Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Service of Virtual Handholding: Lifesaving Friends

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Friends on the way to celebrate graduation this spring.

For decades, when I thought my world was being shaken to its core, all I needed to do was hold my husband’s hand and I’d calm down enough to face—and figure out how to play–the music.

He’s no longer here to do that but my friends have leaped into the void. From near and far they have cheered me on and supported me, some sharing coping mechanisms, others wishing me well along with their best advice.

It’s not the same as Homer’s hand, but it is huge, so welcome and essential.

How lucky I am.

I think of how nobody stands up for some public figures who are caught in a negative spotlight–most often the lack of volunteer supporters is because they’ve been despicable/hard on others before the accusations.

I’ve chaired and been on countless committees and several boards and I’ve seen a member turn on a hardworking, vital colleague. It’s alarming when none of the others in attendance dare stand up to such public criticism/rebuke. My father used to condemn what he called sheep mentality so fighting it has been “a thing” with me. At my peril, I pipe up. I cringe when friends share their experiences of being a human dartboard with nobody–even those they considered friends–risking disapproval by defending the verbal projectiles.

Encouragement by even strangers is fabulous. I remembered some who cheered me on at an airport. I’d left my expensive camera on the first flight and realized it as I was boarding the connecting one which was about to depart. I retraced my steps racing past gate after gate for what seemed an eternity while strangers were shouting “YOU GO GIRL!” I swear it made me go faster. As I arrived at the first gate, a flight attendant was leaving with my camera in hand. Back I ran. Standing at the door of the plane trying to distract the flight attendant who was about to close it was a colleague chatting away, until she saw me. I made the flight by a hair.

How do your friends rescue, encourage and support you? Have strangers cheered you on? Do you enjoy doing that for others?

Friends descending the steps from Montmartre, Paris, this spring.

Service of Relationships that Zig High and Zag Low

Thursday, July 6th, 2023


Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Like millions before me I’ve said that if the only friends I want are perfect people I’d be very lonely. When couples say they never argue or disagree I wonder which one isn’t owning up to what they think or wish for.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, wrote a guest essay in The New York Times, “Your Most Ambivalent Relationships Are the Most Toxic.” According to him, they are worse than negative ones. His examples:

  • “Friends who sometimes help you and sometimes hurt you.
  • “In-laws who volunteer to watch your kids but belittle your parenting.
  • “The roommate who gets you through a breakup and then starts dating your ex.
  • “The manager who praises your work but denies you a promotion.”

Walking on eggshells isn’t good for your health.

Grant reported that “One study found that adults had higher blood pressure after interacting with people who evoked mixed feelings than after similar interactions with those who evoked negative feelings.”

He wrote that bad feelings are amplified when someone praises you sometimes and cuts you down at others. “And it’s not just in your head: It leaves a trace in your heart and your blood.”

Why?

The essayist hypothesized about why frenemy relationships are so harmful as the reasons aren’t definitive: “The most intuitive reason is that ambivalent relationships are unpredictable.” He added: “It’s unnerving to hope for a hug while bracing yourself for a brawl.” And “When someone stabs you in the back, it stings more if he’s been friendly to your face.”

Toodle Loo

Grant reported that at any age people are slow at letting frenemies go.

“A relationship in which you can’t be candid isn’t a relationship at all; it’s a charade.” Regarding feedback, “The goal is to be as candid as possible in what you say and as caring as possible in how you say it.” The wording for a kind frenemy breakup might be: ““The mix of good and bad here isn’t healthy for us.”

Grant posited that most have as many friends as frenemies. Do you?


Image by Bill Shortridge from Pixabay

Service of Making Friends When You’re of a Certain Age

Monday, April 18th, 2022


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

You get to a certain age and you don’t expect to make new friends. When you do it’s a blessing. I have been so blessed.

One of my late-in-life friends died last week. She was extraordinarily generous of her time and treasure, ready to advise or cheer and support, often with creative surprises or thoughtful counsel. She was a courageous woman who suffered for years without telling anyone until she admitted the excruciating pain of an unrelenting many years-long headache. She nevertheless attended events, fund-raised and encouraged her friends, always asking about their families and work; wanting to know what books they were reading, movies or TV series she shouldn’t miss. Four of us spoke weekly for years which, especially during the pandemic, was healing for all.

