A lot of our classes recently have been discussed the value of relationships, relationship building and the concept of bringing people together. Knowledge management, web 2.0 and collective intelligence are all based on this conception.
In fact, most of the MBA is about relationships. From the space race in the beginning to meeting people to the process of either keeping those friends or trying to move acquaintances to friendships. Lots of people I know loosely use the word friend for just about every breathing person who knows their name even if the relationship is not very strong. I’ve never fallen into that camp. I have lots and lots of acquaintances but very few people that I define as friends.
To me, friendship is about trust in the other person, mutual interests and often just a chemistry that makes the time we spend together more fun than the time we spend apart. Friendship is coming up to a person unsolicited and saying hello; or dropping them a line when things appear to be going south.
But, can everyone be friends or is the chemistry bit mentioned earlier so dominant that regardless of the overtures or attempts to build the relationship it just doesn’t move forward? I can’t answer it and frankly wouldn’t want to know the answer if it existed because that answer would essentially eliminate the process of trying to build relationships.
We judge people in about 7 seconds and then spend the rest a meeting evaluating our original judgment but is that 7 seconds it? End of the road? Personally, three of my closest friends were people that I originally judged to be ‘not a friend’ but time showed I was incorrect.
So, because my judgment has been impaired in the past I don’t trust it so I push forward sometimes ignoring that little voice that says give it up. Is this the same voice that signals to an entrepreneur that it’s time to give up the ship but their heart tells them to keep on going? Duncan called this the walking dead company. Do we have walking dead acquaintances – people who no matter how hard we try to build the relationship it is doomed to remain at one level?
The quick answer is probably. It hurts sometimes when this realisation hits home but is a fact of life. Malcolm Gladwell discussed in The Tipping Point that the best we’ll do is have 11 people who are really close to us and 150 people at any given point who are friends or close acquaintances. It’s something about the neurology of our brains. Go ahead a try it – name all the people in your life who if they died you’d be devastated. Chances are the number is near 11.
With these numbers in mind and life being too short one needs to be careful in where they invest their time. Hopefully we can train this voice to be more accurate or like playing one’s slice learn to understand it better so we can invest the right time, with the right person to get either a stronger friendship or know when to bail.