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On friendship – a businessman’s view

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As we round the corner into 2012, and in this time of holidays, giving and sharing, and with the prospect of New Year’s resolutions looming, it is the right time of year to think about friendships and their care and feeding. To some, friendship is more important than love, as love is often too demanding and fickle, far more devastating when it fails.

Most everyone has the human need for one or more good friends. They help bring sanity to our personal and business worlds.

But people’s views diverge when it comes to how friendship is best pursued.

Some people, probably sub-consciously, hold that it’s the need to have friends that must be pursued and satisfied, and that a relationship is what’s needed. Any person who happens to serve the relationship will suffice — it’s not the actual person who counts; it’s the relationship that meets the need that counts.

Others look on true friendship as being person-oriented, rather than relationship-oriented. Relationship-oriented people sub-consciously don’t care who performs in the “role” of the friend, so long as someone is there to meet the need. The friend who fills that “someone” role can change, even change often, and it doesn’t matter much; the important thing is that someone must be found to fill the need.

I believe that the difference between a person-oriented friend and relationship-oriented friend can be detected this way: Person-oriented people tend to have long-lasting, sometimes lifelong friends. For them, it’s the person who’s important to the friendship.

On the other hand, I know people (especially some business people) who move through friends like they move through car styles or liquor brands. They make friends with someone for a while, then they move on — it’s not the person who is important, it’s the need to have a friend, any friend, that’s paramount. Anyone will do, so long as the need is served and the role is filled. Most of their friends become just another past chapter in their book of life.

You can put me in the lifelong friends category. For me, true friendship only forms over time, allowing the relationship to be tested in the crucible of behavior and events. But once a person is my friend, it takes a lot of damaging behavior to uproot the relationship.

What about you, as we embark on the dawning of a new year and a fresh start? Have you thought about how demanding — or giving — you are as a friend, or considered the way you form your friendships and keep or discard them?

John R. Smith


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