She had access to the best medical care in the world and after agonizing tests and procedures always said that what was wrong with her “isn’t fatal, thank goodness, don’t worry” and when asked said that she was feeling a little better. I am convinced that her determination to stay alive was driven by her wish to see her beloved grandchildren and adored sons as long as possible. Her voice smiled when she mentioned them. Her willpower kept her on earth as long as it did. We are grateful.

Even though I hadn’t known this friend as long as some, I intensely mourn the loss, miss her and am thankful that I knew her. I trust you have been as lucky as I am to have found precious new friends throughout your life.


Image by Isa KARAKUS from Pixabay

Service of Sisterhood: Does it Exist?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

Image by Jacquelynne Kosmicki from Pixabay

Drives me nuts when women don’t treat women as well as they do men. Fortunately I don’t notice it that often in restaurants and stores. I last wrote about a particularly irritating instance in 2015 in “Service of Sales Promotions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” In my example of “ugly” a young woman attended to a man when a woman was next in line.

I write today about one of my favorite places, Trader Joe’s Manhattan wine store. I’ve consistently been nicely treated there which may be why this occurrence annoyed–and disappointed–me.

Here’s what happened.

The scene: An employee is posted at the exit. His/her job is to take from customers the empty little red TJ marketing carts.

Last Saturday the middle aged woman at this post left it and raced, all smiles and hearty greeting, past several cash registers to the farthest cashier from the door to relieve a handsome white haired man of his store cart. He was also encumbered with a personal shopping cart. I was at the register nearest her and had the same two carts to juggle. She didn’t budge to take mine from me and she hissed, “thank you misssss,” when I handed it to her. [I haven’t been called miss for decades and haven’t heard anyone use the term either.]

After a dozen years at an all-girls school and at least the same number at a woman’s industry association I have no rose colored glasses where women treating women respectfully or helpfully is concerned: Some do; many don’t. In my experience the sisterhood word is a figment of a creative or wishful marketing person’s imagination.

That said, I’ve always been blessed with a wonderful number of supportive, dear, beautiful women friends–men friends too. I enjoyed mentoring both men and women and representing men and women in business.

Have you noticed when women end up on the cutting room floor in retail or restaurant situations that another woman is wielding the scissors or is my experience/observation a one-off? When organizations of women refer to “sisterhood,” or sisterly relationships among their constituents, is there something to it or is it fiction?

Service of Lopsided Friendships

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Image by michael maggiore from Pixabay

I’ve written about friendship over years. A favorite post is “Service of What is Good Company,” from 2012.

Some friendships are lopsided temporarily either during crises such as illness, job loss and death or at happy times, to celebrate milestones: births, marriages, raises, promotions, new jobs, clients, relationships or homes. At these times most conversations involve the special events/circumstances.

Image by Here and now, unfortunately, ends my journey on Pixabay from Pixabay

Other relationships seem chronically out of balance. One example: Person A, who lives alone and is retired, has enjoyed a lifetime relationship with Person B, also alone, who still works and is in frequent contact with siblings and their offspring. Person B has little patience with A, often cutting off B saying “I don’t need all those details” or “I know what you are going to say,” or “everyone knows that,” or “you’ve said that before.”  B doesn’t understand–or care–how important it is for A to share thoughts even if at times they are heavy with minutia. It’s not as though A is wasting B’s time. Conversations–or putdowns–often take place when the two are on the road.

Friendship should be like a game of ping pong or tennis between two people of similar ability, with back and forth conversation–equal amounts of listening and talking. Do you agree? Are your friendships even Steven most of the time?

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of Complaining: It Can Feel Good But Does It Do Any Good?

Monday, January 27th, 2020

I love to complain which no doubt is why I’ve written this blog twice a week for a dozen years. Once I’ve identified what’s really bothering me, which often happens after griping about it, I usually move on. No goody-goody two shoes here: I’ve carried some big injuries or affronts for years but as for the day-to-day grumps I can shed most and move on using my mother’s mantra: “Bury the bone but remember where you’ve buried it.” [After I’d produced a string of gripes she’d ask, with a tone of irritation: “anything else?” I often ask the same question to myself today.]

Micaela Marini Higgs lined up a bunch of evidence on the subject in her New York Times article, “Go Ahead and Complain. It Might Be Good for You.” The operative word is might. “Constantly complaining can be an easy way to frustrate our confidantes, but there is research that shows it can also be a useful tool in bonding and helping us process emotions like stress and frustration.” Higgs quoted Robin Kowalski, a professor of psychology at Clemson University: “In short: Yes, it’s good to complain, yes, it’s bad to complain, and yes, there’s a right way to do it.”

