Most of the time when I sit down and write this blog, I’m not totally sure where it will land. This week is no different as I sit in a cafe at Airlie Beach.
I’m here celebrating my mate Steve’s 60th birthday.
Mateship is a well-celebrated value in Australian culture. We are quick to call someone a “mate” – a taxi driver, a bank teller, or anyone whose name we have forgotten. But I wonder what a true mate looks like?
Steve is a true mate.
I met him 20 years ago when he was 40 and I was 36.
For all those years, most separated by distance, we have watched our kids survive their teenage years, we have talked about the highs and lows of business and personal life, we have attended one of our best buddy’s funerals, navigated some dark moments and celebrated each others triumphs.
So why do some friendships, like ours, last the test of time and distance, while others fade and fizzle out?
I’ve always lived by the philosophy that to have good friends, you need to be a good friend.
A true friend is first, friendly.
If a dog is a man’s best friend then it’s the loyal, predictable, friendly companion not the crazed, aggravated, vicious attack dog. If we are approachable, easy going, kind and agreeable, friendships will follow us. If our countenance is hard, stand-off-ish, or attacking then we will probably find it hard to make friends.
A true friend is second, true.
Truth, honesty and integrity is what to look for in friendship. A commitment to respect each other’s confidentiality when it comes to sharing deep personal struggles and realities creates an environment of trust.
Friendship can only flourish in an environment of trust.
When Steve and I first met, we started playing golf together. I would inevitably hit the ball into the trees and at times, to save my club from damage, I would have to move the ball (in golf, this is a shot). Steve wouldn’t see me move the ball so it would have been simple to hide it and not concede the shot. But, true friendship wouldn’t let me get away with not telling him. It’s a simple example, but friendship and trust are in the small things as well as the big.
A true friend is third, a listener.
Transparency in friendship includes not just what you say, but more importantly, how you listen. Listening reveals that you genuinely value the other person and you are interested in what they are going through.
To be honest, listening is one of the hardest of the communication skills to master. We are so quick to want to speak that it’s hard not to cut the other person off mid-sentence before we forget what is so important for us to say.
The practice of listening is a powerful friendship adhesive.
Finally, remember that a real friendship is not about what you can or can’t do for the other person, but who you are free to be.
Steve and I are no longer in the positions we were when we met, there have been significant changes in our public lives, but thankfully our friendship has never been about what we did but who we are. Any good friendship is.
That’s my two cents worth on being a good mate.