Touching base with old friends is not just an excuse for champagne and nostalgia. It is also an opportunity for us to recalibrate ourselves against those who share our most prized values.
Looking into an old friend’s eyes is like looking into a mirror. Their gaze stirs the truth in us. It doesn’t matter how many years it has been between drinks, old friends remember who we were often better than we remember ourselves.
As writer Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Before [an old friend] I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought”.
This is why we should see old friends less as chumps to head to the pub with and more as checkpoints, which we can use to redefine who we are and what we stand for.
To do this, we must first pinpoint the most respectable qualities of each of these friends. Picture an old friend. What do you respect most about them? When they offer advice, what resonates with you most?
The second piece is to touch base with these people regularly to recalibrate these qualities in our own lives. Pay attention to how they integrate these values into their own tone, language and choices. Can you mimic their techniques in your own way? Remember not to be too critical of a friend. Choose one or two of their most respectable values and forget the rest. One friend may remind us to be humble. Another to live life with humour. And another to be honest. We may catch up with one friend, once a week, to recalibrate our views on the daily grind. And catch up with another, once a decade, to recalibrate our views on life and time.
It doesn’t matter how long has passed. The most important thing is that we have a friend on standby for every value we hope to improve in our own lives. Someone we can look to for advice when the fog arrives.
When touching base with these people we must be open and honest, sharing all of our views. And we must look for their subtle signs of approval or fear. This is not to say we have to agree with them, or change direction based on their advice, but we must drop our guard and show all our cards. This isn’t a time to be stoic and strong. It’s a time to be vulnerable and attentive.
After all, these rare encounters are the foundations upon which we build our entire character.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance
The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.