friendship

The Power of Friendship

13 February 2023

4.7 MINS

“No man is useless while he has a friend,” are the wise words of Robert Louis Stevenson. The poet John Donne said it this way, “No man is an island.”

The bottom line is MEN — we need each other. Better still, we need friends for both the short term and long term. More importantly, we need to choose them wisely.

Brad Stulberg is an author and high-level performance coach at The Growth Equation. Brad works with executives, entrepreneurs, physicians, and athletes on how they can define and pursue excellence and their overall well-being. Brad’s article, called “The Incredible Power of Friendship“, says it better than I could say it, so I will let him have the floor.

I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot lately. So many of the digital devices that supposedly connect us are leaving many of us, myself included, feeling a bit lonely. Yes, it’s true that email, text messaging, and social media can be enjoyable and beneficial, and that they can spawn wonderful relationships. (I met the co-author of my book on Twitter — really.) 

But although they may offer the illusion of doing so, online relationships simply cannot replace real, live, in-person connection. There’s just something special and irreplaceable about being physically present with another human being. And no, there’s not — and I can’t imagine there ever will be — an app for that.

The scientific literature offers plenty of insight on what close friends do for us. They give us confidence and bolster our sense of self, especially during tough times. They increase our sense of purpose and belonging. And they significantly influence some of our most important behaviours. Studies have found that if you have a friend who becomes obese, you are 57 percent more likely to become obese; if you have a friend who quits smoking, you become 36 percent less likely to start lighting up. 

The flip side of this is also true: when your friends adopt healthy behaviours, like regular exercise, you become much more likely to do the same. In other words, the people with whom you surround yourself have an enormous impact on your life. In many ways, they shape it.

But when it comes to what — or perhaps more accurately, who — makes a good friend, the scientific literature is sparser. Simply being in the flesh with someone does not make a lasting, meaningful relationship. Which got me thinking: what, exactly, does?

The people with whom you surround yourself have an enormous impact on your life. In many ways, they shape it.

My search to answer this question took me back in time more than 2,000 years to the ancient Greek Empire; specifically, to Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, a volume that many scholars say represents some of the philosopher’s most refined thinking. What I found couldn’t be more insightful, and it rings just as true today as it must have then.

Aristotle writes that there are three different kinds of friendship:

1) Friendships based on utility, in which one or both of the parties gain something as a result of the friendship (think: much of the modern “networking” enterprise or becoming friends with someone because you think they can help you).

2) Friendships based on pleasure, or those centred around pleasant experiences (think: people with whom you can have a good, carefree time).

3) Friendships based on virtue, in which both individuals share the same values (think: people whom you admire and respect, and with whom you align on what you find most important in life).

It’s fascinating that, centuries ago, Aristotle offered that many individuals “who are young or in their prime” too often pursue friendships predominantly for utility, only to come up wanting. Spend some time on a university campus or in the corporate workplace, and it’s easy to see that some things never change…

Aristotle’s schema is not only prescient, it’s also practical. Ask yourself: in which categories do your relationships fall? It’s OK to have some (perhaps even most) friendships mainly for utility and pleasure, but it’s important to realize that these fill a different purpose and are likely to have a shorter lifespan than the ultimate kind of friendship — one built upon shared virtue. 

And it is these latter friendships that are worth protecting and cherishing. They don’t emerge overnight, and they require considerable energy to maintain — as Aristotle wrote, “lack of conversation has broken many a friendship” — but what you get out of these friendships easily outweighs what you put in.”

Warwick,” you say, “That is all very well, but how do I make friends and also find the right ones? Those Aristotelian friendships that Brad speaks about, based on virtue, not just utility or pleasure.”

Firstly, to use a fathering maxim, “You cannot have quality time without quantity time.” In other words, you need to pursue ALL friendships, but be always looking out for the special ones that are on a higher plain.

Secondly, the Bible says in Proverbs 18:24, (Warwick’s paraphrase) “The man who wants friends must show himself friendly.”

In other words, be interested in, and work at developing, being a good friend to others, and others will be good friends to you.

10 Keys to Becoming a Good Friend to Other Men

  • Make an effort. Go out and meet with other men. Remember the above proverb!
  • Be kind, be nice, be positive. (People don’t want to hang around with grumps.)
  • Be a good conversationalist and do that by being a good LISTENER!
  • Be empathic — the world does not revolve around you!
  • Ask questions and take an interest in others.
  • Be honest, be real, be vulnerable and keep others’ confidence.
  • Learn some jokes and learn how to laugh. (People love to be with people who can find the funny side of life.)
  • Hug your friends, and if you can’t do that, at least shake their hands strongly and firmly! (I like hugging — I must be part Italian, LOL.)
  • Offer to help them out. (Love is action)
  • Stay in touch. This requires discipline and effort. You cannot hope to be good friends unless you talk regularly!

Lovework — Three Ways to Find Some Good Friends

Firstly, come along to the Dads4Kids Men’s Leadership Summit on 4–6 August 2023 in Sydney. Consider attending our online Dads4Kids Men’s Leadership Zoom nights as and when they become available. Sign up for our weekly Dads4Kids newsletter to stay informed. WHY not simply decide to meet with a few mates on a regular basis? Voila! You have just joined your first men’s group.

Secondly, consider pre-registering for a one-month FREE subscription on the Crewman App to find other men with similar interests in your area. Great idea and very innovative. You need to register by 20 February 2023 to get the one month FREE. More info here. Watch video here. Register here.

Thirdly, consider joining or creating a Men’s Table near you. Simple but brilliant. More info here. Register here!

The sad truth is, “The friendless owner of the world is poor”. So be rich and work hard at being a good friend to others, and others will be a good friend to you.

Yours for More Friends,
Warwick Marsh

PS: Join us for our Men’s Leadership Zoom Night about having friends and developing friendships through Men’s Groups, 8 p.m. Monday 20 February 2023. Registration details to follow in a special invitation newsletter.

___

First published at Dads4Kids. Photo by Helena Lopes.

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One Comment

  1. Michelle Howell 13 February 2023 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Good advice for women also.

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