Saturday, January 17, 2009

You are who you eat with

Business Times p.B1
Saturday, January 17, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
You are who you eat with

LAST column, we identified what makes us happy. This time, let us identify people who want and help us to be happy. It is always good to be with people who want us to succeed and be happy.

According to Tom Rath (Vital Friends, Gallup Press, 2006) our friends shape our life and work. We need friends to succeed, be happy or to basically stay alive. Tom and his group of researchers from Gallup found out that friendships add significant value to our marriages, families, work and lives.

He wrote, "At some level, everything we see and feel is the product of a personal relationship. Look around you and identify anything created in true isolation. You might notice how dependent we are on connections with other people. Remove relationships from the equation, and everything disappears. Yet when we think consciously about improving our lives, we focus our development inward. We strive to be better human beings. We try to make ourselves better employees. Even when we focus on developing another person, as great parents and managers do so well, most of our emphasis is on the other person as an individual. We simply bypass the relationship itself.

"Scientists are also uncovering how friendships shape our expectations, desires and goals for the future. You are who you eat with. In addition to improving our health and life satisfaction, studies are now revealing how friends play a similar role during stressful times. Our friends essentially serve as a buffer during life challenges, which improves our cardiovascular functioning and resiliency and decreases our stress levels. When a tragic event occurs, a close friend becomes our comfort and refuge.

"The more friends the better? Not necessarily. People, in a 2001 study at Duke University Medical Center, with five, six, seven, or eight friends gained about the same survival benefit, when compared to those with four friends. Having at least four friends appears to provide the maximum protective effect and help people live significantly longer. The quality of friendships matters most. Each person needs a few very deep friendships to thrive. As you might suspect, lonely people suffer psychologically and physically. The absence of high-quality friendships is bad for our health, spirits, productivity and longevity. According to Dr. Eugene Kennedy of Loyola University of Chicago, "You don't necessarily need drugs or medical treat to improve health and lift depression—just friends."

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that it is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriage.
"Consequently, we should not expect our friends to be good at everything. This 'rounding error' can poison the very best friendships and marriages. To keep our friendships, focus on what each friend does contribute to your life; not what they do not bring to the friendship."

Likewise, the emotional boundaries between work and personal life are blurred. If you dread going home after work, you might need to examine what's wrong with your relationships at home—and at work. The boundaries between work and family are pretty permeable. Having a balanced family/work life is about having great friendships that extend between work and home.

There is little focus on workplace friendships in books, and other media. So let us discuss that next column. After all, the Gallup research revealed that having a "best friend" at work—rather than just a "friend" or even a "good friend"—was a more powerful predictor of workplace outcomes.

American Society for Training & Development International Conferences:
• ASTD 2009 International Conference & Exposition would be held on May 31 to June 3 in Washington, D.C. For details go to To register, please use Delegation Code 200802060 to get discounted fees.
• ASTD South Africa Global Conference & Exhibition would be held in Capetown, South Africa this April 21 to 23. Please visit I am one of the speakers here. My topic is "Aligning Organizational and Personal Learning to Your Leadership Brand." I need friends to cheer me up?
• For questions on registration, please e-mail me at or call 715-9332.

Moje is a consultant on organizational and personal learning. Visit her blog at

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