Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.
One of the more prominent Presidents in U.S. history was Theodore Roosevelt. His politics made a huge difference in the world, but it was his people skills that made it all possible. Roosevelt said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
Of course, the question is, how do you get along with people? What does it take to build friendships or create the spirit of friendship? I outlined a few things in last week’s Tip. I wrote about making friends a priority, being a giver, and being appreciative. All those things will build your business and strengthen your relationships.
But what about the tough times? You need strong friendships more than ever. And that takes some additional skills.
To develop those kinds of life-saving friendships, GO BEYOND APPRECIATION TO ADMIRATION. When you truly admire people, not only do they like you more, but they’re also motivated to do their very best.
Unfortunately, very few people have been the recipient of true admiration. I think of the country music song that said, “If you want to keep your beer cold, put it next to my girlfriend’s heart.” Or I think of the sign posted in front of a restaurant in Spring, Texas: “Evening special: Men dine half-price when accompanied by a lady of equal or lesser value.”
Some years ago I was driving with my 15-year old daughter when she asked for one of my business cards which was lying on the dashboard. I was flattered that she would want to carry one of my cards around. I said, “Why sure, Rachel. Take one.” She picked one up and used it to blot her lipstick.
For a moment, it felt so good to be admired–or at least think I was. And it was so deflating to realize that that wasn’t the case.
When you truly admire others, you bring out the best in them. It’s one of the most motivating things you can do.
Eric Butterworth talked about that in one of his lectures. He talked about the college sociology professor who had his class go into the slums of Baltimore to get the case histories of 200 young boys. Based on the data, they were asked to predict each boy’s future. His class concluded the boys didn’t have a chance of success.
Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the earlier study. He had his students follow up on the project to see what happened to those boys. With the exception of 20 boys who moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved great success as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen.
The professor was astounded. He looked up each of those men and asked what accounted for their success. In each case, they replied with enthusiasm, “There was this teacher.”
The teacher was still alive, so the professor sought her out. She was old but alert. The professor wanted to know her magic formula, how she propelled those boys from the slums to the highest ranks of achievement.
Her eyes sparkled, and her lips broke into a gentle smile. “It’s really very simple,” she said. “I loved those boys.” She found something in those boys to admire, and that helped them believe in themselves, and that helped them be successful.
Then GO BEYOND TALKING TO DISCLOSURE. It’s certainly okay to talk on a factual level, to talk about the weather, the football game, the price of your products, and the names of your satisfied customers. And it’s okay to talk on an opinion level, telling your coworkers, “I think that is a good idea,” or telling your customers, “I believe our service will solve all your problems.”
However, it’s not enough. You have to go beyond factual or opinion conversation if you want strong, deep relationships. Humorist Robert Orben learned that when his son came home from college for the holidays. He asked his son, “How are things going?” He said, “Good.” Robert said, “How’s the food?” He said, “Good.” Robert asked, “And the dormitory?” Again he said, “Good.”
Robert commented, “They’ve always had a strong basketball team. How do you think they’ll do this year?” He said, “Good.” Robert asked, “How are your studies going?” He said, “Good.” Robert said, “Have you decided on a major yet?” He said, “Yes.” Robert said, “What is it?” He said, “Communications.”
It’s disclosure on the feeling level that bonds people together. As film star Marlene Dietrich said, “It is the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”
When you share your feelings, people can identify with you. They think, “Yes, I’ve been there. I know what that feels like. You’re like me.” And people are more inclined to cooperate with and do business with those who are like them.
Finally, GO BEYOND POLITENESS TO HELPFULNESS. It’s almost always appropriate to send little notes of thanks to your customers and praise to your loved ones. It’s polite to send flowers and cards that recognize special occasions. So certainly I encourage you to engage in small gestures of caring. Maybe it’s a smile, a hug, a phone call, or a few minutes of your time listening to a coworker. All those things will help you build a spirit of friendship.
But if you want and need truly deep friendships, go beyond politeness to helpfulness. Think about what you can do to really help the other person, and then do it. You’ll be amazed and delighted by what happens.
Action: Select two people with whom you want to build a stronger, deeper relationship. Then select two helpful things you could do for each of those individuals. Do those things without any expectation of a returned favor. You’ll be glad you did.