Beware The Tater People!

“It’s better to do something for nothing than do nothing for nothing.”
Patricia Fripp

You don’t have to be “friends” with everybody at work, and you don’t have to be “friends” with everyone you encounter in life. You don’t have time for that.

But if you want to be successful on and off the job, if you want to build effective relationships that are mutually satisfying, you’ve got to master the art of FRIENDLINESS. It’s the fourth building block in my four-week series. I’ve already addressed COURTESY, CONSISTENCY, AND SINCERITY.

So what is FRIENDLINESS? It’s all about being more other-centered than self-centered. It’s having an interested, amiable spirit that reaches out to help others. In a silly kind of way, friendliness is being a sweet tater instead of one of those other kinds of taters.


Some people never seem motivated to participate, but are just content to watch while others do the work. They are called Speck Taters.

Some people never do anything to help, but are gifted at finding fault with the way others do the work. They are called Comment Taters.

Some people are very bossy and like to tell others what to do, but don’t want to soil their own hands. They are called Dick Taters

Some people are always looking to cause problems. It is too hot or too cold, too sour or too sweet. They are called A’gee Taters.

There are those who say they will help, but just never get around to actually doing the promised help. They are called Hezzi Taters.

Some people can put up a front and pretend to be someone they are not. They are called Emma Taters.

Then there are those who love others and are always prepared to stop, lend a helping hand. They bring real sunshine into the lives of others. They are called Sweet Taters.

But let me get more serious. Specifically, how can you exhibit appropriate FRIENDLINESS at work and other places? There are three things you need to do… because these techniques really work.

=> 1. Get to know the other person.

You can’t come across as friendly if you don’t even bother to get to know the other person — at least a little bit. And yet I’m amazed at how many team mates, coworkers, friends and even spouses are virtual strangers to one another.

I’ve become painfully aware of that fact as I conduct team building seminars at various organizations or teach on a marriage enrichment cruise each year. As I teach people how to ask brave questions and listen empathically, I’ve had countless people tell me that they learned more about their coworkers in a four-minute exercise I conduct than they did in the previous four years of working together.

In terms of getting to know the other person — at least a little bit — I remember one college student who talked about one of the most important lessons he learned in college. It came during his second month of college when his professor gave the class a pop quiz.

He said he was a conscientious student, and he was breezing through the questions until he read the last one. “What is the name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely, he thought, this was some kind of joke. He had seen the cleaning lady several times. She was tall, dark-haired, and in her 50’s, but how would he ever know her name? So he handed in his paper, leaving the last question blank.

Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward their quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care even if all you do is smile and say ‘Hello’.”

The student said he never forgot that lesson. And he also learned her name was Dorothy.

=> 2. Do something for nothing.

A negotiation is all about getting something for something. But you build a friendship on or exhibit friendliness when you do something for nothing.

Jay Leno knew that. When Jay was just starting out as a comedian, he would drive four hours from Boston to New York to get five minutes on the open mike at Bud Friedman’s Improv Comedy Club. “I finally put him on,” Friedman says, “not because I thought he was any good, but because he’d driven so far.”

Jay was doing something for nothing, and it eventually paid off. But you may be thinking he had to do something to get noticed. The same is true in business. You’ve got to do something to get noticed in the beginning stages of your career. When you finally arrive, when you’re a big shot like Leno is now, when you get the big salary, title, and office at corporate headquarters, you don’t have to bother with this strategy.

Wrong! Leno still practices the strategy. When speaker Jeanne Robertson asked a Las Vegas cab driver, “What’s the best show in town,” he quickly replied, “Oh, Jay Leno. My wife and I just went to see him. He gives a special show for taxi drivers at two in the morning. Otherwise, we could never afford to go. Kenny Rogers does the same thing when he’s in town.”

Leno and Rogers make it quite clear — that no matter how big you are in your field — you never outgrow the need to show friendliness. Both of them realize that the best word-of-mouth advertising comes from taxi drivers raving about their shows. They know the value of doing something for nothing.

=> 3. Go out of your way.

Remember what I said about being other-focused or self-focused? Friendliness is exhibited and friendships are built when you’re other-focused and go out of your way to help the other person.

Philosopher Jim Rohn talks about that when he distinguishes between “casual” friends and “real” friends. Rohn says:

“Friends are those wonderful people who know all about you and still like you. A few years ago I lost one of my dearest friends. He died at age 53 – heart attack. David is gone, but he was one of my very special friends. I used to say of David that if I was stuck in a foreign jail somewhere… accused unduly… and if they would allow me one phone call, I would call David. Why? He would come and get me. That’s a friend — somebody who would come and get you. Now we’ve all got casual friends. And if you called them they would say, ‘Hey, if you get back, call me. We’ll have a party.’ So you’ve got to have both, ‘real’ friends and ‘casual’ friends.”

You can even find some little ways — to go out of your way — to make the world a friendlier place. After all, as Sir James Matthew Barrie said, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

Penny Schoene, one of my “Tuesday Tip” subscribers, talked about the impact of someone going out of his way. She wrote, “I took my 2 boys to a Cardinals baseball game in St. Louis a couple years ago. They were roughly 5 and 8 years old at the time. As we were leaving it started to pour down rain. We waited in the stadium a little bit, but then we decided it wasn’t going to let up. We left the stadium, hand in hand, singing the song, “Singing in the Rain.” We were having a lot of fun, but we must have looked a bit pitiful as we were getting totally drenched. A gentleman pulled up at a stoplight and offered us his umbrella. My boys were so taken by that offer — from a complete stranger — that they mention it every few months — about how nice that man was who was going to give us his umbrella.”

Penny went on to say, “Of course, I take the opportunity to reinforce how good that made us feel and to encourage them to do the same. After all, that one event certainly made an impact on all of us — because I, too, think of it often.”

It seems to me that just about everybody wants the respect and liking of others. Just about everyone wants other people to be friendly toward them.

But they’ve got it backwards. That tends to happen AFTER you’ve shown FRIENDLINESS to them. I just gave you three ways to do that. Now the ball’s in your court.

Action:  List 3 ways you’ve gone out of your way for your coworker or customers this week. And then figure out 3 more ways you will go out of your way this week.