Saturday, 7 January 2012

The great advantage of philosophical clarity

Although we see friendships begin everyday and fail every hour, in advantageous or disruptive conditions, we seldom take the time to reflect how the process works.

When it comes to making friends, commonplace advice has become integrated in the dominant culture to such an extent that it reigns uncontested. Traditional guidelines have been recycled and rehashed without much regard to veracity or scientific proof. Here are some bromides that are often served as entrée, main course, and dessert:
  • Smile to random strangers.
  • Do not express unpopular ideas and avoid making controversial statements.
  • Listen to others and never contest their views openly.
  • Be flexible and avoid making clear-cut statements.
  • Cultivate small talk and avoid criticizing people.
  • Do not embarrass others by pointing out obvious contradictions.
The list could be extended to comprise a hundred commandments. The issue is to determine whether those recommendations lead to friendship or to something else. What are the results of following such advice?

Exhortations to avoid personal conflict may be meant to protect your career, but they possess a fatal weakness. Their effectiveness in hiding your true opinions becomes, at the same time, the poison that prevents you from developing any kind of deep, satisfying, involved personal relationship.

Rational people do not choose their friends amongst those who avoid firm commitments, appear self-effacing, and sugar-coat their remarks. Playing down your personal views in order to please strangers will certainly minimize the amount of conflict in your life, but it will also render you invisible to potential friends, that is, those who share your values and convictions.

Being yourself is the first step to build satisfactory relationships. If you choose to dissimulate your interests and beliefs for the sake of conformity, you might be accepted by a certain community, but only as an empty human shell. Is it worth it to give up your personality in order to enter a space where you essentially don't belong?

From time to time, when a situation so requires, it may be advisable for you to refrain speaking out your mind. Those cases tend to be exceptional in modern society. As a general rule, a man is better off by letting his philosophy inspire his words and gestures so that others can see him the way he is. In practical terms, this is what an open attitude entails:
  • Reserve your acts of kindness for people you like.
  • If you believe that you are objectively right, take a clear position.
  • Remain open to examine evidence that contradicts your views.
  • When you make a mistake, apologize, and learn for the future.
  • By pointing out contradictions to people who are willing to listen, you might prevent a catastrophe from occurring.
  • Seek truth and steer clear of insincere people. Liars are the sort of persons that you don't want to have in your life.
  • Choose deep, involved conversations over nonsensical, time-wasting trite.
A realistic theory of friendship begins with a commonality of interests and values. A life filled with empty social engagements is tantamount to an endless nightmare from which you never wake up. Seek out people who appreciate profound discussions and share your rational beliefs.

Offer consistency between form and substance and fly high the flag of your convictions. Be yourself and you will not fail to attract your perfect social match. True friendship is what binds those who share the same road and move forward in the same direction.


[Image by dano272 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]