Saturday, January 24, 2009

Business Times p.B.1
Saturday, January 24, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Real friends expect you to be somebody

Many of us claim to be friendly and to have so many friends. Yet, something happens and, boom, you are no longer friends. The term "friend" has lost some of its original power. One time, I was surprised that an acquaintance introduced me as her friend. We have not really had any conversation of substance, save for unthinking hello's and how are you's, I don't know her after her name. I don't resent being her friend, but does she really know what a friend is? We could be friends, but we are not—yet. How would she react if I call her my friend?

In his book, Vital Friends, Tom Rath added "vital" to describe friendships that are essential in one's life. He wrote that vital friends are those who measurably improve your life and a person at work or in your personal life whom you can't afford to live without.

He added that to determine if a person in your life is a friend, ask these two questions.

* If this person were no longer around, would your overall satisfaction with life decrease?

* If this person were no longer a part of your life, would your achievement or engagement at work decrease?

Tom identified several vital roles that friends bring into our lives. He described what you are getting, not what you are giving, because friendship usually give different things than we receive. My science teacher calls this symbiotic relationship. Friends complete you.

Builders are great motivators, always pushing you toward the finish line. They continually invest in your development and genuinely want you to succeed even if it means they have go out on a limb. They are generous with their time as they help you see your strengths and use them productively. When you want to think about how you can do more of what you already do well, talk to a builder. Much like the best coaches and managers, these are friends who lead you to achieve more each day. Great builders do not compete with you. They figure out how their talents can complement yours. If you need a catalyst for your personal or professional growth, stay close to a builder.

Collaborators are friends with similar interests, the basis for many great friendships. You might share a passion for sports, hobbies, religion, work, politics, food, music, movies, or books. In many cases you belong to the same groups or share affiliations. When you talk with a collaborator, you're on familiar ground, and this can serve as the foundation for a lasting relationship. Indeed, in those conversations, you often find that you have similar ambitions in work and life.

Looking for someone who can relate to your passions? Find a collaborator.

Champions stand up for you and what you believe in. They are the friends who sing your praises. Every day, this makes a difference in your life. Not only do they praise you in your presence, a Champion also "has your back" and will stand up for you when you're not around. They accept you for the person you are, even in the face of resistance. They are loyal friends with whom you can share things ion confidence. They have a low tolerance for dishonesty. You can count on them to accept what you say, without judging, even when others don't. They are your best advocates. When you succeed, they are proud of you, and they share it with others. They thrive on your accomplishments and happiness. When you need someone to promote your cause, look to a champion.

"Energizers are your fun friends who always give you a boost. You have more positive moments when you are with these friends. They are quick to pick you up when you're down and can make a good day great. They are always saying and doing things that make you feel better. They have a remarkable ability to figure out what gets you going.

When you are around these friends, you smile a lot more. You are more likely to laugh in their presence. If you want to relax and have a good time or need to get out of a rut, call an energizer."

These descriptions tell you that you need four best friends, at least. No one person could play all these roles in our lives. Our parents, children, spouse, exes and relatives are also our friends doing any of these roles to us. So do officemates, cubicle-mates, bosses, clients, suppliers. And fellow Rotarians, PMAPer, Quotarian, etc. The others could still be your good friends, friends or even just acquaintances.

There are four more roles, come by next Saturday or, better yet, buy the book! Vital Friends by Tom Rath.

Moje is a management consultant on organizational and personal learning. Visit her blog at or e-mail her at
REal friends expect you to be somebody

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