Business of Well-being

3 Minutes at Gate 9

Oprah Winfrey once said, "Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down." A life without friends isn't really a fulfilling life. But friendships take work. We all have friends, some who are close and know our every secret, and some who are associates and laugh at our jokes or compliment us on our shoes.

Some of us even have "frenemies," those folks we pretend are our buddies but who live to make us feel miserable. Friends are critical to your life. You need them to share in the good and the bad and to listen and offer solid advice. You need them to go out with to blow off some steam. And you need them to be there to help celebrate the milestones.

But mostly, you need them to be there to just talk about the boring daily details of your life. They are the witnesses to your life, and you need them to take notice, just as you take notice of theirs. Some studies have shown that friendships not only make people happier, but that loneliness and a lack of friends may be tied to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and infections.

Friendships have been called a "behavioral vaccine" that protects both physical and mental health. While buying some water and chocolate at the airport the other day, I noticed a Facebook post from my friend Beth. She mused how her flight delay was messing up her evening plans. I realized that she was probably typing this missive within feet of where I was standing. So I sent her a text that I was at Gate F9. She called. She was indeed at the airport, but not near my gate.

Instead, she was taking refuge at a restaurant to kill the two-hour delay. My flight was leaving in exactly 10 minutes, yet she swore she would somehow have her bag checked, get through the long lines of security, get her carry-on scanned and run to meet me. And that's just what she did, in high heels and all. Out of breath and rosy-cheeked, she hugged me.

We were able to catch up, while I kept one eye on my gate. We had three minutes. Just three. And in those three minutes, we touched on just about every issue imaginable, as only two long-standing good friends can, from my recent weight gain and her new hairstyle to work issues and our kids and the weather and some gossip.

We expressed some complaints, told a couple of jokes and then said a quick goodbye. Leaving your comfy seat, pushing your way through a long line of grumpy security checkpoints and then running, in heels, to catch up for three lousy minutes is what friends do. Hopefully, you have a friend like mine.

If you do (or you don't, but you want one) here are three ways to improve your friendships or create some new ones:

  1. Everyone wants to be heard and understood. When was the last time you listened to your friend? I mean, really listened to his or her every word and not just waited to offer your two cents? Next time you talk, keep your mouth closed for as long as possible and listen. Ask some questions. Ask more questions. Listen, learn and dig a little deeper with your friendship.
  2. We all know we need to sacrifice our own needs for our family and our job, but what about for our friendships? Have you ever sacrificed for your friend? Next time your friend expresses some need or some problem, offer to help, even if it means being inconvenienced or too tired or missing out on something else you want to do.
  3. It's one thing to remember your best bud's birthday or to go to baby showers, but what about celebrating other days in their lives that aren't so big? When was the last time you called to congratulate your friend on surviving another week on his new diet plan? Or maybe sent a quick email to ask how her recent business trip went?

Friendship is in the details. Get detailed with your friends today so they'll be there tomorrow.

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