Recently I’ve been battling with putting limits on how much of myself I give to others. The concept of being a good friend leads us to believe that selflessness means doing for others without question or limitations and I don’t know about you but that approach seems to always come back to bite me in the butt.
There’s also the issue of knowing when and how to mix business and friendship (if at all) and how to handle situations when we feel more invested in others’ businesses or ideas than they are themselves.
So let’s jump right in to it.
Society’s definition of a good friend is someone who is selfless and has a selfless love toward another person and that tends to be associated with being a person who does for others before they do for themselves or puts others’ needs above their own. Here’s my issue with that: By the law of “you can’t help other before you help yourself” this idea of putting other people’s needs above your own becomes very contradictory. If you’re not taken care of how are you going to effectively take care of someone else? Secondly, this idea of taking care of others and never putting ourselves as a priority perpetuates the idea that we should be everyone else’s best friend but never our own. You deserve your friendship too.
This idea of putting ourselves second creates much more than the false belief that we’re being a good person/friend. It also creates feelings of guilt around taking care of ourselves. How many times have we felt guilty about not wanting to answer the phone when we feel drained or when we just don’t want to deal with anyone? How many times have we felt guilty about taking that much needed vacation because we feel like work “needs” us? Why should taking care of ourselves be a negative thing? If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?
Now, as a general rule it’s said that friendship and business don’t mix. Although more often than not this rule tends to prove itself true, in recent years we’ve seen more and more businesses started and maintained from friendships and some of them do to succeed. From my observations, the businesses started in friendship that do succeed are the ones in which the people involved are very clear that although they are friends, the business should be treated seriously and that any personal feelings are kept outside of the business. Other than the trust they’ve developed through the friendship (which is and must be supported by actions like keeping your word and delivering on promises made) it’s necessary to have a very good grasp of detachment when it comes to doing business with friends and this is where the tricky part is because being human (as I assume all of us reading this are, right? RIGHT?) separating personal feelings and remembering not to take things personal tends not to be the easiest thing to do.
It’s also very important that all parts are equally committed to the business or else there will always be someone feeling like the other person isn’t pulling their weight. Now here comes the tricky part, the part I’m personally trying to figure out: what about those situations in which a friend asks you for advice on their business? It’s not your business but because you care about the person you treat it as seriously as if it were. How do you set the limit on how much of yourself you give to them? How do you make sure you don’t become too involved to the point where you start ignoring your own projects? How do you deal with a different personality, a different way of handling obstacles, a different idea of what’s important and what isn’t and how do you keep yourself from taking it all out on the friendship?
A very wise friend of mine once told me that sometimes what people really want from you is for you to listen to them and not your advice and the more I thought about it, the more I understood how true this is. But putting this into practice wasn’t so simple. The thing I found most useful, as corny as it might sound, is being in the moment, taking a few seconds before responding to step away from yourself and our general tendency to react to things (as in, to give a reactionary response) and really evaluate what is being asked of us. It’s just like counting to 10 before you respond to an angry comment or taking a deep breath before dealing with an uncomfortable situation. It gives us time to detach from our natural reaction, from any personal feelings, to remember that you’re dealing with another person’s work/life situation and not your own and then give the most appropriate response.
This is a lesson I’m still learning. It requires a lot of awareness and self control which isn’t always the easiest thing to do but I guess time, patience and practice will get us to where we need to be.
And that’s it for today! Let me know! Have you ever gone into business with friends? What was that experience like? Have you ever had to deal with being more invested into someone’s project than they were and if so, how did you handle it? Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Leave them all below!