekly running club. 

While your frequency will drastically change because you won’t see each other at work every day, you still have predictable and comfortable ways to see each other. 

You can depend on weekly running club meetings. 
You can plan for the next few months of double dates. 

While you are together at the running club or out to dinner, you have the time and opportunity to suggest other ways to spend time together easily and, in doing so, make your friendships last.

Variety also helps with the ever-present problem of “I don’t have time.” 

Ever struggle to find time to spend time with friends when life gets busy? 

You usually meet up for dinner or get drinks, but you are struggling to find a time since you feel overcapacity juggling family, work, and self-care. 

Having a variety of roots means that you can just lean into other options. 

Running club can be a “double up” way to spend time together. 

You are both actively pursuing your health goals and taking care of your mental health.
You want to run anyways, but you get to spend that time together. 
Running with a friend allows you to maximize the times you do have available, even if they are few and far between.

If you also feel comfortable:

  • Face-timing your friend while you cook dinner
  • Voice memoing a friend after you both watch your favorite show
  • Invite that friend to meet up with you on next month’s business trip 

You have more options even when those solo dinner dates with the various amazing women in your life just aren’t feasible. 

Virtual ways to spend time with friends

We’ve seen that virtual options are abundant in the last couple of years. Virtual hangouts are great ways to stay in touch with friends who live far away, have limited capacity, or limiting life circumstances at the moment.

We’ll dive deeper into virtual options, what makes them fulfilling, and ways to suggest virtual hangouts in future blog posts.

Shared Experience Roots are the foundation of our friendships. 

Think about your closest friendships. Or perhaps, think of friendships you had when you were younger – high school and college, especially. 

Those “we can do anything together” friendships are often seen as the gold standard or the marker of being a “true friend.”

When we are younger – teens and 20s – it’s more acceptable to invite friends to join you for just about anything. 

  • Want to run errands?
  • Want to be my plus one to my mom’s birthday party?
  • Want to come over and do homework together?

We had so many shared experience roots. 

As adults, society tells us to find a partner, and so many shared experience roots shift to that person. 

It makes sense, but after you’ve tried out shared experience roots together, are they really quality time, or would time spent with other friends doing those same activities feel more enjoyable?

  • Do all of them feel right? 
  • Are some of them just there out of duty?
  • Or perhaps some of them are there because we have so much frequency with partners that they are just the easy ask to join us on a hike, even though they dread hiking. 

Finding variety again with friends as adults requires us to be intentional.

  • We have to try new things together. 
  • Find time together. 
  • Allow each other into our lives – coming over when our house isn’t clean, hanging out in our sweatpants on the couch, inviting a friend over to work on our couch. 

Shared Experience Roots keep us connected.

We reach out to friends because we are comfortable spending time together in specific ways. 

They share the same interest.
They enjoy the same activities. 

Our shared experience roots are where we create emotional intimacy roots and act in a way that confirms our story roots.

Read more about that here. 

 

THIS IS A PLACE OF CONVERSATION, EXPLORATION, AND DISCUSSION.

I am just a person who has spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to understand some of the relationships that I hold most dear.  I invite you to join in on the conversation below in the form below.
Questions, comments, and critiques are all welcome.


Keep the conversation going.

Hi! I'm Alex.

I am just a person who has spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to understand some of the relationships that I hold most dear. I invite you to join in on the conversation below in the comments section below.

Ask questions, leave comments, share critiques or give advice. All are welcome.

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Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm a speaker, thought leader, and soon-to-be author focusing on community and friendship.

TL;DR The friendship paradigm is broken. I'm breaking it down, so we can build a better version.

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