Friends, Business, Politics, Etc.
"It's not show friends, it's show business," a character in the 1996 Cameron Crowe classic Jerry McGuire tells one of his clients, a brutal reminder of the modus operandi so prevalent in the modern day corporate environment.
Cutthroat. Callous. Cyncial. Competitive. Crazy busy. These are the defining characteristics of today's business world.
And as anybody who's ever worked professionally in politics will tell you, that corporate combustibility only intensifies when you add elections, votes and tax dollars to an already explosive mix of money, power, sex, alcohol, drugs, greed and ego.
"Today's Tom Sawyer ... he gets high on you ... and the space he invades, he gets by on you," Rush's Geddy Lee once sang, a perfect encapsulation of the new hypercompetitive but not-so-happy warrior.
It's no wonder the lines between friendship and professional affiliation - particularly in the political arena - are so often and easily blurred. Preemptive attacks, partisan scrapes and personal vendettas rein during the business day, only to be replaced at happy hour by petty jealousies, pernicious sarcasm and poorly disguised contempt.
"It's not personal, it's business," we hear often, or more often in our line of work, "It's not personal, it's politics."
But sadly, more often than not, the mere utterance of such a statement is sufficient indication of its inherent falsehood.
We can't just shut off the allegiance button at 6:00 p.m. or whenever it is we leave the office, can we? And should we really be expected to check our ideas and ideologies at the door of every conversation? And if something or someone we care about passionately has been slighted, is it necessarily wrong to show some emotion and offer a passionate defense?
Of course not. Most of us were not "built" with a separational discernment capable of compartmentalizing our lives from our livelihood, anyway, and those of us involved in politics tend to live, eat, breathe and sleep it.
We can't just put our loyalties in a box, to take out at the time and place of our own choosing. It just doesn't work that way.
So how does one achieve lasting friendships in a business that might as well be a minefield in the Korean demilitarized zone? How do we get an ounce or two of separational discernment in our personal lives that allows us to maintain our professional effectiveness ... and some semblance of sanity?
A big part of it, like drinking, is knowing "when to say when."
Political discussions are fun - that's why we have so many of them in and out of the workplace - but being able to recognize when somebody just isn't in the mood to have one is an essential skill. Saturday night we were reminded of this, when (in a rare reversal of the celestial course) our very own Sic Willie was on the instigating end of an after hours political discussion (usually, he's the one getting, not giving the earful once the sun has gone to bed).
Anyway, our bad boy's counterpart in the late evening counterpoint seemed to have had a long day, and was clearly much more interested in discussing the spicy aftertaste of their salad-wrapped pork (actual, not political pork, mind you) and the music of Belinda Carlisle than the "Who's Zooming Who" of 2008 Presidential politics.
Being able to respect somebody else's desire to shut it off for awhile is a gear a lot of politicos don't possess, but it's one everybody should learn how to shift into more often. After all, chances are they're going to shift down anyway and just tune you out, which means you'd be wasting valuable breath you could be using much more productively elsewhere.
Another good rule is to be quick to apologize when offending, and quicker to accept an apology if offended.
Just yesterday, a good FITS friend sent us a text message saying something we'd written was a "friendship ender." In and of itself, that's nothing new seeing as our blog is basically a glorified repitition of the climactic ending to Bridge On the River Kwai, but being able to apologize and accept apologies is what friendships are all about, and the faster apologies are offered and accepted, the stronger our friendships (and the easier our lives) become.
Finally, learn to talk about something other than politics with your political friends. Start a book or supper club, join a fantasy baseball or football league, set up a movie or concert night once a month, pick up a hobby like golf or croquet, or, better yet, establish a secret society whose sole objective is rid our state of liberal Republicans like John Rainey, Hugh Leatherman and Dan Cooper ...
... well, maybe that last one isn't a good therapeutic hobby, although we would certainly encourage anyone who wants to think along those lines professionally.
Life's short, people. Politicians, consultants, campaigns and all the media, melodrama and malarkey associated with them come and go.
Friendship is one of the things you're supposed to take with you.