"Unchanging Hands"; Of Friends, Old and New

Posted by jlubans on November 16, 2015

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Caption: Dog friends, wary but not letting go.

Visiting friends in the Pacific Northwest brought friendships to mind. On the plane back, I reflected on friends, old and new, in my life and work. Relationships are central to the concept of “Leading from the Middle”, with its implied de-emphasis on a strong leader telling others what to do. In my realm, things got done by people who trusted each other and felt good about each other.
The notion of friendship parallels the idea of leadership. Leadership is never a person; it is at least about two people, the leader and the follower. Similarly, a friendship is never about one person. Rather, like leadership, it is about two people with a shared experience and interests.
As I thought about this and wrote in my journal, names began to appear in the margins; names from the past, some no longer in touch, others more recent. All exemplify the variety of friendships we may have in our lives.
Ever since I stopped “nine-to-fiving” some of my friendships changed; indeed, some slipped away sooner than career’s end. For some, “It’s only a job” and by extension, work relationships have neither depth nor substance.
Why, I mused, do some friends stay and why do some leave?
For me there have been three sources of friends: school, work and travel. And from each of these we may have friendships that continue past our school years or into retirement. Many are not of the gospel song’s “unchanging hand” variety - some drop you or drop off - but the best are of the unchanging variety. In these, the friendship continues undeterred by one’s status or ability to do something for the other person.
Friendships may be different among men than they are among women. It’s not necessarily a “guy thing”, but women have better social skills than do most men; as I think about it, women have much larger networks than do many men. How much do minimal social skills contribute to having fewer friends? Guy friendships may be deemed shallow and, yes, guy confidants are rare; regardless, there’s something ineffable about any kind of friendships, allegedly shallow or deep. Relationships grow, even tacitly.
Relationships take effort.
I re-upped with a close - for a guy - friend at my 50th high school class reunion. We were on the same sports teams and were good friends long ago, but now, so much has passed. We’ve seemingly grown apart, grown in different directions, just not like old times, but then maybe the old times were not so great after all? Maybe that’s the dawning realization. While we enjoy each other’s company, it takes a concerted effort to get together. At times it feels like blowing on cold ashes to make a fire. Some relationships won’t re-kindle.
So, remain open. Instead of fretting, over it, reach out and make a new friend. Social skills need honing? Pay attention, nothing will happen unless you try.
Time and distance are factors. Both take effort. A good friend from my work and beyond gave me some insights into his business relationships and how he came to be quite successful. He never sold a “product”; when he visited with customers, it was about relationship building. He went about it systematically and naturally for him, making notes in his diary about what was talked about, what was new in the person’s life and career. These were referred to in follow up correspondence and, of course, at the next visit. Yes, business got done, but more important was the relationship of one human being with another.
What would I change about my relationships at work? A lot. For one thing, I’d acknowledge daily the importance of other people in what we were trying to do. I’d not leave it to chance or a tacit understanding.

© Copyright John Lubans 2015

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Comments

Posted by Miriam on November 20, 2015  •  09:52:48

Thinking of you...loving your writings (all) and you as well...m

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