There’s an old saying that people quote when something bad happens to them: “It’s times like this when you find out who your friends really are.”

For many of us, it’s one of those times.  Maybe for all of us…

It goes without saying that we live in a very nervous world right now.  I know smart, successful people who understandably refuse to read the news.  Yes, purveyors of news specialize in reporting nasty things.  It’s just that they have such an abundance of it right now! And much of it strikes at a very personal level – job loss, destruction of wealth, uncertainty in quantities we haven’t known in recent memory. It has most of us looking over our collective shoulders…

Looking over shoulder

Which leads me to wonder – when you look over your shoulder, who do you see? If that bad thing happened (or maybe it’s already happened), who is there offering help and support?  We work in a world that largely eschews friendship.  “It’s just business,” we say. But only the person who has to rationalize an action says this.  The person on the receiving end almost always feels like it’s personal.

One of the upsides of this terrible downturn is the opportunity to give each other friendship.  That may look like opening a door to an opportunity, but it just as easily may just be taking a moment to place a phone call, to write a note, or to grab a cup of coffee.

Extended Hand

When I’m tempted to take my own advice on this, I sometimes wonder, “What do I say?” Then I remember that I don’t have to say much (and it’s probably better if I don’t say much so that I don’t end up looking stupid).  I simply have to tell that person I’ve been thinking about them and ask them how they’re doing.  Most people just like being heard a little bit and sometimes they even get a little clearer by thinking out loud.

Two groups may be reading this and saying, “Yeah, easy for you to say. Sit in my shoes for a moment.” Those two groups are those who have recently had a setback or those leaders who are in the middle of making tough business decisions that will create setbacks for others.  I plan to post specifically about those situations, but I’ll tip my hand here – in both cases, you still have ample opportunities to offer friendship to those around you.  It costs little and can be a big benefit.

For now, look over your shoulder. Who can you count as friends? Be thankful for those people, no matter how few they are. And look at the people around you – who can you befriend right now.  It’s times like these….