A few weeks ago, I was reading an interview with LaToya Drake, Head of Media Representation at Google. Drake shared her advice for building meaningful relationships and strengthening connections in your circle. One piece of advice was practicing the Shine Theory with female peers.

What is the Shine Theory?

What is the Shine Theory? This is a concept created by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, the co-authors of the best-selling book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close.

The Shine Theory is the practice of mutual investment in one another. We help someone to be their best self over the long run. In return, they help us to become our best self.

As Sow and Friedman share on their website, Shine Theory “is a conscious decision to bring your full self to your friendships and to not let insecurity or envy ravage them.”

We must ask ourselves if would be better as collaborators than competitors. Almost always, the answer is to choose the former within our friendships.

Tips for practicing Shine Theory

Career and lifestyle coach Meaghan Wagner specializes in helping women achieve bold ambitions while enjoying themselves. Wagner says that over the years many of her clients have benefited immensely from employing the core tenets of the Shine Theory in their lives.

If you need a place to start practicing Shine Theory, try taking one of these three steps.

1. Start small.

Sow and Friedman emphasize that the Shine Theory is not meant to be about networking. Much as you may wish to help everyone you’ve ever met; it is simply not possible for any one person to have that kind of bandwidth.

Concentrate instead on one friendship you’d like to develop and nurture. You may find it’s helpful to ask yourself these two questions in order to fine-tune your focus:

  • Who is someone in my life I would like to get support from?
  • Who is someone in my life I would be proud and excited to support more?

2. Look inward.

“Part of being whole and vulnerable in a Shine friendship is being honest about your own needs,” Wagner says.

What does ideal support from this friend look like to you? This answer will differ for everyone. Some may find they are looking for someone who understands their line of work while others may seek out someone that is a respite from it.

Once you know what you want, you can begin honestly and directly asking for it.

3. Look outward.

Now that you know what ideal support from a friend looks like to you, it is time to ask your friend about the kind of support and presence they could use right now.

“Ask earnestly and really listen to the answer,” Wagner advises, noting that your friend might be looking for a new job or simply seeking a movie buddy. “Offering support is the yin to the yang of asking for it.”

As you take these small steps towards practicing Shine Theory, don’t try to worry about having or creating the “perfect” friendship.

“Shine friendships are *messy* because they are based on honesty and transparency, but for the same reason they are resilient,” Wagner says. “This is all about making space to be your most authentic self and provide that space to others as well.”