Higgs described three varieties of complaint: venting, problem solving and ruminating/dwelling. She reported: “Knowing which behavior you’re engaging in, and with what purpose, can help you put in place habits that will not only make your complaining much more strategic, but also help improve your emotional health and build stronger relationships with the people around you.”

Warned Margot Bastin at the department of School Psychology and Development in Context at the Belgian university KU Leuven, “Making complaining the primary focus in our relationships can make us dwell on our problems for longer, triggering a stress response. Bonds built over mutual dissatisfaction can also prove brittle once one person’s problem has been resolved.”

It’s normal to complain because, as Higgs observes, life isn’t perfect. Kowalski said “Inhibiting the disclosure of our dissatisfaction ‘can produce a negative effect,’ because it not only stops us from naming our problem but also prevents us from getting to the root of it.”

Higgs quoted Tina Gilbertson, a psychotherapist and the author of “Constructive Wallowing.” She said: “complaining is, ideally, totally solutions focused.” Quoting Dr. Grice Higgs continued “Though venting is not as focused on solving problems, ‘there are also really positive benefits,’ because it allows us ‘to get things out in the open and get our feelings heard so they don’t build up and cause stress.’” Angela Grice is a speech language pathologist specializing in the use of mindfulness-based practices. She “previously researched executive functions and neuroscience at Howard University and the Neurocognition of Language Lab at Columbia University.”

Other benefits of blowing off steam Higgs noted in her article include helping put the gripe in perspective and “words to our feelings;” it’s good both psychologically and emotionally; feedback helps gain perspective and the hope is that you’ll do something about the situation.

According to the experts in the article you want to avoid “always find[ing] something to complain about. The same goes with rehashing a problem over and over again, whether with friends or in the echo chamber of the internet.” Keeping a journal helps blow off steam about smaller complaints.

Has anyone stopped you from venting or criticized you for doing so? Do you find complaining constructive in getting over irritations and finding solutions to them? Is there a difference between a complaint and a critique or review of a restaurant experience or seminar for example?

Service of How to Ask for Money or Support When You Shouldn’t

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

This is the time of year in which we’re bombarded by requests for money which inspired the topic of this post.

Say you’ve neglected a once close friend for whatever reason–do you ask them to support your cause or for the names of business contacts for a project at work?.

Your silence is worse if they’ve been sick, lost a job or a loved one. It happens.

Do you nevertheless call or write as though you just saw the person last week? Do you make small talk and then ask for what you want or forget it and think of others to contact this time?

If you’re sending an e-blast to all your contacts asking them to attend a fundraiser, do you include the recently forgotten person or delete their name from the list so as not to potentially irritate them?

Have you been on either side of this situation? If you were the one neglected would you play ball–attend the fundraiser, contribute to it or provide the business information you’re asked for?

Service of Friendships–Better than Drugs or Anti-Aging Remedies

Monday, November 25th, 2019

I’ve written about office friends and those whose names you don’t even know; buddies as good company, splitting the check, hugging and protecting them. Tara Parker-Pope wrote about friendship from a different perspective in her New York Times article “How to be a Better Friend.”

She reported results of research that showed that students in pairs estimated the slope of a hill they were expected to climb to be far less onerous than those who were alone. Another study supported “the notion that social support helps us cope with stress.” Friends in a room made the heart rate of women faced with solving a math problem go much slower than those approaching the task alone.

Parker-Pope claimed that friendships, more than romantic partners, positively impact health. Here’s one of three studies she chose to illustrate the point: “In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, being attached to a life partner didn’t affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease, but having friendships did. Among risk factors for cardiovascular health, lacking social support was as bad as smoking.”

She wrote that “proximity was not a factor in the benefits of friendship” though its obvious that local friends can run errands and help in other ways if necessary. People with friends get fewer colds which might be related to experiencing less stress.

The effect of peer pressure can be good or bad. Some participate in exercise routines and other healthy activities with their buddies while others may gain weight together. If a person did the latter, a 2007 study showed that there was an almost 60 percent risk that their friends would too.

