I constantly preach about the importance of nurturing your network, but there’s one very important element of our networks that often takes a back seat to the business contacts we build. That is our invaluable network of friends.
For so many of us, focusing our attention on our work life is a high priority. That’s a noble goal, but what finally happens when we’re off the clock?
We need to concentrate our efforts on developing a network of friends. I can honestly say that my friends have saved me from making big mistakes, celebrated my victories and made difficult days better by just being there. And they know I will return the favor.
I have dear lifelong friends, business friends, neighborhood friends, golf friends, office friends, friends where I worship. And so on. I confide my deepest secrets to some. I ask for advice from several. I enjoy activities with others. All have impacted my life in important ways.
This Arabian proverb provides the perfect definition: A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
Great literature, movies and music lyrics are full of references to friendship. The Beatles got by “with a little help from my friends.” James Taylor reminded us that when you need a helping hand, “you’ve got a friend.” Bette Midler gave us a long list of reasons why “You’ve got to have friends.” One of the most successful and longest-running television shows of all time was “Friends,” which will probably continue to run in syndication when the stars are old and gray.
Henry David Thoreau, one of America’s most famous naturalists and philosophers, gave the following definition of friendship: “A friend is one who incessantly pays us the compliment of expecting from us all the virtues, and who can appreciate them in us. The friend asks no return but that his friend will religiously accept and wear and not disgrace the apotheosis of him. They cherish each other’s hopes. They are king to each other’s dreams.
“Friendship is never established as an understood relation. It is a miracle which requires constant proof. It is an exercise of the purest imagination and of the rarest faith.”
Friendship is so important that we celebrate it several times during the year. February is International Friendship Month, and Old Friends, New Friends Week is the third week of May. Congress declared a U.S. holiday in honor of friends by a proclamation in 1935. Since then, World Friendship Day is celebrated every year on the first Sunday of August (it was Aug. 6 this year). And September is Friendship Month.
It might not be a Hallmark holiday, but Friendship Month is still a great time to go over some tips on how to build, nurture and maintain great friendships.
- Be open. Share your feelings honestly. Open communication is important in building lasting friendships and an unwavering support system. And don’t forget to tell your customers how much you appreciate them.
- Be receptive. No one is perfect and there may be times when you don’t agree with your friends’ choices. Show them that you care and respect them. It’s okay to share your opinions because both sides need to practice acceptance. The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail and not his tongue.
- Make friendships a priority. It’s easy to get busy in life, working and raising a family, but don’t forget your friends. Friendship is a responsibility – not an opportunity. Reconnect with old friends and continue to make new ones. Make friendship a habit, and you will always have friends.
- Listen. Part of being a true friend is listening to their problems and concerns without interrupting or always trying to fix things. Sometimes all they want is a receptive ear. Everyone hears what you say. Friends listen to what you say. Best friends listen to what you don’t say.
- Express gratitude. Don’t forget to show your appreciation for your friends and let them know how much their friendship means to you. One close friend is worth more than a thousand acquaintances.
Considering all these points, ask yourself this: If you were another person, would you like to be a friend of yours?
Mackay’s Moral: A good friend is someone who thinks you’re a good egg even though you’re slightly cracked.