friendship.istockI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the silent code of friendship, of relationship.

What are our unspoken expectations? Assumptions for reciprocity? When is one-sided ok, and when is it an affront?

In my line of work, personal and professional merge almost seamlessly. Often, a client becomes a friend, or at least an acquaintance, and very often, I post on my personal social media pages in addition to my professional ones to shout out to client coverage.

It’s a win-win for all of us. I share wonderful stories and exposure for my clients with my own huge following, and at the same time give a silent fist-pump for my own PR prowess.

It’s sort of assumed that the client does the same thing in reverse.

TRUSTSome clients have done this automatically – shouted out to me and my team for getting them great coverage, understanding that it helps our business to be in front of their people as much as it helps them to be in front of ours. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

So it perplexes me when a client doesn’t give that little plug. And then I realize that no one is a mind-reader, and how can they possibly know such a gesture is appreciated and in fact, quite helpful?

The way I look at things, you can never be kind enough.

There is no limit to helping boost the profile of businesses and people you admire.

And since our current 24/7 world is so fleeting – blink and you missed it! – we can’t compliment, link or quote too many times.

I’ve been pondering what it means when a friend is your cheerleader vs. the voice of reason. When you whine because you’re tired and insecure and friend tells you to bone up. Or, when you whine and a friend endures it, says nothing, even though you’re being a pain the behind.

What is our obligation in relationship?

To be honest, call it like it is, no holds barred? Or to soften the blow, let someone else deliver the hard hit?

I don’t pretend to have answers. Asking the questions is hard enough.

Except I’ll tell you this: I have long believed we need to be more honest with one another. This game of everything is perfect, I totally love you no matter what you do and we are all friends is a smoke screen.

Your-People-Logo_HOR_MedThis week, I hired a new employee for my public relations company, Your People. He assured me that I need to give him proper feedback and he will take it well. I appreciated that.

I echoed his sentiments with an assertion that I am direct, and when I critique his writing, it’s not a personal critique of him. I have to say that now because many people just crumble when you say anything less than laudatory.

Sometimes the clouds add interest, rather than block the view. It's all in how we look at what's in front of us. (Photo by Lynne Golodner, Upper Peninsula, Michigan, 2014)
Sometimes the clouds add interest, rather than block the view. It’s all in how we look at what’s in front of us. (Photo by Lynne Golodner, Upper Peninsula, Michigan, 2014)

How have we come to the point where we are so fragile that we cannot hear critique of our sentences? Are we really so precious that our very self-worth evaporates if we didn’t get something right on the first try?

The thing is, it’s ok – even favorable! – to walk a jagged line. Stumble a little. Pick ourselves up and brush off the dust and keep walking down the gravel path.

In the end, we are better for having stumbled than if we had been coddled.

It took me decades to learn that my self-worth had nothing to do with the approval of others. Nor with the work I do or the size of my pants.

One of these days, we’d better begin with a deeper definition of self so that when a friend calls it like it is or a co-worker offers honest feedback, we can keep walking, unhunched, head tilted to the beautiful clouds.

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