In Japan, Parker-Pope wrote, “people form a kind of social network called a moai — a group of five friends who offer social, logistic, emotional and even financial support for a lifetime.” Women in Okinawa, Parker-Pope reported, have an average life expectancy of 90–the longest in the world.

Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow and author who studies health habits of people who live longest told Parker-Pope “Your group of friends are better than any drug or anti-aging supplement, and will do more for you than just about anything.”

The title of Parker-Pope’s article–“How to be a Better Friend”–didn’t match the information in it. Just being a friend is what counts. As I am blessed with life-saving friends I can vouch for how their support is an effective passport to joy and an antidote to stress and anxiety. Who knew there might also be health benefits?

Service of Some of My Best Friends Have Been Office Friends

Monday, January 7th, 2019

I’ve often told the story of an office friend at my first job after college who called in sick for a week and returned to the office with a nice tan. She’d spent seven days in Florida. We worked in NYC and it was winter. I knew her plan and was relieved that the boss didn’t ask me anything about her absence or state of health. I’d never have the nerve to pull such a ruse then or now and wouldn’t have been thrilled to have to cover for her. We were close enough that we attended our respective weddings.

Melissa Dahl wrote “Why Work Friendships Can Be So Awkward” pointing first to a set of ex friends. Why?  One felt betrayed when the other voted against his proposal in a meeting. Another example: friends tired of fixing the mistakes of a pal who is terrible at his/her job.

In her New York Times article Dahl quoted Rutgers associate professor of human resource management Jessica Methot, PhD, who said: “You’re co-workers first and friends second.”

Dr. Methot observed that office friends “don’t address problems they have with each other.” She found “One of the problems we see is that people who become closer with each other don’t actually communicate well. We see this with spouses really frequently—they expect the other person to read their mind and we see a watered down version of that in friendships. ‘You already know this about me, do we really need to talk about it?’”

Did any of your office friendships last after you changed jobs? Have you succeeded most easily in the workplace when you made no office friendships? Were you ever placed in an awkward spot involving an office friend? How did that impact the relationship?

 

Service of Office Friends: Who Is Invited to Special Occasions?

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

I met some of my oldest friends at or through work. And while the article that inspired this post focused on weddings, there are many special occasions—50th birthday parties, 25th wedding anniversaries, a child’s momentous event–that might create the same dilemma: which office friends to invite when faced with constraints of a budgetary nature or of space?

The title of Sue Shellenbarger’s Wall Street Journal story “The Dreaded Wedding Decision: Which Co-Workers to Invite?” covers a lot. You spend more time on the job, shoulder to shoulder with colleagues, more than with most family and friends. It’s natural to share event plans and glitches or address family kerfuffles with these folks as you munch lunch. But who gets cut from the list: Cousin Frank and his nasty wife–which will cause a rift with your aunt and uncle and create stress for your parents–or Frieda and Fred in accounting?

According to Shellenbarger, the reaction of one groom with 18 office friends and space for only three: “Just because you’re really cool with and close to a friend at work doesn’t mean you’re going to be cool and close in your personal life.” When a bride’s work friend told her she couldn’t wait to attend her wedding, she said: “I’m really sorry, but we have kind of a strict guest list. I hope there are no hard feelings.” There weren’t.

One bride in her story opted for fewer flowers and a less expensive dress so she could invite all 15 of her co-workers. A wedding expert shared the obvious point that you should invite the entire group if you’re inviting most of a small team of co-workers. As for inviting the boss, another expert suggested to think twice if she/he is buttoned up and your family is wild and loves to party.

“Couples agonize over which co-workers to include and how to cushion the hurt among those they leave out. Balancing your needs without damaging important relationships requires nuance.”

One couple who worked in different departments at the same airport invited 30 guests and kept mum about their wedding. When they returned to work the bride was bombarded by co-workers with questions as to why they weren’t invited. To smooth things out she promised to invite to a housewarming party one person who would no longer speak with her.

Shellenbarger reported on a survey by The Knot of 13,000 couples which showed that guest lists shrank last year by 13 people to 136, as couples are increasingly passing on spacious banquet halls in favor of smaller venues like historic mansions or barns.

Social media postings spill the beans at work even if you don’t: Shellenbarger reported that nine out of 10 couples post engagement pictures.

Have you been in this situation or observed others who were? What is the best way to handle the stomach-wrenching dilemma if you can’t, or don’t want to, invite the entire office gang? Do you have other issues to consider if you are a manager?

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