The School Of Life: On Being Nice (2017) 📙


What is the purpose of friendship? (S. 52ff)

  • „The key to the problem of friendship is found in an odd-sounding place: a lack of a sense of purpose. Our attempts at friendship tend to go adrift, because we collectively resist the task of developing a clear picture of what friendship is really for.“
  • „Yet purpose doesn’t have to ruin friendship. In fact, the more we define what a friendship might be for, the more we can focus in on what we should be doing with every person in our lives […].“
  • „There are at least five things we might be trying to do with the people we meet:“
    1. Networking
      • „Networking is an unfairly maligned idea. We are small, fragile creatures in a vast world. Our individual capacities are insufficient to realise the demands of our imaginations. Therefore, we need collaborators: accomplices who can align their abilities and energies with ours.“
      • „Jesus networked to put together a band of 12 disciples with whom he could spread one or two world-changing ideas about forgiveness and compassion.“
      • „[…] such prestigious examples can show how elevated and ambitious networking friendships could ideally be.“
    2. Reassurance
      • „The reassuring friend gives us access to a very necessary and accurate sense of their own humiliations and follies; an insight with which we can begin to judge ourselves and our sad and compulsive sides more compassionately.“
    3. Fun
      • „[…] we constantly need access to people we can trust enough to be silly with.“
      • „The fun friend solves the problem of shame around important but unprestigious sides of our lives.“
    4. Clarifying our Minds
      • „To a surprising degree, it is very hard to think on our own. The mind is skittish and squeamish. As a result, many issues lie confused within us.“
      • „The thinking friend holds us to the task. They ask gentle but probing questions that act as a mirror that assists us with the task of knowing ourselves.“
      • DAS spricht mich an!
    5. Holding on to the Past
      • „A number of friends have nothing to say to who we are now, but we keep seeing them, get a little bored in their company – yet we are not wrong to retain them in our lives.“
      • „They embody a past version of ourselves from which we’re now distant and yet to which we remain loyal. They help us to understand where we have come from and what once mattered. They aren’t relevant to who we are today, but not all of our identity is entirely contemporary – as our continued commitment to them attests.“
    • „We should dare to be a little ruthless. Culling acquaintances isn’t a sign that we have lost belief in friendship. It is evidence that we are becoming clearer and more demanding about what a friendship could be. In the best way, the price of knowing what a friendship is for may be a few more evenings in our own company.“

How to be a good listener (S. 88ff)

  • “Being a good listener is one of the most important and enchanting life skills anyone can have. Yet few of us know how to do it; not because we are evil, but because no one has taught us how and — on a related note — few have listened sufficiently well to us.”
  • “There is a range of things that the good listener is doing that makes it so pleasant to spend time in their company.”
  • “People tend to assert rather than analyse.”
  • “All the time [good listeners] are egging the other to go deeper into issues. They love saying: ‘tell me more about it’.”
  • “The good listener takes it for granted that they will encounter vagueness in the conversation of others. But they don’t condemn, rush or become impatient, because they see vagueness as a universal […].”
  • “A key move of a good listener is not always to follow every byway or sub-plot that the speaker introduces, for they may be getting lost and further from their own point than they would themselves wish. The good listener is helpfully suspicious, knowing that their purpose is to focus the fundamental themes of the speaker, rather than veering off with them into every side road.”
  • “The good listener (paradoxically) is a skilled interrupter. But they don’t (as most people do) interrupt to intrude their own ideas; they interrupt to help the other person get back to their original, more sincere, yet elusive concerns.”
  • “The good listener doesn’t moralise.”
  • “A big worry in a competitive world is that we feel we can’t afford to be honest about how distressed or obsessed we are.”
  • “When we are in the company of people who listen well, we experience a powerful pleasure […]. By paying strategic attention […], we can learn […] and offer them to others, who will notice, heal — and repay the favour in turn.”

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