Looking back on life, I think if there was one thing that consistently made a difference it was good friends.
Thinking about people of all ages who are struggling, whether it is finding or keeping a job, looking after children or elderly parents, or just keeping off drugs and out of trouble, it is good friends that make the difference, even more than parents in some ways (but not all ways).
But of course one of the worries I know I always had at school and then University and work, was having the right kind of relationship with the right kind of people, it isn’t that easy! At school you can’t exactly say to the toughest people, ‘I don’t like you, you are not my sort of friend’, you would not last long like that. And likewise, you can’t go up to the nice, friendly and sociable crowd and say, I want to be your friend, because, well, that doesn’t work either.
So what kind of advice would you give for people to find and keep the right kind of friends? Let’s see if we can be of help here and then review our list and see if it is pretty universal.
1. Be useful: This does not mean being put on, that attracts the kind of people who like putting on people. But it is good if people know there are some things you are good at. So, the advice is, learn how to do a few useful things and how to do them well, then you can be helpful to people who need help and just be too busy to help the others.
2. Be friendly, but again, this doesn’t mean trying to be friends with everyone. Being friendly is about showing interest, being open, listening. That is very different to trying to be the friend someone has not asked for.
3. Look at yourself in a friendly way. This doesn’t mean being uncritical of yourself, but it also doesn’t mean being critical about everything you do and how you look. Be with other people like you want them to be with you.
4. Wear odd socks. Well, not that specifically, but it is hard to be friends with someone who always seems perfect!
5. Be available, some of the time. This means not trying to seem like you are always too busy to do anything for anyone else, which includes listening. But it also means not being available all the time, see point number 1!
A check on whether this is a good list would be to check if this made the kind of boss you would like to have?
Useful? Yes, bosses should be useful sometimes, including getting hands dirty kind of useful.
Friendly, yes, bosses should not seem as if you need a special reason to say hello.
Reflective, yes, bosses shouldn’t wait for others to tell them they are making mistakes, they should see it most of the time themselves.
Not perfect, yes, a good boss knows not to be right all the time, or people will always want to check with the boss before making any decisions.
Available, yes, a bit of the time, not too much, but not too little.
So maybe these are good rules for life?
A final check we can carry out when we start thinking about important things like friends, is to see how it might apply to some real people, so let’s look at a couple of US Republican candidates and see how they appear against our checklist of 5:
I guess I am picking these because this Blog has the title How to Advise the President!
The two front runners in Iowa were Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.
If you go to the Rick Santorum web site the first thing you get is a request for money!
No points for any of the 5 qualities so far for Rick then.
If you go to Mitt Romney you get to hear him talk, so maybe he gets a point for being available? Friendly?
Next up for Rick Santourum you have an easy link to what he ‘stands for’, and item number 1 is US Second Amendment, and as an example, the right to carry guns.
Then it goes on to say he would repeal the health reforms of Obama, and how he believes in faith, family and freedom. OK, well you can read the rest, but useful, reflective, friendly and humble don’t come across strongly, he is clear a boss who would be boss.
Having 7 children maybe he needs to be boss, or maybe not? It is interesting that there is not much about him, as a person, except he has written a best seller, called, ‘It takes a family’.
For Mitt Romney we have more, “He apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter and sold aluminum paint before beginning a career that brought him to the head of American Motors and then the governorship of Michigan.”
So he scores a point on being useful! And maybe friendly? Well, his wife has MS and recently a cancer scare, that’s on his web site. You might not agree with him on things, but he has written a letter, or so it says.
So my brief test, and it is only brief, seems to show a huge difference between the two candidates. All I want to know now is which one wears odd socks!
My guess is that Mitt has a lot of good friends. Him being a republican I doubt I would be one of them, but I think I would ask him for advice on lath and plaster work! And I think he would give it to me!
So if you know someone who is struggling, maybe help them find a good friend or two? It’s probably the best help you can give.